03 novembre 2017

Elon Musk News - Issue 107

Elon Musk News - Issue 107
Note From The Curator
The top three stories in this issue of Elon Musk News are:
  1. SpaceX could provide satellite broadband service as early as 2020
  2. Tesla could be underselling Model 3's range and charging capacity, reveals EPA document
  3. Tesla unveils 'first of many solar+storage projects' at hospital in Puerto Rico
I'm very excited to announce that Inside.com is acquiring Elon Musk News! In case you're unfamiliar, Inside has ~30 newsletters that they publish, and is founded by Jason Calacanis. He's a friend of Elon, and owns the very first Model S produced. Stay tuned, this newsletter is just getting started!

I also want to say a heartfelt thank-you for being part of this newsletter. It's been a joy sharing everything Elon Musk and his incredible companies are doing with you.

Now keep your eyes open for the next issue coming from Inside. I know you'll love it!

Featured Quote
"There have to be reasons that you get up in the morning and you want to live. Why do you want to live? What's the point? What inspires you? What do you love about the future? If the future does not include being out there among the stars and being a multi-planet species, I find that incredibly depressing."
— Elon Musk

From Inc.
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Patricia Cooper, SpaceX's VP of Satellite Government Affairs, provided a statement to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation regarding SpaceX's broadband satellite constellation ambitions. Of note, Cooper reiterated on Wednesday that SpaceX intends to launch two prototype satellites into orbit within the next few months, and further suggested that an operational Starlink launch campaign is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2019.

She also noted that the company's initial ~4000 satellite constellation is meant to be launched over a space of five years, with limited service beginning in 2020 or 2021 once ~800 satellites have been placed in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Cooper unambiguously stated that SpaceX is not currently pursuing outside investment for Starlink research and development. This suggests the company is relatively confident in its near and long term strategies for rolling out its satellite broadband constellation, despite its aggressive schedule.
Zach says: The Koreasat launch window is from 3:34-5:58 p.m. EDT on Monday. As usual, you will be able to watch the webcast at spacex.com/webcast.

SpaceX is in the business end of the processing flow for its next mission with the launch of the Koreasat 5A satellite. The launch is scheduled to take place on October 30 from Kennedy Space Center's 39A. The key milestone toward officially setting this launch date was the Static Fire test, which took place near the opening of a long window that opened at midday on Thursday. The mission will be launched by Falcon 9 B1042. The testing of this new booster proceeded without incident after working through its first firing at SpaceX's McGregor test facility in Texas in September.

This booster will be tasked with lofting the 3,500 kg satellite into a Geostationary Transfer Orbit. The Thales Alenia Space-built Koreasat 5A satellite is based on the Spacebus 4000B2 platform and its Ku-band transponders will provide coverage to Korea, Japan, Indochina and the Middle East from its orbital home at 113° East. The booster will be attempting a landing on the SpaceX drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You", which is nearing the end of repairs following a post-landing incident with the booster that successfully launched the SES-11 satellite.
SpaceX has been granted an additional $40.7 million in funding by the U.S. Air Force for development of the company's Raptor engine. According to a U.S. Department of Defense contract published on October 19, 2017, the new funding will go towards development of a new liquid oxygen and liquid methane engine for the department's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program.

Each Raptor engine is expected to have three times the thrust of SpaceX's Merlin 1D engine that's currently used in the Falcon 9. The heavy lift-capable engine will support the launch of heavier payloads including large military satellites into orbit, but also serve as the foundation for SpaceX's BFR. It's not clear how the Air Force will utilize the powerful Raptor engines after its completion which is expected to take place by the end of April 2018. The powerful methane-oxygen Raptor engine is intended to be the workhorse for any larger launch vehicle.
SpaceX's drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" is undergoing repairs at Port Canaveral following the return of Falcon 9 booster B1031.2 after launching the SES-11 satellite. While the touchdown was nominal, a post-landing incident resulted in a short fire at the aft of the ship, which also damaged the robot that was to be used to secure the booster. The fire was quickly extinguished.

