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Starship Update (spacex.com)
438 points by adventured on Sept 29, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 195 comments

I do find this to be actually legendary. At a target rate of about one per month, he is set to produce stainless steel, rapidly reusable, 150-ton-capable Mars transports. And is doing this using currently "about 5%" of the resources of his own commercially built satellite launch company, grown from scratch in a decade or so and out-performing every other nations satellite launch programs - by a large margin.

His presentation is noticeably a little self-concious, but not so much as to obscure his enjoyment to be standing in front of the first massive shimmering yet wielded and dented together rocket ship, which is due to demonstrate lift off and landing in a month or so.

I think he's beating even his own expectations with SpaceX. This company is just wildly successful in reaching seemingly impossible goals that they keep setting for themselves.

I think it mainly shows just how ineffective and inept the established players have become. The companies and organizations that got us to the moon 50 years ago still exist but seem to have lost a lot of their ability to get things done.

Now that other countries are landing on the moon, the pressure is on to deliver the next persons to the moon and ultimately to Mars. Working backwards from that goal and the goal of going to Mars, Elon Musk has done what Nasa has not been able to get done for decades at a fraction of the budget they've consumed not getting there; or even deciding to go there. Better still, he's turned that into a profitable company.

Do you think this is because the people at SpaceX are incredibly motivated by what they are working on, because of the inspiring leadership of Elon Musk, because they actually have enough money/funding, because of some unique agile way of working that SpaceX has developed, because they don't have to deal with (or have found a way to deal with) as much stifling regulation, or some combination of all of the above?

I am genuinely trying to understand it as an outsider to SpaceX. It seems like either SpaceX has figured out a formula for organizational success that we all need to learn from, or it also seems like there's a possibility something else is going on. I really can't tell.

EDIT: If anyone has any books or reading material on this topic, please share!

I don't think money is the issue. NASA has a much larger budget than SpaceX, courtesy of taxpayers. But NASA is a government agency, with more red tape and bureaucracy than necessary. SpaceX doesn't have to go through a 6 months approval process to order a part.

SpaceX also benefits from a constant, unbroken vision: develop cheap, reusable rockets -> lower launch costs -> build a spaceship to go to Mars. That's roughly the plan, and they've stuck to it since their founding. NASA, meanwhile, sees every new administration flip the table and change the mission, because every president wants to have their Kennedy "We choose to go to the Moon" moment". This makes long term planning impossible, and budgets are cut when Congress gets impatient.

NASA is still riding on the coattails of the Apollo program, but it takes more than that to inspire people to work for you. No doubt that NASA remains a desirable employer full of bright and motivated people eager to contribute to the larger goal, but NASA just doesn't have this "it" factor anymore. If you asked someone on the street what NASA is doing back in 1970, they would say "send people to the Moon". But today? NASA is involved in a plethora of projects, from the Mars rovers to aeronautics to climate change monitoring, which is nice, to be sure, but also sucks time and resources from the kind of "Moonshot projects" that SpaceX and other private actors are working on.

NASA is basically a jobs program at this point. Congress keeps funding it primarily as a way to direct federal money to certain states. There's no vision.

There are lots of good people at NASA and they manage to do some great work, but they could do much more with the budget they have if they weren't subject to the political whims of two branches of government.

ESA/Ariane are in a similar situation. They rejected reusable rockets a couple of years ago explicitly because they were afraid of the effect it would have on the jobs on their production line--the calculus is purely political, and jobs won out over not being left behind with an overpriced single-use launch platform. To their credit they recently walked that back and are now developing a reusable launch platform.

Hit the nail on the head. If Starship/Superheavy succeeds the contrast will be stark, with the relative inefficiency of ESA/NASA making them look like employment schemes that do space as a side-effect. If they care about remaining relevant in rocketry both organisations need to wake up, smell the coffee and start disrupting themselves before SpaceX becomes the only game in town (ESA efforts notwithstanding). This is very much what I would love to see, it's 2019 and we should have at least a moonbase by now.

So true, India's ISRO is the only well performing govt agency, and even that's too little compared to SpaceX (considering the budget that's been poured into it for the last 70 yrs). The rest of the govt companies in India couldn't even make a decent aircraft. It's sad to see people join them only to get a 'safe job' and not really to create phenomenal stuff with the massive budget.

> I don't think money is the issue

Interesting reading the Wikipedia entry regarding SpaceX's funding: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX#Ownership,_funding_and_...

Seems to be a lot of capital 'raised' which I usually read as money out of thin air, or money otherwise provided because of a certain hype attached to the company.

They take big risks. Also known as 'innovation'. People forget that innovation is a gamble.

This is also why there are no shortage of people always saying 'this thing Tesla or SpaceX is doing is not going to work'. Those people are correct in a sense, in that there's definitely a chance that the various things Musk is attempting will fail (FSD etc). Thats why he's attempting them. If they were sure bets, someone else would have done them already.

Another possibility: it's only moderately hard to do, but government space agencies are massively inefficient. Some reasons to prefer this theory include:

- NASA got to the moon in a decade with slide rules and wire-wrapped guidance computers. It'd be surprising if we couldn't much do better now.

- While large amounts of bloat is tolerable in many public works projects (you can build a dam with twice as much concrete and it only costs double) a rocket can barely afford any bloat. The Space Shuttle pushed the limits of feature creep and bloat so much they could only launch about 4 per year.

- When public projects go down a wrong road, they're structurally unable to backtrack. The Shuttle, the F-135, the Denver airport baggage system, the War on Drugs. If these were projects run by a private company with a CEO, they would've been shut down and re-thunk long ago.

- If SpaceX is right about welded stainless steel being the right tank material (a very surprising claim) it's an example of backtracking that a public project could never manage.

About steel construction: Visually, the Starship looks like a pile of junk. Like someone's Burning Man installation. I think that's inherent in the steel panel construction. You can imagine that, if NASA has started building something like that in the 1970s, the public would complain that it doesn't look spaceworthy. Private companies have the luxury of doing something that looks silly until it works, while public projects don't.

I don't think it's necessarily Elon, but the goal. Elon and SpaceX are aiming to colonize Mars. That is something that is inspiring, ambitious, and will radically change our species forever. It's going to attract people who also want to see this goal achieved and are going to work to make that happen. By contrast when companies don't really have a goal, outside of making money, they're going to attract employees who also don't really have goals, outside of earning money.

