SpaceX aims to fire up its powerful Falcon Heavy rocket on Tuesday

The huge rocket described as “the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two” is in position on a launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center as SpaceX engineers make the final preparations for what promises to be a spectacular static-fire engine test.

Should the procedure go according to plan, we could be just weeks away from witnessing the Falcon Heavy set off on its maiden mission all the way to Mars.

Reusable rocket system

The Falcon Heavy is essentially three Falcon 9 rockets with a single upper stage, and in terms of power is beaten only by the Saturn V rocket that once took astronauts to the moon. Incorporating SpaceX’s tried-and-tested reusable rocket system, the Heavy’s various separation processes are designed to take place soon after launch, with all three boosters landing back on Earth.

But SpaceX CEO Elon Musk knows that if Tuesday’s test proves successful, the debut mission that would follow soon after is a monumental challenge, noting last year that there’s “a real good chance” the unmanned Falcon Heavy won’t even make it into orbit.

If it does all go to plan, the rocket will be taking Musk’s cherry-red Tesla Roadster all the way to the red planet, where the CEO claims it could remain in orbit for a billion years. Musk earlier said he wanted to send “the silliest thing we can imagine,” adding that he loved the thought of a car “drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future.”

“Beast” of a rocket

Considering the size and power of the Falcon Heavy, it’s little surprise that Musk himself describes it as a “beast.” The first stage of the 230-feet-tall (70 meters) rocket comprises “three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at lift-off, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft,” SpaceX says on its website.

While the Falcon 9 is designed for shorter missions, its big brother “restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the moon or Mars,” SpaceX says.

In the summer of 2017, Musk teased the launch of the Falcon Heavy in an animation posted on Instagram, though at that time SpaceX had been hoping to launch the rocket a couple of months later. With so much at stake, however, it’s little surprise that preparations are stretching out, though we could be just weeks from seeing the rocket head spaceward for the very first time.

A lot depends on how the all-important engine test goes on Tuesday. SpaceX doesn’t look as if it’ll be live-streaming the event, though you can watch it at Spaceflight Now with a subscription.



Tesla is set to unveil something big tonight. Here’s everything we know about it

Tesla is a hype machine. What other company can make a live crowd ooh and ahh over at-home battery storage, or line up hundreds of thousands of pre-orders for a sedan? But even for Elon Musk, making a big rig sexy and desirable is a stretch. However, with his usual hyperbole, that’s exactly what he’s promising to do, and while he’s at it, he’s going to “blow your mind clear out of your skull.”

Elon Musk’s vision has always been for Tesla to be more than a car company. He wants to shift the world to sustainable energy, using electricity generated by the sun to power a range of vehicles, from cars, to SUVs, to busses, and yes, Class 8 trucks—the massive 18 wheelers that loom over all other freeway traffic. So before the 8 pm reveal in Los Angeles, here’s what we know.

Elon has been thinking about trucks for a while. In his Master Plan, Part Deux, a mission statement for Tesla he published in July 2016, Musk said he wanted to “expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments.”

In order to be skull-shattering, though, Musk is going to have to unveil something very special. Because while Tesla can take credit for igniting the electric car market, that was a sparse space before the company jumped in. The electric truck market, on the other hand, is already plenty competitive: Startups and established constructors alike all recognize that an electric drivetrain can be greener, cheaper, and easier to drive.

On Instagram he joked his truck will transform into a giant robot, fight aliens, and make one hell of a latte. (Well, he was probably joking.) Tesla has released teaser images of the truck, and we know it’s going to be sleek, probably black and silver, and have LED headlights. Beyond that, all we can do is make some informed inferences.

Bet on Batteries

Elon Musk is perhaps the world’s largest battery fan, so his semi-truck isn’t going to be a hybrid, with a diesel engine tucked away somewhere for emergencies. It’s not going to have a hydrogen fuel cell on board.

Expect the truck to be 100 percent battery powered, probably with lithium ion cells laid flat along the floor, as with Tesla’s cars. That keeps the center of gravity low, and helps with handling, which is especially important in a high sided vehicle that drives through strong cross winds.

