Elon Musk has been pitching cheap tunnels from The Boring Company to big names

Elon Musk—CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and The Boring Company—has been pitching his new tunnel-boring capabilities to curious elected officials as …
A map of a potential location for a tunnel through Australia's Blue Mountains.
Enlarge/ Plans for a potential tunnel connecting Sydney, Australia, to the West.

Elon Musk—CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and The Boring Company—has been pitching his new tunnel-boring capabilities to curious elected officials as well as the director of CERN (the organization that owns and operates the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland).

Just a month after Musk opened up his first, rather rugged test tunnel under the SpaceX campus in Hawthorne, California, the CEO has been on Twitter floating prices and talking projects.

Last week Jeremy Buckingham, a member of Parliament in New South Wales’ Upper House, asked Musk on Twitter, “How much to build a 50km tunnel through the Blue Mountains and open up the west of our State?” Musk replied, “About $15M/km for a two-way high-speed transit, so probably around $750M plus maybe $50M/station.”

About $15M/km for a two way high speed transit, so probably around $750M plus maybe $50M/station

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 16, 2019

In his original tweet, Buckingham tagged Mike Cannon-Brookes, an Australian billionaire who co-founded Atlassian. Cannon-Brookes was involved with a bet in 2017 that led to Tesla deploying the world’s largest battery in South Australia.

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), senior engineering and tunneling experts are incredibly skeptical of Musk’s prices. They said that including ventilation and emergency egress locations in the mountainous region would increase the cost, as would “geotechnical conditions and integration with the wider transport network.”

Musk himself has said that traditional tunnels can cost up to $1 billion per mile in heavily populated areas. An estimate of $15 million/km or roughly $24 million/mi would represent a significant and ground-breaking technological change, the likes of which The Boring Company hasn’t demonstrated yet. At a press briefing in December, Boring Company representatives showed off the next steps in modifying boring machines to improve on the cost of boring. But these machines were still demonstration projects as of December 18.

Such a tunnel would have to conform to the operating model that Musk outlined when he opened his first tunnel in Hawthorne in December—that is, it would be a tunnel that exists exclusively for electric vehicles. Owners of electric vehicles could drive into the tunnel, and people who don’t own electric vehicles would, theoretically, catch rides in electric vehicles for hire managed by the owner of the tunnel. (Musk said in December that The Boring Company would be willing to own and operate the transportation networks that it builds or it would turn them over to the entity that commissioned the network, depending on circumstances.)

Musk has said that restricting the tunnels to all-electric vehicles is key to reducing the cost of tunneling. He reasons that the diameter of the tunnel can be somewhat smaller since electric vehicles don’t need as much airflow as internal combustion vehicles. (And a smaller tunnel diameter means less muck to haul out and fewer materials needed to reinforce the structure.)

No CERNtainty of this partnership

Plans for the Future Circular Collider.
Enlarge/ Plans for the Future Circular Collider.
CERN

On Monday morning, Musk made a second informal pitch. He tweeted in response to an MIT Technology Review article about the Future Circular Collider, a project by CERN to build a new particle collider that’s four times bigger than the current Large Hadron Collider.

“Director of CERN asked me about Boring Co building the new LHC tunnel when we were at the @royalsociety,” Musk tweeted. “Would probably save several billon [sic] Euros.”

Director of CERN asked me about Boring Co building the new LHC tunnel when we were at the @royalsociety. Would probably save several billon Euros.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 21, 2019

This month, CERN released a Conceptual Design Report outlining a series of high-performance particle colliders housed in a tunnel that is 100km (62mi) in circumference. According to MIT Technology Review, the Future Circular Collider could be completed as soon as 2040. Absent a lower Boring Company bid, researchers have estimated that the tunnel alone would cost €5 billion ($5.7 billion) to build.

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Israeli lunar lander arrives at Cape Canaveral ahead of SpaceX launch

The spacecraft, named Beresheet, which means “in the beginning” in Hebrew, will liftoff for the moon atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sometime next …

ORLANDO, Fla. – The moon’s next robotic visitor arrived at Cape Canaveral this week from Israel in preparation for launch next month.

Nonprofit SpaceIL’s special cargo arrived in a custom temperature-controlled container at Orlando International Airport on Saturday before being driven to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The spacecraft, named Beresheet, which means “in the beginning” in Hebrew, will liftoff for the moon atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sometime next month. The spacecraft will first undergo final tests before launch. The Israeli mission is the secondary payload on the rocket ride-sharing with Indonesia’s geostationary communications satellite.

“After eight years of hard work, our dream has come true: We finally have a spacecraft,” SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby said. “Shipping the spacecraft to the United States is the first stage of a complicated and historic journey to the moon. This is the first of many exciting moments, as we look forward to the forthcoming launch in Cape Canaveral.”