There was a really awesome multi-part piece on SpaceX and WaitButWhy [1] that was proposed by Elon and made with his input. It covers pretty much everything and provides a really great overview alongside lots of nice little insights.

[1] - https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/05/elon-musk-the-worlds-raddest-...

Right at the end of Q&A session, he seems to spell out his methodology to achieve gigantic proportions: 1. If designing is taking long time to build then it's wrong design and unnecessarily complex. Undesigning is the best thing. 2. Best process is no process. It weighs nothing and costs nothing. 3. Best part is no part. 4. If the schedule is long then it's wrong, if it's tight it's right.

Skunkworks, if you haven't yet. Less relevant, but another good read is the Robert Coram biography of John Boyd.

A skunk works is what happens when you decide to remove bureaucratic obstacles, it requires team consensus, political sheltering, and subterfuge.

Boyd managed to get things done without this consensus.

Musk simply eliminates all bureaucratic obstacles from the top.

Cool, thanks for the recommendation! Definitely have read the Boyd book and it was thoroughly enjoyable to see what an impact he had on aerospace.

He's undeniably a big factor in all of the wacky things he's done with this and other companies. He's also been a big factor in picking people to delegate to that got all of this done.

There are a few other entrepreneurs involved in space and they each have their own successes to brag about. But none even close to "I launched a car one of my companies built in the general direction of Mars using a big rocket that my other company built".

That kind of ballsiness, for lack of a better word, is what makes the difference to say Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, or Nasa.

One of the crucial factors in getting SpaceX going and becoming profitable was and is the funding from that budget you're talking about. NASA and SpaceX are not in competition, they have different goals; getting the private industry to produce cheaper rockets so that NASA can spend more on the actual space exploration (69 ongoing missions!) is one they are achieving with these bets on SpaceX.

> seemingly impossible goals that they keep setting for themselves

John Carmack made this point on the JRE podcast when talking about his failed Armadillo Aerospace, that a rocket company needs to have outrageous goals, otherwise you'll waste ten years accomplishing nothing (think Amazon Blue Origin).

Do not underestimate Blue Origin. They work quietly that's why it is easy to think they don't make much progress. In fact they do.

I would actually give the opposite advice - I think people continue to overestimate Blue Origin based simply on Bezos' deep pockets and the success he had with a non-engineering online business (Amazon). Best way to judge Blue Origin is on what they've achieved and that is actually very little.

I think SpaceX's recent accelerating success has caused BO to change their model a little to be more like SpaceX, which combined with Bezos's deep pockets might let them be a real competitor

> I think it mainly shows just how ineffective and inept the established players have become. The companies and organizations that got us to the moon 50 years ago still exist but seem to have lost a lot of their ability to get things done.

This is assuming the moon landing's objective was space exploration. If instead you think of that as a gigantic muscle flexing and chest thumping intimidation exercise, that ultimately led to the USSR's losing the arms race and the Cold War, then it was a very efficient allocation of resources.

Alternatively the established players have become incredibly good at what they do - it's simply something different. Elon is motivated ideologically by a desire to colonize Mars. By contrast this [1] is the current head of Lockheed Martin, this [2] was the head of Boeing until 2015 when it became clear they were losing by most of every metric to SpaceX. Exact same story in both cases: 0 tech background + MBA.

These people are not aiming to achieve anything, just to make more money in general, and specifically to extract more taxpayer money. And they are extremely good at that. For instance ULA (an anticompetitive joint venture between Boeing/Lockheed) managed to get the government to pay them $422 million per rocket launch. [3] The only reason this ended was because of those pesky kids, SpaceX in this case - who are charging $83-$97 million for a comparable launch capability. And that's at the inflated government price - private commercial launches go for about $65 million. SpaceX have a big picture goal. Boeing/Lockheed exist only to make more money.

Perhaps my favorite example of ULA's success is the 'launch assurance capability subsidy.' ULA managed to get the government to give them about $1 billion of taxpayer money per year, to do literally nothing but exist. [4] Elon's taken flak because of astroturfed articles suggesting he feeds on government subsidies when they tend to be little more than tax rebates (in other words the government taking less). But this is literally getting the government to write you a check for $800 million, just to make sure you have your vehicles ready to accept their $420 million check later on. ULA, for their part, refers to it as an "innovative contracting mechanism." Whatever it is, getting the government to spew taxpayer money to you is what they're trying to do, and yeah - again, they are very good at it.

The examples are endless here. For instance Lockheed Martin is also behind the maligned F-35 program (works out to an average of about $29 billion a year of taxpayer money, for the next 50 years), the SLS launch vessel, perpetually 3 years out on the horizon, draws billions per year and a large chunk of NASA's entire annual allocation, so forth and so on.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marillyn_Hewson

[2] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_McNerney

[3] - https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/06/air-force-budget-rev...

[4] - https://spacenews.com/u-s-air-force-looks-at-ending-ulas-lau...

> Exact same story in both cases: 0 tech background + MBA.

As I have said many times: the MBA is the Western equivalent of the Soviet apparatchik.

Elon should not be quite so remarkable. He seems superhuman only against a field of apparatchiks and bureaucrats.

I had the same thoughts watching that.m - it’s been 17 years, but the company is amazing. Each rocket contains as much pressurized space as the ISS.

I do however think the “rapid reusability” thing is going to be a challenge. He mentioned 20 flights a day for the booster and 6 (or so) for the starships. I expect 1 per day tops, still exceedingly impressive, but once one of these blow up (or hopefully before) they’ll have heavy pre-flight inspections.

Starting off id hope for heavy inspections, then following a period of no error inspections could be reduced.

Agreed. There are software companies that can't get iteration down to less than a month and this guy is going to do with rocket ships - absolutely amazing.

I’m impressed by all this. I was apprehensive about the direction NASA took after they EOL’d their shuttles. I’ve also been suspicious of Musk’s Tesla being able to enter the automotive industry. But it seems like we can see the light at the end of this transition to commercial space flight.


Go watch the landing fail reel, or Crew Dragon blow up. I guess you’re on team Starliner goes first? An electric car in solar orbit? He’s actually trying to conquer space! Go stink on the Solar City deal, but leave the rockets alone. He produced a real working reusable ICBM booster!

ICBMs can't be reusable.

Due to thermonuclear evaporation issues.

You could always try to land the boosters. It's only the payload that evaporates along with the target.

