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SpaceX gears up for two jam-packed months of Starlink, Dragon, and satellite launches

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After taking a roughly two-week break to focus on Crew Dragon’s third astronaut launch, SpaceX is ready to get back to its regular programming of rapid-fire Starlink, Cargo Dragon, and commercial satellite launches.

Kicking off what is setting up to be a jam-packed ten weeks of launches, a six-flight Falcon 9 booster, expendable upper stage, and 60 Starlink satellites went vertical at SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 40 (LC-40) pad on April 27th. The booster is scheduled to launch for the seventh time as part of the company’s 24th operational Starlink launch (Starlink-24) no earlier than 11:44 pm EDT (03:44 UTC) on Wednesday, April 28th.

Starlink-24 was originally meant to launch around midnight the same day but was pushed back ~23 hours when the tugboat tasked with towing drone ship Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) suffered an engine failure several hundred kilometers offshore, requiring both a rescue and replacement tug. The 23-hour delay should leave just enough time for the drone ship to be in position to support Falcon 9 booster B1060’s seventh landing attempt.

Starlink-24 should also be SpaceX’s third and final launch this April, opening the door for as many as four more Starlink launches (Starlink-25 through -28) in May, according to Next Spaceflight. Spaceflight Now reports that Starlink-25 is scheduled to launch in “early May,” possibly just a few days to a week after Starlink-24. All four of SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 boosters (B1049, B1051, B1058, B1060) would have to fly once – and one booster twice – to launch Starlink-24 through Starlink-28 between now and the end of May.

Starlink-24 will be Falcon 9 booster B1060’s second launch in 35 days and seventh flight overall. (Richard Angle)
Falcon 9 booster B1061 could enter SpaceX’s general-purpose fleet after a second successful astronaut launch earlier this month. (Richard Angle)

Now that SpaceX has successfully reused Falcon 9 B1061 to launch astronauts on April 23rd, a first in spaceflight history, it’s possible that the company will be able to move that booster into its general-purpose fleet, growing it from four to five.

Aside from three or four Starlink missions, no other Falcon 9 launches are expected in May. In June, however, SpaceX’s focus will likely shift to several important commercial missions – a bit of a rarity this year. No earlier than (NET) June 1st, a Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch radio provider SiriusXM’s SXM-8 radio satellite, less than six months after sister satellite SXM-7 – also launched by SpaceX – was declared a total loss mere weeks after reaching orbit.

SpaceX launched SXM-7 on December 13th, 2020. (Richard Angle)
Falcon 9 booster B1067 arrived in McGregor, Texas in mid-March and completed static fire testing by mid-April. (Reagan – @bluemoondance74)

Meanwhile, SpaceX is scheduled to launch its second upgraded Cargo Dragon spacecraft as early as June 3rd, just two days after SXM-8. On top of SpaceX and NASA confirmation that a new Dragon 2 spacecraft will support the CRS-22 space station cargo delivery mission, Next Spaceflight reports that a new Falcon 9 booster – B1067 – will also be flying for the first time. That booster went vertical at SpaceX’s McGregor, Texas rocket testing facilities in late March and completed static fire testing around three weeks later.

Last but likely not least, launch photographer Ben Cooper reports that a flight-proven SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch the US military’s fifth upgraded GPS III navigation satellite on June 17th. The GPS III SV05 mission will make Falcon 9 the first flight-proven commercial rocket to launch a critical payload for the US Air Force or Space Force.

Even accounting for marginal delays, SpaceX will likely have another 10-14 days to add one or two Starlink missions to its June launch manifest. In the meantime, tune in to SpaceX’s official webcast around 11:30 pm EDT (03:30 UTC) to watch the ninth Starlink launch of 2021 live.

SpaceX gears up for two jam-packed months of Starlink, Dragon, and satellite launches

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Source: https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-falcon-9-may-june-launch-plans/

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SpaceX’s first flight-proven Starship heads back to launch pad for round two

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Defying most expectations, SpaceX has moved the first full-size flight-proven Starship back to the launch pad less than a week after the prototype survived a high-altitude launch and landing.

Two days after that spectacular launch and four days ago, CEO Elon Musk revealed that SpaceX “might try to refly [Starship] SN15 soon,” indicating that the rocket landed in spectacularly good condition. While Starship SN15’s ~10 km launch was far less stressful than those experienced by orbital-class Falcon boosters, reusing the first successfully recovered Starship prototype mere weeks after that first landing would be an extraordinary achievement given that SpaceX took more than 15 months to reuse a Falcon booster after the rocket’s first landing.

