Mars

Elon Musk's Proposed Internet-by-Satellite System Could Link With Mars Colonies 105

Posted by timothy
from the in-case-you're-on-mars dept.
MojoKid writes You have to hand it to Elon Musk, who has occasionally been referred to as a real life "Tony Stark." The man helped to co-found PayPal and Tesla Motors. Musk also helms SpaceX, which just recently made its fifth successful trip the International Space Station (ISS) to deliver supplies via the Dragon capsule. The secondary mission of the latest ISS launch resulted in the "successful failure" of the Falcon 9 rocket, which Musk described as a Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly (RUD) event. In addition to his Hyperloop transit side project, Musk is eyeing a space-based Internet network that would be comprised of hundred of micro satellites orbiting roughly 750 miles above Earth. The so-called "Space Internet" would provide faster data speeds than traditional communications satellites that have a geosynchronous orbit of roughly 22,000 miles. Musk hopes that the service will eventually grow to become "a giant global Internet service provider," reaching over three billion people who are currently either without Internet service or only have access to low-speed connections. And this wouldn't be a Musk venture without reaching for some overly ambitious goal. The satellite network would truly become a "Space Internet" platform, as it would form the basis for a direct communications link between Earth and Mars. It's the coming thing.
Space

SpaceX Landing Attempt Video Released 248

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-at-first-you-don't-succeed dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Last week, SpaceX attempted to land a Falcon 9 rocket on an autonomous ocean platform after successfully launching supplies to the ISS. It didn't work, but Elon Musk said they were close. Now, an amazing video has been recovered from an onboard camera, and it shows just how close it was. You can see the rocket hitting the platform while descending at an angle, then breaking up. Musk said a few days ago that not only do they know what the problem was, but they've already solved it. The rocket's guiding fins require hydraulic fluid to operate. They had enough fluid to operate for 4 minutes, but ran out just prior to landing. Their next launch already carries 50% more hydraulic fluid, so it shouldn't be an issue next time.
Transportation

Elon Musk Plans To Build Hyperloop Test Track 165

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-it-yourself dept.
An anonymous reader writes that Elon Musk wants to speed up the development of his proposed 800-mph tube transport. "Billionaire and entrepreneur Elon Musk is getting more hands-on with the Hyperloop. Musk, who heads up both space transportation outfit SpaceX and electric-vehicle maker Tesla Motors, casually announced via Twitter on Thursday that he's decided to help accelerate development of his vision for near-supersonic tube transportation, first outlined in August 2013. Musk said he will build a five-mile test track for the still-theoretical system for students and companies to use. A possible location would be Texas, he added, where presumably there is plenty of flat land to go around."
Transportation

Tesla To Produce 'a Few Million' Electric Cars a Year By 2025 181

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Reuters reports that Elon Musk, speaking at an industry conference in Detroit, said Tesla may not be profitable until 2020 but that Tesla plans to boost production of electric cars to "at least a few million a year" by 2025. Musk told attendees at the Automotive News World Congress that "we could make money now if we weren't investing" in new technology and vehicles such as the Model 3 and expanded retail networks.

Musk does not see the Chevrolet Bolt as a potential competitor to the Model 3. "It's not going to affect us if someone builds a few hundred thousand vehicles," said Musk. "I'd be pleased to see other manufacturers make electric cars." On another topic, Musk said he was open to partnerships with retailers to sell Tesla vehicles, but not until after the company no longer has production bottlenecks. "Before considering taking on franchised dealers, we also have to establish (more of) our own stores," said Musk adding that "we will consider" franchising "if we find the right partner." Musk did not elaborate, but said Tesla "is not actively seeking any partnerships" with other manufacturers "because our focus is so heavily on improving our production" in Fremont. Last year, Tesla delivered about 33,000 Model S sedans and said the current wait for delivery is one to four months. Tesla has already presold every Model S that it plans to build in 2015. "If you ordered a car today, you wouldn't get it until 2016."
Space

SpaceX Rocket Launch Succeeds, But Landing Test Doesn't 213

Posted by Soulskill
from the better-luck-next-time dept.
New submitter 0x2A writes: A Falcon 9 rocket built by SpaceX successfully launched a Dragon cargo ship toward the International Space Station early Saturday— and then returned to Earth, apparently impacting its target ocean platform during a landing test in the Atlantic.

"Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho," Elon Musk tweeted shortly after the launch. He added that they didn't get good video of the landing attempt, so they'll be piecing it together using telemetry and debris. "Ship itself is fine. Some of the support equipment on the deck will need to be replaced."
Transportation

Toyota Opens Patents On Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology 124

Posted by samzenpus
from the here-you-go dept.
An anonymous reader writes that Toyota will share almost 6,000 hydrogen fuel cell patents. "Hoping to speed development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, Toyota said Monday that it would offer thousands of patents on related technologies to rival automakers, for free. The announcement, made at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, echoes a similar move by electric car maker Tesla in 2014, when Chief Executive Elon Musk made Tesla patents available to all, hoping to spur innovation in the electric vehicle world (and, perhaps, to draw publicity.) Toyota has similar goals for the fuel-cell car market. 'At Toyota, we believe that when good ideas are shared, great things can happen,' Bob Carter, senior vice president at Toyota, said before the announcement. 'The first generation hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, launched between 2015 and 2020, will be critical, requiring a concerted effort and unconventional collaboration.'"
Space

In Daring Plan, Tomorrow SpaceX To Land a Rocket On Floating Platform 151

Posted by samzenpus
from the use-it-again dept.
HughPickens.com writes "The cost of getting to orbit is exorbitant, because the rocket, with its multimillion-dollar engines, ends up as trash in the ocean after one launching, something Elon Musk likens to throwing away a 747 jet after a single transcontinental flight. That's why tomorrow morning at 620 am his company hopes to upend the economics of space travel in a daring plan by attempting to land the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket intact on a floating platform, 300 feet long and 170 feet wide in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX has attempted similar maneuvers on three earlier Falcon 9 flights, and on the second and third attempts, the rocket slowed to a hover before splashing into the water. "We've been able to soft-land the rocket booster in the ocean twice so far," says Musk. "Unfortunately, it sort of sat there for several seconds, then tipped over and exploded. It's quite difficult to reuse at that point."

After the booster falls away and the second stage continues pushing the payload to orbit, its engines will reignite to turn it around and guide it to a spot about 200 miles east of Jacksonville, Florida. Musk puts the chances of success at 50 percent or less but over the dozen or so flights scheduled for this year, "I think it's quite likely, 80 to 90 percent likely, that one of those flights will be able to land and refly." SpaceX will offer its own launch webcast on the company's website beginning at 6 a.m. If SpaceX's gamble succeeds, the company plans to reuse the rocket stage on a later flight. "Reusability is the critical breakthrough needed in rocketry to take things to the next level."
SpaceX announced the plan in December.
The Almighty Buck

The Billionaires' Space Club 235

Posted by samzenpus
from the small-club dept.
theodp writes Silicon sultans are the new robber barons, writes The Economist, adding that "they have been diversifying into businesses that have little to do with computers, while egotistically proclaiming that they alone can solve mankind's problems, from aging to space travel." Over at Slate, NYU journalism prof Charles Seife is less-than impressed with The Billionaires' Space Club. "It's an old trick," begins Seife. "Multimillionaires regularly try to spin acts of crass ego gratification as selfless philanthropy, no matter how obviously self-serving. They jump out of balloons at the edge of the atmosphere, take submarines to the bottom of the ocean, or shoot endangered animals on safari, all in the name of science and exploration. The more recent trend is billionaires making fleets of rocket ships for private space exploration. What makes this one different is that the public actually seems to buy the farce." Seife goes on to argue that "neither [Elon] Musk's nor [Richard] Branson's goals really seem to break new ground, despite all the talk of exploration."
AI