Easy landing in Florida early this morning ouw to Cape Canaveral. 🚀🚀 #IsraelToTheMoonpic.twitter.com/VlDpB5f7B3 — SpaceIL (@TeamSpaceIL) January 19, 2019

SpaceIL was established in 2011 and funded by philanthropist Morris Kahn, who would later serve as SpaceIL’s president. Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino business executive, is also an investor.

The nonprofit was a finalist in the international Google Lunar XPRIZE competition that would have awarded $20 million to the first privately funded team to land a spacecraft on the moon. The competition ended without a winner when Google stopped funding the race to the moon.

The launch is slated for no earlier than the second half of February. After launch, Beresheet will land on the northern hemisphere of the moon about two months later, where it will take measurements of the moon’s magnetic field.

SpaceIL officials hope the spacecraft’s mission will inspire the next generation of space explorers in Israel and around the world.

Copyright 2019 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.

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SpaceX Will Build Prototype Mars Rockets In Texas, Not California

Last week, the Times reported that Elon Musk’s SpaceX was canceling plans to build its biggest rockets at the Port of Los Angeles, and shifting …

From Texas Standard:

It’s not often that the Los Angeles times covers news with a Texas slant, but this time, it was somewhat unavoidable.

Last week, the Times reported that Elon Musk’s SpaceX was canceling plans to build its biggest rockets at the Port of Los Angeles, and shifting production to South Texas. The story got lots of play in Southern California where it was considered something of a blow to the region’s dream of becoming the epicenter of the next wave of space exploration. And it was seen as a victory for Texas – one of California’s economic rivals.

SpaceX already has a launch facility in Boca Chica, near Brownsville, and Steve Clark, a staff writer at the Brownsville Herald says the facility was initially expected to host 12 launches a year once completed. When Musk attended the site’s groundbreaking in 2014, he hinted that Boca Chica could have an even higher-profile role in SpaceX plans.

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“He did say something about the possibility that the first person to depart Earth for Mars could actually leave from Boca Chica,” Clark says.

The Starship Hopper project – the one moved from Los Angeles to Texas – is the first prototype of SpaceX’s Mars initiative. The prototype vehicle will be built at Boca Chica. But development of the overall Starship Mars project remains in California.

Clark says the economic impact of Starship Hopper on South Texas is unclear, but that traffic to the Boca Chica site has increased. He says tourists are posing with the rocket prototype.

Texas likely got the nod to build these rockets because it would have been logistically more complicated to build them in California and then transport them to the Texas launchpad.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.

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Comment: Panasonic Industry and the WARR Hyperloop, accelerating tomorrow’s transportation

The event was hosted by SpaceX and its founder, Elon Musk (pictured), at the company’s Hawthorne, California headquarters, as it has been since its …

Comment: Panasonic Industry and the WARR Hyperloop, accelerating tomorrow’s transportation

On July 22nd 2018 WARR Hyperloop did it again, writes Alexander Schultz-Storz of Panasonic Industry Europe – the team from the Technical University of Munich won the Hyperloop Pod Competition for the third consecutive time.

The event was hosted by SpaceX and its founder, Elon Musk (pictured), at the company’s Hawthorne, California headquarters, as it has been since its inauguration. To begin at the beginning…

See also: TUM Munich team wins 2018 Hyperloop Pod competition

For years Californian political and business leaders have discussed the merits of a high-speed rail system between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Frustrated by the debate and alarmed by the costs, environmental impact and energy requirements for this new rail line, Elon Musk, the well-known entrepreneur behind Tesla and SpaceX, proposed a radical new mode of transportation: Hyperloop.

The idea behind Hyperloop is simple: propel passengers between cities at speeds of over 970km/h in capsules that float in partial vacuum tubes. With less air resistance, pods can reach and maintain supersonic speeds – powered entirely by solar energy – transporting passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 30 minutes.

To quote Alexander Schultz-Storz, Division Director, Solution Competence Division at Panasonic Industry:

“Beyond its economic benefits, Hyperloop offers a significant reduction in carbon emissions. The Hyperloop concept is intended to replace billions of commuter car passenger miles, as well as free up airspace. As futuristic as it sounds, this concept is not a pipe dream: the pace of innovation is notably increasing, with 2018 already seeing several big announcements, such as Virgin’s Hyperloop One.”

While the idea may be simple, the engineering isn’t. Therefore in June 2015, SpaceX announced an open competition for independent and university engineering teams to design a half-scale Hyperloop pod and have it tested on a track at SpaceX.

What started out as Elon Musk’s ambitious, possibly far-fetched, concept has transformed into the next obvious step for transportation. Students and engineers around the world have taken on the technical challenges involved, and, in the spirit of collective progress, all intellectual property produced during the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition will be publicly available, ensuring that nothing stands in the way of implementing a full-scale Hyperloop, thus delivering a fundamentally better transportation future.

