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SpaceX’s next Starlink launch to cross major rocket reusability milestone

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Next Spaceflight reports that SpaceX’s next Starlink launch – scheduled as few as five days after the last mission – will see Falcon 9 mark a hugely significant milestone for truly reusable rocketry.

According to Next Spaceflight’s sources, SpaceX has chosen Falcon 9 booster B1051 to launch Starlink-27 – the constellation’s 26th operational mission – as early as Sunday, May 9th. Scheduled eight weeks (56 days) after the same booster’s last orbital-class launch and landing and just five days after SpaceX’s 25th operational Starlink launch, Starlink-27 will be Falcon 9 B1051’s 10th launch.

While seemingly minor in the scope of SpaceX’s unending roster of spaceflight ‘firsts,’ B1051’s Sunday flight will make Falcon 9 the first reusable liquid rocket booster of any kind to complete ten orbital launches. With that tenth launch and (hopeful) landing, SpaceX will cross a largely symbolic – but still significant – milestone that many traditional aerospace companies and direct competitors have used for at least a decade to rationalize resting on their laurels and continuing to design and build expensive, expendable rockets with no serious path to reusability.

For the entirety of SpaceX’s operational life, its only two real competitors have – and continue to be – US conglomerate United Launch Alliance (ULA) and European conglomerate Arianespace. Almost like clockwork, both extremely conservative groups – comprised of numerous traditional, entrenched aerospace and military contractors – have gone through a similar cycle of belittlement and dismissal, denial, goalpost-moving, disbelief, and resignation as SpaceX announced plans for reusability, began real-world attempts, and gradually worked out the kinks.

As it became clear that SpaceX would succeed in its efforts to vertically launch and land Falcon 9 boosters and ULA and Arianespace had to move their goalposts from “it’ll never work,” both generally settled on largely arbitrary claims that even if SpaceX could land rockets, reuse would never be economical. ULA went even further than Arianespace with an explicit claim – derived from armchair analysis built on opaque, unspecified assumptions – that SpaceX’s approach to Falcon reuse would “require ten [booster] uses to be profitable.” [PDF]

Instead, ULA – proudly standing on its high horse – proffered an alternative called “SMART (Sensible Modular. Autonomous Return Technology) Reuse” for its next-generation Vulcan rocket. Instead of landing and reusing entire boosters like SpaceX, ULA would develop an extremely complex engine section that would detach from Vulcan in mid-air, deploy an experimental inflatable heat shield, and be grabbed out of the sky with a helicopter. Even back when the concept was first announced in 2015, ULA’s schedule for SMART reuse would have seen the technology debut no sooner than the mid 2020s.

More than half a decade later, ULA no longer talks about “SMART Reuse” and it certainly doesn’t talk about the program’s schedule. As late as mid-2020, though, CEO Tory Bruno still parrots ULA’s arbitrary estimate that reusability only makes sense after ten flights per booster – and with the added bonus of new goalposts that demand that that “breakeven flight rate…be achieved as a fleet average.”

Arianespace executives have echoed similar sentiments over the years and more recently implied that it would only ever make sense to invest in SpaceX-style reusability if the conglomerate could guarantee at least 30 launch contracts annually.

In the meantime, Arianespace and ULA all but handed the vast majority of their commercial market share to SpaceX’s far more affordable Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. As a result, the company has effectively taken over the commercial spaceflight industry while its relentless, iterative development approach have produced refined Falcon 9 and Heavy rockets with an unprecedented degree of reusability. Looking at all Falcon 9 Block 5 boosters that have flown more than once, the fleet average is already more than five launches less than three years after the Block 5 upgrade debuted.

SpaceX has also demonstrated – multiple times – that it can launch the same Falcon 9 booster twice in less than a month, quite literally halving the Space Shuttle’s 54-day record while likely requiring somewhere between 10 and 100 times less hands-on work. Just last month, NASA gave SpaceX’s reusability work the ultimate blessing when a Falcon 9 booster launched astronauts for the second time. Of the more than 1500 Starlink satellites SpaceX has launched over the last two years, not a single one of those internet satellites flew on a new Falcon 9 booster.

