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Shit Elon Says - Transcript - AIAA Houston 2007

Transcript History  

Alright, thank you for having me here. I appreciate the invitation and I expect I'll be visiting Houston quite frequently in the future, given the COTS contract. You've got a great city and I always enjoy visiting. I'm going to talk about SpaceX, give you a little background, talk about the last launch that we had and tell you about the other things we're doing, long term, and I probably should leave some time for questions because I often find that's the best part of any presentation. I'd like to interact with you and really address anything that you're curious about.

SpaceX was founded about five years ago. The long term goal is to really dramatically improve the cost and reliability of space transportation. It doesn't help if you just improve the cost but the reliability suffers. Reliability is, in fact, our priority at SpaceX and cost is after that. The initial market is small government and commercial satellites with the Falcon 1. The idea behind the Falcon 1 is that it is built as a scale model so we could test out the technologies and, when we make mistakes they're made at a smaller scale, rather than jump immediately to a large rocket and make mistakes that cost ten times as much. So that's the strategy we've been executing. I think it's worked out reasonably well so far.

It's worth pointing out that the plan for SpaceX from the very beginning was always human transportation. So, can we really make some progress in helping humanity become a true spacefaring civilization, where a large number of people can afford to go to space and where it's not limited to just a small number of people per year. If we can help set space transportation on a path with continuous improvement and comparable reliability as we saw with aviation - the other similarities with aviation is that it's extremely risky, extremely expensive, but over time that improved to the point where today you can buy a non-stop flight from Houston to London, a return ticket for $500. That never used to be possible and then even when it was possible initially it used to cost ten times that amount and now it's quite affordable. That was brought about by there being constant improvement in aviation over time. If we can help make that happen, then I think SpaceX will have been successful. "If all we do is be yet another satellite launcher or something like that or ultimately only as good as Soyuz in cost per person to orbit, that would be okay, but really not a success in my book."

The long term outlook is, can SpaceX help establish a permanent presence beyond Earth? Personally I think, if we (humanity) can help establish life on another planet and extend life to make it multiplanetary, then I think that would really be one of the most important things that we could ever achieve. If you think about the important milestones in the history of life itself, and that means going beyond the colloquial concerns of humanity, initially there was single celled life and then there was multicellular life, then things acquired skeletons and that allowed the transition from the oceans to land, and then we had the development of mammals. There's probably about ten or twelve really big milestones in the history of life itself. I think, on that same scale would fit life becoming multiplanetary. I think it's at least as important as life going from the oceans to land, and arguably more important. To the best of our knowledge life exists only on Earth, so, if we don't at some point propagate beyond Earth then, if there's some calamity that befalls life here that will extinguish it. For all we know that might be the extinguishment of life itself. So, I think it's really important that we try to do it. If humanity is going to be able to do it then it requires at least orders of magnitude reduction in the cost of space transportation, and much more reliable space transportation as well.

SpaceX operates on a Silicon Valley mode of operation. Flat hierarchy, closely packed cubes, high engineer to manager ratio, lots of prototype iteration, and a best-idea-wins type of philosophy, where what matters is the merits of the argument not the status of the arguer. We started with three people five years ago and we're now over three hundred, and I think we'll probably be over four hundred within 12 months. So, we're growing pretty quickly. We're currently at 100,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space near LAX, about 2 miles south of LAX, and we're expanding to half a million square feet later this year. We have a big propulsion test facility in Texas. Just half way between Austin and Dallas. If anyone has heard of a little town called McGregor, that's where our test facility is, and we've got launch complexes in Kwajalein, Kwajalein is currently our primary launch facility. We have a dormant facility at Vandenburg and you may have read that we were recently awarded launch pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, which is a great launch pad. It was used to launch the Titan IV heavy lift vehicle until about a year ago.