An academia-industry interface is crucial for success in this endeavour. This interface needs to be characterized by an interactive and collaborative exchange between academic institutions and the industrial sector. This is especially important if there is no real reference design available yet but if it has to be started from scratch.

Martin Dziura, Scientific Director, TUM: “As soon as companies and universities work hand in hand to push the frontiers of knowledge, they become a catalyst for innovation and economic growth. Industry partnerships give students and faculties additional funding. By striking up corporate partnerships, universities have more resources to undertake research and they are able to diversify their areas of research.”

“But it’s not all about the financial support. The more significant contribution is gaining industry feedback and guidance. Universities know that some problems can’t be solved in isolation in a lab, and industry feedback is key to taking an invention or product from conception to market. Panasonic Industry has a wide range of technologies that can be found in our latest WARR Hyperloop pod.”

On Board the WARR Hyperloop

To levitate, usually either air bearings, (basically blasting air to levitate, like air hockey tables) or magnets are used. This results in levitation. Linear induction motors then propel the pod along the tube. Pods get pushed at high speed and will stay at a high speed a long time because there is no friction from the ground and they are in a vacuum. Since there is very low friction from the air, it is possible to cruise for miles.

For the design of the WARR Hyperloop, the team decided on a third method: using wheels for acceleration until liftoff speed is reached or braking is required.

“Our design concept is influenced in many ways by the e-mobility sector. On that basis, a co-operation with Panasonic Industry was a logical and necessary step for us. Using an electric motor guarantees the best possible acceleration, but it also creates safety requirements for our components that are typical of electric vehicles,”explains Martin Riedel, Technical Lead, WARR Hyperloop

Since the battery voltage of the pod is several hundred volts, the electrical system must meet essential safety requirements. The electromechanical components that provide the necessary security when loading and driving play an essential role in this context. This is where grid isolation relays are used to interrupt or close the corresponding circuits.”

Here’s a more detailed look at the areas and design-in questions where Panasonic Industry’s products and technical support helped:

EX-L221

The most challenging aspect of the cooperation between Panasonic Industry and the WARR Hyperloop team was the selection of different sensors to monitor the performance of the pod and guarantee its safety.

Riedel continues: ”The laser light sensor from Panasonic Industry determines the position of the pod inside the tube. To achieve this, the laser must read several markings within the tube while it accelerates with a maximum speed of 600km/h. The specific design challenge for us is not only that the laser reads the mark but also that this information is processed correspondingly quickly.

The detection of these marks had the strictest timing requirements of any task: the 101.6mm wide marks pass a laser sensor in 610µs at a relative speed of 167 m/s, which demands a 1.64kHz minimum sampling rate. This information is then used to determine the best place to initiate braking. For us, the key benefits of Panasonic Industry’s laser sensor were its robustness when coping with movement and environmental influences, its miniature size and its light weight.”

HG-C1050

To achieve perfectly smooth sliding of the pod, it is essential that the magnets and the vehicle always maintain the same distance from the rails. If the vehicle leans or inclines, efficiency, speed, and smoothness are impaired – possibly dramatically. Maintaining the correct position with respect to the rails facilitates easy and uncomplicated measurement and recording of pod behavior and its driving dynamics without adding weight and design costs.

Continues Riedel: ”What caught our attention were the specifications of the HG-C1050: it has a very precise and compact casing, a combination which we had never seen before. This enables us to measure the relative position of the pod to the rail – vital information when we come to analyze driving dynamics and vehicle behavior. We have to ensure that we made the right design decision…and this vehicle behaves as planned and expected.”

Relays

Reducing size and weight and saving energy were the first design parameters WARR Hyperloop had defined for itself during the construction and planning of their pod. In the effort to minimalize weight and increase battery performance, a lot of attention was given to improving the efficiency of the AC-to-DC power conversion and distributed power generation through various subsystems.

This is where relays had to come into play, since they function as a switching device used to control the path of electricity, thereby controlling the circuit the voltage is directed to. Panasonic has been meeting the highly specialized power needs of the industrial and automotive markets with a vast range of innovative and economic relays for more than 30 years.

Riedel added: “We picked Panasonic’s PA-N for controlling our subsystems due to its high-density mounting, low operating power and small casing, which measures only 20 x 5 x 12.5mm.”

Thick Film Chip Resistors

Riedel concludes: “In the electronic battery control systems for charging and cell balancing, we are looking for any advantages that can be gained in the critical areas of safety and reliability – both vital factors in securing a pole position for our Hyperloop pod. Panasonic supported the WARR Hyperloop by providing Thick Film Chip Resistors.

