Tag Archives: SpaceX

This Luxury Capsule Will Take You on a 5-Hour Long Space Vacation

While SpaceX and Virgin Galactic seem to get all the headlines, World View, a luxury flight capsule, is expected to send tourists up into the Earth’s atmosphere on five-hour tours starting in an estimated 4 years time.

World View, under direction from Paragon Space Development Corporation in Arizona, plans to send people 100,000 feet above the earth’s surface in a capsule powered by a large balloon, which can drift into orbit for hours at a time.


The capsule features four circular windows and holds six passengers plus two crew members.

It is hard to image a front row seat in outer space but it is coming sooner rather than later.


Nigel Goode, director of Priestmangoode, says, “You’re seeing the curvature of earth, the blackness of space. It’s such a life-changing experience. This is what it’s all about.”

The interior design of the capsule is still ongoing, but expect to see a lot of carbon fiber and other lightweight materials used in order to minimize weight and fuel cost.

The cost of enjoying a trip to space by way of a World View is still up in the air, but it is clear that multiple capsules will be developed for both tourism and space research.



With a Hyperloop Test Track, Elon Musk Takes on the Critical Heavy Lifting

The Hyperloop is coming to Texas. That’s the word from Elon Musk, who unveiled his idea for the revolutionary transit system 18 months ago, and yesterday tweeted his plans to build a test track for companies and student teams working to make the idea a reality.

In August 2013, the Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO gave the world a 57-page alpha white paper, explaining his vision of how the transit system, which would shoot pods full of people around the country in above-ground tubes at 800 mph.

Musk stuck to his standard announcement system—drop big news, keep quiet on details—so we don’t know much about what he’s got in mind, when it would happen, how much it would cost, who would pay for it, or why, exactly, he wants to do it. (On that last one, we suspect the answer is because this thing is a damn awesome idea and he doesn’t want to miss out.)

If Musk does in fact build a test track, in Texas or elsewhere, it would be a huge help to the company that’s made more progress than anyone toward making the Hyperloop happen. The track isn’t the part of this endeavor that’s hard to engineer. “It’s a couple of tubes and a vacuum pump,” says Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of JumpStartFund, an El Segunda, California-based startup that is taking Musk up on his challenge to develop and build the Hyperloop. But, like most chunks of infrastructure, even in prototype sizes, it’s expensive.


If Musk pays for it—hey, the guy’s worth $7.5 billion—it’s a major item JumpStartFund can stop worrying about. “We’ll be able to act faster because that big problem is solved,” Ahlborn says.

He hasn’t done the math on how much a test track would cost or how long it would take to build, but imagines it would be a simple affair, since it’s just for testing purposes. It would have one tube instead of the two planned for the commercial version (one for each direction), and would be kept low to the ground.

JumpStartFund brought together a group of about 100 engineers all over the country who spend their free time spitballing ideas in exchange for stock options, and have day jobs at companies like Boeing, NASA, Yahoo!, and Airbus.

They and a group of 25 students at UCLA’s graduate architecture program are working on a wide array of issues, including route planning, capsule design, and cost analysis.

“It’s hugely feasible” to build a working Hyperloop, says Professor Craig Hodgetts, who’s leading the UCLA team. Besides land acquisition and political concerns, the big concerns are creating a capsule system that feels comfortable and safe for passengers, and how to design a station to accommodate a continuous stream of pods coming and going—the Hyperloop will work more like a ski lift than a railroad.

All that will take time to figure out, Hodgetts says, and if Musk gets busy building track while the JumpStartFund and UCLA folks put together everything else, it could drastically cut down the time the project would take. “It’s just like having a bunch of supercomputers side by side.”

MIT Researchers Destroyed This Plan To Send Humans To Mars

MIT Mars One 03 press

A highly publicized plan to send the first humans to Mars within the next decade is riddled with problems and probably will not get off the ground anytime soon, according to a new report from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Mars One program, developed by the Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, strives to put a four-person crew on Mars by 2025 using “existing and available technology.”

The group at MIT, on the hand, has identified many technological advances that will need to be met to make the one-way trip a reality and enable a crew to survive on Mars for a reasonable amount of time.

“While this program has been received with great fanfare, very little has been published in the technical literature on this mission architecture,” the report said.

The team used mathematical models to evaluate the feasibility of the trip if living units with systems that produce water, oxygen, and nitrogen were deployed to the Martian surface ahead of time, as the Mars One plan suggests.