Tesla builds its batteries in modules, and then uses as many modules as it takes for each application, whether that’s stationary storage for Powerwalls in homes, large scale grid storage like it deployed in Puerto Rico, or movable storage in cars. Multiplying that up to truck scale shouldn’t be too challenging, technologically, but the logistics are another matter.

Tesla’s big Model 3 bottleneck has so far been the battery pack, after all. The company has struggled to get the automated production line at its Gigafactory in Nevada running, so investors will be looking for Musk to explain how, and where, he plans to build his trucks, and how he’ll avoid the same problem.

Spoiler Alert

Tesla is big on aerodynamics, and Musk cites the physics of air resistance often—it increases with the square of speed. Just punching through the air is a huge power drain, even on a sleek car with retracting door handles to make it as slippery as possible. A Tesla truck will employ the latest aerodynamic science, likely with active spoilers and deflectors that adjust their angle to give the best performance.

Charge It

Electric trucks will still need charging, even if Tesla manages to stuff in enough batteries to give a range of a few hundred miles. Tesla’s current network of Superchargers can rejuice a Model S car in 40 minutes, but a truck is going to need a commensurately larger charger.

Musk may suggest that the vehicles are best for fixed routes between two points where chargers can be installed, or where the truck can sit overnight. Hauling goods from a port to an inland distribution center would be an ideal use case. Lugging lumber out of an isolated forest and across the country, less so.

The Case for the Cost

Finally, there’s the price. Cost-sensitive fleet operators are much less prone to buying on a whim than car purchasers, no matter how flashy the tech. But Musk will likely make the case that even if his truck is more expensive upfront, over five years it will repay the investment with lower fuel and maintenance costs.



Tesla Truck Unveiling Is Tomorrow

From its origins as a small company turning out two-seat electric convertibles for the wealthy, Tesla sure has come a long way. Tomorrow, the California automaker will officially expand its offerings to include semi trucks. Rumors and hints of this new all-electric vehicle have been in the air for a long while. Now we finally get to see what the fuss is all about.

Tesla Semi Truck unveil to be webcast live on Thursday at 8pm! This will blow your mind clear out of your skull and into an alternate dimension. Just need to find my portal gun …

That’s some hyperbole there from Tesla CEO Elon Musk. As we wait for the official details, here’s what we know (or think we know) about the Tesla semi:

  • The truck will be a Class 8 semi prototype. As you can see in the teaser image above, that means it will look at least a little like the many semis barreling down the highway across the U.S.
  • The powertrain, though, will be unlike anything on the road today. Powered by at least two electric motors and some big batteries, there won’t be a hood to house all of the bits.
  • The truck’s range, some say, will be 200-300 miles, but Musk says the specs are, “better than anything I’ve seen reported so far.”
  • A 300-mile range might mean a battery pack cost of around $160,000 and $210,000, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. They estimate that 300 miles of range would need a battery pack that weighs almost nine tons.
  • Some sort of autonomous driving ability is expected, given Tesla’s Autopilot technology. Developed and tested in Tesla’s passenger cars, this is a “neural net for vision, sonar and radar processing software” that “provides a view of the world that a driver alone cannot access, seeing in every direction simultaneously, and on wavelengths that go far beyond the human senses.”
  • It might look like this.
  • Musk said that his truck team spoke with trucking experts as they were designing the truck, so one would think it should meet the needs of at least some segment of the industry.

For all the hype – and there is a lot of it – Tesla has pushed back the semi truck’s reveal at least twice.

Tesla Semi truck unveil set for September. Team has done an amazing job. Seriously next level.

Tesla Semi truck unveil & test ride tentatively scheduled for Oct 26th in Hawthorne. Worth seeing this beast in person. It’s unreal.

It’s likely Tesla will have at least one feature no one outside the company knows about yet, one that will dominate the news cycle for a few days. That’s the company’s style.

But Tesla isn’t the only company trying to electrify the trucking industry. From Embark to Nikola to Otto, a lot of interesting things are happening.



SpaceX on track to set record back-to-back Falcon 9 launches, 38 hours apart

SpaceX’s launch schedules have already solidified, but Elon Musk confirmed on Oct. 3 that the company is “aiming for two rocket landings in 48 hours this weekend”. In fact, a brief examination of the schedules suggests that SpaceX could attempt those two launches and landings in as few as 38 hours, easily beating the company’s previous launch cadence record of ~50 hours.