This is what our first building looked like five years ago. This is what the building looks like that we've moving to later this year, that gigantic thing. The ceiling height is about 60 feet. It was used to build 747 fuselages until last year. These are some pictures of our Texas test facilities. We have a number of propulsion test stands and structural test stands. These are the Falcon 9 test stands. The one on the left is where we'll be doing the stage hold down firings of the Falcon 9. As you can see, it's a very big stand. The top of the concrete is about 130 feet and the, what we call, the stairway to heaven is this narrow stairwell that goes up about another 100 feet. It's the tallest thing for 20 or 30 miles, so we had to put an FAA beacon on top, so planes don't fly into it. There's a construction elevator on the one right and then the plumbing goes up the other right. On the right hand side, is the structural test stand for the Falcon 9 thrust fairing. That's what takes the nine engines of the Falcon 9 and those hydraulics are capable of crushing down with about a million and a half pounds of force. So it's a very stout structure.

Now I'm going to talk about the SpaceX track record to-date, which is a good predictor of future performance. The Falcon 1 was really developed from a clean sheet, to on the launch pad, in three years, and that includes the entire vehicle. The entire vehicle was designed and tested at SpaceX, almost, there were a few key pieces that were procured outside. We have a very high mass fraction first stage - 94.5% propellant mass fraction first stage. There's about 0.2% residuals included in that. Which I think might be the highest mass fraction first stage in the world, currently. I think the previous record was held by the Titan III first stage. That includes a recovery system, so there's a parachute system included there. The upper stage is pressure fed. We built the fairing, and the stage/fairing separation systems. It's worth noting that the Merlin 1A engine, the main engine on Falcon 1 is only the second American-built booster engine to see flight in about 25 years. The other one was the RS-68 for the Delta IV and before that was the space shuttle main engine. It's actually the first new American hydrocarbon engine to see flight since the '60s.

There's also Kestrel which is the upper stage engine that we developed and that's a pressure fed engine, restartable, pretty good ISP. We've got a low cost avionics system which has the advantage of, since this is designed in the 21st century and uses 21st century electronics for the guidance and control, the Falcon 1 has the first non-explosive orbital flight termination system approved by range safety. So when the range safety officer presses the stop button it just shuts off the engines, it doesn't explode the rocket. We initially set up at Vandenburg and then were forced to move to Kwajalein. So we have two launch sites and control centers. We started out with a price of roughly $7M for the Falcon 1 four years ago, and we've kept that price constant which is actually a decline in the price if you take inflation into account.

So, this is two years after starting the company and we have the qualification article of Falcon 1 on the launch pad at Vandenburg, and then about six months later we did the static fire. We had sound for this but it's not working for some reason. Unfortunately, we were forced to move from Vandenburg to Kwajalein. From May of 2005 to November of 2005 we were able to set up a launch facility at Kwajalein, which is quite difficult because the island we were given in the Kwajalein Atoll was - just had nothing on it. So we had to bring in power, water, RP - rocket propellant (kerosene), all the pressurants, offices, that sort of thing. We had many challenges - liquid oxygen in particular. Since Kwajalein is 5000 miles away from California and over 2000 miles away from Hawaii which is the nearest source of liquid oxygen. But we managed to have our first countdown right on Thanksgiving 2005, had turkey on the island. It took us four countdowns to get to the first test flight, which was in March of 2006. I need to edit this video because it has about 60 seconds worth of precursor. I think it's worth seeing this timeline because many people don't realize that we actually had the vehicle designed, built, and ready to go three years after starting the company. Unfortunately, the launch site issue caused us to delay it by another year, effectively. This flight, I'll talk about - hopefully it'll take off in a minute. The sad thing is that the problem with the first flight was a corrosion issue due to the Kwaj climate. It's a problem that would not have occurred at the launch site at Vandenburg.

[video of rocket launching] Unfortunately, ya know, it came back later. The telemetry actually showed that there was a kerosene leak at the turbopump inlet pressure transducer which started about 400 seconds prior to liftoff. You couldn't see it because the wind was blowing and kerosene is actually very difficult to see. When the wind's blowing you can't actually see that it's leaking. The failure review board, which was actually co-chaired by Pete Worden of NASA/Ames, concluded that it was due to corrosion - stress corrosion cracking of the aluminum 'B' nut on the engine. That leak ignited a few seconds prior to start and the fire basically burned through the entire powered flight, and about 25 seconds into the flight it burned through a helium pneumatic line resulting in losses in helium pressurant and that caused the pump prevalves to shut and essentially turning off the engine. Other than that, everything looked good. The vehicle was proceeding along its designed trajectory within 0.2 degrees. All first stage systems were nominal, and all avionics were nominal.