Only the reentry vehicles die. Everything else putting it up there can live again.

To do what? The world has ended...

I'm amazed that people can make such statements despite all the videos of the Falcon re-entering the atmosphere and landing straight

This is an asinine comment in light of the many tangible things he has achieved.

He has, at multiple companies.

Because reusable rockets are not enough to impress this guy

On tesla, sure. SpaceX is private though, and seems like it'll stay that way.

"One of the really interesting interesting things to contemplate is the total mass to orbit capability of a large reusable system where you have a significant fleet in operation. If you've got something like Starship where you've got maybe 150 tons capable to orbit and the ship can fly, is capable of say theoretically flying four times a day but you know they call it like 75 percent uptime so theoretical three times a day, three hundred sixty-five days a year. So that's like about a thousand flights a year for the ship. The booster can do a lot more than that. This is obviously max theoretical. You've got, you know, 150 tons that service, 150,000 tons to orbit per year per ship. If you've got say ten ships you'd have [...] one and a half million tons to orbit per year. Twenty ships you've got three million tons to orbit per year. I think the total rest of world capacity, if you take all rockets on earth including Falcon, the total capacity to orbit I think is around two to three hundred tons currently. Total Earth capacity to orbit is about two to three hundred tons if all rockets launched at max rate. So we're talking about something that is with a fleet of starships a thousand times more than all earth capacity combined. All other rockets combined would be 0.1% including ours."

How is this not massively disruptive to the entire space launch industry?

It is. Three orders of magnitude leaves everybody else in the dust.

I wonder if this applies to pricing as well. If we get to single-digit dolar prices pe kg to orbit, a tourist ticket would be easily a couple thousand dollars - equivalent to a business class plane ticket.

One more order of magnitude and you can start shipping ready-to-be assembled habitats and fuel factories to Mars. And Boston Dynamics robots to assemble them.

At these prices you can start sending empty nuclear reactors for power, and lift heavily shielded nuclear fuels as well. Not puny RTG generators for a couple hundred watts but 1000MW generators that will sustain cities.

So many possibilities!

It is, and is supposed to be. Elon loves to talk about Mars, but the real story behind this architecture is complete ownership of spacelift until someone else catches up. Then the story becomes enabling actual space industry.

Isn't space launch already demand constrained? SpaceX has flown 9 times this year, with a few dozen undated upcoming missions listed as well [0]. He's talking about being able to do tens of thousands of launches per year, but who's going to pay for it? If almost no-one is paying to put a few tons into orbit now, where is the demand for millions of tons a year going to come from?

[0] https://www.spacex.com/missions

I think you would be firmly in “creating completely new markets” territory at that point. It would be like trying to imagine what one would need 1000x as many transistors for, at the dawn of semiconductors. The world certainly wasn’t buying that many vacuum tubes, was it?

From my perspective, these are the big ones in the near term: 1) LEO satellite internet. Fixes the lag issues with GEO orbits, making space internet directly competitive for some applications. 2) Tourism: I would certainly pay a very pretty penny indeed to see the earth from space.

Longer term: 3) Global sun shade or other system for preventing global climate catastrophe. In 30 years I think we’ll be talking a lot about this. 4) Resource extraction, which otherwise doesn’t make sense with expensive rockets. 5) Self sustaining mars base. Still can’t figure out what the economic incentive is for this. It will cost a lot of money for what return exactly?

A thing being impossible or highly cost prohibitive kind of hampers demand for it, wouldn't you think?

Spacex hasn’t shown a payload capability yet; ie a starship model with clam doors, but they’re going to at some point I wager. Or an expendable second stage.

"We could see people flying next year".


This is "Elon Time" at its best, but worth keeping in mind how fast Starship development has actually gone. Elon Time is becoming more realistic.

I have not seen the presentation yet. Still, I am willing to bet anyone a non-trivial amount of money that we do not see people flying next year.

This was more of an off the cuff remark than it was a guided estimate, though his reasoning was fairly valid:

He expects a Starship successful orbit in 6 +- 3 months. Demonstrating human capability with non-reusable hardware means building and throwing away hardware 10 times. A rocket capable of rapid reuse would be able to do about 3 flights a day (due to orbit time + needing to align to landing site again + some downtime) Even at the "low" rate of 1 a day, that's less than two weeks of flights. If they're way off their mark, one launch a week is 2.3 months.

Not that I would take your bet, but it's not unthinkable.

Well, crewed Dragon was supposed to fly this summer, then this fall, but will probably slip to 2020.

The Boeing Starliner was supposed to fly uncrewed in 2018, then October 2019, and now Boeing is shipping it to the launch site but not giving a date.

Right, and in response to the parent, a more interesting bet may be whether crewed Dragon flies first or a crewed starship flies first.

It's good to keep track of your predictions and improve them. One of the sites where you can do this is https://www.metaculus.com/

Are there others where you don't have to put money into predicting?

Wow, sick web design and a sick idea. It's like Augur without the bullshit

Right. Dragon still has not taken Astronauts onboard

Time to make a gambling lot on some sweepstake platform out there.

I would understand his estimate as that he thinks they have the capability to send humans to space with Starship next year. The actual flights might come later, as for proper safety evaluation, tests and of course small enhancements to spaceship.

Fundamentally, humans could have flown to ISS with the Dragon 1 capsule, but hopefully, the Dragon 2 flies manned next year.

But as Elon said, progress with Starship should be faster, as they can fly the first human-rated one many times in a short time to demonstrate its safety. The space shuttle did 135 flights over its entire life-time. A single Starship could do that in a year, if needed.

So basically the narrative is "I could send humans to space with Spaceship, but I didn't yet. Take my word for it, as without flights we don't have any proof". Stuff like that is the main reason why I my opinion about Musk changed, his other attics and the way Tesla is managing safety relevant things are, as far as I am concerned, just further proof.

That’s really not the narrative at all. Elon said several times, these are not official estimates. He said “this is just stream of consciousness”.

He was giving you literally the picture in his head of what could theoretically be possible if everything came together perfectly.

Then people go and quote just the last sentence which was ...[so that could mean there’s at least a chance we might even see] humans in orbit on Mk4”, take the last part out of context, and run wild with it.

It’s like the “1 million robotaxis” comment. What Elon was actually trying to explain in that moment is that the day the software is ready, they push it to the fleet and every Tesla with AP3 can immediately be a robotaxi. The point is to convey the enormity of the architecture that’s been built and what it enables if the software can be made to work.