Aiming for two rocket landings in 48 hours this weekend

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on


he two missions planned for “this weekend” are SES-11 on Saturday evening and Iridium NEXT-3 bright and early on Monday, October 9. Mirroring an exciting period of rapid-fire launches earlier this summer, SpaceX will again attempt to conduct two launches from both the West and East coasts nearly simultaneously. Just like the launch of BulgariaSat-1 and Iridium NEXT-3 in late June, the two upcoming launches will make use of one “new” Falcon 9 and one that has been recovered and refurbished. SES-11 will lift off atop Falcon 9 1031, previously tasked with launching the CRS-10 Dragon, and will be the third commercial reuse of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 first stage in 2017.



  • SES-11 scheduled for Saturday, October 7 at 6:53 pm EDT (3:53 pm PDT) from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida
  • Iridium NEXT-3 scheduled for Monday, October 9 at 8:37 am EDT (5:37 am PDT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA

Separated by the continental United States, both Falcon 9 boosters will attempt to land aboard SpaceX droneships within a period of 38 hours. Elon Musk proudly touted the fact that SpaceX had successfully recovered 16 Falcon 9 boosters since the company began recovery attempts, with 12 of those recoveries being consecutive successes since June of 2016. If the upcoming launches and landings go as planned, that figure will jump to 14 consecutive recoveries.

The success of SpaceX’s reuse program is undeniable and truly extraordinary given how quickly it has progressed. The program is central to SpaceX’s ultimate goal of creating a permanent human presence on other planetary bodies in the Solar System, something that Musk recently discussed in considerable detail. Developing a robust record of reliability both with launches and landings is a necessity if the company hopes to one day routinely launch and land dozens of passengers aboard their rockets.

In this sense, every single successful launch and every single successful recovery can be seen as small but tangible steps along the path to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.



Tesla says world’s largest battery installation is halfway done

At a Jamestown, South Australia event on Friday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that the company was halfway done installing a 100MW/129MWh utility-grade battery bank near the site of the 100MW Hornsdale Wind Farm.

The battery bank will be the largest grid-tied system in the world when it’s complete. (Currently, the largest grid-tied system is a 30MW/120MWh facility built by AES Energy Storage in Southern California.) The project grew out of a Twitter bet between Australian software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes and Telsa and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. In response to Cannon-Brookes’ incredulity about the speed that Tesla was claiming it could install grid-tied batteries, Musk promised to deliver a system to South Australia, a state that’s suffered debilitating blackouts in recent summers, “in 100 days or its free.”

But “100 days or it’s free” didn’t include time negotiating contracts, and after the bet Tesla went though a competitive bidding process with the state of South Australia for access to an A$150 million ($115 million) renewable energy fund to cover the cost of the batteries. Earlier this year, Musk gave estimates on Twitter that suggested a 129MWh system would cost $32.35 million before taxes and labor. Tesla won the bidding round and partnered with French company Neoen, the owner of the Hornsdale Wind Farm in the mid-north region of South Australia. Musk later commented that if Tesla missed its 100-day deadline, the company could stand to lose “$50 million or more.”

This Friday, Tesla announced the start of its 100-days countdown, initiated after the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) approved the project.

Tesla Powerpacks in South Australia


The Tesla CEO also seemed to make an opening bid for more Tesla projects in Australia. According to ABC, the CEO told the Friday night crowd that “Australia could be powered by 1,890 square kilometers of solar panels—roughly a tenth the area of Sydney backed up by seven square kilometesr of batteries.” Tesla’s recent purchase of solar panel manufacturer SolarCity could put the company in a position to offer solar fields, as well.



Elon Musk is the most-famous Cassandra of artificial intelligence. The Tesla Inc. chief routinely drums up the technology’s risks in public and on Twitter, where he recently called the global race to develop AI the “most likely cause” of a third world war.

Researchers at Google, Facebook Inc. and other AI-focused companies find this irritating. John Giannandrea, the head of search and AI at Alphabet Inc.’s Google, took one of the clearest shots at Musk on Tuesday — all while carefully leaving him unnamed.

