Starting with Elon’s 50th birthday on Monday, he’s been extremely active on Twitter. This busy week in space news has featured a lot of back and forth between the billionaire owners of the industry.
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Criticism of ULA and Blue Origin
For ULA’s next rocket, Vulcan, they are using the BE-4 engine made by Blue Origin. Blue Origins problems with these engines have been widely discussed, and now its seems that Elon is joining in on the taunting.
In reply to an admittedly very cool time-lapse posted by ULA’s CEO Tory Bruno, Elon asked when the engines will arrive. Tory Bruno continued to respond in his characteristic formal and respectful manner, even offering Elon a tour. Elon accepted the offer of a tour, but continue to hound on the problems with the BE-4 and then attack ULA as a company.
Elon isn’t known for holding his tongue on Twitter, but with the amount, he is talking about ULA, it’s impressive that Tory Bruno still plans on keeping his word and giving Elon a tour.
Looking at how different the costs to launch between ULA and SpaceX are is eye opening, but ULA’s track record has long made them a favorite for National Security launches. ULA’s focus remains on being a launch provider with a perfect track record and industry leading launch precision. SpaceX has goals well beyond this, but only recently has SpaceX become a viable option for many of these launches. For projects like the Mars missions, failure is a massive setback for scientific exploration. For a multi-billion dollar mission like Mars 2020, a few hundred million to fly on a rocket with 100% success could be worth it.
I, for one, look forward to SpaceX receiving more of these high profile and national security missions by the government, and hope to see more competition in space.
Criticism of Launch Regulation
Earlier this week we had the Transporter-2 mission. During this mission, a Falcon 9 launched into a polar orbit from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and the booster returned to the launch site to land. On the first launch attempt, the mission was scrubbed less than a minute before liftoff.
The culprit? An aircraft entering the TFR, or Temporary flight restriction. These TFR’s are in place for the safety of the aircraft, as well as the rocket. The area needed for this particular launch was larger than usual due to the booster returning to land.
It is certainly understandable for Elon to be frustrated, especially if the aircraft only clipped the outside of the zone. Scrubbing the launch comes with massive costs. He claims the zone to be “unreasonably gigantic”, which could be the case, but the safety of aircraft in the event of launch failure must be considered.
While launches today are regular occurrences, just a few years ago we was the failure of a Falcon 9 on the launchpad, and the failure of a Falcon 9 in flight. As much as we don’t want to think about it, we need to be prepared and safe in case that happens again.
Elon has had his very public disagreements with the FAA before, so hopefully this can be sorted out to simultaneously prevent unnecessary scrubs and, most importantly, keep all people safe.
The arrival of the first Raptor Vacuum engine is a good sign as we look forward to an orbital launch of Starship. Hoping to pull only another 2 seconds of specific impulse with improvements down the road, SpaceX certainly seems to be improving their Raptor engines.
Now we have a bit better of an understanding for the timeline for the next Starship launch. We’ve been heard “end of July” for a while but have seen that as a possibility. Now, Elon is saying that the stacking of an orbital ship on an orbital booster will occur by the end of July. This certainly seems like a more realistic, though still very optimistic, timeline.
We’ve written at length about how massive a fully stacked Starship will be, but it’s been hard to have real perspective on the size of it until now. The rollout of B3, which will not fly, compared to the cars and people on the ground is simply amazing. The next booster to rollout, B4, is that one that should support the “orbital” launch of Starship.
The possibility of rear wheel steering on the Cybertruck has been talked about for a while, but now it’s confirmed. With the added maneuverability, in addition the the insane torque, its certainly a compelling truck. My main question how much of the market will opt for the F-150 lighting rather than the more radically designed Cybertruck.
Delays of the FSD beta 9 are nothing new, but at least Elon can poke some fun at the regularly quoted “two weeks” till release. I guess if you keep saying two weeks it’ll eventually be true.
200,000 cars in a quarter is certainly an outstanding accomplishment. Recently it came to light that in order to push the end of the quarter above that 200,000 mark they were some questionable practices. Based on VINs disappearing from purchase documents. It seems they were delivering custom ordered cars to other customers who were able to accept delivery faster.
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