I think the way Tesla is managing safety relevant things is the way forward for automobile safety which can save 30,000 lives a year, and not to mention countless maimings, injuries, and hundreds of billions in property damage. Roads are dangerous and lethal for humans, and IMO Tesla will be the company which makes them orders of magnitude less so.

Your comment kind of confirmed what I wanted to point out, even if you don't see it the same way. E.g. the robot taxis, this statement is what I would a start up to say to raise money from VCs. In that case it would be fine, for a public company that had financial troubles at the time the statement was made not so much. For me that was all about saving the narrative around Tesla. SpaceX space-born internet thing is, at least for me the same thing. It is a way to raise enough money to get enough launches in-house to make reusable rockets financially viable. Again, no idea when and if it is actually feasible. And because he is who he is it works. And now the same with Spaceship while the manned Dragon-2 still didn't have a single manned flight.

In both sectors, aerospace and automotive, you simply cannot ignore existing regulations. Regardless if they are stupid or not. If you try look no further than the 737MAX to see what you get.

Regardless of feasibility and everything else concerning Tesla, Musk and SpaceX all this is at least a risky way to do business.

No, the narrative is, that he expects the technical ability to send humans to space with the Starship next year. It should be obvious, that this is a best-case szenario, especially as there are non-technical considerations in play, when actually flying with humans.

So it might be technically possible but not practically feasible because you have to ignore all the non-trivial non-technical aspects. Well, apparently some people get away with it.

Curious thing is that while the pro-faction of these arguments accepts all this and the other side doesn't. And everyone is calling the others out for it.

No, its about these things being independant. It is one thing to solve all technical problems, the other all legal procedings. They are only very loosely coupled. So they should be considered independantly, especially if Musk has control about the technical aspects, but much less so about the legal proceedings which might come up.

Why has it taken so long to get people on-board the Dragon Crew Capsule? Isn't it mostly because of all the safety testing that has to be done? Didn't get the chance today to hear about Starship's safety mechanisms.

NASA requirements + lack of full reusability. It's a lot easier to vet safety through large numbers of tests if you can launch much more often and at a much lower cost which is what they want from Starship.

Because one blew up.

I doubt it. Everyone knows that this shit is dangerous. It's not a question of if something bad will happen, it's a question of how often. There's some pretty gnarly diminishing returns on proofing these beasts, but SpaceX has a huge advantage over the boosters that NASA used- they're reusable so getting a few extra 9's of safety is not necessarily a waste.

Of course, the non-reusable boosters had an advantage too where they were only subjected to the insane stress of a launch once, but I'm guessing that's a smaller advantage than what I said above or else we wouldn't have modern airlines.

Musk said at the start of his presentation that the magnitude of earth's gravity is such that we are right on the cusp of rocket flight possibility. If the magnitude were a little more, rocket flight would be impossible. If it were a bit less, it would all be a lot easier.

Can anyone expand on that, assuming it's the truth..

I assume he's relating 1) the force of gravity, composition and distribution of our atmosphere, and incredible velocity required for orbit, to 2) the chemical potential of fuels and the limits of structural strength for materials to carry cargo to orbit.

I haven't run the numbers, but he's right: it's pretty hard to get something that can carry itself to orbit. It has to climb out of the atmosphere directly against gravitational force and atmospheric drag, and then as early as possible turn sideways and start accelerating to around 28000kph while making sure the rocket is pointed in the right direction and holding together. You need a lot of propellant to get to that state, which means you have to carry it around until you need it, which means the machine needs to be much bigger than just the cargo, which means that all of your challenges just magnified by many orders of magnitude.

The don’t call it “The Tyranny of the Rocket Equation” for nothing.

More payload means more fuel. More fuel itself means more fuel.

That looks like an argument that you need more than twice as much fuel to get twice as much payload to orbit -- that fuel requirements go up more than linearly.

Maybe this is obvious, but two rockets can get twice as much payload to orbit using twice as much fuel. You can that up linearly all day long. (It holds for "twice as much", but the same argument doesn't work for "twice as fast" or other metrics.)

X fuel can get Y payload to Z speed. To get that payload to 2 * Z speed, you need 2 * X + (X * (X / Y)) fuel, because the fuel counts as part of your payload for the first Z of speed.

If X is 500t and Y is 5t, you now need 51,000t of fuel to achieve 2 * Z speed.

To augment what Duskstar said, "twice as fast" is what counts: to get something to orbit with a steeper gravity well, you need more of a velocity change.

I highly recommend Kerbal Space Program for anyone interested in getting a feel for orbital mechanics. Please buy this game for any young people in your life.

It’s a great game, that will ruin your appreciation for basically all space movies.

It also made me enjoy seveneves

It's also worth mentioning that once you are in space things are relatively easy. You only need around 20% more deltaV to get from Earth to Mars, as from Earth to the Moon (assuming a one way trip).

Would it be possible for the numbers to be a bit more difficult to work with so maybe we could go to low earth orbit, but never be able to make it to the moon?

Once you are in orbit, anything else is possible. Because if you can get something small to orbit, you can get a lot of small things (such as additional fuel) to orbit, to reach escape velocity. That is because once in orbit you no longer have a need to reach the next velocity stage as rapidly as possible, which is why ion engines are so efficient but can only be used after LEO.

If you can make it to orbit, you can make it anywhere (it just may take multiple launches to assemble/fuel the spacecraft going elsewhere).

Wait, really? So what's the deal of first and second cosmic velocity?

I guess the idea is that if you can make it to orbit (even if you waste all of your fuel), then you could in principle refuel in-orbit (by getting another unmanned rocket with just fuel into orbit) and thus escape the orbit.

But yes, you still require more energy (exactly sqrt(2) times as much) to "escape" Earth's gravity entirely than to orbit it with a circular orbit.

Exactly twice as much energy. √2 as much velocity.

You're quite right -- that was a typo. ;)

Making orbit is a single hard step; raising orbit, which is all that making it to the moon requires, can be done more gradually (with low-thrust/high-efficiency engines, on-orbit resupply, etc).

So if you can get off the planet you can get anywhere... but that doesn't mean cost-effectively. If your planet is such that it takes a Saturn V to launch a cubesat, it may simply cost too much to make it to the Moon.

