Innovation

Musk Reads: Crew Dragon manned mission approaches

SpaceX enters the ridesharing game and Starlink could hit the stock market. How will Musk fill the Mars city with gas?

Elon Musk/Twitter

SpaceX enters the ridesharing game and Starlink could hit the stock market. How will Musk fill the Mars city with gas? It’s Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #141.

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

Musk quote of the week

“Starship Concerto in Zero G.”

SpaceX

Is the Crew Dragon about to fly again? Reporter Eric Berger claims the “working date” for the Demo–2 manned mission is May 7, but this could move forward to late April. The team has yet to make a decision about duration. The initial plan was to send the crew up for two weeks, but a longer mission could help alleviate some of the pressure on NASA’s schedule for the International Space Station, enabling it to rotate the crew on board. The manned mission is expected to be the final test before the Crew Dragon is cleared to send humans into space.

Is Starlink going to hit the public stock market? Company president Gwynne Shotwell said at a JPMorgan investor event in Miami last week that Starlink is “an element of the business that we are likely to spin out and go public.” While SpaceX has yet to make an initial public offering, its internet connectivity business could offer investors the chance to take part in Musk’s space-bound visions. SpaceX has been valued at around $33 billion.

In other SpaceX news…

SpaceX has entered the rocket rideshare game. The company has started taking orders to send small satellites into space, with prices starting at $1 million and rising to $4 million for heavier satellites. While it sounds like a lot of money, booking a whole Falcon 9 can cost over $60 million. Read more.

When is a water tower not a water tower? When it’s a Mars-bound Starship. Musk explained last week that, despite reports, the company would seek to use off-the-shelf tank components to build its rockets. Simply using water towers would not meet the company’s stringent requirements. The rockets need precisely engineered bodies, with the Starhopper employing steel that measures 12.5 millimeters thick. This is expected to drop as low at two millimeters for the optimized versions, meaning an unmodified machine would not be suitable for these trips. Read more.

What’s next for SpaceX: SpaceX is scheduled to launch the fifth batch of 60 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on February 15 at 10:46 a.m. Eastern time. The launch will use a Falcon 9 rocket.

Musk Reads mailroom

John Wilson writes: I do not see any explanation of how the transportation of nitrogen to Mars will be accomplished. Since human respiration is 75 percent dependent on this gas, it would appear that large cargos of it will be required to the Mars surface. How will this not preclude any attempts to settlement of that planet?

For the initial city, it may not be an issue. Planetary scientist Chris McKay claimed in 2014 that nitrogen is the second most prevalent gas in the Mars atmosphere and could be easily separated for use in surface habitats.

As for long-term terraforming, that’s a whole other question. The Earth’s atmosphere is just 21 percent oxygen with 78 percent nitrogen. One idea for importing nitrogen is to capture large asteroids and fling them into the planet, four of which should be enough to create an Earth-like atmosphere. Musk, on the other hand, is calling to instead release the planet’s carbon dioxide stores and enable humans to explore the planet with a breathing apparatus.

Steve writes: When is the low flying satellite internet system coming online? When will it be available in moderate and larger cities?

SpaceX is aiming to launch Starlink services for the northern United States and Canada this year, followed by a broader service in 2021.

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

Photo of the week

Musk gives an inside view of the hangar at Boca.

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 #141, 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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