“There’s a huge amount of unwarranted hype around AI right now,” Giannandrea said at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco. “This leap into, ‘Somebody is going to produce a superhuman intelligence and then there’s going to be all these ethical issues’ is unwarranted and borderline irresponsible.”

Giannandrea said Google has invested in AI safety and ethics, but stressed that the more extreme concerns are overblown. “I’m definitely not worried about the AI apocalypse,” he said, after comparing modern-day computers to a four-year-old. “I just object to the hype and the sound bites that some people have been making.”

A spokesman for Open AI, a research organization partly backed by Musk, declined to comment.

JDK 9, Tesla unlocks batteries and ScaleArc for SQL Server

Oracle to limit support for Java 9

Following their previously announced plans for a six-month release cycle for the Java Development Kit, Oracle has announced that support for this month’s upcoming Java 9 will be short-lived to make way for the first release in the new cycle in March 2018.

Despite the limited support, Java Platform Group Vice President, George Saab, says that developers would still want to hop on version 9 to get a head-start on understanding the new features.

JDK 9 and the March’s JDK 18.3, featuring the new numbering scheme representing the year and month of release, will both be considered feature releases by Oracle, with the next long-term support release, version 18.9, to come in September of next year. The current long-term support release, JDK 8, is expected to continue receiving updates until next September, with support available until 2025.

Tesla boosts Model X, S performance during Hurricane Irma

After requests by at least one Tesla car owner in Florida for assistance with evacuations, Tesla pushed a software update providing up to 40 miles more battery life in select models.

While the battery in the Tesla Model X and Model S can hold a full charge of 75 kilowatt-hours, part of the buying options for the cars lets users save money with limits on their battery life. Tesla suspended these software limits just before Hurricane Irma battered Florida.

While many praised the move as logical and practical, some were perturbed by the realization that Tesla was throttling the cars with software despite the 60 kilowatt-hour and 70 kilowatt-hour models having the same hardware. At a full charge, the 75-kilowatt hour batteries can provide around 250 miles of travel.

ScaleArc releases latest version of ScaleArc for SQL Server

Database load balancing software developer ScaleArc has announced the latest release of ScaleArc for SQL Server which they say enhances its load balancing capabilities.

User can now direct and load balance database reads and writes within a transaction for better performance in custom or packaged applications within having to modify the applications themselves, all while maintaining ACID compliance.

“Working with off-the-shelf software presents a significant challenge, since our customers can’t modify the code,” said David Klee, founder at Heraflux and Microsoft Data Platform MVP. “We can tune the database and instance up to a certain point, but this this new ScaleArc capability is an incredible new method for improving performance for a broad range of business-critical applications.”

Tesla Model 3 killer? Nissan to launch redesigned Leaf

Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. will launch its redesigned Leaf next week, with all eyes on how the all-electric vehicle’s battery range will stack up against its Tesla Inc. and General Motors Co. competitors.

The Leaf is the reigning EV champion in sales — Nissan 7201, +0.27%  says it sold more than 280,000 Leafs worldwide, from the car’s debut in December 2010 to last month.

It remains to be seen whether the battery range will go up, or whether Nissan will offer options in battery size at different price points, offering a larger range on costlier trims. The 2017 model, which starts around $31,000, offers a range of 107 miles.

“If the range goes up and the price remains the same, the new Nissan Leaf will continue to offer one of the least expensive and practical ways to own a pure electric car,” said Ed Hellwig, a senior editor with Edmunds.

The car probably won’t offer as much range as the Chevy Bolt, but if the Leaf delivers even a modest bump over its current range, it will be enough to get the attention of most mainstream EV shoppers, he said.

“The original Leaf was easily recognizable, but not very attractive. This time around Nissan is promising a more conventional design that should make the Leaf more appealing to a wider range of buyers,” Hellwig said.

Nissan on Thursday declined to offer details on the new 2018 Leaf ahead of the unveiling, set for Tuesday at 6 p.m. Pacific.

The Leaf’s current battery range compares with at least 220 miles for the Model 3, which TSLA, +0.77%  launched in late July, and 238 miles for GM’s GM, +2.01%  Chevy Bolt. The Model 3 starts at $35,000, while the Bolt starts at $38,000.