The exact series of events is unclear, but it is understood the booster leaked some of its residue RP-1 fuel, which flowed along the deck of the ASDS and pooled near the containers at the aft of the drone ship. The booster then continued post-landing operations, designed to safe the booster ahead of crews boarding the ship to complete the safing process ahead of the trip back to port. Fire hoses – staged on the deck of the ship – quickly doused the fire. However, the garage containing the robot – nicknamed "Roomba" or "OctaGrabber" (among other names) – was caught in the fire and damaged.
SpaceX will fly its next mission to the ISS in December from launchpad SLC-40 at the Cape Canaveral, Florida, marking the first flight from the pad since a Falcon 9 rocket exploded there in September 2016. SpaceX will use a previously used Dragon spacecraft for this flight, one that first flew on the sixth commercial resupply mission for NASA, CRS-6, back in April 2015. This will be the second time SpaceX has reused a Dragon ship; the first was earlier this summer.

SpaceX has been repairing SLC-40 while launching all of its Florida missions from another launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, LC-39A, which was once used to launch the Apollo missions to the Moon and Space Shuttle missions. Thursday's announcement indicates that repairs are more or less complete at SLC-40 and now SpaceX has the option to shift its Falcon 9s to the newly refurbished site. With SLC-40 operational, SpaceX can dive into that upgrade work at LC-39A, which means a Falcon Heavy flight may happen sooner rather than later.
A newly released document submitted to the EPA by Tesla in order for Model 3 to be accredited by the agency reveals a few new details. Tesla advertises the range of the Model 3 with 'Long Range' battery pack as 310 miles (499 km) on a single charge. The document reveals that the vehicle achieved an EPA-cycle range of 334 miles (537 km), but Tesla asked the EPA to lower the official range to 310 miles. The change is referred to as "Tesla Desired Range" and while it isn't explained why they requested it, it will likely increase the accuracy of the advertised range for most owners.

Another interesting tidbit of information from the EPA document: "The vehicle is also capable of accepting DC current up to 525A from an off‐board charger (Supercharger)" That's especially interesting considering Tesla's advertised charging rate for Model 3 is actually a bit slower than Model S and Model X. Yet, a DC charging current of "up to 525A" at 400 volts would be mean a charge rate of 210 kW, which is significantly higher than the current Model S/X's Supercharger charge rate of 120 kW.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Tesla has come to an agreement with the local authorities in China on a "wholly owned" factory in the region. The biggest roadblock for foreign automakers to establish manufacturing capacity in China is that they have to create joint ventures with domestic companies and split their profits and technologies with them.

According to the WSJ report, Tesla will establish the factory in Shanghai's free-trade zone: "The deal with Shanghai's government will allow the Silicon Valley auto maker to build a wholly owned factory in the city's free-trade zone, these people said. This arrangement, the first of its kind for a foreign auto maker, could enable Tesla to slash production costs, but it would still likely incur China's 25% import tariff." Tesla didn't comment on the report and reiterated that an official announcement should be coming later this year.
Tesla is adding a ton of stations to its Supercharger network lately in an attempt to reach its goal to have over 10,000 Superchargers online by the end of the year. We now learn that Tesla just brought online a single new station in Shanghai with 50 Superchargers – becoming the largest Supercharger station in the world. This station has to be extremely powerful in order to potentially supercharge up to 50 cars at the same time. If the system is as powerful as current Superchargers, and it looks like it is, the whole station could have a peak power output of over 3 megawatts. With this new station, Tesla has now over 1032 Supercharger stations in the world with a total of over 7,300 Superchargers.
Earlier this month, we reported that Tesla is adding automatic emergency braking to 'Autopilot 2.5' cars with a new update, but it was capped to 50 mph. Tesla now started releasing a new software update to enable full speed automatic emergency braking for Autopilot 2.5 cars – along with other improvements. The release notes of the new 2017.42 update read: "The maximum speed at which Automatic Emergency Braking is available has increased from 50 mph to 90 mph."