Lithium batteries are very susceptible to over-charging or discharging at an accelerated rate. Resistors are used to improve battery efficiency; specifically for monitoring the power from the cell to the electric motor and for regenerative braking, where they control the current in and out of the battery.

Panasonic’s new Thick Film Resistors are ideal for this application, thanks to a high power capability of up to 0.6 W and resistance values down to 0.001 Ω, making them suitable as balancing resistors, enabling optimum charging by equalizing voltage levels across the battery system.

Panasonic’s sensors, resistors as well as relays play an essential role in the WARR Hyperloop pod and in achieving the team’s goals of miniaturization and increased efficiency. Together with Panasonic’s, engineering know-how and product guidance and financial support a highly successful pod design was created and who knows, maybe we will even see elements of that design in the Hyperloop that might eventually transport us from Los Angeles to San Francisco in the future.

Alexander Schultz-Storz, Division Director, Cross Value Division, Panasonic Industry Europe

View this WARR Hyperloop gallery, and a video further below:

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How Much Is SpaceX Stock Worth?

Elon Musk has a plan. Actually, the CEO of SpaceX has several plans: He wants to continue supplying the International Space Station with food and …

Elon Musk has a plan.

Actually, the CEO of SpaceX has several plans: He wants to continue supplying the International Space Station with food and other consumables as far out as 2030, resume flights by American astronauts aboard American-built spacecraft, build a global satellite broadband network, and eventually put humans on Mars.

All of these plans, however, will cost money to develop the technologies to implement and continue driving down the cost of doing business in space. To get that money, SpaceX has been working diligently to raise debt and equity financing for its business. Fortunately for mankind’s space ambitions, it looks like SpaceX is succeeding at this — and fortunately for investors, every time SpaceX approaches its financiers for more money, it reveals a little bit more about its business, its finances, and its valuation.

Rocket landing on a drone ship

X marks the spot where we discover how much SpaceX’s treasure is worth. Image source: Getty Images.

A little bit of debt …

Case in point: In November, SpaceX secured a $250 million loan from “a select group of investors,” money it intends to use to continue development of its “Super Heavy” launch vehicle and “Starship” interplanetary rocketship. That was a nice chunk of change — there was just one problem.

SpaceX had apparently sought to raise three times as much cash — $750 million. At the time, it wasn’t entirely clear why SpaceX settled for the lower sum. (Wall Street banks were reportedly more than willing to ante up the entire $750 million Musk sought). But the reason for SpaceX’s decision to take on less debt soon became clear.

… and a whole bunch of equity

SpaceX would raise the rest of its sought-after $750 million with a stock offering. As The Wall Street Journalreported last month, SpaceX is in the final stages of selling $500 million worth of stock to its “existing [private] shareholders,” plus a new (also private) investor, Scottish money management firm Baillie Gifford & Co.

What we’ve learned about how much is SpaceX worth

So mission accomplished for SpaceX. But as good as this news is for SpaceX, it’s arguably even more important for investors who want to know how the market is valuing SpaceX today, on the off chance the company eventually files for an IPO. SpaceX revealed details on its business during the course of negotiations with its debt and equity counterparties.

As the Journal reports, SpaceX is selling $500 million worth of new shares to its private investors at “$186 a share.” For this math to work, SpaceX must be selling about 2.7 million shares. We also learn that this latest funding round is being conducted “at a $30.5 billion valuation.” From this fact, we can deduce that those 2.7 million shares represent a 1.6% interest in SpaceX. A little more elementary math and we can further determine that SpaceX will have roughly 165 million shares outstanding after completion of this equity issuance.

It never rains, but it pours

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time SpaceX has ever revealed enough information about its capital structure to be able to pin an accurate share count, share price, and market capitalization on SpaceX stock — and the deluge of new data doesn’t end there.

From TheWall Street Journal‘s reporting, we also learned that in the 12 months ended Sept. 2018, SpaceX generated $2.5 million in revenue and earned interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of roughly $270 million. That works out to a 10.8% EBITDA margin that SpaceX is earning on its revenue.

This number, by the way, is remarkably close to the 13% EBITDA margin earned by Boeing, and the 13.5% margin earned by Lockheed Martin — SpaceX’s two biggest rivals in spaceflight — despite the fact that SpaceX charges much, much less for its rocket launches than its rivals. This suggests that SpaceX has the capability to turn GAAP-profitable essentially anytime it wants, simply by raising its prices a bit or, conversely, by lowering its costs — for example by launching reusable rockets more frequently.

In that regard, it’s worth pointing out that through mid-January 2019, SpaceX has launched 40 rockets in a row successfully, and has relanded and recovered for reuse 33 of those rockets’ first stages. To date, only a handful of these rockets have actually been reused — but the more of them that are, the more SpaceX’s profits should improve, and the more SpaceX stock should be worth.

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