We took a bunch of corrective action. We improved vehicle robustness by eliminating as many fittings as possible and going to orbital tube welds, replacing aluminum fittings with stainless steel at a slight mass penalty - actually, the stainless fittings cost less than the aluminum fittings so this was a cost savings I suppose. There were a number of other changes. We also added more detailed procedures, more personnel per process, so a couple sign off is required by all work - a technician, a responsible engineer and an independent QA person are required to sign off on all work on flight hardware - and then close-out photos. We also went through ISO-9001 certification last year. The biggest single change is, we messed up software monitoring launch and automation. We were monitoring approximately 30 variables. We went to monitoring 800, including both the vehicle and the ground support equipment, and we would have caught the fuel leak if we had this system in place. The countdown is now also fully automated which reduces the potential for human error and allows us to review the data. It also allows us to take some number of personnel out of the countdown process. People that were basically just doing the job that the computer is doing. So, although we added people on the QA side of things, we were able to reduce people on the launch ops side by having increased automation. So I think that's pretty good.

As far as Demo Flight 2, which took place in March, we just finished the post-flight review with our customer which shows that the only orbit critical issue was the lack of slosh baffles in the second stage LOX tank which caused a coupling of the controller slosh modes. We did obtain full telemetry and video past nominal ignition. There were actually three dishes following the vehicle and although some dishes were - fortunately, at any given point there was one dish with a good signal - so we were able to splice together telemetry and video and get a full mission duration. All system in flight were tested and demonstrated a high response at launch. If you were following it closely, we were able to light the engine, abort, detank, retank and launch in 7 minutes. It was considered a successful test flight by our customer and by SpaceX. We will be launching our first two operational satellites later this year. The first will be TacSat-1 for the navy research lab in October, and the second will be a Malaysian Space Agency satellite in December. We have a total of five Falcon 1 missions and six Falcon 9 missions on our upcoming schedule, and we expect to close, probably, four more Falcon 1 missions and two more Falcon 9 missions in the balance of this year. That should help bring us to 20 launch contracts in total, including the two that have taken place.

Falcon 9, this information is on our website too if anyone is curious as well, is designed to NASA manned safety margins and tolerance. It's roughly 840,000 pounds of thrust at liftoff, with a maximum mass of about 700,000 pounds. So, on the order of a Soyuz in size. Twelve foot main body diameter. Length is 180 foot with the large fairing - actually, we don't have a picture of the vehicle with the large fairing but it's the kind of the big fairing you'd see on an Atlas V or a Delta IV. The vehicle is 150 foot with Dragon, 180 with the large fairing. The nine engines on the first stage are being carefully designed to provide engine-out capability. So, if we lose an engine you can still complete your mission successfully, and depending on the phase of flight you can actually lose multiple engines and still complete the mission. Basically, it's a 10 ton to orbit type of vehicle. Some people are worried about the number of engines, but I think it's worth seeing pictures of what the Soyuz looks like on the base end. There's quite a few thrust chambers there. The Russians have a definition of engines where they only count by the number of turbopumps, but that's kind of a silly definition because by that definition the Falcon 1 didn't have an upper-stage engine. I think you really need to count by the number of thrust chambers. Each thrust chamber is an engine. Soyuz has 32 engines on the base. Saturn 1 has, or had, eight engines on the base. Each had an individual turbopump. Falcon 9 is really quite comparable to Saturn 1B. It's got one extra engine, basically.