Using those variables, many simulations found that the trip would be a failure. For example, if the crew requires more food than what would be available in the food store, then the crew would die of starvation before it could grow new food on the surface of Mars. 

MIT Mars One 04 press

The image to the right shows the layout of the habitat unit and the location of different technologies used for one simulation as part of the MIT analysis. 

The researchers pointed out countless challenges in their 35-page report. Notably, food that comes from crops grown on the Martian surface would produce “unsafe oxygen levels” and would require a yet-to-be-developed oxygen removal system, the authors write.

Unofficial sources have also said that the Mars One habitat will be based on a modified version of SpaceX’s Dragon module, although the private transport company has not made any mention of this plan.

The researchers found that sending up initial supplies for the first Mars crew would require 15 Falcon Heavy rockets, compared to Mars One’s modest estimate of just six.

“We’re not saying, black and white, Mars One is infeasible,” MIT professor Oliver de Weck said. “But we do think it’s not really feasible under the assumptions they’ve made. We’re pointing to technologies that could be helpful to invest in with high priority, to move them along the feasibility path.”

THE $10 BILLION CLUB: Meet the 9 most valuable startups in the world

Drew Houston
Drew Houston, co-founder and CEO of Dropbox

There used to be a time when a $1 billion valuation was considered a massive success for tech startups. Then it was $5 billion.

But in recent months, there have been so many huge rounds raised that these numbers almost seem routine.

So we’ve raised the bar yet again. Looking at recent media reports and the WSJ’s “The Billion-Dollar Startup Club” list, we’ve created a list of tech startups that are worth more than $10 billion — or will be very soon.

#9 Dropbox: $10 billion

#9 Dropbox: $10 billion

CEO: Drew Houston

Founded: 2007

What it does: Dropbox allows users to easily store and share files on the web. It has over 200 million users worldwide.

Total funding: $1.1 billion

Notable investors: Accel Partners, Benchmark Capital, Greylock Ventures

#8 Airbnb: $10 billion

#8 Airbnb: $10 billion

CEO: Brian Chesky

Founded: 2008

What it does: Airbnb offers a marketplace for people to rent out their homes to temporary residents. It’s currently available in 190 countries.

Total funding: $794.8 million

Notable investors: Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund, Sequoia Capital, Greylock Partners

#7 Pinterest: $11 billion (seeking)

#7 Pinterest: $11 billion (seeking)

Valuation: The company was valued at $5 billion in its last round in May 2014, but is reportedly seeking a new round at a valuation of $11 billion.

CEO: Ben Silbermann

Founded: 2008

What it does: Pinterest allows users to share/store stuff online by “pinning” images and content.

Total funding: $762.5 million

Notable investors: Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners, Rakuten

#6 Flipkart: $11 billion

#6 Flipkart: $11 billion

CEO: Sachin Bansal

Founded: 2007

What it does: Flipkart is an e-commerce site specializing in electronics and content like books and music.

Total funding: $2.5 billion

Notable investors: Digital Sky Technologies, T Rowe Price, Morgan Stanley, Vulcan Capital, Tiger Global Management

#5 SpaceX: $12 billion

#5 SpaceX: $12 billion

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaks after unveiling the Dragon V2 spacecraft in Hawthorne, California May 29, 2014

Valuation: $12 billion

CEO: Elon Musk

Founded: 2002

What it does: Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, designs, builds, and launches vehicles for space exploration.

Total funding: $1.2 billion

Notable investors: Founders Fund, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Google

#4 Palantir: $15 billion

#4 Palantir: $15 billion

Valuation: $15 billion

CEO: Alexander Karp

Founded: 2004

What it does: Palantir is a software and services company that specializes in data analysis. Some of its biggest clients are government agencies like the CIA and FBI.

Total funding: $1 billion

Notable investors: Founders Fund, Tiger Global Management, Glynn Capital Management, Jeremy Stoppelman

#3 Snapchat: $16 to $19 billion (seeking)

#3 Snapchat: $16 to $19 billion (seeking)

Valuation: Snapchat was valued at $10 billion in its last round in December, but is reportedly seeking a new round at a valuation between $16 million and $19 million.

CEO: Evan Spiegel

Founded: 2012

What it does: Its photo messaging app allows users to send photos and videos that get deleted after a set period of time.