The rocket equation states that the amount of fuel that you need (to send a given payload into orbit) increases exponentially with the escape velocity of the planet:

mass of the rocket with fuel = mass of the payload * exp(escape velocity / engine exaust velocity)

That is because the faster you need to go, the more fuel you need to use, but now, you also need even more fuel to accelerate the fuel that you just added. So, it becomes exponential.

So, if the earth was bigger, its escape velocity would increase, and the amount of fuel needed to power a space rocket would increase (exponentially) so much that it would become unpractical. Vice versa, with a smaller planet it would require exponentially less fuel to reach orbit.

The only solution would be to have an engine with a higher exaust velocity. With the current technology, ion engines have very high exaust velocity but low thrust are very energy hungry. The thermal nuclear engines have both high exaust velocity and high thrust, working prototypes have been built, but all projects were boxed 60 years ago because of the fear of an accident.

Ok so doing super-approximate maths:

A fully fueled and loaded Saturn V weighs about 3,000,000 Kg, and has a payload of about 40,000 Kg to the moon.

So that means once you've put all the bits of the rocket together that collectively give you sufficient thrust to get you to the moon, you've only got about 1.3% left for actual payload.

S if earth's gravity had been ~1.3% stronger, then the weight of the "getting us there" bits of the rocket would have left no room for payload. Any more gravity, and we wouldn't even be getting to the moon.

Equally, if the earth's gravity had been 1.3% weaker, we could have doubled our payload to the moon (or done things way easier).

Contrast that with a Boeing 747 which has 50% of total mass as payload, and so is relatively insensitive to changes in gravity.

That's not really how it works. If Earth's gravity were 1.3% stronger, you'd need about 0.6% (√1.013) more delta-v to escape Earth, or about an extra 70m/s. That's not hard to achieve. Increasing the total mass to dry mass ratio by about 0.6% would do it (and the Saturn 5 was about 85% fuel) since ln(x*1.006) = ln(x) + ln(1.006) ≈ ln(x) + 0.006.

Someone else posted somewhere that if the Earth was about 3x heavier, we wouldn't be able to use chemical rockets to escape.

If the Earth were 3x heavier, birds wouldn't be able to fly, at least not the way they are now. Sparrows can barely get airborne when they're full, let alone at triple their weight.

Air density would be three times higher though. So they might still be able to fly.

Ooo, that's a good point!

> at least not the way they are now.

Yeah, but they wouldn't be, because the extra mass would have influenced their evolution.

Extra weight. If gravity is the only thing changed, mass would remain constant.

Since the discussion is about "earth's gravity", I'm assuming the change would be in its mass, not in the universal gravitational constant, which is not Earth-specific.

Did that take into account the possibility of an air breathing first stage?

Probably not. But, while an air-breather would be more useful on a larger planet, it would still be the case that almost all of the space launch system's work must be done outside the sensible atmosphere. Air breathing would only add the tiniest margin to "chemically escapable planets."

It's not. That thing is called the rocket equation and the law is logarithmic. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsiolkovsky_rocket_equation

So basically in your example, if the Earth gravity was 1.3% stronger, payload would be ~37.8t instead of 40.

Or we'd have to use different lift technologies, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_pulse_propulsion .

I recently realized that if we got in Jupiter's gravity well we could probably never escape it again. Someone correct me if I'm wrong. The thought made me feel really uneasy.

Launching from the (nonexistent) surface of Jupiter would be the comparison. From a low orbit of Jupiter you need a lot of delta v to escape, but you don't need extremely high thrust as would be needed to get in to orbit in the first place from the surface of a body. You could use a very efficient thruster over a long period of time which is a lot easier to design for.

So along this same line the PSP Parker Solar Probe is exploring our gravity well in the other direction, and in some ways will be more gone forever than voyagers.

I think the Jovian Moon Io is very low, look up an eclipse photo from Juno; it would be key to exploring low Jovian orbit, just like Venus kicks PSP and Jupiter kicked Voyagers.

If that were true, it would be impossible to leave the solar system, since everything is currently in the Sun's gravity well, and the Sun is larger than Jupiter. But we have sent probes outside the solar system (did they fully leave the Sun's gravity well yet though? Not sure)

But we didn't send the probes from the Sun.

Plus I don't think it got its velocity from Earth, but by using gravity assists to steal momentum from other planets (which, if you don't know how that works, do yourself a favor and read the wikipedia page, it's pretty great).

Remember that we’re already orbiting the sun though. A lot of the hard work is already done.

The premise is about current chemical propellants and structural components. If you build a rocket out of nanotubes with nuclear propulsion you could go wherever you want from anywhere else. Except black holes.

You have to have high thrust to get out of the dragging atmosphere.

Sure, we could orbit Jupiter and get back out. But if we ever descended to the "surface" we couldn't climb back out.

Voyager 1/2 and New Horizons are at escape velocity and leaving the solar system.

Some (funny) sources list Saturn-V payload as 140 tons on LEO :) so according to this logic to get to orbit one has plenty of margin. And as soon as the payload is in orbit it uses full value of accumulated speed, so it's used to get further and getting to the Moon is no harder than with Earth...

Why can't you aerodynamically fly up to high altitudes and then start rocketing?

You can, but it introduces its own set of complexities. The plane needs to carry a massive payload, and doesn't really get you much delta v.

The problem is not how do we get up high, but rather how do we get going really, really, really fast.

There is in fact a remarkably useful set of well developed air launch rockets that help provide a nice “benchmark” for comparison with air launching satellites/etc using rockets. Anti-SATellite (ASAT) weapons are making similar engineering trade offs but aiming at a different set of capabilities, optimising for smaller sizes, being “rack ready” in the event war breaks out, and so on.

Unlike the more modern ship launched SM3 that is part of the Ageis system, the older ASM-135 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASM-135_ASAT was designed to be air launched in a supersonic zoom climb to get maximum speed and altitude from the aircraft in order to maximise its capabilities.

For an even better comparison, you can compare air launches ASAT missiles with sounding rockets, they have a greater similarity in their trajectories/launch profiles, so it’s easier to see what the air launch “gains” over the ground launch.

There's always also e.g. Orbital Pegasus.

Rockets tend to throttle down at lower altitudes so they're not accelerating through thick atmosphere though? So Delta V isnt much of a loss.

When not burning sideways, you have the issue of gravity drag. Specifically, all the force spent firing downwards is wasted on fighting gravity rather than gaining speed. The reason rockets go up is to get above the atmosphere. Without an atmosphere, you'd launch rockets sideways.