The basic concept of operations of the Falcon 9 with the Dragon spacecraft in cargo configuration is two stage vehicle, so the Falcon 9 drops the Dragon off in orbit and then Dragon goes from that parking orbit, maneuveres under it's own power to the space station where it is captured by the arm and it is berthed to the station. At the end it reenters, same way that the Apollo capsules reentered, blunt body reentry, lands in the ocean, although we have the ability to have it land on land as well. We're just starting off with the ocean because it's easier to get the regulatory approvals if it lands in the ocean. Also, if you need to get down in a hurry, you better be prepared to land in the ocean.

The first Falcon 9 itself. We finished serial number one of the first stage primary structure which, I think, should be shipping out to the Texas testing site in a few weeks. We'll be starting the first flight with serial number two which we'll start on in three weeks. It's made of aluminum-lithium in the barrel sections and 2219, sort of a standard aluminum, in the bones. This year we'll probably produce two flight units and next year we'll be probably producing six, and after that as much as twelve. It really depends on what the demand is. We have achieved our Merlin 1C development goals, and actually exceeded them slightly. The goals were 92,000 pounds of sea level thrust and 299 vacuum isp, and we got it to 94,000 pounds of thrust at sea level and 302 vacuum isp, for a full mission duty cycle. We expect to finish qualification of the Merlin 1C in July and produce 20 to 25 of the engines this year, 40 or so next year. We're starting integrated stage and engine testing in August, most likely, and it'll be a progression of multiple engine firings, one, three, five, and then all nine. We'll do a full hold down acceptance test of the first flight stage, before we send it to the launch pad.

This is the Merlin 1C, just a recent firing. It goes on for a while. You can see the whole engine on the stand there. The chamber is milled copper liner, with a nickle-cobalt electroplated/nickle-cobalt [unintelligible], and the nozzle is a brazed tubal nozzle. It's actually an architecture similar to the SSME but way, way less expensive in terms of the way it's made. The Merlin 1C is designed for a man-rating, so it has a 50% margin above flight loads, which is actually more than what's needed for man-rating. It's also fortified against foreign object ingestion. We'll be doing foreign object testing and have done, actually, inadvertently, some foreign object tests. So far it's held up quite well. We'll be doing a formal set of foreign body ingestion tests to verify that if you chuck in a piece of aluminum or steel or some organic, or something like that, it doesn't cause the engine to come apart. We want to try to reach 25 or more cycles before any refurbishment and, ideally, something on the order of 100 cycles before the primary elements need to be replaced. The turbopump assembly is about as simple as you can have a turbopump system. It's a single shaft with two pumps on it. So they start up at the same time, by definition. We use a pintle injector which is in terms of its contamination, no known combustion instability issues. This talks a little bit about the chamber nozzle. We will be having Kevlar flack jacketing between the engines of the Falcon 9. So even if the engines do come apart explosively or in a fire, it will protect it against damaging any of its neighbors. It's worth noting that SpaceX will produce more booster engines this year than any country except Russia. We'll be producing a total of about 30 engines, roughly 5 Kestrel engines and 25 Merlin engines. I think that's more than any country except Russia. Certainly more than the rest of US production combined.

Here's a picture of the Falcon 9 first stage primary structure. We're a little cramped in that building. It only just gets out, by a few inches. As far as second stage, one of the ways in which we've designed Falcon 9 to be fundamentally low cost is that the second stage is simply a shortened version of the first stage. It's the same dome, same material, same tooling, same manufacturing line. Which may seem like a pretty obvious move, but as far as I know there's no rocket out there that takes this approach - each stage is designed like a unique spacecraft. It really takes us almost no time to make the second stage, because it's just three barrel sections and three domes. We should finish the first unit in five months and there's no problem with producing one every two months by next year. It will have a Merlin 1C vacuum version as the engine. So, the same engine that you saw there but with a vacuum skirt extension, so a big bell nozzle. The avionics, guidance and control, there's quite a lot of heritage from Falcon 1. In theory we could fly the Falcon 1 avionics and, apart from some changes to the software, it would work, but we'll be upgrading this to be triple redundant according to NASA man rating standards. We're also going to add multi-engine control to the first stage, obviously, and we'll be upgrading the avionics to higher radiation tolerance for missions that are long duration or pass beyond the Van Allen belts. All the fairing tooling is done and we should have first production quarter-section in a few months and have the full fairing in about six months.

