Last week was a big one for Tesla & Elon Musk. They unveiled their new solar roofs & Powerwall 2, and also held a conference call on the proposed merger with SolarCity. As Billionaire investor Ron Baron said this morning, "The reason you're buying it [TSLA] is they are reinventing the electric grid. That's a bigger opportunity than cars."
Enjoy issue 56, and have an excellent weekend!
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"There are additional products that I'd like to bring out that I think people will find counterintuitive at first. And then find it obvious. It would seem to be the pattern. It's counterintuitive, it's stupid, it's never going to work. Now it's obvious."
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A panel of expert advisors to NASA have expressed concern about SpaceX's plans to fuel its Falcon 9 rockets with astronauts on board. In a statement, SpaceX maintained that it has "designed a reliable fueling and launch process that minimizes" the risks posed to people. Additionally, a NASA safety review board approved a report in June about the hazards posed by the Falcon 9's fueling, SpaceX says.
Currently, SpaceX fuels its rockets around 30 minutes before they launch, and the plan for future crewed flights is to have astronauts board the Falcon 9 before propellant is loaded into the vehicle. It's a much different procedure than NASA used for the Space Shuttle.
The reason SpaceX has such a short turn around time has to do with the propellant the company uses. SpaceX uses a super cool propellant that's much colder than what was used on the Space Shuttle. These cryogenic temperatures increase the density of propellant that can be used in the rocket, giving the vehicle much more power.
SpaceX wants to put humans on the Red Planet by 2025 — about a decade before NASA thinks it will be able to get there. NASA's official line has been to state clearly: "it's not competition."
The agency doubled down on those sentiments Monday. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's new associate administrator for science, told reporters, "If Elon Musk brought the samples in the door right now I'd throw him a party out of my own money."
Mobile satellite services provider Inmarsat on Nov. 3 said SpaceX has identified the root cause of the Sept. 1 explosion of its Falcon 9 rocket during a launch-pad test and likely will return to flight in December.
"SpaceX has obviously spent some time investigating the reasons behind their recent launch failure," Inmarsat Chief Executive Rupert Pearce said in a conference call with investors. "We believe they now have found a root cause that is fixable quite easily and quite quickly. So they should be able to return to flight in December."
London-based Inmarsat is one of the world's biggest commercial satellite fleet operators. It is one of the few that have maintained an in-house technical staff capable of going beyond satellite manufacturer and launch-service provider assurances to make its own engineering evaluations.
Solar roofing, Powerwall and Tesla cars taken together represent a new kind of ecosystem in consumer tech, one that carries a promise of self-sufficiency in addition to ecological benefits. Tesla has already tipped its hand with respect to how it intends to make vehicle ownership a revenue generator for its drivers, rather than a cost center.
You can see how it might eventually do the same for solar power using solar tile roofs combined with Powerwalls installed in series, giving homeowners surplus power generation and storage with a few different potential options for monetizing the excess (including, say, acting as a supercharger station for other Teslas, or selling back to the grid).
Here's Tesla's description of the solar roof system:
"The solar roof consists of uniquely designed glass tiles that complement the aesthetics of any home, embedded with the highest efficiency photovoltaic cells. It is infinitely customizable for a variety of different home styles, each uniquely engineered so that the photovoltaic cells are invisible. Customers can choose which sections of their roof will contain the hidden solar technology while still having the entire roof look the same. These new roofs will seamlessly and beautifully supply renewable energy to homes, battery storage systems and back into the grid creating savings for owners. When combined with Tesla Powerwall, the solar roof can power an entire home with 100% renewable energy."
Tesla's mission has always been to help solve this problem [of climate change] by accelerating the world's transition to sustainable energy. To achieve this, energy needs to be sustainably generated, sustainable energy needs to be stored for later use, and sustainable energy needs to be used for transportation. And to be effective, the technology used for generation, storage and transportation all need to work together in an integrated way that makes the experience seamless.
Perhaps the most telling statement that speaks to humanities ability to transition the entire world to sustainable energy, is when Musk says this is all achievable.
"We actually did the calculations to figure out what it would take to transition the whole world to sustainable energy. You'd need 100 Gigafactories," he tells DiCaprio. He has no intention of building all those factories himself. But by showing others how it can be done, he hopes to encourage others to follow the trail he blazed.
Elon Musk's Tesla is set to merge with solar energy company SolarCity, and during a call with investors on Tuesday shared his vision for how a solar-powered, carbon-free house might look. In Musk's view, there will be a Tesla in every garage and solar panels on every roof — and a big ol' Powerwall 2 home battery tying everything together. Vertical integration at its most pure.
A researcher asked Musk how many customers he thought would go for a roof, a Tesla car, and a Powerwall together, in what was called a "triple play." "I think that over time most customers are going to ask for all three," Musk said. "Even if they don't all at once."
During Tuesday's conference call to discuss financial details of Tesla's pending merger with SolarCity, Elon Musk revealed that the company's upcoming Model 3 sedan will use some of the same glass technology that the company is using for its solar roof tiles.
"In case it wasn't obvious with the [solar roof] announcement, Tesla has created a glass technology group … with some really phenomenal people," Musk said during the call. The new division has been heavily involved in the engineering that goes into the solar roof tiles which borrows a lot of techniques from the automotive glass business which will be applied to the Model 3, according to Musk.
The Model 3 could have a solar roof made in much the same way as the solar roof tiles. That would allow the car to generate electricity from the sun and use the extra power to extend its range. New technology could also be incorporated into the front windshield and rear window of the Model 3.
Billionaire buy-and-hold investor Ron Baron told CNBC on Friday he believes he can make 30 to 50 times his money on his investment in Tesla in the next 15 years. He called Tesla "maybe the most interesting" company he's ever invested in over his 46 year career.
It's quite impressive that just over 3 years ago, the hyperloop was only an idea described in a white paper by Elon Musk and a few engineers at Tesla and SpaceX, now it's truly taking shape in the middle of the desert in Nevada. Hyperloop One's team is hard at work on the 'DevLoop', but also part of the team is in Dubai where the company is seeing a lot of interest for its technology and it looks very likely that the first real commercial hyperloop will end up in the United Arab Emirates.
The internet is about to become a vicious, chaotic battlefield, and Elon Musk says advanced A.I. could make the carnage even worse. According to a short exchange on Musk's Twitter yesterday, the systems that keep the internet running are particularly vulnerable to simple, brute-force computing attacks — the kind of cyberwarfare that artificial intelligence excel at.
Musk sees A.I. as a loaded gun. Right now, hackers' offensive weapons, like DDoS attacks, have surpassed many of the traditional online defenses used to keep the internet safe and running. While the neural lace and the specter of a true A.I. apocalypse are both a long way off, advanced A.I.'s dominance of the internet is not.