🚀 Why this afternoon’s test matters so much for SpaceX

Musk Reads #240

Starship eyes history; Elon wonders about A.I. stand-up comics; and Tesla Semi hits the snooze button until 2022. It’s the free edition of Musk Reads #240 — subscribe now to receive two more premium editions later this week.

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Musk quote of the week

“I wanna know when A.I. will be able to do stand-up comedy well!? We should be laughing our asses off if it’s so damn smart!”

  • Musk this past weekend, just after predicting A.I. will be able to match the human brain in a few years.


A public notice of road closures in Cameron County, Texas, between 12 and 5 p.m. local time (Central) was released on Monday morning in preparation for the flight of SN11. 

If everything goes according to plan, today will be a massive day for SpaceX as it seeks to perfect a test flight for SN11, the prototype of the Starship rocket. (You can watch the live video of the launch on the SpaceX website here.)

The SpaceX Starship, Musk's two-stage-to-orbit heavy-lift launch vehicle, will attempt to reach 10 kilometers, or 33,000 feet/6.2 miles, during the flight test. 

The rocket was scheduled to launch on Friday, and then on Sunday, but was scrubbed each time because “additional checkouts are needed. Doing our best to land & fully recover,” Musk posted on his Twitter account.

That last part, as you might remember, is important. After all, you cannot “fully recover” a rocket if it belly flops, lands, and then explodes.

Programming note

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It could be a year from now when development of the Tesla Semi — which already faces stiff competition — finally gains traction. Musk said Friday evening that Tesla is too “cell-constrained” right now when asked about its development. 

It seems that, at Musk’s level anyway, the answer remains the same about the Tesla Semi truck: The battery cells are all going to other more in-demand Tesla vehicles, like the Model 3, right now. 

“The main reason we’ve not accelerated new products is — like, for example, Tesla Semi — is that we simply don’t have enough cells for it,” Musk told investment analysts during an earnings call in late January. “If we were to make the Semi, like, right now, which we could easily go into production with the Semi, but we would not have enough cells for it right now. We will have enough cells for Semi when we are producing the Tesla 4680 in volume.”

While the technology exists for the Tesla Semi, the massive amount of battery cells it requires for long-hauls puts it lower in the pecking order when people presumably are lining up to spend their bitcoin on a new Tesla.

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In other Musk news…

  • Elon Musk sent (and deleted) a tweet at 1:20 in the morning. It's a lesson in emotional intelligence. Read the full article.

  • How to get a Tesla Solar Roof in your area. Read the full article.

  • Iron-powered electric vehicles are surging in China, but concerns remain about their range and cold-weather performance. Read the full article.

The ultra-fine print

This has been Musk Reads #240, the weekly rundown of essential reading about futurist and entrepreneur Elon Musk. I’m Nick Lucchesi, editor-in-chief for Inverse and Mike Brown’s humble substitute while he’s off today.

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