As far as Dragon is concerned, it looks like all things are good for a demo and CDR in August. The basic structure is an isogrid aluminum pressure vessel with aluminum-lithium for the primary load path elements. The nosecone and the heatshield support structure are carbon fiber composite. We finished a structural / manufacturing test unit earlier this year which we've made using the same methods, same materials, as the flight units. All materials are on order for the flight units. The propulsion system of Dragon will use eighteen SpaceX Draco engines - Draco means 'little dragon'. They're roughly 90 pound of thrust each using nitrogen-tetroxide and monomethylhydrazine and will be used in continuous mode for orbit changes and 10 millisecond pulse mode for attitude control. So this is a fairly unique engine and pretty advanced. They use space shuttle pintle to achieve extremely fine pulse mode capability and then from a thermal standpoint it's designed to run continuously. We'll be using titanium propellant tanks with a propellant management device and composite helium tanks from RA. We'll start testing the engines this summer.

For the heat shield, we've changed to PICA as the primary material, which of course you know. PICA is 'phenolic impregnated carbon ablator'. We've started to switch to that because it is fully arc jet tested, so it's qualified from an arc jet standpoint and we have an upgraded version of SLA-561 as backup. This is pretty technical stuff, so probably a lot of people don't know what that means but, basically, it's the brake pad. We'll actually be using the SLA-561 on the Falcon 9 second stage. So keep in mind, the Falcon 9 is designed to be reusable as well as Dragon. The Falcon 9 second stage needs a heat shield in order to reenter and survive, and the heat shield we'll be using on that is actually an SLA heat shield, but we do not plan on arc jet testing that, because recovery of the Falcon 9 is an optional thing, it's not required. We feel confident enough to actually fly the second stage reentry with SLA that hasn't been arc jet tested and if it works, great, but if it doesn't work, well, what can you do.

For parachutes, we're working with urban. There will be three main ring sails and two drogues, so you can lose a main and you can lose a drogue and things are still okay. Very low nominal descent rate of 22 feet per second, which is about what a parachutist would come down at. And that allows us to transition from ocean to land pretty easily.

So, on the left there is the structure test unit that I mentioned. You can see the machined isogrid door, and although the first missions for Dragon are cargo, we're designing everything for manned loads. So it's designed to take the loads of an escape rocket and it should take high-g aborts and all that stuff, and it's also got windows, which cargo does not need. On the right you can see what it looks like with the engines on. To the left is the cargo configuration. On the basic Dragon the sleeve that connects Dragon to the booster, we use that to carry unpressurized cargo and also it'll contain the solar panels and the radiator. On the right you can see the crew configuration. We're designing it to have a maximum of seven crew. There'll be a small seat and a big seat. So, four small seats and three big seats. You can see the collar berthing mechanism of the docking interface at the top is where it will berth with the space station. The nose cone gets tossed away, and it berths to the space station on that interface. Few more pictures of it and you can see it stuck on a little section of the space station. There's also more videos and pictures and what not, that you can see on the SpaceX website.

I'd also like to say what I see the future of commercial spaceflight. I think we're really entering a new era that's going to be exciting for commercial spaceflight. There's a lot of things happening on the suborbital front with Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin and obviously Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic and then we've got John Carmack's Armadillo Aerospace. I think John's going to do very well. On the orbital front we've got ourselves and Rocketplane Kistler and I think we'll see some of the companies doing suborbital work transition at some point to orbital activity. So, I think it's pretty exciting. If all goes well, SpaceX will be flying supporting the space station for many years to come, and potentially also supporting things like the Bigelow space station and who knows what other sorts of things will develop. I'm really really flush on the future of spaceflight and I'm really excited by it.

Okay, are there any questions?

