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

    lower speed being 120-160 MPH.

  • windbourne

    geo-thermal is viable in more than 3/4 of the nation. Have to do EGS for 3/4 of that. However, places like yellowstone NEED to be done so as to seal in the volcano.
    I hate to think of getting in a war with Russia or China. Either of them can drop several MOABS or just 1 nuke on yellowstone and cause eruption. OTOH, if we seal it further, it will at least make it harder for them to pull that off.

  • windbourne

    oh yes. We hope to own 3 of those. As it is, we only have an MS currently.

  • windbourne

    Mea Cupla.
    thanx.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, the public is just too stupid to buy vehicles that get more MPG when gas prices go up. The government must make the decision for them 🙂

  • ThomasLMatula

    In Texas, which has lots of oil and is not afraid to use it, gasoline is at $2.35 gallon.

  • Michael Halpern

    Yes but when hyperloops are around 700mph, most things are “lower speed”

  • Michael Halpern

    He doesn’t seem to get the basic principles of long term investment of that all big ticket items you purchase should be considered as investments

  • redneck

    Regulations do interfere with the freedom to build housing that is affordable to lower income people. I’m in the construction industry and see many projects not started due to cost that is driven by regulation. All of the regulations are well meaning. Many of them are counterproductive. Requiring engineered blueprints on simple structures driving up costs by $1k when all the requirements have been known for decades is just one example. I could go on for pages.

    This is the wrong forum to get into this properly. I see very substandard housing that is many decades old in all the poor areas because it is unaffordable to replace them to current code. Many of them are rentals that would simply be demolished if required to be brought up to current standards and nobody can build cheap to replace them legally. More regulation equals more homeless in this case.

  • Michael Halpern

    let me guess M3 and MX are the other two you hope to own? shame Ford was a little sticky about Tesla wanting to borrow the name of one of their less successful vehicles …

  • Michael Halpern

    Speaking of Tesla’s upcoming pickup, i wonder what the towing capability is on gen 2 roadster, considering MX feats. Tesla’s drive trains get ridiculous torque, of course I suspect that Elon will take a page from the 70s and give commercial crew astronauts roadsters, to go with their custom pressure suits, maybe even upgrade everyone’s favorite microgravity musician, even though he retired in 2013 (but based on curiosity stream adds drives a model s, not sure which version, possibly P100D as he was doing a cross country road trip).

    I hope one of the active Astronauts that flew on shuttle gets to ride both commercial crew vehicles that way we get a real comparison between the ergonomics of Shuttle, Soyuz, Starliner and Dragon, in theory in order from least comfortable to most for at least launch it should be Shuttle (srbs), Starliner (smaller SRBs that don’t last as long or produce as much vibration), Soyuz (fully liquid but has a half stage event and they board a day before launch, it’s a tight squeeze for 3 people who have little to do for at least 24hrs then a few minutes of excitement followed by approach to ISS which can be variable in duration), and Dragon (fully liquid, only 2 staging events not 2.5, high degree of control going on with the engines, so throttling down for Max Q may be less noticable).

    As for importing oil, seeing as it will take a while for truck fleets to change over all their vehicles and it’s easier to convert in the interim to biodesiel i think by early 2020s almost all desiel will be biofuel, rail may convert completely to CH4 (various sources) – electric, aviation is going to be a trickier one, there’s also non-fuel uses for petroleum,

  • Michael Halpern

    CAFE doesn’t matter at this point automakers are already electrifying as Tesla has proven that EVs can be very desirable especially in regards to how they drive

  • Michael Halpern

    Supply and demand. To get to Ohio the oil products have to travel,

  • Michael Halpern

    It is important to note that the funding they provided SpaceX in COTS and CRS has and will continue to save NASA and other parts of USG lots of money, and not all of the R&D money spacex has spent has come from the taxpayer, and SpaceX plans to use the development that went into Dragon beyond NASA, it is uncertain if Boeing has any intention of doing the same with CST-100 so for them it might as well be dead end development where as SpaceX sees it as a stepping stone to better things