AI Expert: AI Won't Exterminate Us -- It Will Empower Us 417

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-the-tee-vee-said dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Oren Etzioni has been an artificial intelligence researcher for over 20 years, and he's currently CEO of the Allen Institute for AI. When he heard the dire warnings recently from both Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, he decided it's time to have an intelligent discussion about AI. He says, "The popular dystopian vision of AI is wrong for one simple reason: it equates intelligence with autonomy. That is, it assumes a smart computer will create its own goals, and have its own will, and will use its faster processing abilities and deep databases to beat humans at their own game. ... To say that AI will start doing what it wants for its own purposes is like saying a calculator will start making its own calculations." Etzioni adds, "If unjustified fears lead us to constrain AI, we could lose out on advances that could greatly benefit humanity — and even save lives. Allowing fear to guide us is not intelligent."
Power

Why Elon Musk's Batteries Frighten Electric Companies 461

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-for-some-infrastructure-reliability-investments dept.
JoeyRox writes: The publicized goal of Tesla's "gigafactory" is to make electric cars more affordable. However, that benefit may soon be eclipsed by the gigafactory's impact on roof-top solar power storage costs, putting the business model of utilities in peril. "The mortal threat that ever cheaper on-site renewables pose" comes from systems that include storage, said physicist Amory Lovins. "That is an unregulated product you can buy at Home Depot that leaves the old business model with no place to hide."
Space

Elon Musk Talks "X-Wing" Fins For Reusable Rockets, Seafaring Spaceport Drones 96

Posted by samzenpus
from the coming-soon dept.
An anonymous reader writes Elon Musk sent a number of tweets recently in which he detailed a program to test the function of "X-Wing" style grid fins that could help spacecraft navigate upon re-entry. The tweets describing how it would work, also include an autonomous seafaring platform, which can hold its position within three meters even in a heavy storm, that would act as a landing pad. From the article: "The SpaceX reusable rocket program has been progressing with varying results, including an explosion over Texas back in August. While the incident didn't result in any injury or even 'near injuries,' Musk conceded in a tweet that this was evidence that '[r]ockets are tricky.' An earlier test flight from this summer involving an ocean splashdown was considered more successful, proving that the Space X Falcon 9 booster could re-enter earth's atmosphere, restart its engines, deploy its landing legs and make a touch down at 'near zero velocity.'"
The Internet

Elon Musk's Next Mission: Internet Satellites 74

Posted by Soulskill
from the next-billion dept.
An anonymous reader writes: According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Elon Musk is looking at a new project: smaller, cheaper satellites that can provide internet access for people all across the world. "Mr. Musk is working with Greg Wyler, a satellite-industry veteran and former Google Inc. executive, these people said. Mr. Wyler founded WorldVu Satellites Ltd., which controls a large block of radio spectrum. In talks with industry executives, Messrs. Musk and Wyler have discussed launching around 700 satellites, each weighing less than 250 pounds, the people said. That is about half the size of the smallest communications satellites now in commercial use. The satellite constellation would be 10 times the size of the largest current fleet, managed by Iridium Communications Inc. ... The smallest communications satellites now weigh under 500 pounds and cost several million dollars each. WorldVu hopes to bring the cost of manufacturing smaller models under $1 million, according to two people familiar with its plans."
Businesses

Tesla Delays Launch of Model X Until Q3 2015 111

Posted by timothy
from the building-up-enough-static-electricity dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Tesla on Wednesday announced that it was pushing back the release of its highly anticipated Model X until the third quarter of 2015. Explaining the delay, Tesla relayed the following in its quarterly shareholder letter: "Work continues on the finalization of Model X with the testing of Alpha prototypes and initial builds of the first Beta prototypes. Model X powertrain development is almost complete with the early introduction of Dual Motor drive on Model S. We recently decided to build in significantly more validation testing time to achieve the best Model X possible. This will also allow for a more rapid production ramp compared to Model S in 2012." During Tesla's subsequent earnings conference call, Tesla CEO Elon Musk shed a bit more light on all things Model X, including the fact that if you order one today, it won't arrive until early 2016. Forbes goes into more on the business end of what's caused delays for the company, as well as how investors should see it (critically, they say).
Transportation