The battery range on the new Leaf will likely be around 150 miles, said Karl Brauer with Kelley Blue Book.

That would give the Tesla Model 3 the battery-range advantage as well as a brand and style

advantage over the Leaf, he said. The Nissan EV could have an upper hand on base price over both the Bolt and the Model 3, and the high availability advantage over the Model 3, Brauer said.

The Bolt is widely available. For the Model 3, customers putting down a $1,000 reservation on the car can expect to receive it in 12 to 18 months, according to Tesla’s website.

The Model 3 is the linchpin of Tesla’s expansion plans, which include launching new passenger and commercial vehicles and arriving at a production rate of 500,000 by the end of next year.

At a conference call earlier in August after company results, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk told analysts there should be “zero concerns” about achieving that production goal. Tesla sold its first-ever pure bonds in August to secure a smooth financial ride for the Model 3 production ramp.

GM’s Bolt, launched in December 2016, recently set the mark for an all-electric vehicle range in a Consumer Reports testing, reaching 250 miles on a single charge, the magazine said earlier this month.

Overall, the Bolt is Consumer Reports’ No. 2 recommendation for electric vehicles, behind the much pricier Model S, Tesla’s luxury sedan. The GM car got dented for an “overly squishy” brake-pedal feel, long charging time, choppy ride, and uncomfortable seats, the magazine said.

Tesla might have ditched the Model X’s relatively affordable 60D trim, but that doesn’t mean it’s insensitive to your price concerns. Elon Musk’s outfit has lopped $3,000 off the price of the base 75D model, bringing the entry point down to ‘just’ $79,500 before tax credits — right around where it was when the electric SUV launched nearly two years ago.

As for why? Simple economics, Tesla says in a statement. When the Model X 75D launched, it had a low profit margin –“efficiencies” have let Tesla reduce the price without taking a hit to its bottom line.

The move probably won’t lead to a giant surge in sales for a luxury machine like the Model X, but it could help keep the existing sales momentum going at a time when Model 3 sales are still too new to represent a significant factor.

If you can afford the Model X but found the premium over a Model S a little too hard to swallow, you might be tempted to take a second look. The gap between the 75D variants of both EVs is down to $5,000, which might be justifiable if you have kids and cargo to haul.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, speaking to U.S. governors this weekend, told the political leaders that artificial intelligence poses an “existential threat” to human civilization.

At the bipartisan National Governors Association in Rhode Island, Musk also spoke about energy sources, his own electric car company and space travel. But when Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada, grinning, asked if robots will take everyone’s jobs in the future — Musk wasn’t joking when he responded.

Yes, “robots will do everything better than us,” Musk said. But he’s worried about more than the job market.

“AI is a fundamental existential risk for human civilization, and I don’t think people fully appreciate that,” Musk said. He said he has access to cutting-edge AI technology, and that based on what he’s seen, AI is “the scariest problem.”

Musk told the governors that AI calls for precautionary, proactive government intervention: “I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late,” he said.

He was clearly not thrilled to make that argument, calling regulation generally “not fun” and “irksome,” but he said that in the case of AI, the risks are too high to allow AI to develop unfettered.

“I think people should be really concerned about it,” Musk said. “I keep sounding the alarm bell.”

It’s true: For years, Musk has issued Cassandra-like cautions about the risks of artificial intelligence. In 2014, he likened AI developers to people summoning demons they think they can control. In 2015, he signed a letter warning of the risk of an AI arms race.

Musk has invested in a project designed to make AI tech open-source, which he asserts will prevent it from being controlled by one company. And earlier this year, Maureen Dowd wrote a lengthy piece for Vanity Fair about Musk’s “crusade to stop the A.I. apocalypse.” Dowd noted that some Silicon Valley leaders — including Google co-founder Larry Page — do not share Musk’s skepticism, and describe AI as a possible force for good.

Critics “argue that Musk is interested less in saving the world than in buffing his brand,” Dowd writes, and that his speeches on the threat of AI are part of a larger sales strategy.

Back at the governors conference, some politicians expressed skepticism about the wisdom of regulating a technology that’s still in development. Musk said the first step would be for the government to gain “insight” into the actual status of current research.

“Once there is awareness, people will be extremely afraid,” Musk said. “As they should be.”