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♦ Note From The Curator ♦
The top three stories in this issue of Elon Musk News are:
This issue focuses heavily on Trump's Wednesday meeting with Elon Musk and other tech executives. While not a lot is known about exactly what was discussed, Trump clearly gave the group of tech executives a warm welcome. He also gave Musk a strategic advisory role. Another piece of good news is that Trump had Elon Musk & Apple CEO Tim Cook stay after the meeting for further discussions. While Trump & Musk appear to have diametrically opposed world views, the fact that the two now have an open line of communication is probably the best thing we could hope for at this point.
If you only click on one link in this issue, I highly recommend watching this video of the opening remarks. Trump's seemingly genuine warmth towards the group was a big surprise to me.
Enjoy issue 62, and have an excellent Friday!
♦ Featured Quote ♦
"Talent is extremely important. It's like a sports team, the team that has the best individual player will often win, but then there's a multiplier from how those players work together and the strategy they employ."
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was among 15 tech executives taking part in President-elect Donald Trump's meeting with Silicon Valley's top brass. His presence stood out when you consider that Trump opened the meeting by saying: "I won't tell you the hundreds of calls we had asking to come to this meeting. Peter [Thiel] was sort of saying "no, that company is too small," and these are monster companies…"
Musk's companies are dwarfed by the sizes of the other companies at the table, which makes his presence more interesting – especially in light of his nomination to Trump's Strategic and Policy Team.
Elon Musk has been selected to be an economic adviser to President-elect Donald Trump. Of course, even if Musk tells Trump that leading on climate and clean energy is in America's best interest, there's a chance the next president just won't listen. At the end of the day, Musk holds an advisory role. Meanwhile, Trump has given top positions in his administration to people with strong ties to traditional energy industries.
President-elect Donald Trump has made an Elon Musk connected team addition to his NASA transition team. The addition of Dr. Greg Autry comes as good news for SpaceX and commercial space fans overall.
Dr. Autry outlined his policy recommendations for the incoming presidential administration in his mid-October Forbes article. In the piece, he advocated for the complete defunding of NASA's Space Launch System, citing the high budget allotment for the program which has failed to keep up with the commercial space company technologies of SpaceX and Blue Origin.
In the wake of its September 1st rocket explosion, SpaceX has officially delayed the first crewed flight of its Crew Dragon vehicle — the capsule that the company is building to take NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Originally planned for late 2017, the first flight of the Crew Dragon with people on board is now slated to take place in May of 2018, according to a NASA blog post. Prior to that flight, SpaceX will perform a demonstration mission of Crew Dragon in November 2017 — a flight that won't include any astronauts.
There had been heavy speculation that the flight would be delayed following the accident, in which a Falcon 9 rocket exploded as it was being fueled on a Florida launch pad. And SpaceX says the move was made as the company finalizes its investigation into the accident. "As this investigation has been conducted, our Commercial Crew team has continued to work closely with NASA and is completing all planned milestones for this period," SpaceX said in a statement to The Verge. "We are carefully assessing our designs, systems, and processes taking into account the lessons learned and corrective actions identified. Our schedule reflects the additional time needed for this assessment and implementation."
NASA doesn't plan to put any science instruments aboard SpaceX's first Mars mission, which could launch as early as 2018, agency officials said. NASA wants to wait until SpaceX proves it can pull off a soft landing on the Red Planet before committing millions of dollars' worth of equipment to the spaceflight company's "Red Dragon" effort, said Jim Green, head of the agency's Planetary Science Division.
"Landing on Mars is hard," Green said during a talk Tuesday (Dec. 13) here at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). "I want to wait this one out."
The main goal is to practice landing heavy payloads on Mars, to help pave the way for human settlement there. The Red Dragon missions also should have significant scientific returns, since they'll allow researchers to send a variety of gear to the Red Planet, Musk has said.
If you've ever wondered how a rocket nozzle is formed, wonder no more. On Friday afternoon Elon Musk shared a brief ten-second video on Twitter of at least seven blow torches on full-blast, shaping what will end up on the very bottom of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It will be one of nine nozzles around the Merlan engines on the bottom of the first-stage of the rocket.
SpaceX manufactures its rockets engines at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California and has a test facility outside McGregor, Texas (directly between Dallas-Ft. Worth and Austin), and launches them from a facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida. It's not clear where this video was shot, though.
Tesla promises that its new Autopilot hardware will enable all of its new vehicles to eventually reach level 5 autonomous driving capability, but in the meantime, they are lacking several features that have long been available in its cars equipped with the first generation Autopilot. Over the weekend, Tesla started pushing a new update to start adding those features, but new owners will have to wait a little longer for features most associated with Autopilot, like Autosteer or Traffic-aware cruise control.
Those are expected to arrive by the end of the month with version 8.1 of Tesla's software, which should also come with several user interface improvements and an updated mobile app that will also be helpful to owners without the new Autopilot hardware.
When Electric GT, an all-Tesla and all-electric racing championship, announced that it will only use the Tesla Model S P85+, we were surprised. Since the release of the P85+, Telsa has released 3 models that are more powerful and which would make more sense for an entertaining racing competition. This week, however, the championship announced that they will use the Tesla Model S P100D for their next-gen all-electric racing car, named 'Electric GT V2.0'.
Electric GT Championship CEO, Mark Gemmell, said about the announcement: "The Electric GT V2.0 design is the fastest way towards the 'Age of Light'. I am very excited to be using the Tesla Model S P100D as it is incredibly quick and innovative. This week we opened the subscription period for teams and the new car announcement is an exciting prospect for those who want to join us."
Beyond announcing the end of unlimited free Supercharging and the change to 'Supercharging credit program', it looks like Tesla is preparing to introduce new measures to crack down on Supercharger abuse, especially Tesla owners leaving their vehicles at Supercharger stations for long periods of times after charging is over.
Earlier this year, Tesla already started implementing a new message text-based alert system to deter owners from leaving their cars at Superchargers after reaching their preset charging requirements. Tesla would send a message text alerting the owner that charging is over and then again every 5 minutes until the vehicle is unplugged.
In the third quarter of 2016, the U.S. surpassed all previous quarterly solar photovoltaic (PV) installation records: 4,143 megawatts (MW), or a rate of one megawatt (MW) every 32 minutes. That pace is even faster today, as the fourth quarter will surpass this past quarter's historic total, according to the Solar Energies Industry Association (SEIA): "With a 90 percent favorability rating and 209,000 plus jobs, the U.S. solar industry has proven that when you combine smart policies with smart 21st century technology, consumers and businesses both benefit."
Beyond Tesla and Panasonic's collaborations in battery manufacturing at the Gigafactory in Nevada and solar cell manufacturing at the factory in Buffalo, the two companies reportedly struck a deal this week for Panasonic to manufacture complete solar panels for Tesla. The contract is reportedly significant enough that Panasonic is reopening its idle solar module factory in Osaka, Japan.
In recent weeks, the hyperloop has gone from a concept touted by Elon Musk to something realistically achievable within the next five years in a city that is fittingly futuristic, partly because of the government's push for the system. As other centers of innovation grapple with uncertain politics, this young city in the United Arab Emirates is resolutely building on ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum's vision to be "the world's most innovative city, within seven years." (You might remember that Peter Diamandis, founder of the XPrize and several space companies, said he would also be on board with the plans last year).
Hyperloop One recently announced that it is working on building a transport system that can cut the travel time between Dubai and UAE capital, Abu Dhabi to twelve minutes. Currently it takes approximately 90 minutes to cover those 65-odd miles.