What Will It Take To Make Automated Vehicles Legal In the US? 320

Posted by samzenpus
from the johnny-cab dept.
ashshy writes Tesla, Google, and many other companies are working on self-driving cars. When these autopilot systems become perfected and ubiquitous, the roads should be safer by orders of magnitude. So why doesn't Tesla CEO Elon Musk expect to reach that milestone until 2013 or so? Because the legal framework that supports American road rules is incredibly complex, and actually handled on a state-by-state basis. The Motley Fool explains which authorities Musk and his allies will have to convince before autopilot cars can hit the mainstream, and why the process will take another decade.
AI

Elon Musk Warns Against Unleashing Artificial Intelligence "Demon" 583

Posted by samzenpus
from the protect-ya-neck dept.
An anonymous reader writes Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla and founder of SpaceX, said that artificial intelligence is probably the biggest threat to humans. "I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it's probably that. So we need to be very careful with artificial intelligence." he said. "I'm increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don't do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we're summoning the demon. You know those stories where there's the guy with the pentagram, and the holy water, and he's like — Yeah, he's sure he can control the demon? Doesn't work out."
Space

What It Took For SpaceX To Become a Serious Space Company 96

Posted by Soulskill
from the gumption-and-elbow-grease-(and-piles-of-cash) dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Atlantic has a nice profile of SpaceX's rise to prominence — how a private startup managed to successfully compete with industry giants like Boeing in just a decade of existence. "Regardless of its inspirations, the company was forced to adopt a prosaic initial goal: Make a rocket at least 10 times cheaper than is possible today. Until it can do that, neither flowers nor people can go to Mars with any economy. With rocket technology, Musk has said, "you're really left with one key parameter against which technology improvements must be judged, and that's cost." SpaceX currently charges $61.2 million per launch. Its cost-per-kilogram of cargo to low-earth orbit, $4,653, is far less than the $14,000 to $39,000 offered by its chief American competitor, the United Launch Alliance. Other providers often charge $250 to $400 million per launch; NASA pays Russia $70 million per astronaut to hitch a ride on its three-person Soyuz spacecraft. SpaceX's costs are still nowhere near low enough to change the economics of space as Musk and his investors envision, but they have a plan to do so (of which more later)."
Transportation

Tesla Teardown Reveals Driver-facing Electronics Built By iPhone 6 Suppliers 158

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-got-your-smartphone-in-my-ev dept.
Lucas123 writes: The Tesla Model S gets attention because it's an EV that can go from from 0 to 60 mph (96 km/h) in 4.2 seconds and can travel 265 miles on a single charge. But, a teardown of the vehicle by IHS Technology has also revealed that Elon Musk avoided third-party design and build routes used traditionally by auto makers and spared no expense on the instrument cluster and infotainment (head unit) system, which is powered by two 1.4Ghz, quad-core NVIDIA Tegra processors. IHS called the Tesla's head unit the most sophisticated it's ever seen, with 1,000 more components than any it has previously analyzed. A bill of materials for the virtual instrument cluster and the premium media control unit is also roughly twice the cost of the highest-end infotainment unit examined by IHS.
Space