Finally, Falcon 9 booster B1051 is now on track to become the first liquid rocket booster in history to cross the ten-flight mark set by ULA and targeted by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. For Musk, “ten flights” has long been a line drawn in the sand and explicitly meant to serve as an arbitrary target. In reality, after flying multiple Falcon 9 boosters six, seven, eight, and even nine times apiece, SpaceX already believes that the rocket’s existing design is capable of significantly surpassing that target.

Perhaps most importantly, despite the fact that Arianespace and ULA have scarcely begun to even attempt to counter Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, SpaceX is already working on Starship – a far more capable, fully-reusable rocket designed from the ground up with lessons learned from Falcon.

SpaceX’s next Starlink launch to cross major rocket reusability milestone

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Source: https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-starlink-27-ten-flight-rocket-reuse-milestone/

Automotive

Ford Power-Up Launches To Give Models Over-The-Air Software Updates

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Ford Power-Up is the brand’s newly announced name for its over-the-air software updates. One major implementation of this tech is the introduction of voice-controlled Amazon Alexa that can even control your smart home devices from the vehicle.

The Ford F-150 and Mustang Mach-E with the Sync 4 infotainment system already support Power-Up. The Bronco is the next to get the tech, and the Escape and Super Duty receive the functionality this fall. Ford will make 33 million vehicles with Power-Up capability by 2028.

Upcoming over-the-air updates for the F-150 and Mach-E will include improvements to the navigation system to add destination suggestions and conversational voice command recognition. Plus, the Apple CarPlay system will be able to show turn-by-turn navigation on the instrument cluster.

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Soon, the Mach-E gets an app called Sketch (example above) for its infotainment system. It lets owners draw pictures with their fingers on the screen. It could be a fun way to spend the time while waiting for the EV to charge.

The improved Amazon Alexa capability lets simply speak commands for controlling both the vehicle and other Alexa-enabled devices. Users get three years of free functionality. Afterward, owners have to purchase a subscription to retain the features. Ford isn’t yet disclosing the cost after the initial period.

Power-Up goes far beyond just improving the infotainment software because the Blue Oval can send upgrades to over 110 vehicle modules. The company says it can tweak any of them as long as the change doesn’t require hardware changes. When there’s an upgrade, the installation is generally seamless. In cases where the installation takes longer, owners can schedule a time, like overnight when they aren’t using the vehicle.

As an example, Ford used connected vehicle data to identify an issue with the F-150’s zone lighting. The engineers are also working on an update to fix a problem with the Android Auto connectivity in the F-150 and Mach-E. 

If you want to know more about Power-Up, listen to Motor1.com’s podcast Rambling About Cars tomorrow where we interview Ford Director of Retail Operations Kate Pearce about the tech.

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Source: https://www.motor1.com/news/507133/ford-power-up-software-updates/?utm_source=RSS&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=RSS-category-technology

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Tesla’s Heavy Trucking executive sells $6M+ in stocks

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Tesla’s President of Heavy Trucking Jerome M. Guillen sold over $6 million worth of TSLA stock earlier this week, according to a SEC Form 4 filing. Based on Guillen’s recent Form 4 submission, transactions occurred under transaction code M and code S.

Code M means to exercise or the conversion of derivative security receives from the company, like an option. Transaction code S means the sale of securities on an exchange or to another person. 

Based on the Form 4 filing, the Tesla executive acquired 10,000 stock for the price of $55.32, exercising his options under transaction code M. Under transaction code S, Tesla’s President of Heavy Trucking also disposed of 10,000 stocks at market value, ranging from $628.46 to $664.77. Guillen recently sold TSLA shares totaling $6,440,627.

Looking at Guillen’s activity throughout 2021 thus far, a trend emerges over the past few months. In April, he also sold 10,000 TSLA shares for an average price of $697.87 for a total amount of $6,978,659. Guillen executed similar transactions between January and March.