[Question about whether Falcon 9 can take Orion] The question was, is it possible to put Orion on top of the Falcon 9 and get it to orbit? It really depends on what the mass of Orion is considered to be. I think if it was within the capability of the basic Falcon 9, which is only ten tons to LEO, but there is a heavy version of Falcon 9 which we'll be developing with the side boosters, which is similar to the Delta IV Heavy with the common booster core approach. I believe that may be able to put Orion into orbit because that capability is on the order of 25 metric tons. So I think it's within the realm of possibility.

[Question about market research] Well actually I didn't do any market research. So maybe that's why I did it. If I had done market research I would probably have not done it. No, I do think there's a market for what we're building. While I didn't do any market research, I certainly read about what rockets exist in the world, what are they launching, and that kind of thing. So at a minimum we should be able to go and compete in the existing markets and have some sort of a business, even if it wasn't really breakthrough or anything like that. I don't think there's any kind of market research that you can do that would say, 'OK, if you really believe it, if you can reduce costs by this amount, then there will be this extra number of launches that occur as a result of that reduced price.' I think you just have to do it and you hope that it turns out to be true. And then make sure that there's a backup plan, that you at least have booked some value, even if you don't achieve the full potential, that you've still got some valuable enterprise that's capable of at least serving the existing market. And that's really the strategy that SpaceX has has. We'll at least serve the existing satellite launch market, and hopefully the space station, and if that's all that happens then well, it's not a terrible thing. And hopefully by lowering the costs, improving reliability we can expand the market substantially and I think if we do there will be others that enter the market and compete [unintelligible] Just as occurred in the airline business. There was a time when no one could possibly consider aircraft as a transportation mechanism. They were things that you maybe got a little joyride in, and they were very dangerous, and lots of people died all the time on them. If you said in 1920, probably any time before Lindbergh even, ask your average person on the street if they would be able to fly from New York City to Europe nonstop in an aircraft they would have said, 'no way! That's ridiculous.' So I think you have to approach this with some degree of open faith.

[Question about Dragon docking] Dragon will be grabbed by the station arm with the expanded grapple fixture. Yeah, it can dock to any CBM port. Well, I'm not entirely certain it's *any* CBM port, I think there's one in particular that we're supposed to dock at. But in theory we could dock at any CBM port.

[Question about video footage] There's multiple videos. We've probably got 18 cameras in various places. Onboard cameras, ground cameras, tracking cameras, so what I showed was just a tiny sampling. There's a lot more on the website actually.

[Question about cost-per-mass] So cost-per-pound to the space station. Initially I think it's probably $10,000 per pound. About that. And that's cargo to the space station, as opposed to mass to orbit. The mass to orbit of Falcon 9 is about $1300 per pound. But that's if you're a satellite or something. To get something to the space station you need to add Dragon to the equation, and then you need to basically say, that eats up a ton of useful cargo as well, so roughly approaching 3.5 tons for roughly $70 million-ish. We have to see what the final pricing turns out to be. I'd should point out that that assumes zero reuseability. So if we are able to make the reuseability economics work, that price could be substantially lower.

[What sort of payloads will you launch?] Well we expect do a lot of commercial flights to geosynchronous orbit. Hopefully launching some planetary missions, stuff to Mars or the Moon or that sort of thing.

[Question about blog, Tesla production] It actually is getting harder and harder for me to write blog pieces. I used to write them quite frequently, and now I've got a pretty big family, and business things that take up a lot of time, so the blog stuff tends to fall to the bottom of the priority list. And there are a lot of times that I feel really guilty about not updating the blog. But I would like to continue to write blog pieces and also try to get other people to write blog pieces. At Tesla a lot of people write blog pieces, I only write them occasionally. As far as Tesla is concerned, the first production car of the Roadster should be out in September. End of September, maybe October. And then Tesla is working hard on a Model 2 which is a $50,000 luxury sport sedan, and that's 4-door, 5-passenger, about the size of a 5-series BMW. The targeted debut is the end of 2009.

