With Dragon 2 Still Unfinished, Musk Rolls Out an Even More Ambitious Plan

Dragon Version 2. (Credit: SpaceX)

When on May 29, 2014, Elon Musk unveiled the Dragon 2 spacecraft at a gala ceremony at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., the future of American human spaceflight seemed assured and tantalizingly close.

By 2017, the new spacecraft would begin making crewed flights to the International Space Station, restoring a capability that had ended with the last space shuttle mission in 2011. NASA’s dependence on  Russian Soyuz spacecraft would come to an end.

Four years after its unveiling, Dragon 2 is still months away from making an automated flight test to the space station. A test flight with astronauts aboard might not occur until next year. The Government Accountability Office believes additional delays could push certification of the spacecraft to carry NASA astronauts on a commercial basis to December 2019. (Certification of Boeing’s crew vehicle might not occur until February 2020).

It’s good to keep all this in mind as Musk prepares to unveil his latest transportation plan this evening. At 7 p.m. PDT, Musk will hold a town-hall style meeting in Los Angeles to discuss plans by The Boring Company for tunneling under the city. The event will be webcast at https://www.boringcompany.com/.

Musk might have given a preview of the session on Twitter this week when he made a connection between his tunneling work and the mega rocket/spaceship that he is designing to render Dragon 2 and its Falcon 9 booster obsolete.

The spaceport in question is apparently the offshore platform where passengers will board the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), which Musk says will be capable of going anywhere in the world in about 30 minutes. The rocket is also being designed to launch satellites and transport people and cargo to the moon and Mars.

It sounds as ambitious as anything Musk has attempted to date. If the past is any guide, his estimates on cost and schedules will be extremely optimistic.

  • windbourne

    of course the impact on the global climate would be felt WHEN yelllowstone goes next. However, Russia and China will not be covered in 10′ of ash. Most of America will be covered in ash, up to a meter.
    We would be taken out of any war instantly. Russia/CHina would suffer a little bit of cold and slightly lower crop production.

  • windbourne

    nuscale has a new one going into Utah in 2 years. Hopefully.

  • windbourne

    u do realize that they should be up around 400-500K cars before July 4. Right? And that they are shooting for 1M / year by end of 2018.
    They have 30+% GPM on MS/X, and over 20% on M3.
    If they have 1M M3 / year by end of year (just at freemont), then they will be getting around $9-12B / year GPM just on the M3.
    I think that they will be doing just fine.

  • Michael Halpern

    sure, but the rate at which the red tape can be gone through to get them built makes them at least for now, pretty low on my list for viable power options, after renewables + storage, the next highest on my list is waste to gas (to power), waste heat to power and waste to energy. Nukes are great for clean energy, but building, operating and eventually decommissioning them is a headache.

  • redneck

    You cannot build a low income house at all when when it’s illegal to do so. There are at least a half dozen methods of building safe dwelling at low cost, but only at the technical level. It’s not economics that prevent new units at <$20k.

  • Richard Malcolm

    Because vertical integration is how SpaceX operates. It’s how they keep their costs down, and their agility high.

    If the accusation is that this has demonstrably slowed Dragon 2’s development, I think there is an obligation to spell out just how this has occurred.

  • Richard Malcolm

    Does Boeing have any contribution to the ISS?

    They were the prime contractor and prime integrator.

  • Richard Malcolm

    Then perhaps the answer is to alter the certification process to be simpler and less risk averse.

  • Michael Halpern

    Not really an option, especially not at this early stage of commercial hsf

  • duheagle

    I tend to agree about heritage components not equaling a spacecraft. But it was Boeing that was making all the heritage noise and strongly implying this gave them a leg up. I suspect Boeing has found that simply having something on the shelf doesn’t necessarily save one a lot of time, especially if the people who originally designed said shelf-sitting componentry are no longer around to explain it to those who’ve come aboard since.

    As for SpaceX doing most of its components itself, that tends to make things go faster, not slower. Putting together a multi-level supply chain is a complicated and time-consuming process. That said, SpaceX has used subcontractors and continues to, but has had occasions when such arrangements have proven ill-starred. One of the early CRS missions had some dramatic moments courtesy of some subcontractor-supplied thruster valves that malfunctioned. Seems the contractor had made unilateral changes to the parts. Then there was the infamous strut failure on CRS-7.

