Innovation

Musk Reads: Starlink edges closer to going live

Crew Dragon will send private citizens into space, Starlink completes another launch, and hyperloop gets professional.

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Crew Dragon will send private citizens into space, Starlink completes another launch, and hyperloop gets professional. It’s Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #143.

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

Musk quote of the week

“[Starlink] albedo will drop significantly on almost every successive launch.”

SpaceX

Liftoff! SpaceX launched the fifth batch of 60 Starlink satellites on February 17 at 10:05 a.m. Eastern time from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This means the company has launched 300 satellites since its first latch of 60 launched in May 2019. While the initial satellites don’t have lasers for communication, Musk reassured followers that the system can relay signals by bouncing them off the ground and ocean. The company previously claimed it could start delivering internet access to the northern United States and Canada after six launches, suggesting a service launch could be on the cards relatively soon.

Will the Starship require heat shields on its mission to Mars? Musk revealed this week the ship is “unlikely to survive LEO entry intact without shielding on windward side, but none required on leeward.” Musk did note that windward shielding is “very light.” Musk seems to have cooled (no pun intended) on his idea of using transpiration cooling, suggesting instead that it “might be used around flap joints.”

SpaceX Crew Dragon

SpaceX plans to send up to four private citizens into space in the Crew Dragon’s first free-flying voyage. The mission, scheduled for between late 2021 and mid–2022, will use a Falcon 9 rocket and launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Following “a few weeks” of training in the United States, the group will lift off and fly for up to five days. SpaceX’s partner for this trip, Space Adventures, has flown over 36 million miles for the likes of Dennis Tito and Richard Garriott. Read more.

The Crew Dragon completed a new acoustics test this week. This test involves blasting the craft with speakers to simulate the vibrations it will feel during liftoff. Following the company’s in-flight abort test in January, the first crewed flight is expected for sometime in May. Ars Technica reported last week the first crewed flight is expected for May 7, with mostly paperwork left to go. 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 2 at 1:45 a.m. Eastern time.

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Hyperloop

Hyperloop, Elon Musk’s proposed 700 mph vacuum-sealed pod transit system, could receive a multinational standard. Europe’s Committee for Standardization plans to form a Joint Technical Committee focused on “hyperloop systems standardization.” The group claimed this step “is crucial to achieve a coherent roll-out of this new tool of mobility,” potentially enabling continent-wide travel. Read more.

Musk Reads mailroom

Wayne Becker writes:

I believe I noticed on the artwork for proposed cities on Mars by 2050 that buildings are constructed on the surface of the planet. Does this mean there’s some sort of plan to counteract the cosmic ray bombardment? Do we have ideas on how to reduce the impact? Or is this something we hope to achieve in the next 30 years? Thank you, wayne

You’re not the first to raise this issue. Inverse spoke with an architect back in June 2019 about what a Mars city may look like. Xavier de Kestelier’s firm Hassell Studio designed 3D-printed habitats for a NASA and Bradley University competition in 2018. In their design, astronauts are shielded from the bombardment of radiation, bringing indirect sunlight through to the living pods but ensuring they’re not directly exposed. Kestelier dismissed other Mars city designs that feature “huge glass domes,” adding that these would “not be possible.” He also praised a cave as “probably the best typology” for a long-term home.

Steve writes:

Is there any way to invest in SpaceX or Starlink?

SpaceX is not a publicly traded company. Starlink, on the other hand, might take the jump. We noted in Musk Reads #141 that company president Gwynne Shotwell described Starlink as a business “that we are likely to spin out and go public.” Watch this space.

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

Photo of the week

The latest Starlink mission launches.

SpaceX/Flickr

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 #143, 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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