Early on Tuesday, May 11th, Starship prototype SN15 began to move for the second time since its May 5th launch and landing. Carried by a custom transporter designed to secure landed Starships without the need for a crane, SN15 was carefully rolled a few hundred feet from the landing zone to “Suborbital Mount B” – one of two identical launch mounts. Used by Starship SN15 throughout its test and launch campaign, Mount A is in the process of being refurbished.

While SpaceX has yet to actually install Starship SN15 on Mount B, the prototype has been attached to a crane and said installation is imminent – possibly just waiting for winds to die down. As of publishing, SpaceX has removed SN15’s six ‘used’ landing legs but hasn’t replaced them – a necessary step before the Starship can fly again.

It’s unclear if legs can be installed after a Starship is affixed to a launch mount, meaning that SpaceX might also be waiting for winds to die down so it can lift SN15 off its transporter and replace its legs – an understandably sensitive process given the need for workers to clamber under and around a 100+ metric ton rocket hanging in the breeze.

Starship SN15 deploys its six stubby legs shortly before touchdown. (SpaceX)

It’s worth noting that even after SpaceX reinstalls Starship SN15 on a launch mount, there’s no guarantee that the prototype will fly again. Before any reflight, SpaceX will almost certainly put the rocket through at least one additional tank proof test and static fire its Raptor engines. Issues or damage that escaped initial post-flight inspections could easily arise during that process and it’s more likely than not that one or more of SN15’s three Raptors will be removed for detailed inspection or replaced outright.

For now, stay tuned as SpaceX prepares to install Starship SN15 on a launch mount for the second time and the company’s next steps hopefully come into focus.

SpaceX’s first flight-proven Starship heads back to launch pad for round two

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Source: https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-first-starship-reuse-next-steps/

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Tesla Giga Texas ‘Bobcat Project’: What we know so far

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Tesla recently purchased another plot of land to the East of the Giga Texas facility that the company is currently working on constructing. Documents from the Austin, Texas Public Database show that Tesla purchased another slice of land, but what are the company’s plans for it? Here is what we know so far.

According to documents from the Austin, Texas Public Database, Tesla has purchased another plot of land that is 150.21 acres in size and measures to be 6,543,147.6 square feet. It was purchased by the Colorado River Project, Tesla’s subsidiary in Texas that also purchased the land under the same name for what eventually became known as the Giga Texas facility. Sources in Texas told Teslarati that the property sits directly to the East of the main Giga Texas property, so it’s almost directly connected to Tesla’s main vehicle production operation.

Tesla’s Elon Musk gives production update for Giga Texas, but it’s not for the Cybertruck

According to the filings, Tesla has submitted Site Plans and an Environmental Review, but several other documents are waiting for submittal.

Currently, there are no plans in place, nor is there any confirmation from Tesla regarding what the facility could be used for. However, there is plenty of speculation regarding what could be going on.

Rumors circulating through the Tesla community seem to point toward a battery cell production facility. It makes sense considering the automaker is set on producing its own 4680 cells in-house. Currently being produced at Tesla’s Kato Road facility in Northern California, the 4680 cells were unveiled by Tesla last year at the company’s Battery Day event in September. Interestingly, Tesla has had battery projects in the past that have used code names of cats, as Project Tiger was used for the Gigafactory Nevada plant in Sparks, Nevada. The facility, known as the Tesla Gigafactory, produces electric motors for the Model 3, along with battery packs. Tesla’s Powerwall and Powerpack energy products are also produced at the site.

The idea to use a cat in Tesla’s plans could ultimately derive from Li-ion, a common abbreviation for Lithium-Ion battery cells, which are used in electric vehicles. Li-ion, or Lion, may have been the inspiration for Tesla’s Project Tiger, which ultimately culminated in the Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada. Now, if consistency means anything, the Bobcat Project could point toward the same use, just in Texas where Musk, along with other Tesla executives, have moved to after vacating California.

Terafactory Texas posted a breakdown of the current progress of the Bobcat Project on YouTube on May 5th.

Tesla Giga Texas ‘Bobcat Project’: What we know so far

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Source: https://www.teslarati.com/tesla-gigafactory-texas-bobcat-project-details/

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Elon Musk polls nearly 54 million people: Should Tesla accept $DOGE?

