Star Gazing

Musk Reads: Document reveals SpaceX Starlink features

SpaceX gears up for a Starship launch and Tesla’s bitcoin investment comes under fire. A solar-powered Tesla van?

SpaceX gears up for a Starship launch and Tesla’s bitcoin investment comes under fire. A solar-powered Tesla van? It’s the free edition of Musk Reads #234 — subscribe now to receive two more editions later this week!

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Musk quote of the week

“Because you have a big, flat area, that’s actually where solar could start to make sense.”

SpaceX

Starlink is set to offer a phone service and lower rates for low-income consumers, according to a document filed with the Federal Communications Commission. The document, an application to recognize Starlink as an eligible telecommunications carrier, is required after SpaceX received $886 million from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund back in December 2020.

The document shows SpaceX plans to offer voice telephone services, with access to emergency services and local call minutes for free. SpaceX also plans to participate in Lifeline. Ars Technica noted in its February 5 report that Lifeline gives a $9.25 per month subsidy so low-income households can access broadband services.

It’s unclear how the firm’s low-income offerings will work in practice, but the beta test currently costs a rather hefty $99 per month plus a $499 one-off fee. Interested customers can register their interest and receive an estimate of when services will arrive through the Starlink website.

The FCC document.FCC

Liftoff! SpaceX launched a batch of 60 Starlink satellites on Monday at 10:59 p.m. Eastern time. The Falcon 9 booster, supporting its sixth mission, launched from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Unfortunately, the booster missed its landing on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship.

On the Starship front, SpaceX may launch its “SN10” prototype as early as this week. This will be the third high-altitude flight for a Starship prototype, and all eyes are on Boca Chica to see if it can land successfully this time. On his Twitter page, Musk put the odds of a successful landing at around 60 percent.

Tesla

Could Tesla build a solar van? During his latest appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience Thursday, Musk outlined how a van “could also have a roof where it’s solar, and then, when it is stationary, goes out and provides shade, and maybe triples your area or something like that.” The van could boost range by 30 miles per day. Tesla is also expected to offer solar panels for the upcoming Cybertruck.

Tesla’s $1.5 billion investment in bitcoin, and its plans to accept the cryptocurrency as payment, has sparked controversy. In a Sunday story for the Financial Times titled “the environmental idiocy of Tesla’s bitcoin bet,” Jonathan Ford decried how the electric car firm is supporting a cryptocurrency that used an estimated 124 terawatt-hours of energy in 2019, about the same amount as Norway. The network is estimated to emit around 500 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour, around double the emissions of the United Kingdom’s power grid.

Investment advisor ARK Invest has hit back at concerns like these. Crypto-asset analyst Yassine Elmandjra wrote on Twitter that bitcoin mining, the vital process that uses so much energy, is a “net positive” for the environment. The system can use otherwise stranded sources of electricity like gas wells in North America. Elmandjra also argued that bitcoin’s energy consumption is still below the global financial system.

In other Musk news…

The Boring Company’s tunnel-digging competition, which will see 12 teams race their own tunneling solutions in summer 2021, announced the competition finalists Friday. The initial 390 entrants have been whittled down to the “digging dozen.” The teams will have to dig a 30-meter (98 feet) tunnel with a cross-sectional area of 0.2 square meters (2.15 square feet).

The ultra-fine print

This has been Musk Reads #234, 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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