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Elon speaks “Reliability, Reusable Rockets”

January 15, 2024

Elon Musk addressed an ‘all hands’ staff Town Hall meeting at the SpaceX Starship site in south Texas on January 12th. He said that the “three Rs: Reliability, Reusable Rockets” were key to SpaceX’s success.

Other news also emerged. Some mundane, others perhaps more important. The mundane was that there will be new restaurant, café and retail shop at the Starbase. Perhaps more importantly is that there will be a Starlink ‘Mini’ backpack-sized receive/transmit dish available later this year. His speech came on the weekend when two back-to-back Starlink broadband launches happened and took the total satellites launched to 5,739 of which 5.353 are working in orbit.

Musk listed the past year’s achievements and praised employees for being the best team ever and responsible for 96 successful missions, two Starship test flights and “more than doubled the number of people around the world connected by Starlink”.

Musk, in reflecting on the recent 8-year history of SpaceX [although the business successfully launched its first rocket into orbit 15 years ago] and wondered aloud as to what the company’s achievements might be 8 years from now. “I think we will have landed on Mars and we will have sent people to the Moon and if we are lucky we might even have sent people to Mars.”

Musk compared SpaceX’s 96 “incredible” launches with the next best (which was the Soyuz rocket system which managed 60 during 2023). He also welcomed upcoming SpaceX’s launches for Amazon’s Kuiper broadband satellites, saying “We treat everyone fairly”.

He praised his SpaceX engineers for managing 19 flights which used a single Falcon 9 booster over a three-and-a-half years. Since the first landing of a booster SpaceX has landed 260 times overall. Musk said that SpaceX was now in the process of qualifying the Flacon 9 booster to cope with 40 reusable flights. SpaceX was also targeting perhaps as many as 150 flights this year. He admitted that recovering each rocket’s fairings had proved to be difficult but was now being handled routinely and 300 fairings were overall re-flown and said that each reuse saved some $6 million.

“People first said it ‘couldn’t be done’ and then ‘anyway, it is a stupid idea’, and others who said ‘it would never pay off or make any sense’ he reminded his audience. “Pad turnaround was now quicker than 3 days and we’re aiming for that to improve to less than 24 hours by the end of this year.”

Musk said reusability was the key to SpaceX’s success and a great future in space. “We have reusability for planes, cars, bicycles and even horses! Why not rockets?”

Musk, referring to Starlink, said the intention was not to replace terrestrial internet but to enable connectivity for people with little or no access. “Starlink is a game-changer for people around the world. Over time it might be the key to improving the quality of life for people around the world. The immediate goal for us is to get latency down to 20 milliseconds. It would then be more responsive than ground-based internet.”

As to Starlink’s missing territories Musk said hoped most of them would have granted permissions to operate this year. His wish was to be available to more than half the world’s population by year’s end

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