Total funding: $648 million

Notable investors: Yahoo, Kleiner Perkins, Benchmark Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Coatue Management, SV Angel

#2 Uber: $41.2 billion

#2 Uber: $41.2 billion

Valuation: $41.2 billion

CEO: Travis Kalanik

Founded: 2009

What it does: Uber’s taxi-hailing app connects its users with drivers of private vehicles under Uber’s contact. It offers different types of cars, from full-size luxury cars to smaller vehicles.

Total funding: $5.9 billion

Notable investors: Benchmark Capital, Menlo Ventures, Google Ventures, KPCB

#1 Xiaomi: $46 billion

#1 Xiaomi: $46 billion

Valuation: $46 billion

CEO: Jun Lei

Founded: 2010

What it does: Xiaomi is one of the biggest Chinese electronics brands that makes smartphones. They’re considered among the best Android smartphones, and the company has hardcore loyalists a lot like Apple in the U.S.

Total funding: $1.4 billion

Notable investors: Digital Sky Technologies, HOPU Investment Management Company, DST Global, IDG Capital Partners, Qualcomm Ventures, Morningside Group

LA To NYC In Under An Hour, Hyperloop System Will Let You Travel At 4,000 MPH

Commuting is a way of life for most Bay Area residents. Many people are accustomed to an hour commute each way without traffic.

Some people even commute to Southern California several times a month, spending several hours each way either in the car or fighting through airports. What if there was an alternative to flights and car rides? If it was up to Tesla CEO Elon Musk and a Colorado company, an answer could come sooner than we think.

San Francisco to L.A. in 30 Mins. With Proposed New Transportation System

Hyperloop System

Musk, the man behind both Tesla Motors and SpaceX, has spoken about a high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop, a tube transport system that would allow passengers to travel at high speeds.


The proposed system could reduce trips between San Francisco and Los Angeles to minutes, and reaching the East Coast from California could take under an hour. Crazy as it seems, the company ET3, based out of Longmont, Colorado, has already been hard at work making this a reality, calling their project the Evacuated Tube Transport.

How Does It Work?

The Hyperloop has been vaguely described by Musk as a “cross between a Concorde, a rail gun, and an air hockey table.” A better description might be an elevated tube system with a magnetic levitation system similar to high-speed bullet trains. The kicker would be the enclosed tube, which would provide a nearly friction-less surface for individual capsules to travel in.

ET3′s Hyperloop-like project already has a number of schematics and plans already in place. They claim an automobile-sized, six-passenger capsule constructed for “outer space” travel conditions could easily reach speeds of 4,000 miles per hour on longer journeys across the country or across continents. In theory, this elevated tube system could be built for a tenth of the cost of high-speed rail and a quarter the cost of a freeway. The projected cost for a passenger to travel from Los Angeles to New York is $100.

The tubes could be connected to form a new superhighway across the United States. They could go underwater and connect to Alaska, Hawaii, and the rest of the world. ET3 has already built mock-ups and prototypes and is planning a 3-mile test run by the end of 2013.

Expanding on Older Ideas

Despite the ingenuity of the idea, it isn’t actually that new. In 1972, a paper written by physicist R.M Salter described a tube system known as the Very High Speed Transit System (VHST) that could send people across the United States in under an hour. The system was composed of a series of underground tubes arranged in a network across the country. While several technical problems existed with the idea at the time, Salter also concluded,

“The general principles are fairly straightforward: electromagnetically levitated and propelled cars in an evacuated tunnel.”

The one primary difference between Salter’s plan and ET3′s is that the VHST would need to be underground, with massive amounts of excavation required.

If the Hyperloop or Evacuated Tube Transport was built and succeeded, it could make California’s current high-speed rail project obsolete. With a budgeted cost of $70 billion, the high-speed system currently under development would take passengers from San Francisco to L.A. in three hours, potentially six times slower than the Hyperloop.

PETER THIEL: Uber Is ‘The Most Ethically Challenged Company In Silicon Valley’

peter thiel

In a rather truncated, but still insightful interview with Alexia Tsotsis at TechCrunch Disrupt 2014 this year, legendary Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel spoke about many things he has become famous (or infamous) for, including anti-aging research, the HBO show “Silicon Valley” and his opinions on education.

When someone becomes such a cult of personality that TV shows start creating comedic, fictionalized versions of them–as HBO did with Thiel on “Silicon Valley” with its character “Peter Gregory”–you find yourself simply writing down their quotes as they speak.

Here are some of the more interesting things I caught while at the interview.