Compared to Guillen’s transactions, Tesla’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Zachary Kirkhorn sold less shares this year. In April 2021, Kirkhorn sold 1,250 shares for an average price of $718, totaling $897,500. While in March, the CFO sold 4,068 TSLA shares for an average of $655.81-$595.08 with a total amount of over $2 million. 

Jerome Guillen’s role in Tesla changed from president of Automotive to president of Heavy Trucking, according to a regulatory filing dated March 11, 2021. The shift in his role suggests that Guillen will have fewer overall responsibilities at Tesla in terms of overseeing the company’s entire automotive business. Instead, his new role suggests that Guillen will be concentrating more on the production of the Tesla Semi, the company’s much-anticipated all-electric Class-8 truck. 

The Teslarati team would appreciate hearing from you. If you have any tips, email us at [email protected] or reach out to me at [email protected].

Tesla’s Heavy Trucking executive sells $6M+ in stocks

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Source: https://www.teslarati.com/tesla-jerome-guillen-sells-tsla-stocks/

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SpaceX’s sootiest Falcon 9 booster yet returns to port after record reuse

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Three days after acing record-breaking tenth launch and landing, SpaceX’s sootiest Falcon 9 rocket booster yet has returned to Port Canaveral to begin the processing of preparing for its eleventh flight.

Almost exactly three years ago, speaking in a conference call focused on the debut of SpaceX’s ultimate “Block 5” Falcon booster upgrade, CEO Elon Musk revealed that Block 5 boosters were “designed to do 10 or more flights with no [scheduled] refurbishment” and “at least 100 flights [with moderate scheduled maintenance.]” Relative to the Space Shuttle, the only other operational orbital-class reusable rocket in history, 10 flights with little to no refurbishment would be an extraordinary achievement

Around 36 months later, albeit a year and a half after Musk anticipated SpaceX might reach that milestones, a Falcon 9 booster has successfully completed ten orbital-class launches and lived to tell the tale.

Falcon 9 B1051 is the first liquid rocket booster ever to complete ten launches and the rocket certainly looks the part. (Richard Angle)

26 months after the booster first took flight in support of Crew Dragon’s March 2019 uncrewed orbital launch debut, Falcon 9 B1051 has narrowly beaten several of flight-proven siblings to become the first liquid rocket booster of any kind to complete ten launches. Just four days prior to that historic tenth flight, Falcon 9 booster B1049 became the second SpaceX rocket (after B1051) to ace nine launches and landings.

SpaceX quickly processed booster B1049 after its own port return and Falcon 9 B1051 narrowly missed greeting its still-vertical sibling by just a few days. Together, over the course of the 19 orbital launches those two Falcon 9 boosters have supported in ~30 months, B1049 and B1051 have collectively delivered more than 260 metric tons (~570,000 lb) of satellites and spacecraft to low Earth orbit (LEO), geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), and the International Space Station (ISS).

Falcon 9 B1051 is pictured in January 2019 before its first launch. (SpaceX)
Two and half years and ten launches later, the booster looks decidedly “flight-proven.” (Richard Angle)

That performance is roughly equivalent to two expendable Saturn V Moon rocket launches for a total launch cost to SpaceX likely less than $500 million, while five of those 19 launches also brought in revenue on the order of $400M to $500M. In effect, even the small handful of commercial launches B1049 and B1051 have completed likely generated enough revenue to wholly amortize the cost of a dozen or more additional launches. SpaceX has still had to pay for propellant, maritime recovery assets, any necessary refurbishment, and the hundreds of satellites both boosters have launched, but Falcon booster reusability still offers an extraordinary return on investment even with that multitude of caveats.

Falcon 9 B1051’s safe return also means that SpaceX should have no trouble turning the booster around as it prepares to push past the ten-flight target behind Block 5’s upgrade. In recent months, multiple SpaceX executives have stated that SpaceX intends to push well beyond that ten-flight goal as boosters with more and more flight experience continue to come back in excellent condition. CEO Elon Musk even indicated that SpaceX may intentionally fly Falcon 9’s fleet-leader (B1051, in this case) until something on the booster fails during a launch or landing. SpaceX’s own Starlink launches offer the perfect opportunity for that kind of pragmatic risk-taking.

