Innovation

Musk Reads: 30 days to Crew Dragon

Starlink beta test gets detailed and Starship looks set to fly. When is Starlink going south?

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Starlink beta test gets detailed and Starship looks set to fly. When is Starlink going south? It’s Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #163.

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Musk quote of the week

“It’s quite hard to have rocket test articles not explode, as they so desperately want to!”

SpaceX

SpaceX completed a static test fire for the Falcon 9 that will carry the Crew Dragon into space. The team is expected to hold a press conference on May 1. That’s ahead of the history-making first launch currently scheduled for May 27, just 30 days from now. It will be the first time SpaceX has sent humans into space and will enable NASA to start sending astronauts to the International Space Station from the United States again. A NASA safety panel concluded that the launch is feasible but issues need to be addressed. Read more.

Starship looks set to launch for the first time soon. Following a successful pressure test, “SN4” is expected to be prepared for a 150-meter hop using one Raptor engine. The ship is expected to be “physically ready” in a few weeks. The pressure test reached 4.9 bar, lower than the 8.5 bar achieved in January 2020 but high enough that Musk claims the ship can fly. The planned “SN5” will use three Raptor engines, and the final design is expected to use six plus those located in the Super Heavy booster. Read more.

What’s next for SpaceX: SpaceX is set to launch the SAOCOM 1B satellite at an as-yet undetermined time from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The launch was originally scheduled on March 30 but delayed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Starlink

Starlink is set to launch a beta test in around six months. Musk announced after last week’s launch — when the firm sent up the seventh batch of 60 Starlink satellites — that the team would aim for a private beta in three months followed by a public beta in around six months. Higher latitudes are expected to be served first. Read more.

The latest Starlink satellites are designed to better address concerns around visibility. The team has changed the solar panel angle, a change that could stop the satellites from disrupting astronomers’ work. Unfortunately, it can take months before it becomes clear whether such changes have proved successful. Read more.

Musk Reads mailroom

William Bailey writes:

I live in north central West Virginia where the Frontier internet was really slow before but now is abysmal. Will Starlink open for us this year or are we too far south?

It’s hard to say for sure. West Virginia crosses through the 40th parallel north. Musk suggested on Twitter that the 42nd parallel could receive coverage in a beta test scheduled to start in a private capacity within the next three months. It might not be long before it becomes clearer who will receive Starlink and when, but Musk’s suggestion that a public beta test would launch in the next six months suggests the service would likely exist in beta form for this year. Starlink’s website still lists “near global coverage of the populated world by 2021,” indicating it may not take long before it moves further south.

Vicky Vaughan writes:

Elon Musk, please turn your amazing mind and resources to mass producing the machine that is needed to sterilize hospital rooms. I think it has something to do with lasers of some sort & takes 15 minutes per room. This will be an awesome investment for the future where all hospitals are saturated with the Damn Virus.

It’s a fascinating area of research. A company called Xenex Healthcare developed an ultraviolet-emitting machine in 2012. Its developers claimed that by shooting out 120 flashes per minute, it could complete a treatment of a room in 10 to 20 minutes. A 2018 study from Health Quality Ontario explained how machines like these could prove useful to cut back on hospital-acquired infections, as around 10 percent of adults in short-term hospital stays acquire such infections. However, the researchers were “unable to make a firm conclusion about the effectiveness of this technology on HAIs given the very low to low quality of evidence.” It’s an area ripe for further exploration, perhaps – but the BBC warns officials looking to disinfect with the new coronavirus in mind would need very large doses of strong ultraviolet light.

Got any comments or queries? Don’t forget to send them over to muskreads@inverse.com.

Photo of the week

Reader Gary Trent sent in this image. He writes:

My son Chris and grandson Corbin attended the launch of the last Falcon Heavy and shot some video from which he took some stills. In one of the stills, the artist in me saw…a Flamenco dancer.

Flamenco dancer in the flames.Gary Trent

Got any photos or videos you’d like to share? Feel free to send them over to muskreads@inverse.com.

The ultra-fine print

This has been Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #163, the weekly rundown of essential reading about futurist and entrepreneur Elon Musk. I’m Mike Brown, an innovation journalist for Inverse.

A version of this article appeared in the “Musk Reads” newsletter. Sign up for free here.

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