[Question about pogo oscillation] Yeah, pogo. We have pogo suppressors on each of the 9 engines, the individual pogo suppressors. So that should hopefully do the trick. We have a couple of outside experts that are looking at our pogo suppression devices and helping us design them. [unintelligible], some of you may know him if you're familiar with pogo stuff. And there's a few other people we're bringing on board as well to look at that, but pogo is something we take seriously.

[Question about the biggest risk to SpaceX] Biggest risks. Hmm. I don't know what the biggest risk is actually. There are lots of risks, but I'm not sure how to order them exactly to say which one is the biggest one. You know, the last Demo Flight 2, the slosh mode coupling with the control frequency of the second stage was number 11 on the guidance control risk list. Number 11. And if you were to merge all those risk lists, I mean it would have been number 120. And that's the one that went wrong. So it's a very subjective thing to figure out what the real risk is that's gonna bite you in the butt. Fortunately with the knowledge that we'll gain from Falcon 1, we're not going to make in retrospect an elementary error like not having slosh baffles on the stage. So I think we'll be safe from that sort of stuff. It's possible we could have some challenges getting to the berthing process, I don't know that much about it, it's not an area with which I'm all that familiar. We're learning a lot at SpaceX and we have some outside companies that are very familiar with the process helping us, I see Dave over there from [?], and Harold is helping us with the safety stuff. Boy I wish I could give you a- I don't know what the biggest risk is. They're all really big, and they all take a lot of attention. Sorry.

[Question about Robert Heinlein] Actually I didn't even know it was his 100th anniversary. Good to know! He's written some good books. I like 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,' that's a good one.

[Question about suppliers] We've certainly made some use of existing hardware, such as many of the things you mentioned, quick disconnects, regulators, certainly control valves, most of our control valves are from Maratta, which provided control valves for the Shuttle. We use Ketema vent relief valves, we use Stanford Mu regs. There's a lot of existing satellite componentry in Dragon.

The big stuff has been developed from scratch. We kind of have to do that, because if we were to buy- if we were to cobble together stuff from existing quasi-official components, then we would be unable to reduce the cost, because to the degree that you inherit the legacy components, while you may inherit their heritage of course, you also inherit their cost. So of necessity we're forced to make the major items like the engines and the stages and the avionics and the launch ops and all that, do that from scratch.

[] I've invested $100 million, approximately. A little more than that. We've spent more than that. That's venture capital. We've spent more than that because we've received payments for launch. We've got the first two Falcon 1 launches we've received advanced payment on, a number of the other launches, we've passed some COTS milestones, so I'm not sure exactly, I'd have to think about it, I'd probably consider that proprietary, but we've certainly spent in excess of $100 million thus far, although I've only invested roughly $100 million.

[Would you ride in Dragon?] Yeah, I think it would be fun to ride in Dragon at some point. Some people sometimes think that this is a round-about way of getting me personally into space, but it would be a lot cheaper to buy a ride on the Soyuz. A lot less hassle. But I'd definitely like to fly at some point, that would be great.

[Question about COTS] COTS has been really helpful in speeding things up. We were already going in that direction long term anyway, but it would have taken us a long time, it would have [unintelligible], and also we wouldn't be able to take advantage of the expertise that NASA has, which has been quite helpful in designing a reliable vehicle. I think the COTS program has been really super helpful, it's been great dealing with everyone there. And a lot of people are saying, 'isn't NASA going to smother you or cordon you off from efficient things, and that hasn't been the case. No complaints thus far at all, it's been great.

[Question about Vandenberg] The Vandenberg story is a long and sad story. But yeah, it was a bit unfair, but these things happen.

[Question about the manifest] Actually the SpaceX manifest is on the website. So if you're curious about the upcoming satellites are being launched, and what's the customer, and when they're being launched, there's actually an updated launch manifest on our website.