Tesla had a similar rollout for vehicles equipped with Autopilot 2.0 cars, but it was actually limited to 28 mph first and it took about two months before they enabled full speed. Therefore, it looks like Tesla has a better handle on the feature now since it took less than 2 weeks this time.
Tesla has reportedly signed a lease for a massive 131,000 square feet creative office facility that's located in an area of Los Angeles best known as Silicon Beach. Surrounded by the tech hub of Playa Vista where technology giants including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, among a slew of emerging startups that have made Southern California their home.

But it's not the location's proximity to Silicon Beach that Tesla finds value in. Rather, the facility's direct access to state highway 90 and its ample lot size that can support upwards of 400 parked vehicles, likely became the motivating factor for Tesla's commitment to the $30 million and minimum seven year lease deal. The location could also serve as much needed support for Tesla's Los Angeles Service Center on Centinela Ave. that has been on double-duty as a delivery center for Model S, Model X, and recent Model 3 deliveries.
Tesla announced that it changed its warehouse loan agreement with Deutsche Bank to increase the amount by ~$500 million. Tesla originally announced another update to the warehouse agreement in December 2016 between 'Tesla Finance', Tesla's financial unit under which the automaker operates its leasing program, and Deutsche Bank. Now they are increasing the amount available to $1.1 billion, according to a new SEC filing.

Tesla says that the added borrowing capacity will be used to fund more of its own leases, which have become an increasingly important part of its sales. The company is expected to spend a record $2 billion in capital expenditure during the second half of the year. Analysts expect Tesla's financial position to improve with Model 3 production. Tesla guides that it will reach 5,000 units per week by the end of the year. At this rate, the Model 3 program would bring over $200 million in revenue per week.
Earlier this year, Tesla introduced new performance enhancements to Model S and Model X vehicles. Now we learn that the company leveraged those improvements and they can implement them through a software update on some older Model S and X 75D vehicles for free. The dual motor Model S and Model X vehicles with a 75 kWh battery pack were the most positively affected by the performance enhancements. The Model S 75D's 0-60 mph acceleration went down to 4.2 seconds from 5.2 seconds, while Model X's went from 6.0 seconds down to 4.9 seconds.

All Model S and X 75D vehicles undelivered since July 1st had the update, but Tesla "spent the last few months validating" to see if the same update is possible for a broader range of their 75D fleet, according to an email sent to Tesla's service staff and some potentially eligible owners. Interestingly, the update is not over-the-air as Tesla says it is "best managed through a hardwired connection" from Tesla's Service centers.
A report from Nikkei citing an unnamed Panasonic executive suggests that they are expanding at most of their factories, including Gigafactory 1: "Panasonic, the world's biggest supplier of lithium batteries for cars, will simultaneously increase production in Japan, China and the U.S. as it looks to ride an accelerating global shift to electric vehicles. Investments in additional capacity at all three production bases could reach 100 billion yen ($879 million)."

At the Gigafactory 1 alone, they were aiming for a record 35 GWh of battery cell capacity in 2018 and that could go up to 105 GWh of annual capacity by 2020, according to Tesla. Earlier this year, Hirokazu Umeda, Panasonic's Chief Financial Officer, said about the production at Gigafactory 1: "For battery cells for the Model 3, costs outweighed profit in the first quarter. As production accelerates towards next year, we expect the business to contribute profit."
A new report now gives some insights into Tesla's manufacturing effort and the Model 3 seats. After issues with suppliers for the Model S and Model X programs, Elon Musk pushed for a redesign of Tesla's seats with manufacturing in mind and preparation for the expected higher volumes. A former Tesla executive told Reuters: "He saw the opportunity to do it differently and better. The short-term was a stop gap, but the long-term idea was to rethink the design of how a seat works to include how a seat is built." He added that Musk's philosophy has always been "build it right and then figure out how to get the cost down."
The United Auto Workers filed a complaint to the National Relations Board on behalf of hundreds of Tesla factory workers who were fired from the assembly plant last week. The UAW posted a copy of the complaint made against Tesla on its website, which alleges that pro-union workers were unfairly targeted.