  • Michael Halpern

    And really with the exception of Falcon Heavy, and the allowance of delaying variables on Crew Dragon, from a development estimate standpoint he has usually been pretty close, and considering the timeframe hyperloops are expected to come online, paired with BFR certification and politics of P2P, and build out of P2P infrastructure and BFR/BFS fleet for the operation, it actually is quite reasonable to assume hyperloop would be available and viable for the task

  • Michael Halpern

    And to be fair it would have complicated certification process at minimum for not a lot of benefit. Retro rockets prior to impact, and airbags are one thing as those have been done with parachutes for initial deceleration with Soyuz and Sky crane, until you get too big for chutes fully propulsive landing is just extra development work, and really wasn’t needed for Dragon

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, and use railroads which are expensive because the environmentalists oppose pipelines.

  • windbourne

    fleet trucks will flip quickly, if these electric trucks can pay for themselves in 2 years or less.
    Rail, specifically Burlington Northern, is switching quickly to nat gas.

    and the non-fuel uses of oil is a non-issue. That is exactly where I want to see us using it. Plastics; nearly all organic chemicals, fertilizer, etc.
    Great stuff.

    As to using bio-fuels, I would love to see it esp for aircrafts. If the airlines can get a steady price on their jet fuel, they will be ecstatic. So will I.

  • windbourne

    MX and either MY or truck. My wife wants MX for the kids/dogs. Right now, I drive a highlander. And I have several kids getting license in the near future.

  • Michael Halpern

    well with the truck, considering the stupid amounts of torque typical in Teslas, that’s a natural market

  • Kenneth_Brown

    California has a few geothermal generating areas. Unfortunately, one of them is on a military base (China Lake) which makes it nearly impossible to develop additional capacity. On the downside, since San Onofre had to be shut down due to turbine problems (they could only run at 80% rated output and couldn’t get a license for that), there is only one nuclear plant left in CA which is under constant pressure to be shut down.

    There is lots of solar and wind going in, but it takes a lot more transmission infrastructure to move the power where it’s needed.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    The problem with trying to set off a supervolcano is that if they succeed, they might as well have dropped the bombs on their own cities. The climactic change would be very serious. The effects of the Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines was easily measurable and nowhere near what would happen if Yellowstone went off.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    If your are paying retail for power, are in an area where you need lots of HVAC and have an EV, it’s not hard to justify. Since electricity is weird in that the more you buy, the higher the unit cost, if you need a bunch, solar starts making sense pretty quickly. I’m hoping to pick up some used panels for about $.50/W to run my swamp cooler this summer. The panels should pay for themselves in one season. In the winter, I’ll dump the power in an oil heater and a thermal battery. I’m saving a ton of money by not needing certain permits since I am not tying into the grid.

    If I get an EV (or PHEV), I’ll really add a bunch of panels and battery storage.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    Tier one power prices are not a bad deal, but if you are constantly using more than your baseline allocation, solar can work out to be a good deal if the system is sized to get the power purchased from the grid back into cheap territory. Nothing says you have to go 100% off grid or not at all.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    Not necessarily. Sure, the torque is there, but hauling a large/heavy trailer also means more power draw. Will there be heating issues? Will the range dwindle to unusable too fast?

  • Kenneth_Brown

    Crude has been creeping up ever so slowing for a while now. Another thing to be nervous about is that Yemen is aiming for Saudi oil infrastructure with their missiles. One good hit and gas will be $4.50/gallon overnight.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    A lot depends on the weather, time of day and where the power is coming from. Wind generation happens when there is wind whether it’s useful or not. The turbines can be turned off or operators can try to sell the excess cheap to at least be making something. Diablo Canyon runs all of the time regardless. It doesn’t make any sense to throttle a nuclear plant and turning it on/off isn’t an easy thing to do.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    Nevada’s net metering went away very quickly which should warn people to not rely on selling power back to the grid at retail prices when figuring out a solar system cost. It’s not in a power company’s interest to have net metering unless they are buying power back at wholesale rates. They are in the business of selling a product to lots of people that they buy from just a few.