It doesn't help much. Most of the work in achieving orbit is in gaining speed "sideways". Your average orbital launch achieves high airplane altitudes in the first 15-20 seconds out of a 500 second flight. It's easier to build a slightly bigger rocket than to add a giant airplane to the system.

Nice find! Near the end, the author directly addresses this question:

> If the radius of our planet were larger, there could be a point at which an Earth escaping rocket could not be built. Let us assume that building a rocket at 96% propellant (4% rocket), currently the limit for just the Shuttle External Tank, is the practical limit for launch vehicle engineering. Let us also choose hydrogen-oxygen, the most energetic chemical propellant known and currently capable of use in a human rated rocket engine. By plugging these numbers into the rocket equation, we can transform the calculated escape velocity into its equivalent planetary radius. That radius would be about 9680 kilometers (Earth is 6670 km). If our planet was 50% larger in diameter, we would not be able to venture into space, at least using rockets for transport.

There are more efficient propellants than hydrolox, but extremely toxic [1]. With a bigger planet, we would have been forced to use either those or nuclear propulsion to get to space.

1 - https://space.stackexchange.com/questions/19852/where-is-the...

Not using chemical rockets. Nuclear propulsion would be able to do it with the ~1000000x energy density advantage of nuclear fuel over chemical fuel.

I remember seeing a simple demonstrator some years back of a laser pulsing against the backside of a spinning disc, the geometry of things causing the heat from the laser to provide thrust.

I can't find the video I saw, but here's a general link on the topic:


This comes with many problems, but it does bypass the rocket equation, while not requiring Project Orion levels of trouble.

I mean you still need to carry propellant: the stuff that is ablated away. It's just that the exhaust velocity is much higher.

Air from the atmosphere may be the propellant [1]. If sufficient velocity can be achieved before leaving the atmosphere, then no propellant is needed to be carried up on the way to orbit.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhUasBcoj-Q

The problem is that the super-dense energy of a nuclear blast also evaporates solids and rains gamma rays on everything around.

Imagine how hard space exploration would be if the only practical rocket were a Project Orion.

Nuclear would be better, but it's not quite as good as it seems. Nuclear engines are rather heavier than chemical.

He was talking about rocket reusability, specifically reusing orbital stage. Just reaching the orbit is possible in stronger gravity, but returning back whole stage is already very close to the limits of current material science

That is pretty much all there is: If earth was more massive, the chemical rockets we've been producing wouldn't have enough thrust-to-weight ratio to reach orbital velocity (about 25k km/h). We would have to load the rockets with so much fuel to break free of gravity that they would be too heavy to lift themselves.

This is all assuming yields and fuels we have now. If we lived on a more massive earth and we were trying to escape its gravity, I'm sure we'd be using more exotic and dangerous fuels (like all those fun fluorine and boron fuels Dr. Clark mentions in Ignition![0]) to do the job. We just happened to have the capability in the middle of the century to use a fuel we were already making (refined petroleum) for jet engines.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Ignition-Informal-Propellants-Univers...

Well, it'd prevent rockets for sure, we'd only have nuclear pulse propulsion then to get into orbit and that's a lot harder to justify to people than a rocket.

There's a lot of alternatives, the main constraint is that it has to be built from the ground up, so space elevators are out.

I think a dynamic structure such as a launch loop https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Launch_loop would work.

Also inflatable towers for launch assist https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ThothX_Tower

For even kookier options we've got lasers! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_propulsion https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beam-powered_propulsion

I wonder how much this could be mitigated by extra-rocket energy delivered while the rocket is still close to the ground - e.g. a cartoonishly large slingshot.

Unfortunately, drag force is proportional to the square of velocity... So the slingshot (or railgun or whatever) maybe gives you a nice acceleration at the start, but a LOT of that initial force will bleed off as drag early in the flight in the thick thick low atmosphere.

(Consider the difference in difficulty of riding a bike at 15mph vs 16mph and 25mph vs 26mph... 25->26 requires a hell of a lot more effort, all due to drag.)

Or you could just launch from a 12 mile tall tower: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ThothX_Tower

Or a Lofstrom loop: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Launch_loop

Or you could fly a high-altitude airplane into a skyhook: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skyhook_%28structure%29

There's also using chemical rockets for the first stage, then switching to nuclear for the second stage once clear enough of the ground to minimize fallout. Radiation pollution wouldn't be pleasant, but future advances could potentially minimize that also.

NERVA XE was damn near ready to fly during the Apollo era for Mars missions. Would've made a hell of 2nd stage engine.


Or a comically large refueling hose hooked up until it hits orbit. I guess in that case you'd probably be fighting gravity even more trying to push fuel up the hose.

Ground laser propulsion has been considered. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_propulsion

> earth's gravity [..] right on the cusp of rocket flight possibility

He didn't actually say that. He was talking about "rapidly reusable orbital rockets" and "fully reusable orbital rocket[s]" being the "critical breakthrough" that's necessary, the "holy grail of space" and the "fundamental thing that's required".

So fully and rapidly reusable.


Hmmm... That's actually really interesting to think about from the anthropic principle perspective.

Very interesting that the only intelligent species we are aware of is on a planet that we can leave.

I wonder to what extent higher gravitational planets could sustain love that couldn't leave it. An interesting answer to Fermi's paradox.

Nah, again - nuclear. I doubt the safety profile would factor much once it's the only available option.

Don’t forget ground based propulsion too.

if gravity were much more we'd be out of chemical reactions that produce the energy to beat the rocket equation.

This is a possible Fermi paradox answer, or at least factor. Maybe the vast majority of habitable worlds are larger than Earth. The inhabitants of those worlds might find space flight too hard or even impossible. They also might have less interest in it since they would make the natural anthropic assumption that worlds capable of supporting life are probably huge like theirs.

That really makes a lot of sense. Because planets smaller than Earth cool a lot faster, so they lose their molten core and plate tectonics (which keeps land mass rising and out of the water), and also a magnetic shield that keeps the atmosphere from stripping away (like Mars).

I'm going to be hopeful and optimistic and point out that the large planets in our solar system aren't rocky and suitable for life as we know it anyway. Earth is the biggest one and the rest are gas planets. Maybe planets that harbor life (rocky, liquid water, goldilocks zone closer to the sun) usually have low enough gravity for aliens to escape it.