[Question about lead time] For Falcon 1 it will probably be under 12 months, maybe 9 months. What we're doing is we're actually buying long-lead items ahead of time so we have an inventory of the long-lead stuff, and so once we have the long-lead stuff in hand it can takes us For Falcon 1 as little as 9 months to get going and get a launch off. For Falcon 9 it's probably a little premature to make claims at this point, but for the booster at least we do plan on having a continuous production line on the booster, so in theory it should take very little time to get that going, either go from a contract to a launch hopefully 9 months, it could even be 6 months. It really depends on how the manifest is filling out. There may be other constraints, which are not related to SpaceX directly, such as can Cape Canaveral handle that launch or is there other stuff scheduled for that time frame. They really like to see that something's scheduled 12 months or even 24 months in advance. [unintelligible] to have a really short time ideally between the contract and launch. And in order to make reuseability work, then you need to have a constant stream of vehicles coming back and being refurbished and flying every month or even more frequently than that, then it's gonna be relatively easy to slot someone in.

[Question about Dragon schedule and Shuttle] Actually our schedule matches pretty well to the planned end of the Shuttle in 2010. We have our first demo flight of Falcon 9 with Dragon at the end of next year, and then we'll get two more demonstration flights, one in summer of 2009, and another at the end of 2009. And that third flight will actually culminate in the transfer of I guess demonstration cargo and the return of demonstration cargo back to Earth. We probably cannot at this point load the real cargo, it has to be demonstration cargo because otherwise it would violate some sort of law-based acquisition or something to that effect. So if that schedule remains true or doesn't slip too much, then in 2010 we should be able to start delivering cargo, and then depending upon when the COTS option B gets exercised, which is what adds the escape tower, the life support system, the seats, all the crew-related stuff, plus the ability of the crew to take over in the event of an emergency. So depending on when COTS B gets activated, we should be able to I think take people to the space station probably 2011 something like that. It really depends on the way things get going though.

[Question about Bigelow Aerospace] Well if Bigelow puts up a private space station we would love to take people there and back. So I think that would be super synergistic. We do have a Bigelow launch on the Falcon manifest, for launching I think it's a 2/3rds scale version (or something of approximately that size) of one of his inflatable space stations. So irrespective of what happens with the full scale version or how well that does or whether he's able to sell people the space station or lease it or whatever, we do have one launch of Falcon 9 with Bigelow.

[How many reuses per spacecraft?] So how many launches can Falcon 9 take before it has to be permanently retired? I think it's really hard to make an exact prediction. We really have to look at the condition it's in when it gets back. The engines we're aiming for at least 25 full mission duty cycles before any refurbishment is required of significance, and ideally upwards of 100 cycles, so we'd like to get something like that out of the rest of the Falcon 9 as well. So that's our target - at least 25, hopefully as many as 100. But it's really going to depend on the condition things come back in. And I think like a jet we'll have a maintenance schedule. So there will be some things that need to be replaced every flight, some things that need to be replaced every 5 flights, some every 10 flights, some that really are just never going to wear out in any kind of reasonable time frame. And then we'll have an inspection schedule. So just like a jet engine has a hot section inspection every certain number of hours, and you replace this component every certain number of hours, we'll have something similar for the rocket. So we want to try to overall just sort of drive things in the direction of the way jet engines are operated. So I don't think it will ever be as good as that, but we at least want to try to push in that direction.

[Question about how long he's been working on this] I actually was fond of space, well first of all I grew up in South Africa, you know, not really much space stuff happening there. And then I only got my citizenship like last year, and that was five years after I got my green card. But I've only actually been allowed to legally look into space for five and a half years. I apologize for not getting that last 6 months in there, but literally I could only legally look into space for the last five and a half years.

[Question about his research area in physics] No, it was just general theoretical and experimental physics. I was undergrad only. I actually originally was going to go out and get a PhD at Standford in the material science and physics of high energy density capacitors, so very applied, almost really engineering. And that was for use in electric vehicles. I think there's the potential to do some very interesting things if you can drive the energy density of a capacitor up high enough then it's really the ideal solution for electric vehicles. They have a quasi-infinite cycle and calendar life, and extremely high charge/discharge rate, really you'd be able to charge your car faster than you can fill it with gasoline. If somebody could come up with a capacitor with enough energy density then that would really be the optimal solution for an electric car.


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