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk polled his nearly 54 million Twitter followers last night to ask one important question: “Do you want Tesla to accept Doge?”

At around 1:15 PM EST, the poll had accumulated over 3.06 million submissions, with 77.5% of the participants voting “Yes.” Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency, has gained notoriety over the past few months due to its meteoric rise in value amid a rise in popularity. Musk has been a vocal supporter of Dogecoin and other cryptos like Bitcoin. The self-proclaimed “Dogefather,” Musk now is asking whether the crypto should be utilized to purchase Tesla products.

Tesla recently started accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment for its cars in late March, but it wasn’t the automaker’s first venture with the crypto. In fact, Tesla had disclosed in its 2020 10-K filing with the SEC that it had invested $1.5 billion in Bitcoin in December. Upon the release of the Q1 2021 Earnings Call in April, Tesla had sold part of its investment and had made over $100 million in profit. Musk said that Tesla will accept Bitcoin in other regions later this year.

Dogecoin has surged over 10,000% so far this year but encountered some pullback over the weekend. Despite Musk’s appearance on Saturday Night Live, where he spoke freely about Doge in a positive tone, the coin managed to fall significantly from its .75 peak, hitting a low of 42.04 cents in the past 24 hours. Currently, Doge is up on the day and has gained around 3 cents total. Currently, it is trading at around .50 per coin.

Elon Musk reveals he has Asperger’s in surprisingly on-point “SNL” monologue

Musk has put his money where his mouth is when it comes to Doge and its public acceptance and subsequent use to purchase consumer goods. He spoke highly about Bitcoin earlier this year, stating that he believes the crypto will eventually become widely accepted by the traditional financial people.” I do at this point think Bitcoin is a good thing, and I am a supporter of Bitcoin. I think Bitcoin is really on the verge of getting broad acceptance by conventional finance people,” Musk said.

Musk also opened the possibility of Dogecoin being used for SpaceX missions, as the DOGE-1 Mission to the Moon could come in Q1 2022.

Elon Musk polls nearly 54 million people: Should Tesla accept $DOGE?

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Source: https://www.teslarati.com/tesla-elon-musk-doge-poll/

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Tesla appoints a director for its operation in India

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Tesla has appointed a Director for its operation in India. The company has chosen Prashanth R. Menon, who has been with Tesla for four years, to oversee the company’s introduction into the Indian market.

Menon’s LinkedIn was updated recently, and his job title now indicates that he is the Director of Tesla’s India operation. Previously, he acted as the Director Advisory of Cost, Process, and Regulatory measures in the United States. The in-house hire will be advantageous to Tesla for several reasons, but the most notable is that Menon already knows the company very well from his previous experience. He shares some experience prior to Tesla with Elon Musk, as the two both attended the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School of Business.

The new job title for Prashanth Menon was found by @TeslaClubIN on Twitter.

Menon will join Tesla’s already-established group of executives who are in charge of the company’s entrance into India. Earlier this year, Tesla named David Feinstein, Vaibhav Taneja, and Venkatrangam Sreeram as the three employees who would oversee the introductory and subsequent operations in the country. While the India project has been speculated for several years, it seems Tesla is making adequate progress so far in 2021 to get the operation up and running.

Details regarding Tesla in India remain relatively sparse, and new updates occur every few months, it seems. Tesla is currently attempting to get its Giga Texas and Giga Berlin factories up and running by the end of the year. CEO Elon Musk says that volume production for both factories is expected to begin in 2022, but limited production will occur at both factories this year.

Meanwhile, Tesla continues to make minor strides with India. Although there were rumors that Tesla would launch the India Design Studio in January, there have been no indications that the automaker is opening up the possibility of ordering a vehicle through its website. However, this could be because Tesla has not yet officially finalized plans for a production facility, although it does list its address in Bangalore, the capital of the Indian State of Karnataka.  There have been several rumors regarding where Tesla plans to open up its initial production facility in India. Karnataka has been mentioned as the choice for Tesla’s manufacturing plant by the State’s Chief Minister. The automaker has not yet confirmed or denied these reports.

Tesla lands on Karnataka for India factory: Chief Minister

Tesla’s executive team continues to build out into an impressive stack of company employees and automotive industry veterans. More details are sure to come in the coming months as Tesla gears up to continue its expanding outreach of EVs globally.

Tesla appoints a director for its operation in India

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Source: https://www.teslarati.com/tesla-india-director-prashanth-menon/

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