This diagram has some exoplanets on it for size comparison- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circumstellar_habitable_zone#/...

Earth might be right at this threshold of small enough for space flight to be practical (still hard, but practical) but big enough to hang onto water and atmosphere.

I have another wild guess. Not only we have just right amount of fossil fuels to leave the planet, but also the sun has just right amount of energy to reach the stage when people can move to another solar system.

My guess is the Sun probably has more... it’s really big.

What if it’s just like fossil fuels and there’s enough energy there for us to smear ourselves out? Oh cool, kinda like fission then!

Gravity is taxing. It's possible that our galactic neighbors live on a larger planet with greater gravity which makes their escape from the planet next to impossible.

Can we swing by and drop them a ladder?

If we get sucked by the gravity, we are stuck as well.

Presumably we'd need to lower it from geostationary orbit. This is a unique solution though I suppose there is some dependency on the mass of the planet where you might be too deep in the well. But you'd be in orbit so presumably some low thrust low propellant engine powered by sunlight ought to be an option?

I'm gonna go with citation/mathematics needed.

Spaceflight is about velocity and energy.


It's also about gravity, since gravity is what you are fighting against.

I didn't notice this being mentioned in the webcast or in any of the follow-up articles I've read on the presentation: while the timelines for 6-months-to-orbit seem insane, I believe the underlying drive for an aggressive schedule here largely derives from Mars launch windows. [1]

We have a launch window to Mars open from July 2020 - September 2020, the tail end of which is almost exactly one year away. Starship will have to be orbit capable well before this window, such that the flight and maneuvering characteristics are understood well enough to reasonably justify taking a crack or two at an unmanned cargo Mars mission within the 2020 window. Musk might not have explicitly mentioned it in the presentation, but I would bet that the Starship teams are internally being driven to these targets.

FTA, Musk is quoted in 2017, saying SpaceX was targeting uncrewed Mars missions in 2022, but given his ambitions and depending on the progress of the Starship/Super Heavy, I can see them actually aiming for 2020 such that any failures would still guarantee a path to making the 2022 window.

All of this is my own amateur speculation, would love to hear corrections or other ideas.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exploration_of_Mars#Launch_win...

I don't think the schedule is aggressive enough for a 2020 Mars launch with the Starship.

It is likely that Starship will be capable by then, but the wow factor is missing. I don't think an interesting mission would be ready. Don't forget that Musk's Tesla was already launched to "Mars". So it would be safer and just as impactful to have an interesting mission planned using Falcon Heavy. The only mission I can think of which might be viable is Starship landing on Mars. However I don't think SpaceX would have proven Starship enough to get approval for that.

The most surprising thing to me was nixing the transpiration cooling with methane and switching back to heat shielding tiles for half of it.

I really liked how he mentioned the cryogenic strength of 301 Steel, and I’m in love with KISS simplicity of it all. Transpiration specifically is out, but unmentioned is a real need to manage thermals of the craft, not just on re-entry, but on a journey to the moon. I refuse to count out some kind of neat thermal fluid tech helping out with this, mostly cause I admire the raptor engine nozzle tech! Even bad ideas can yield a bit of good.

STS needed to open doors or get back down cause she would have cooked. The ISS has 2 triple sets of huge radiators!

I also want to add that EVA suits stay cool with a water sublimator! I’m sure Starship is gonna sweat somehow... xD

I don't think he said they were ablative however, so it isn't going to be like it was in the Space Shuttle where the tiles literally burned up on re-entry.

The Space Shuttle tiles were explicitly not ablative. However, there were problems with the fragility of the tiles, which meant that at least a few tiles needed to be replaced after almost every flight. There is some speculation that it would have been better to use ablative tiles, which would need to be replaced regularly but would be less susceptible to unexpected damage.


I don't think that Elon has clarified yet whether or not the Starship tiles will be ablative, but keep in mind that Dragon currently uses a single-piece ablative heatshield which is theoretically good for several reuses.

I think its pretty clearly that the glass tiles he was talking about would not be ablative. Given how many reuses they should be able to do.

Starship has the ability to dip in and out to control heating on the tile and limit the heat, keeping them within a heat corridor during reentry.

It was such a cool idea, but I imagine it was going to be very hard to make it work.

Exactly. Say you land on the Moon and your ship sticks around for a few months. Micrometeorites can impact and cause minor damage to the surface cooling system. You’re baked at that point.

But given the hull is stainless steel repairs are much easier. Any experienced welder can spot repair divots and holes or weld in much larger patches. No need to worry about the specially constructed parts required for evaporative cooling. Fix the hull then install replacement tiles.

Reusable heat shielding tiles are also very hard.

Could it be easier compared to other rockets/shuttle since the space ship is made out of steel?

It makes it a bit easier because as Elon mentioned the steel structure can get much hotter without it being an issue. This makes it easier to connect the tiles directly to the ship.

However still the primary problem is still to have some surface that can handle the heat without deterioration over multiple flights.

A couple of takeaways for me:

1. oldspace and its supporters, if they have a clue, should be even more terrified than before by the scale of the vision. Even if only a percentage is achieved the disruption should be shattering

2. the unspoken juxtaposition between Musk on the one hand - on the face of it unpolished and light-hearted to the point of flippancy about a topic no less grand than the destiny of humanity, yet in reality visionary, fiercely determined and stunningly successful, and proceeding with at least as stated altruistic goals; and oldspace on the other - polished, solemn, pompous, claiming the sole capability and privilege to act as gatekeepers to space, yet in reality outdated, inefficient, outclassed, and acting like a resentful dog-in-the-manger in response to SpaceX. There's something tragicomic, almost Shakespearean about it all

I don't think any of "oldspace" are terrified by the Starship. I would bet they are almost as excited as SpaceX.

SpaceX's improved launch capabilities will not kill off "oldspace" companies. Mainly because access to space is a national/military security issue. The launch providers for China, Russia, India, and the EU will continue to exist, if only because those entities don't want to be beholden to SpaceX for their access to space.

If anything I would expect an increase in funding to some of those "oldspace" launch providers as countries try to catch up with SpaceX's technology.

> I don't think any of "oldspace" are terrified by the Starship. I would bet they are almost as excited as SpaceX.

Not so sure about that - ESA's saltiness suggests they are not thrilled: 'Asked about how the Ariane 5 compares to lower-cost alternatives on the market today, such as SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, Stefano Bianchi, Head of ESA Launchers Development Department, responded with a question of his own. “Are you buying a Mercedes because it is cheap?”

