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Musk Reads #237
SpaceX’s rocket makes a jump and Starship will send eight lucky winners around the Moon. Tesla full self-driving updates? It’s the free edition of Musk Reads #237 — subscribe now to receive two more editions later this week!
Last week, Musk Reads+ subscribers heard from Eric Berger, author of Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX, on what the Falcon 1 launches reveal about SpaceX’s ethos. Subscribers also heard from Josh Giegel, co-founder and CEO of Virgin Hyperloop, about his plans for future designs.
This week, Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck brings a deep dive into the Neutron rocket, its human spaceflight capabilities, and what it all means for Beck’s goals to visit Venus.
Musk quote of the week
“SpaceX team is doing great work! One day, the true measure of success will be that Starship flights are commonplace.”
Read more about Starship’s ambitious SN10 flight.
Tesla will make it easier than ever to join the full self-driving beta. The under-development software, which started rolling out to cars in October 2020, enables select vehicles to drive from point A to point B under human supervision. Vehicles built after October 2016 come with the necessary sensors to support the feature, but some vehicles may require a computer hardware upgrade. Tesla currently sells the software for $10,000 at the point of the car’s purchase.
On Saturday, Musk announced on Twitter plans to greatly expand the beta software tests. He revealed that “due to high levels of demand” to join the beta program, users will be able to sign up by using the in-car display to visit the “Service” section and then pressing the “Download Beta” option.
“Availability varies by region due to regulatory approval delays and/or Tesla internal development & testing,” Musk wrote on Twitter. “Note: word ‘Beta’ is used to reduce complacency in usage & set expectations appropriately. All software is first tested internally by Tesla simulation & QA drive teams.”
The “Beta” button is expected to go live in around 10 days from Musk’s tweet, placing a potential release date of March 16. As for when the software won’t need human oversight? Musk claimed in December 2020 that some jurisdictions could approve the software next year.
Tesla’s software has made impressive strides. In a video shared by YouTube channel Whole Mars Catalog, a Tesla self-driving car faces off against a Waymo vehicle to reach the same destination. While Tesla gets there in just over five minutes, the Waymo car takes around eight minutes.
Success? SpaceX launched the Starship SN10 prototype rocket last Wednesday, the third high-altitude test for the firm’s under-development rocket. The fully reusable ship is designed to send humans to Mars and beyond, but the firm has yet to reach orbit with the ship. The third test reached an altitude of 10 kilometers, or around 32,800 feet. Unlike the first two, SN10 landed in one piece — only to explode less than 10 minutes later. Read more.
Want to ride SpaceX’s upcoming Starship rocket on a trip around the Moon? Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who is funding the “dearMoon” mission set to launch in 2023, announced a competition last Tuesday to win one of eight available seats. Although Maezawa announced in September 2018 that he would choose artists for his lunar voyage, he explained in a new video that “every single person who is doing something creative could be called an artist.” The crew will consist of 10 to 12 passengers in total including the billionaire. Read more.
In other Musk news…
Boston Dynamics’ Spot robots have been spotted helping with the SN10 cleanup.
Welcome to “the city of Starbase, Texas”? A post from Musk on Tuesday sparked speculation about the CEO’s plans for the state. SpaceX is currently building its Starship rocket at facilities in Texas.
A new job posting suggests SpaceX is planning a new factory for Starlink satellites. The satellites would be used for SpaceX’s growing internet connectivity constellation, promising high-speed access from almost anywhere with a view of the sky.
Tesla is quietly building a mega-battery in Texas, Bloomberg reported Monday. A subsidiary called Gambit Energy Storage is building an installation with over 100 megawatts of capacity in Angleton, around 40 miles south of Houston. The battery, which would support a grid recently hit with blackouts, could provide 20,000 homes with energy on a summer day.
Rumors of a Tesla factory in the United Kingdom heated up this week after minister of state for business Kwasi Kwarteng told the House of Commons that Somerset in the south-west has the “manufacturing skill and competence to be able to sustain an excellent gigafactory.” The governing Conservative Party made reference to a “gigafactory” in its 2019 election manifesto. Rumors swirled last summer that Tesla was linked to a search for a factory location in the UK.
The ultra-fine print
This has been Musk Reads #237, 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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