Innovation

Musk Reads: Make Starfleet real, Elon Musk declares

Starship explodes and Falcon Heavy gets a new cloak. Could Starlink benefit from a giant space telescope?

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Starship explodes and Falcon Heavy gets a new cloak. Could Starlink benefit from a giant space telescope? It’s Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #147.

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

Musk quote of the week

“We really need Starship to carry Starlink in order to get the total delivered cost to be much better than it is today.”

SpaceX

“We got to make Starfleet happen,” Musk told attendees at Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium last week. At the Orlando event, Musk suggested that the organization from Star Trek is an example of a radical vision that could fuel innovation. In his words, that means ideas like big spaceships with long range and cool uniforms. Although it seemed like Musk was focusing on sci-fi again, there was a serious message: Reusing boosters is cool, but without a push for radical breakthroughs, humanity won’t see radical outcomes.

The Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket in operation, is getting a new tool in its arsenal. SpaceX has applied for permission to build a mobile service tower at Launch Complex 39A, the pad at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center that once served the Apollo missions. The giant, 284-foot tower will enable the company to mount satellites onto the rocket while it’s vertical, meaning SpaceX will offer a solution used by most of the industry. The tower is aimed at supporting “commercial launches, NASA launches, and USAF’s National Security Space Launch program.” Read more.

SpaceX Starship

“So … how was your night?”

Musk’s Friday night, he explained Monday, involved an exploding Starship. Footage emerged of “SN1” exploding during a cryo proof test at the Boca Chica facility in Texas. It’s the latest in a string of dramatic booms at the facility as the company pushes to pressure test its steel creations. Musk suggested ahead of the test that SpaceX would make changes to the ship’s welding for the follow-up, with plans to build “a heavy duty, custom planisher” to “make the welds super flat.” Read more.

Ready for battle? Musk shared an image last week of the Starship reimagined with Battle Angel Alita images front and center. Musk, a noted fan of sci-fi, has included references to Douglas Adams and Iain M. Banks in SpaceX’s work. Read more.

What’s next for SpaceX: SpaceX is scheduled to launch the 20th Commercial Resupply Services mission. The launch will take off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on March 6 at 11:49 p.m. Eastern time. It’s expected to be the first time that SpaceX lands a rocket after a launch for the United States military, and it’s the last-ever flight of the first version of the Dragon capsule. The static test fire was completed Sunday.

Musk Reads mailroom

Thomas Pinion writes:

Why don’t you just print the Cubesats in space?

Good question! California startup Made In Space had a similar idea before, and the team sent a 3D printer to the International Space Station to explore the possibilities. It was actually SpaceX that sent the printer to the station using a Dragon capsule! In 2017, the European Space Agency explored the prospect of using such 3D printers to make satellites out of polyether ether ketone, or PEEK. In short, watch this space.

Lance writes:

With Starlink, the astronomers might be placated if there were cameras pointed out to the heavens. Essentially hundreds of Hubble’s in low earth orbit.

Space telescopes indeed offer a valuable contribution to astronomers’ work. Cixin Liu’s The Dark Forest features a giant Hubble II telescope that opens up new capabilities for humanity. A real-life Hubble successor is scheduled to launch in 2021 with the James Webb Space Telescope. But these are incredibly ambitious projects, and launching more would be no small feat. It’s also an argument that stretches beyond day-to-day work, as the Royal Astronomical Society has called to protect the night sky as part of “the cultural heritage of humanity.”

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

Video of the week

SpaceX shares an image of a third Raptor test stand. The Raptor engine is designed to power the Starship. SpaceX claims it has completed 3,200 seconds of tests with 18 engines in the past year.

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 #147, 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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