Ranzo, sitting nearby, chimed in and referenced the India-based maker of the world’s least expensive car. As he put it, “We don’t sell a Tata.”'

You are correct that it won't kill off oldspace, but the pressure to change will be inexorable: it's not difficult to foresee a scenario where commercial work all goes to SpaceX, apart from situations where companies are forced to use a national provider; but even then, those companies will thus be forced to eat the cost of subsidising an inefficient provider, which will lower their profits making them less competitive, etc. There could be a similar pressure when one considers military payloads, i.e., the cheapness of launching with SpaceX offers the US a game changing capability to put materiel in orbit.


Is there a transcript somewhere?

Sure, go to the video on Youtube [0], click the three dots menu on the right hand side below the video and open the transcript from there. This loads all of it at once, so you can even search through it with your browser's in-page search function! Clicking a line in the transcript jumps to the correct position in the video.

It might be the most amazing feature that Youtube has.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOpMrVnjYeY

There is a transcript that youtube provides.

It looks like something from Fallout or Rocketeer ... the space nerd in me is disappointed at the "look" but I really really hope it works.

SpaceX always beats my expectations, unlike Tesla.

It's time for Elon to step down as the face of SpaceX. He ruins every presentation he's involved in. I can't imagine how awkward it was to be there in person and be help prisoner by a completely unprepared, rambling, lazy talk for over an hour.

You're not the target audience for this presentation. It's goal was to provide an information dump for the people who have been closely following the project, and it achieved that extremely well.

It's not aimed at the kind of person who prefers a flashy presentation over substance, which in this case is extremely rapid progress towards the most capable rocket humanity has ever built.

Considering the amount of time he spent explaining rudimentary spaceflight concepts (getting to LEO is about speed not altitude, who knew?), I wasn't sure how technical this was going to be.

Most of the SpaceX community thinks it's awesome to not have some polished person up there who knows next to nothing about what they're talking about, and he's been doing it during the entire duration of SpaceX's unbridled success.

So, no?

Totally agree, no one has ever been inspired by this man!

In fact, he has actively put spaceflight back 50 years by making everyone disinterested in going to mars.

What we need are more people in suits who give us made up numbers.

SpaceX has plenty of flashy speakers and uses them appropriately.

What a painful presentation to watch. Musk really needs to either work on his public speech or delegate them to someone comfortable.

His product reveals could be so much more impactful and inspiring did he not jump between points he's trying to make and stutter his way through the entire presentation.

Ever since I saw the first few Musk presentations, it fundamentally changed how I view public speaking... all these talks, Ted, high school presentationswe were required to give, political speeches... they might be polished (some more, some less), but the fundamental problem is, that they have nothing interesting to say. On the other hand, Elon could get on the stage naked, covered with shit, and just grunt or make baby noises while showing a few slides, and it would be better that all of Ted put together, because it’s interesting, not just some experienced fancy speaker pushing our psychological buttons to tell us something we could read on Wikipedia in 1/10th of the time.

So basically, public speaking skills are important for people who have nothing remarkable to say.

You just described what makes him seem genuine and direct. He's not the best of speakers, but his cult following can be partly attributed to his quaint style of communication.

Many years ago I heard a best-selling nonfiction[1] author speak who had a similarly unpolished speaking style. A friend asked me afterwards if his speaking made me think less of him, and I had the same reaction as you: to the contrary, it seemed more genuine.

[1] There have since been allegations that he mixed a nontrivial amount of fiction in with his nonfiction.

Totally. And it's really awesome to see someone genuine and direct, and even though I'm not part of the cult following, I do really like Elon Musk's persona.

Yeah, he’s given hundreds of these presentations but he “needs to work on it”?

Take this as inspiration that’s its not just all smooth talking bullshit artists who get to become billionaires.

> Take this as inspiration that’s its not just all smooth talking bullshit artists who get to become billionaires.

That's how you get WeWork.

There's hundreds of millions of smooth talkers. Only a few WeWork type companies...

> he’s given hundreds of these presentations but he “needs to work on it”

Giving "hundreds of these presentations" is not a measure of one's ability to present well.

So, yes. On delivering them. He's really hard to follow. Musk is a bad speaker.

That fact doesn't diminish in any way what he has accomplished.

> Take this as inspiration that’s its not just all smooth talking bullshit artists who get to become billionaires.

Well, sure. I'd rather have more Musk than more Neumann; but that literally has nothing to do with the opinion I was expressing.

His presentation was great.

You're just judging him by the most superficial attribute: the cadence of his speech.

An attribute that he cannot change, btw, because that's how he speaks.

The content was great.

He knows what's he's talking about, he's direct, he doesn't bullshit and what he talks about is inspiring.

Starship presentation was 10x better than, say, the polished and perfectly delivered Apple keynote full of cliches like "this is the best Foo we've ever done".

As an engineer, you don't find his presentations interesting? The fact that he doesn't read from a transcript / teleprompter and instead describes things as he sees them, without the fine-toothed comb of a corporate marketing department is refreshing.

The really cool thing is when he thinks out loud on stage. How many public speakers do that? Asked a technical question he will often think it out as he answers it (although it's usually something he's thought about before and he's mostly adapting his thinking to the question).

I'm not talking about the contents of his presentations.

What SpaceX/Tesla/Elon Musk accomplished is truly awe-inspiring.

His delivery makes it really hard to follow, that is all.

I'd rather have someone who's passionate about what they're talking about, and who has real insight into it, instead of the usual corporate presentations you get, where there is zero interest whatsoever for me - I just feel like I'm being commoditised. With Musk's presentations I feel like he's just enthusiastic about what he's doing, and he's trying to convey that to you, rather than sell you something.

It's a bit like singing competitions - it's as if everyone thinks that to be a public speaker you have to do it the same way as everyone who is in 'The voice' or whatever - being cast from the same mould. He's more like the Mark E Smith of presentations.

I thought he did an excellent job, even with the hand-starship demo (:D) but regardless, it was pretty well done. If you are talking about his stutter, thats how he normally talks.

You should look at his very first presentations way back in the day, and you will see how much he has improved in terms of public speaking.

There’s constructive criticism and then there’s just saying something because you normalize negativity. Try focusing on the positive.

That's fair. I could have phrased things more positively.

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