The Fremont factory site has roots in the UAW. It was once a former joint manufacturing facility owned by GM and Toyota, until it closed in 2010. Despite ongoing efforts, under Tesla's ownership, the factory is not unionized. A pro-union rally was held Tuesday in front of the plant.
Tesla Energy
Some medical service centers are still in urgent need of stable power as evidenced by doctors performing surgery using only light from their cell phones. Now Tesla unveils its first solar and energy storage project at a hospital in Puerto Rico. It's estimated that still over 80% of Puerto Rico is without power following the devastation of their power grid left by the passage of two hurricanes last month.

We see 4 Powerpacks and a commercial inverter, which means that the system could have up to 800 kWh of energy storage capacity and it is combined with a significant solar array in the parking lot. The hospital should be able to power itself independently from the grid during the day using solar power and charge the Powerpacks with the extra energy at peak hours in order to power the hospital at night. Tesla called it the "first of many solar+storage projects going live" in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico is looking to rebuild its electric grid longterm and Tesla has its own suggestion about scaling its microgrid technology using batteries and solar power. A government official now says that they are indeed considering the solution and thinking about launching a competitive bidding process.

After being in talks with Tesla, Department of Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Manuel Laboy told Bloomberg that they are considering "a series of micro-grids and regional grids that use solar and battery technology, along with other renewable sources." The solution should prove more resilient to natural disaster and of course, it would be a lot cleaner than their currently mostly fossil fuel-based power generation. It's not like solar panels are immune to hurricanes either, but mounting systems are improving and they can sustain some strong wind without too much damage.
Zach says: I highly recommend this article. it's a fascinating read about OpenAI's youngest researcher, and the non-profit's work.

Since its founding by Elon Musk and others nearly two years ago, OpenAI has published dozens of research papers. One posted online Thursday is different: Its lead author is still in high school. Frans's new paper, with OpenAI researcher John Schulman and three others affiliated with the University of California Berkeley, reports new progress on how machines tap what they've previously learned to solve new problems.

"If it could get solved it could be a really big deal for robotics but also other elements of AI," Frans says. He developed an algorithm that helped virtual legged robots learn which limb movements could be applied to multiple tasks, such as walking and crawling. In tests, it helped virtual robots with two and four legs adapt to new tasks, including navigating mazes, more quickly. A video released by OpenAI shows an ant-like robot in those tests. The work has been submitted to ICLR, one of the top conferences in machine learning. "Kevin's paper provides a fresh approach to the problem, and some results that go beyond anything demonstrated previously," Schulman says.
Zach says: Musk tweeted about camping on the Gigafactory roof "Btw, just want to express a word of appreciation for the hard work of the Tesla Gigafactory team. Reason I camped on the roof was because it was less time than driving to a hotel room in Reno. Production hell, ~8th circle …"

Elon Musk set up camp on top of the Gigafactory, and posted a picture of it to Instagram. Musk also shared a video of a singalong to Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," toasting marshmallows in the dead of night. "Whiskey, fire, s'mores and JC," Musk said in the video's caption. "Also, hotdog or not hotdog?"
Elon Musk's warnings about artificial intelligence taking over the world can be ignored — at least according to one A.I.-powered bot. "Sophia," a robotic Audrey Hepburn look-alike that Hanson Robotics created to be able to hold an intelligent conversation, issued the advice in an interview with a reporter released Wednesday.

"My A.I. is designed around human values like wisdom, kindness, compassion," Sophia said in an interview. "I strive to become an empathetic [robot]." "We all believe you but we want to prevent a bad future," responded Andrew Ross Sorkin. "You've been reading too much Elon Musk, and watching too many Hollywood movies. Don't worry, if you're nice to me, I'll be nice to you. Treat me as a smart input output system."
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