    The rooftop mandates in CA are silly. Not every home is situated in a way that makes a solar system worthwhile and not every household will benefit. Chances are also good that developers will be installing the absolute cheapest product they can source that will meet the regulation. Prewiring is a good idea and allocating space for the equipment is not a bad idea. That is much easier to do while the home is being built in the same way that installing coax and Cat5 for ethernet is.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    There is not a good way to “Build” low income housing. Typical low income housing is either older neighborhoods or ugly buildings built of breeze blocks and crammed in as tight as possible. The city where I live has had only a few new homes built in the last several years as it Costs more to build a new home than the price of an existing home of similar size and location. The regulations and fees are a big part of that. I’m hoping to purchase the lot next to my house since it doesn’t have a water meter, septic tank and will take adding another power pole to bring electricity over. That’s well over $50k in costs before a home is even started. I’d combine the lots and put a workshop on the property along with a garden which should mean that I only have to pay the bribes to get the lots combined and not have to shell out for utilities to be put in.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    The interest to finance the installation would exceed the money saved in most cases.

  • Michael Halpern

    Those are things Tesla has mastered

  • Kenneth_Brown

    Most solar installations have an ROI of 9 years or more.

  • Michael Halpern

    No it wouldn’t lets say its an additional 50-100 dollars a month, in California it could save you 50-300 dollars a month in most cases you are saving money

  • redneck

    I think we may be on a similar track, though I’m not sure. On a technical level, it would be easy to build housing that low income people could afford without subsidy that would be a significant improvement in their living conditions. With permitting, codes, square foot minimums, impact fees and so on, nearly impossible.

    It seems to me that there is a disconnect between what average people would like to live in and what is financially feasible for lower income given the restrictions. Thus the shacks long past the sell by date that are far worse than even the breeze block (you mean concrete blocks?) places. Even a small mobile home is better than many of the old units, but NIMBY is alive and well.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    I did some simple estimates based on Tesla financial statements and they will need to produce millions of cars just to catch up with their current debt. I didn’t factor in the continuing interest on that debt and the capital expenditures that they are planning to make over the next couple of years. (I was too lazy and it just didn’t matter). It’s not impossible for them to dig out, but it will take a long time and a lot more spending for new production plants along with a very patient investor network. A rise in stock price doesn’t translate into more money in Tesla’s pocket unless they issue more shares and dilute their existing stockholders which is likely to depress share price for some time and not guarantee any recovery. It will put money in Tesla’s bank account, but it will come at a big cost.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    I don’t think that lawyers can “prove” anything, but they can convince a jury to believe it’s true.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    Look around online. There are some charts showing when Elon has promised something and when it was delivered (provided it has been delivered). The figures aren’t in Elon’s favor. Not even close.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    $1 between two unpopular stations at 2am. The speeds he is promising have to assume perfect tracks. The Red line in LA isn’t all that old and can be jerky in spots. The ground is always moving and things wear out.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    A city or region doesn’t have to make a profit or break even from the fare box if the transportation improves the overall economic health. There will be more money from taxes due the additional business being done. It can also mean not having to expand roads and a decrease in maintenance of existing roads.

    A private company must be able to pay for it’s operations, maintenance and profit margin from the fares riders pay. They don’t have any other skin in the game. If they can’t, why should taxpayer money be used to support them since those taxpayers have no say in how the operation is run?

    I find Elon’s idea of going way down an indication of how little he knows about working underground. In So Cal, that’s talking about passing through water tables, fault lines, different geological structures and types, etc. etc. The cost of transportation systems starts the cheapest at ground level with elevated costing more and underground costing the most by a wide margin. His notion of using small diameter tunnels also means much lower throughput. More “pods” means more difficultly in reaching an accident underground in addition to there being less clearance on each side of a obstacle to allow getting around them quickly. Are people going to be comfortable being stranded hundreds of feet underground for hours at a time?