About HBO’s “Silicon Valley”: “It’s a Good Show.” Thiel said he is flattered by the character played by deceased actor Christopher Evan Welch, on the show. In one scene Thiel–excuse me, Gregory— gives a lecture on why young people shouldn’t go to college.

“I’m skeptical of a lot of what falls under the rubric of education…. People are on these tracks. They are getting these credentials and it’s very unclear how viable they are in many cases.

 It wouldn’t be a Peter Thiel interview if he didn’t express concerns about the American education system. This one was no different. Thiel said his “fundamental” view on this is that there is no “one size fits all” education for every person.

Ironically, when asked what he might have been had he not gone into investing, Thiel said he might have been a teacher.

“Anti-aging is an extremely under-explored field.” The discussion about “atoms and bits” mixed into a brief mention of the growing field of anti-aging. It was obvious through his brief comments that he thinks this area, which Google is already exploring, has tremendous potential.

Thiel agreed when Tsotsis asked if he thought someone alive today would live to be 2,000 years old, but when she asked if he thought he would live that long, he said he was “too superstitious” to say.

“I’m short on New York, long on Silicon Valley.” Thiel talked for a few minutes about the investment dynamics in both New York and San Francisco.

While he feels great about the Big Apple’s ongoing growth in tech, he feels the Bay Area is the true center of the tech world and will stay that way. Silicon Valley, to his mind, will be “the center of the U.S. Economy” through the next two decades.

Re: Silicon Valley: “We’re better than the rest of the country but we shouldn’t believe it too much.” Thiel admonished Valley entrepreneurs who get too cocky or smug about their success.

He said that only hard work and continuing innovation in the next 10-20 years can ensure the Valley keeps its position as the center of tech on Earth. He also mentioned that the next 10-20 years could be more about connecting “the world of atoms and bits” through biotech, self-driving cars and others.

Uber is “way more” evil than Google: In a discussion about the fierce competition between Uber and Lyft, Thiel, referenced the oft-criticized business practices of Uber.

He prefaced his comments by noting he is an investor in Lyft, and said Uber is “the most ethically challenged company in Silicon Valley.”

“Great investments may look crazy but really may not be.” That’s the lesson Thiel took from considering investment in Elon Musk’s SpaceX in 2008. He said some investors thought it might look like too crazy an idea to invest in, but in retrospect, wasn’t.

Thiel and his Founders Fund did make the investment. He cited the fact that the rockets worked well even then as well as a big NASA contract as indications that the company was headed on the right track.

SpaceX Rocket Explodes After Launch

SpaceX explosion

A SpaceX Falcon 9R rocket exploded shortly after launching during a test flight in Texas, the company confirmed Friday.

A SpaceX Falcon 9R rocket exploded shortly after launching during a test flight in Texas, the company confirmed Friday.

KXXV-TV anchor Bruce Gietzen reported there were no injuries. The rocket, which was unmanned, was launched from the SpaceX rocket-development facility in McGregor, Texas.

View image on Twitter

“During the flight, an anomaly was detected in the vehicle and the flight termination system automatically terminated the mission,” John Taylor, a SpaceX spokesperson, told Business Insider in an email.

“Today’s test was particularly complex, pushing the limits of the vehicle further than any previous test. As is our practice, the company will be reviewing the flight record details to learn more about the performance of the vehicle prior to our next test.”

View image on Twitter

The Falcon 9R is the replacement to the company’s retired Grasshopper rocket. According to The Verge, the 9R is designed to launch and deliver payloads, and return to Earth to be reused. After a successful launch and return of a 9R in May, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told NBC News this type of rocket could make spaceflight 100 times cheaper.

SpaceX provided the following statement to Business Insider:

Earlier today, in McGregor, Texas, SpaceX conducted a test flight of a three engine version of the F9R test vehicle (successor to Grasshopper). During the flight, an anomaly was detected in the vehicle and the flight termination system automatically terminated the mission.

Throughout the test and subsequent flight termination, the vehicle remained in the designated flight area. There were no injuries or near injuries. An FAA representative was present at all times.  

With research and development projects, detecting vehicle anomalies during the testing is the purpose of the program. Today’s test was particularly complex,  pushing the limits of the vehicle further than any previous test.  As is our practice, the company will be reviewing the flight record details to learn more about the performance of the vehicle prior to our next test.

SpaceX will provide another update when the flight data has been fully analyzed.

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