Musk Reads: Crew Dragon prepares for launch

The big moment for Crew Dragon arrives and Musk offers advice to Virgin Orbit. Starlink on a Tesla?

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The big moment for Crew Dragon arrives and Musk offers advice to Virgin Orbit. Starlink on a Tesla? It’s Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #171.

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

Musk quote of the week

“We need to accelerate progress towards fully reusable rockets. Cost per ton to orbit needs to improve by >1000% from where Falcon is today for there to be a self-sustaining city on Mars.”


The big moment is almost here. SpaceX is about to send its first humans into space as NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are sent up in a Crew Dragon capsule using a Falcon 9 booster. The Guardian reported over the weekend that when they arrive at the International Space Station, they will find a small American flag in a bag with the message: “Flown on STS–1 and STS–135. Only to be removed by a crew launched from KSC.” The message refers to the first shuttle mission in 1981 and the final shuttle mission in 2011. Behnken and Hurley, launching from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), will have the honor of finally returning it to Earth.

What comes next once the pair return from the ISS? The first non-test mission is expected to send up four astronauts, likely sometime in the third quarter of this year. NASA will be sending up Shannon Walker, Michael Hopkins, and Victor Glover Jr. Japan’s JAXA will be sending up Soichi Noguchi. After this mission, future missions from the likes of Space Adventures and Axiom Space could involve private citizens flying into space. Read more.

Catch up on all the latest with Crew Dragon below: * Stunning photo shows the shiny capsule ahead of launch. Read more. * Watch the Falcon 9 rise up in impressive video. Read more. * Spectacular photos show capsule mounted onto Falcon 9. Read more.

What’s next for SpaceX: SpaceX’s next mission will be the “Demo–2” Crew Dragon manned mission set for May 27. It will lift off at 4:33 p.m. Eastern time from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SpaceX Starlink

Starlink, SpaceX’s internet connectivity constellation, is gradually taking shape. Elias Eccli, a physics student from Innsbruck, Austria, explained to Inverse last week how his new visualization captures the constellation in a new way. It maps each satellite’s position in relation to another satellite on a graph, and over the course of its two-minute running time, viewers can see the impressive constellation take shape. Read more.

In other Musk news…

  • Virgin Orbit, the Virgin Galactic spin-off aiming to make its grand debut Monday, has failed in its first major mission. Its mission to launch the LauncherOne rocket using a Boeing 747 dubbed Cosmic Girl ended after launch for an as-yet-unclear reason. But Musk noted that SpaceX took four attempts to reach orbit with the Falcon 1, a feat that helped the firm achieve its current success. Read more.
  • A startup is poaching one of SpaceX’s key employees. Read more.
  • Elon Musk fights explained and Tesla killers. Read more about this latest podcast episode of The Abstract, an Inverse roundup of the latest news in science and technology. Find out more and subscribe with your favorite podcast app here.
  • Elon Musk’s 10 most infamous tweets. Read more.

Musk Reads mailroom

Steve Decter writes:

I live on sailboat in the western Carribean and would like to be one of the first subscribers down here! In addition highlighting service to a sailboat in a remote area would make a great commercial.

That sounds like a great idea! SpaceX is expected to roll out its initial beta tests sometime later this year. Unfortunately, it seems the first focus will be on northern latitudes, which may leave the Western Caribbean out of the running until the wider launch next year.

Shawn Schmidt writes:

I’ve got a question about the Starlink network. Is there a possibility that our cellphones or smart cars could someday connect to it giving an always on WiFi connection? I’d imagine that cell companies wouldn’t be happy about that but it could open up lots of innovation. Just curious is all.

It’s possible, but it doesn’t seem to be the focus for these initial launches. Musk has been keen to stress the benefits Starlink would bring to rural and underserved communities. During Tesla’s January 2020 earnings call, Musk explained the goal of Starlink is “high-bandwidth, low-latency connectivity for homes and business and aircraft tad boats and that kind of thing.” He added that he’s “not thinking about” Starlink for Tesla too much, particularly as the cars already have cellular service, but admitted that “technically you could just buy [a Starlink receiver] and stick it on the car.” A future DIY project, perhaps?

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Video of the week

Dragon Dawn.

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The ultra-fine print

This has been Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #171, 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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