Falcon 9 booster B1051’s titanium grid fins have developed a rainbow patina over ten hypersonic reentries. (Richard Angle)
(Richard Angle)
B1051’s aft engine and landing legs section certainly looks like it’s been through 10 launches and hypersonic reentries. (Richard Angle)

SpaceX’s sootiest Falcon 9 booster yet returns to port after record reuse

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Source: https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-sootiest-falcon-9-booster-port-return/

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SpaceX’s sootiest Falcon 9 booster yet returns to port after record reuse

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Three days after acing record-breaking tenth launch and landing, SpaceX’s sootiest Falcon 9 rocket booster yet has returned to Port Canaveral to begin the processing of preparing for its eleventh flight.

Almost exactly three years ago, speaking in a conference call focused on the debut of SpaceX’s ultimate “Block 5” Falcon booster upgrade, CEO Elon Musk revealed that Block 5 boosters were “designed to do 10 or more flights with no [scheduled] refurbishment” and “at least 100 flights [with moderate scheduled maintenance.]” Relative to the Space Shuttle, the only other operational orbital-class reusable rocket in history, 10 flights with little to no refurbishment would be an extraordinary achievement

Around 36 months later, albeit a year and a half after Musk anticipated SpaceX might reach that milestones, a Falcon 9 booster has successfully completed ten orbital-class launches and lived to tell the tale.

Falcon 9 B1051 is the first liquid rocket booster ever to complete ten launches and the rocket certainly looks the part. (Richard Angle)

26 months after the booster first took flight in support of Crew Dragon’s March 2019 uncrewed orbital launch debut, Falcon 9 B1051 has narrowly beaten several of flight-proven siblings to become the first liquid rocket booster of any kind to complete ten launches. Just four days prior to that historic tenth flight, Falcon 9 booster B1049 became the second SpaceX rocket (after B1051) to ace nine launches and landings.

SpaceX quickly processed booster B1049 after its own port return and Falcon 9 B1051 narrowly missed greeting its still-vertical sibling by just a few days. Together, over the course of the 19 orbital launches those two Falcon 9 boosters have supported in ~30 months, B1049 and B1051 have collectively delivered more than 260 metric tons (~570,000 lb) of satellites and spacecraft to low Earth orbit (LEO), geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), and the International Space Station (ISS).

Falcon 9 B1051 is pictured in January 2019 before its first launch. (SpaceX)
Two and half years and ten launches later, the booster looks decidedly “flight-proven.” (Richard Angle)

That performance is roughly equivalent to two expendable Saturn V Moon rocket launches for a total launch cost to SpaceX likely less than $500 million, while five of those 19 launches also brought in revenue on the order of $400M to $500M. In effect, even the small handful of commercial launches B1049 and B1051 have completed likely generated enough revenue to wholly amortize the cost of a dozen or more additional launches. SpaceX has still had to pay for propellant, maritime recovery assets, any necessary refurbishment, and the hundreds of satellites both boosters have launched, but Falcon booster reusability still offers an extraordinary return on investment even with that multitude of caveats.

Falcon 9 B1051’s safe return also means that SpaceX should have no trouble turning the booster around as it prepares to push past the ten-flight target behind Block 5’s upgrade. In recent months, multiple SpaceX executives have stated that SpaceX intends to push well beyond that ten-flight goal as boosters with more and more flight experience continue to come back in excellent condition. CEO Elon Musk even indicated that SpaceX may intentionally fly Falcon 9’s fleet-leader (B1051, in this case) until something on the booster fails during a launch or landing. SpaceX’s own Starlink launches offer the perfect opportunity for that kind of pragmatic risk-taking.

Falcon 9 booster B1051’s titanium grid fins have developed a rainbow patina over ten hypersonic reentries. (Richard Angle)
(Richard Angle)
B1051’s aft engine and landing legs section certainly looks like it’s been through 10 launches and hypersonic reentries. (Richard Angle)

SpaceX’s sootiest Falcon 9 booster yet returns to port after record reuse

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Source: https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-sootiest-falcon-9-booster-port-return/

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