Today at 11:30 am Pacific Time, SpaceX will live stream Elon Musk's talk at the International Astronautical Congress where he will outline his and SpaceX's plan to make humans a multiplanetary species. You can watch it at spacex.com. If you're not able to watch it, we will have full coverage of the key points in Friday's issue.
Thank-you for being part of this newsletter, and enjoy Issue 47!
"Some people don't like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster."
In the first update in nearly three weeks, SpaceX announced Friday that evidence suggests "a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank took place." Still, the helium tank anomaly only explains part of the story — SpaceX isn't sure what the exact cause of the incident was.
Musk, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Air Force Public Affairs Agency, and NASA have still not ruled out that something external to the rocket's system could have caused the explosion. While the investigation is ongoing, SpaceX also announced on Friday that it very well could be launching rockets again as soon as November.
SpaceX has completed the first live test of a rocket intended to transport humans to Mars, founder Elon Musk revealed on Twitter Monday. The successful firing of the Raptor interplanetary transport engine is good news for the Mars Colonial Transport Architecture, an ambitious plan to create a self-sustaining colony on the red planet.
While Musk said in a Reddit AMA session last year that the Raptor would have a thrust of around 230 metric tons, on Monday he tweeted that the production rocket would have around 310 metric tons of thrust, aiming for "specific impulse of 382 seconds." The chamber pressure is triple that of the Merlin family of rockets, the ones used on its Falcon 9 vehicles.
Musk's keynote address, entitled "Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species," will tackle the technical challenges and "potential architectures for colonizing the Red Planet," according to organizers. "I think it's going to sound pretty crazy," Musk said, referring to his Mars speech, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center last April.
Back in July, Tesla officially inaugurated the first phase of its Gigafactory in Nevada – the first 4 sections of the building seen above. Now new aerial pictures show that the automaker is already well on its way to bring up the structures for 4 more sections to more than double the size of the already massive plant.
Tesla says that the structures going up at the South end of the factory add up to 2.5 million square feet and the new structure that is just starting to go up at the North end will add an additional 930,000 square feet. Of course, that's also only a fraction of the overall building once completed. Tesla aims for the Gigafactory to become the biggest building in the world by footprint at 5.8 million square feet and second largest building in the world by total square footage of over 13 million.
Elon Musk's Tesla Model S, when equipped with a P100D Ludicrous battery, will destroy a Lamborghini Huracán in a drag race. A new video shows the race, and, though it's close, and though the Huracán reaches a higher top speed, the Model S ekes out the win.
Amidst all of the excitement around Tesla's newest Version 8.0 Autopilot, which uses radar as a primary sensor, comes a new sighting of Model S testing a LIDAR system near the company's headquarters in Palo Alto, California. The video posted to YouTube clearly shows a Model S with manufacturer plates with a roof-mounted Velodyne LIDAR sensor scanning the vehicle's surrounding.
The sighting is particularly interesting because just weeks earlier, Tesla CEO Elon Musk stated his position against LIDAR during a press conference to discuss Version 8.0, stating that the company decided to use radar technology for its ability to see through rain, snow, fog, and dust – something LIDAR is unable to do.
Only a few weeks after announcing one of the biggest energy storage projects ever, Tesla Energy won again a massive energy storage contract. The automaker's energy division will supply 'Powerpacks' to its energy storage deployment partner, Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS), for a major new project: a 7 MW / 34 MWh network of battery systems to support water treatment facilities of Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD).
Yes, the evolution of electric cars will involve a lot of ongoing innovation. So judging its likely success on the basis of recent history would be foolhardy. Today Tesla sells 100% of its cars, with no discounts. The market has said it really, really wants its vehicles. And everybody who is offered electric panels with (a) the opportunity to sell excess power back to the grid and (b) financing, takes the offer. People enjoy the low cost, sustainable electricity, and want it to grow. But lacking a good storage device, or the inability to sell excess power, their personal economics are more difficult.
Electricity production, electricity storage (batteries) and electricity consumption are tightly linked technologies. Nobody will build charging stations if there are no electric cars. Nobody will build electric cars if there are not good batteries. Nobody will make better batteries if there are no electric cars. Nobody will install solar panels if they can't use all the electricity, or store what they don't immediately need (or sell it.)
Elon Musk's OpenAI and Pennsylvania State University released a new tool this week called "cleverhans," that lets artificial intelligence researchers test how vulnerable their AI is to adversarial examples, or purposefully malicious data meant to confuse the algorithms. Once the vulnerability has been found, a defense to the attack can automatically be applied.
The tool is meant to be a "collection of attacks and defenses, along with tutorials on how to use them," according to Nicolas Papernot, co-creator and security researcher at Pennsylvania State University, in an email to Quartz. He hopes it will serve as a tool for the industry to understand the vulnerabilities, while academics can use it to test and benchmark other new attacks and defenses.