Musk Reads: SpaceX's Raptor set to impress

SpaceX beats its competitors on price and NASA's "worm" logo returns. What about some cool Falcon 9 names?

SpaceX beats its competitors on price and NASA’s “worm” logo returns. What about some cool Falcon 9 names? It’s Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #159.

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

Musk quote of the week

“In the future, it will be as strange to have expendable rockets as it would be to have expendable airplanes today. All will be reusable.”


SpaceX is planning to launch the seventh batch of 60 Starlink satellites on Thursday, a notable launch in an otherwise quiet calendar. The company is set to add an extra 60 craft to the constellation, designed to offer high speed and low latency internet access starting with the northern United States and Canada later this year. SpaceX is also seemingly about to retire its first two test Starlink satellites, Tintin A and B, that launched in February 2018 after astronomer Jonathan McDowell noticed they started to deorbit faster this month.

The Starlink launch will take place amid a reduced schedule as third parties reshape their output amid the coronavirus outbreak. Reporter Stephen Clark reported last week that the next GPS satellite, originally set to launch on a Falcon 9 on April 29, has been delayed to reduce Covid–19 exposure. It’s the second coronavirus-related delay. On March 24, the SAOCOM 1B launch was postponed indefinitely from March 30 as the Argentinian government imposed strict travel restrictions. SpaceX launched the SAOCOM 1A satellite in October 2018, and the two satellites are designed to together assist with disaster relief management in Argentina.

What’s next for SpaceX: SpaceX is set to launch the seventh batch of 60 Starlink satellites on April 16 at 5:31 p.m. Eastern time. The batch will launch using a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

In other SpaceX news…

SpaceX’s Raptor is shaping up to impress. Musk shared an image of three of the new engines lined up, designed for use in the Starship vehicle that will send humans to Mars and beyond. The photo sparked comparisons to Jurassic Park. The new engines are notably slimmed down in wiring from September 2019 photos, suggesting the team is moving fast since the original prototype was unveiled at a press conference in Boca Chica. Read more.

SpaceX won the Lunar Gateway contract by beating its competitors in terms of both price and performance, a new statement revealed last week. The company is set to use the Dragon XL capsule to ferry cargo to and from the new lunar spaceship, the agency announced March 27. NASA’s subsequent statement explained that it beat Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and Northrop Grumman to win the contract. The agency also announced last week that it’s looking for crowdsourced miniature payloads to help lay the foundation for a future human Moon base.

SpaceX’s Dragon capsule returned to Earth last week carrying 4,000 pounds of cargo. The capsule includes a scientific experiment aimed at a better understanding of how the human heart works in microgravity. Read more.

Musk Reads mailroom

Ken Krawchuk writes:

I’m writing today about a pet peeve of mine, specifically, about how SpaceX names their boosters. “I suppose you got names for your rockets?” wrote Ray Bradbury in the Martian Chronicles. And although SpaceX does, I see no artistry in the technical monikers they currently employ, despite my physics degree.

Take, for example, the name for the first Block 5 booster: “B1046”. The average person would doze off before getting to the “4”! Why not use an appellation much more apropos (not to mention easier to remember) for an inaugural booster, maybe something such as “Adam”?

Only us diehard geeks would remember that the side boosters on the first Falcon Heavy were named B1023 and B1025, but it would capture more imagination if, for example, they were named Castor and Pollux. And in turn that would suggest a better name for the Falcon Heavy’s core booster: rather than bland old B1033, how about Leda?

Anthropomorphizing names of individual booster would not just add a little color, it could also provide some history for each one. For example, a booster named Henry that has completed seven missions would head back out to the launch pad bearing the name “Henry the Eighth”.

And what better name could there be for the booster that will hurl Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken into orbit than “Phoenix”? Probably many, many others. But regardless of the choice, it would better serve both artistry and memory if their rocket “rose by any other name.”

SpaceX indeed seems like it’s missing a trick by not giving its boosters an affectionate nickname. The drone ships catch boosters on Just Read the Instructions, Of Course I Still Love You, and eventually, A Shortfall of Gravitas. The fairing catchers are also imaginatively named Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief, and Musk previously claimed the ship that will send people to Mars will be dubbed Heart of Gold. For a mission as groundbreaking as “Demo–2,” it seems SpaceX is missing out.

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Photo of the week

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 with NASA’s returning “worm” logo pictured. The “worm” is set to be featured on the booster used for the first manned Crew Dragon flight:

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The ultra-fine print

This has been Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #159, 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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