Falcon Flies

Musk Reads: SpaceX sets a rocket reuse record

Tesla’s full self-driving improves, Starship plans its next launch, and Maserati aims for the future.

Tesla’s full self-driving improves, Starship plans its next launch, and Maserati aims for the future. It’s the free edition of Musk Reads #223 — subscribe now to receive two more editions later this week!

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

Musk quote of the week

“Good Starship SN8 static fire! Aiming for first 15km / ~50k ft altitude flight next week. Goals are to test 3 engine ascent, body flaps, transition from main to header tanks & landing flip.”

We asked the co-founder of Virgin Hyperloop the one question everyone has: when will the general public get to take a ride? His answer was pretty ambitious, but it all makes a little more sense when he explains it in Musk Reads+, our subscriber-only premium newsletter. Imagine millions of people riding in a zero-emissions pod at high speeds. It may not be a fantasy for long. Don’t miss Josh Giegel in Wednesday’s subscriber-only Musk Reads+.

SpaceX

Liftoff! SpaceX successfully launched the 16th batch of Starlink satellites last Wednesday. It’s the first time SpaceX launched the same Falcon 9 booster seven times. Following the successful launch, the booster landed on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship. SpaceX’s success in this area means driving down the cost of rocket launches. While United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno claimed you need 10 launches to make reusing viable, Musk stated you only need three. Either way, with SpaceX’s latest launch, it seems the firm is fast approaching double digit reuse.

SpaceX’s fully reusable Starship could reach its highest altitude yet this week. The “SN8” prototype held a static test fire last week, a necessary test where the engines fire but the vehicle doesn’t move. This is in preparation for a launch to 15 kilometers, or 50,000 feet. The highest any Starship prototype has previously flown is around 500 feet. Musk places the odds of survival at around one in three. He shared on Twitter that the flight will take place no earlier than Wednesday. Read more.

Want to see Starlink in the sky? Here’s where you might see it this week in Seattle, Orlando, and London. Read more.

Tesla car charging.Getty Images

Tesla

Tesla is planning to send its full self-driving software to a “wider beta” in the next two weeks, Musk announced over the weekend. Musk previously pledged that the ongoing beta would receive updates around every five to 10 days. YouTube user “AIDRIVR” shows how the most recent Beta 5 software is already making complex driving moves, a marked improvement over earlier releases.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced Friday it will investigate around 115,000 Tesla vehicles. The investigation, which focuses on Model S and X vehicles from between 2015 and 2017, focuses on suspension fore links. Tesla issued a bulletin about the issue in 2017, where it explained that “in the event of link failure, the driver can still maintain control of the vehicle but the tire may contact the wheel arch liner.” The NHTSA started an investigation after it received 43 complaints.

Tesla got the thumbs-up to start selling Shanghai-made Model Y SUVs in China, it was announced Monday. The company started shipping Giga Shanghai-built Model 3 cars to Europe.

In other Musk news…

  • What’s it like to ride on the hyperloop? Sara Luchian tells Inverse the “zippy” ride felt like “science fiction.” Read more.
  • General Motors announced Monday that it will no longer take an 11 percent stake in Nikola Motors. The pared-down deal also scraps plans for GM to produce the Badger for Nikola, but it will still provide Nikola with fuel cell technology.
  • Maserati announced last week plans to electrify its entire vehicle lineup in the next five years.

What’s it really like to see a SpaceX rocket launch? Cosmic Perspective’s Mary-Liz Bender described it to Musk Reads+ as “a transformational feeling.” Find out why she had “tears flowing down” during the Falcon Heavy launch, and why covering launches full-time is like being Indiana Jones. Her exhilarating interview is coming soon in the subscriber-only Musk Reads+.

The ultra-fine print

This has been Musk Reads #223, the weekly rundown of essential reading about futurist and entrepreneur Elon Musk. I’m Mike Brown, an innovation journalist for Inverse.

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Musk Reads+ is a fully independent operation. We are not Elon Musk, nor are we employed by him. Our job is to report the events we find newsworthy, giving you the inside look at the worlds of space rockets, electric cars, clean energy, and more. It means first-hand accounts of a SpaceX rocket launch, Tesla insights from third-party analysts, and more. If you want to support us in our mission, and receive exclusive interviews and analysis, consider contributing with a subscription.

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

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