The Cult of Elon Musk Shines With Steve Jobs' Aura 181

Posted by timothy
from the what-is-this-cologne-you're-wearing? dept.
HughPickens.com writes Alan Boyle writes that over the years, Elon Musk's showmanship, straight-ahead smarts and far-out ideas have earned him a following that spans the geek spectrum — to the point that some observers see glimmers of the aura that once surrounded Apple's Steve Jobs. "To me, it feels like he's the most obvious inheritor of Steve Jobs' mantle," says Ashlee Vance, who's writing a biography of Musk that at one time had the working title The Iron Man. "Obviously, Steve Jobs' products changed the world ... [But] if Elon's right about all these things that he's after, his products should ultimately be more meaningful than what Jobs came up with. He's the guy doing the most concrete stuff about global warming." So what is Musk's vision? What motivates Musk at the deepest level? "It's his Mars thing," says Vance. Inspired in part by the novels of Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, Musk has come around to the view that humanity's long-term future depends on extending its reach beyond Earth, starting with colonies on Mars. Other notables like physicist Stephen Hawking have laid out similar scenarios — but Musk is actually doing something to turn those interplanetary dreams into a reality. Vance thinks that Musk is on the verge of breaking out from geek guru status to a level of mass-market recognition that's truly on a par with the late Steve Jobs. Additions to the Tesla automotive line, plus the multibillion-dollar promise of Tesla's battery-producing "gigafactory" in Nevada, could push Musk over the edge. "Tesla, as a brand, really does seem to have captured the public's imagination. ... All of a sudden he's got a hip product that looks great, and it's creating jobs. The next level feels like it's got to be that third-generation, blockbuster mainstream product. The story is not done."
Transportation

Tesla Announces Dual Motors, 'Autopilot' For the Model S 283

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-for-individual-resale dept.
SchrodingerZ writes: Nine days after Elon Musk hinted about a new project, Tesla Motors has unveiled the P85D Sedan. This is Tesla's latest car design, capable of feats not yet seen in electric vehicles. The four door luxury car is able to go from zero to 60 miles per hour in a mere 3.2 seconds, an acceleration similar to the McLaren F1 super car. While the exterior remains the same build as the standard Model S, the interior will have a second motor in the front of the car to complement the rear motor. The D models will also have a slightly greater range of 275 miles on a single charge, 10 miles more than the 85 and P85 cars. Safety features have also been enhanced, adding "adaptive cruise control and the ability to read speed limit signs, stop itself if a crash is imminent, stay in its lane, and even park itself in a street spot or in your garage." Musk explains at the inaugural event, "this car is nuts. It's like taking off from a carrier deck. It's just bananas." The "D" version is available for the 60kWh, 80kWh, and P85 cars, and are expected to start shipping in December of this year.
Space

Send Your Own Radiosonde 90,000 Feet Into the Sky (Video) 48

Posted by Roblimo
from the gonna-take-you-higher dept.
Radiosonde, weather balloon, near-space exploration package... call it what you will, but today's interviewee, Jamel Tayeb, is hanging instrument packages and cameras below balloons and sending them up to 97,000 feet (his highest so far), then recovering them 50 or 60 miles away from their liftoff points with help from a locator beacon -- and not just any locator beacon, mind you, but a special one from a company called High Altitude Science with "unlocked" firmware that allows it to work with GPS satellites from altitudes greater than 60,000 feet, which typical, off-the-shelf GPS units can't do.

Here's a balloon launch video from Instructure, a company that helps create open source education systems. The point of their balloon work (and Jamel's) is not that they get to boast about what they're doing, but so you and people like you say, "I can make a functioning high altitude weather balloon system with instrumentation and a decent camera for only $1000?" This is a lot of money for an individual, but for a high school science program it's not an impossible amount. And who knows? You might break the current high-altitude balloon record of 173,900 feet. Another, perhaps more attainable record is PARIS (Paper Aircraft Released Into Space) which is currently 96,563 feet. Beyond that? Perhaps you'll want to take a crack at beating Felix Baumgartner's high altitude skydiving and free fall records. And once you are comfortable working with near space launches, perhaps you'll move on to outer space work, where you'll join Elon Musk and other space transportation entrepreneurs. (Alternate Video Link)