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Why those interested in Tesla should learn about SpaceX
Posted on April 16, 2015 by Matt Pressman
Full disclosure: after reading this profile (referenced herein) a few years ago, I invested a somewhat significant amount into TSLA (Tesla Motors). Needless to say, I’m glad I did it. I decided to revisit it, and, share the “epiphany” that came about -- strangely, it was the SpaceX story that convinced me (years back) that Elon Musk would have the “chops” to build Tesla into such a revolutionary car company.
One of my all-time favorite profiles (ever) of Elon Musk came about when he won the prestigious Smithsonian Award for Ingenuity, they explained* why...
“There are few things more difficult than putting something into orbit. Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, the space shuttle—we think of rockets and we think of the oldest, most staid monoliths: the U.S. government. NASA. Lockheed. Boeing. Space, a frontier so dangerous, so daunting, so complex and impossible, that it belongs not to the realm of lone adventurers and daring entrepreneurs, but to the combined might of the most powerful military industrial complex in the world. Except [SpaceX’s] rocket wasn’t built or launched by the U.S. government, or even Lockheed or Boeing, but by guys in surfer shorts and T-shirts, overseen by an Internet [b]illionaire... 'Our first order of business,' [said Elon] Musk, sitting in his cubicle in Hawthorne, California, 'is to defeat the incumbent, old school rocket companies. Lockheed. Boeing. Russia. China. If this is a chess game, they don’t have much of a chance.'”
Smithsonian went on to describe how SpaceX can “send a 10,000-pound payload into geosynchronous orbit for $60 million, compared with a United Launch Alliance Delta flight cost of $300 million (a space shuttle flight cost upward of $1 billion). If he [Musk] can get 'full and rapid reusability'—if he can figure out how to recover not just the second stage Dragon capsule, but the first stage of his Falcon 9—he’ll have done what no one has ever done before: created a fully reusable rocket for which the fuel costs only $200,000 per flight. 'Humanity will always be confined to Earth unless someone invents a reusable rocket,' [Musk] says. 'That is the pivotal innovation to make life interplanetary, and I think we’re close…'”
Source: SpaceX - click image above to enlarge
Elon Musk (and SpaceX) have come a long way since the time he received that illustrious award. Just this week, SpaceX almost began down the path Musk promised a few years back. In SpaceX's continuous effort to recycle rockets after launches, the Falcon 9 rocket launched successfully to the International Space Station and it’s second stage returned to Earth the next day but couldn't quite complete its landing on a barge in the ocean. So, so close...
However, the good news is that SpaceX's Falcon 9 capsule safely completed its main mission -- carrying more than two tons of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). This resupply mission was SpaceX's sixth of 15 under a (roughly) $2 billion NASA contract, and was the 17th flight of its Falcon 9 rocket.
Why is this of any interest to Tesla owners, fans and investors? Well… it proves the enormous engineering prowess Musk can develop (and nurture) within his companies. SpaceX may be on the verge of a major breakthrough based on what we’ve witnessed this week. Yes, it’s in another sector altogether… but, if Musk can radically transform the aerospace industry (as he did before with the banking industry via PayPal), it’s likely he’ll continue to transform and revolutionize the automotive industry with Tesla Motors (TSLA). And, for those of you who claim this new Silicon Valley electric car company simply can't compete with the likes of century-old automakers, a quick glance at SpaceX's story might have you second-guessing that assumption. The implications of what SpaceX has (and will likely) achieve could be transformative to the whole human race. And, we might anticipate Tesla Motors could achieve an equally ambitious vision.
In any event, SpaceX deserves some major kudos for what's transpired this week – our favorite “tribute” so far has to be this fun, must-see music video, released yesterday, that prominently features some Tesla Model S product placement and a promise to “frunk you up” – definitely check it out...