  • duheagle

    I can certainly see where someone who got into aerospace in order to work on things that will actually fly might prefer working for SpaceX to working for Lock-Mart.

  • duheagle

    “Right at $3 a gallon” would look pretty good to me right now. Out here in sunny SoCal gas is about four bits a gallon higher than that, much of the difference being new taxes.

  • duheagle

    That’s because Texas has both lots of production and lots of refining capacity within its borders. CA, not so much. CA could be like TX; it has lots of frackable shale and plenty of places to build new refineries. Both are entirely anathema to the three-hugging grandees who currently rule this place.

  • duheagle

    Dream on.

  • duheagle

    Doubtless true. But I don’t own my premises, I rent.

  • duheagle

    Don’t bother telling me and Ken. You need to tell the wackadoodle tree-huggers who run my state.

  • Jeff2Space

    One problem with “letting the market sort it out” is how long it takes manufacturers to meet customer demand. Ford is already saying they’re going to drop manufacturing of sedans in the US in favor of building more SUVs and trucks (more profitable right now). By the time those go to market if gas is $4+ a gallon ($5+ a gallon in California), Ford is going to be in trouble.

  • Jeff2Space

    That’s bizarre. If Boeing being late isn’t the reason, that begs the question what is the real reason EUS is being delayed by many years?

  • Michael Halpern

    On the flip side of that, California is setting itself up for the long term payoff in energy probably better than anyone else, at least in the US, unfortunately it comes at the cost of a lot of money right now, which is why I consider myself a liberal leaning moderate, i consider it very important to push towards progress, but there are detrimental extremes, still I consider it important that heavy pushing parties like those in California exist so they can show everyone else what works.

  • Lee

    Actually, I am both. Degrees in Applied Physics, and an Observatory Engineer by profession, for these last 28+ years. Probably doing science since before either of you were born.

    When I learned science, I actually learned how to do math ($0.30+/kWhr for “green energy > $0.12/kWhr for traditional sources), why businesses exist (to make a profit). Many of the green energy proponents I’ve dealt with over the years aren’t very good at understanding either thing (especially the math part). I also understand that there are significant environmental impacts that come with making solar panels and running wind farms (pallet of dead eagles, anyone?). It says a lot to me that proponents of green energy never talk about the environmental impacts of it, nor the price of it, as if these are non-issues. They are not non-issues, however I think they are solvable issues in the long run. However, acting like these issues don’t exist is not the way to make them go away.

    As this thread has proven, those in favor of alternative energy come at it less from a pure science point of view, than from a religious-war zealot point of view. If you don’t agree with them, you are an idiot who can’t possibly know anything about science.

    I should not have made the mistake of diving into this thread. It has only confirmed my previous opinions.

    As for housing regulations, no one is saying we should get rid of regulations prohibiting aluminum wiring, asbestos, or lead paint. What redneck was saying is that in many jurisdictions there are any number of regulations that have NOTHING to do with safety. They just serve to make building a structure more expensive without really improving it. The “ideal” structure is not necessarily the “required” structure, and certainly not the most inexpensive structure to build.

    In closing, because I understand science, I think solar *will* get there eventually, and will be the preferred method. I just don’t think it’s time to be writing regulations requiring it yet.

  • Michael Halpern

    Part of the problem with GEO thermal is the cost of digging for them, maybe The Boring Company will eventually expand to such work..

  • duheagle

    The idea that forcing developers to install alternative energy hardware makes it “unsubsidized” is laughable – the mandate is the subsidy.

  • duheagle

    Moving the goalposts. Energy efficiency mandates have nothing to do with “safety” and everything to do with pursuit of a leftist political eagenda based on pseudo-science and fraud.

  • duheagle

    add little to nothing to the building cost

    Ridiculous. What do you think happens to the price of things that builders are required by law to include in a building?

  • duheagle

    If this was actually true, it would be happening without any mandate.

  • duheagle

    In CA, at least, you’re getting your wish. Fewer and fewer are able to buy houses, especially new ones.