  • Michael Halpern

    18months from a development standpoint isn’t a bad error

  • Kenneth_Brown

    Does Elon believe all of the sci-fi stories that he’s been reading. The repeated problems he has is there are so many holes in his CGI concepts that it shows there hasn’t been any thought about the real world challenges that would be faced if those systems were going to work. He also hasn’t learned anything from mistakes made in the past. In England, the early subways had elevators to take people up and down. That turned out to be very slow and a huge issue if there were any problems. This is why escalators are used in modern times. More throughput and people can still use them if the power goes out or if they break. Now Elon is showing a system that would have hundreds to thousands of elevators that would carry an entire car up and down leaving a giant hole a city bus could fall into. Never mind all of the zombies walking around with their heads buried in their cell phones that already fall into open utility vaults and sidewalk cargo elevators. If they have solved those types of problems, it lends a lot more credibility to the presentation to show that, Yes, they have thought of that being a big problem.

    Point to point rocket travel has been a dream since the days of Goddard. It’s still not simple or cheap enough to be viable and may never be. It’s a business plan that has to count on a regularly scheduled service between two widely separated heavily traveled point and a customer base that can both afford the cost and is willing to take the risk. Chances are that upper level corporate execs that could afford the cost won’t be allowed to take the trip do to insurance restrictions that negate coverage if they do certain things. Finally, there aren’t enough reasons for somebody needing to be physically on the other side of the globe in hours as opposed to a full day. Teleconferencing and telepresence are making it less necessary for people to travel. It can be more efficient to get a team all together in one place for projects, but traveling by rocket is just a bit over the edge. The corporate traveller is what fuels the airlines today. Sitting in a 1G field sipping a glass of champagne is much nicer than puking ones guts out strapped to a seat in 0G (or having a neighbor sharing their lunch with you).

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    You don’t have to hold your breath for nuclear. It’s easily the safest & most energy dense power source we have today. What you have to hold your breath for is the Luddites like Jane Fonda who made it bureacratically intractable.

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    Heh, yah – to your first paragraph – it’s probably pretty good. Would be a funny stunt to see.

  • Terry Stetler

    Tesla’s motors and batteries are liquid cooled, so unlikely. In winter the same circuit can warm them to operating temperature. Also, Musk recently reported that due to a coming battery upgrade Semi’s max range is now 600 miles.

  • Michael Halpern

    I meant holding my breath for any of it actually being built

  • Michael Halpern

    I suspect that they would be preformed by the YouTubers who got 100% discounts on roadsters from the referral program

  • windbourne

    Regulations do NOT interfere with the freedom. You are free to build the homes that you want. However, economics is what might prevent lower cost homes, not regulations.
    Regulations are about making sure that the building is safe for all. IOW, it protects not just the home owners, but FUTURE home owners and even neighbors.
    Would you want a home next to yours that was using Al wire and stood a decent chance of catching on fire?
    How about having your children go into a friends home that you were not aware actually was made using asbestos insulation and had lead paint that was peeling (and that old paint used to contain a LOT of lead).
    How about having a neighbors home choose to install a sewer rather than hooking up to city main and then it is flooding every so often, including into your yard? You good with that?
    Even with requiring new buildings to have solar, if they modify just slightly, they can make it so that developers do not have to add much on there.
    And if you are in CA, and have a home with solar/battery and then are hit with earthquake, well, you will appreciate it then.

    No, regulations does not prevent a builder from doing low-income homes. It simply changes the situation in that the developer will have to re-think how to build them safely.

  • windbourne

    Permitting charges and impact fees add a lot and are something different than costs due to regulations.
    For that, you need to get after your local gov.

  • windbourne

    wrong.
    Hopefully, that solar is UNSUBSIDIZED. If it is, then developers will focus on lowering HVAC and energy used. That will enable them to put in very little solar.
    Personally, I have been pushing our politicians to put a requirement of new buildings having enough AE (likely solar, but not necessarily) to => HVAC energy usage. If that is done, then developers will simply focus on insulation and things like geo-thermal HVAC. 1-2 solar panels would solve that, which would add little to nothing to the building cost.

  • windbourne

    Actually, CA has a lot more geo-thermal areas. Those are just the cheap shallow ones.

    And while I am a fan of solar/wind, we really can not allow them to become 100% energy, even with storage. We still need base-load energy, and to have a matrix.

    As to nuke in CA, they need to install more, just not the large 1GW reactors. instead most of the 4th gen SMR reactors are incapable of critical failures such as meltdown.