This Week in Elon: Musk Mocks Biden Amid Cooler Political Climate, Federal Investigation of Tesla

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It seems that Elon Musk is a bit peeved that President Joe Biden didn’t congratulate SpaceX on completing the privately-funded Inspiration4 crewed mission last week and helping to raise $210 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“He’s still sleeping,” Musk wrote in response to a question from a Twitter follower about Biden’s silence. It was a clear reference to ex-President Donald Trump’s description of him as “sleepy Joe” during the campaign.

The remark set off the usual battle on social media. Musk’s legion of defenders called the omission unforgivable. Musk’s critics noted his willingness to amply praise authoritarian China where Musk’s Tesla Motors has a manufacturing plant even as he called U.S. officials “fascists” for their efforts to contain the deadly COVID-19 virus.

For his part, Jared Isaacman, the billionaire who funded and commanded the Inspiration4 flight, says Biden’s silence is no big deal.

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SpaceX Projects Higher Commercial Flight Rate; Musk Donation Sends St. Jude Fund-raising Campaign Over the Top

Crew Dragon splashes down with Inspiration4 crew. (Credit: Inspiration4)

A few notes on the Inspiration4 mission:

Big Demand for Flights

SpaceX senior director for human spaceflight Benji Reed said yesterday that the company wants to ramp up to six private commercial human spaceflights per year.

“There’s nothing really that limits our capability to launch. It’s about having rockets and Dragons ready to go and having everything in the manifest align with our other launches,” he said.

SpaceX officials said they received many inquiries about future bookings since the Inspiration4 mission was launched on a three-day Earth orbiting flight on Wednesday.

Axiom Space is sending four people to the International Space Station in January using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft. The mission will include three paying passengers and be led by an Axiom executive who is a former NASA astronaut.

Fundraising Campaign Succeeds

SpaceX founder Elon Musk pledge of $50 million to Inspiration4’s fund-raising campaign for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital brought the total raised to $210 million, which is $10 million above the original goal. St. Jude will use the funds to conduct cancer research.

Billionaire Jared Isaacman, who commanded the mission, donated the first $100 million to the campaign. The other $60 million was raised through online donations. There is also an ongoing auction of items flown on the mission that will bring in more money.

Inspiration4 Mission Announces Splashdown Time to Return from Orbit

Inspiration4 crew in orbit. (Credit: Inspiration4)

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL, September 17, 2021 (Inspiration4 PR) – Tonight Inspiration4, the world’s first all-civilian human spaceflight mission to orbit, shared the crew would return tomorrow, September 18, with a targeted splashdown at 7:06 p.m. EDT in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. To prepare for this return, Dragon completed two burns tonight to reduce the spacecraft’s altitude to approximately 365km and line up the ground track with the landing site. A timeline of activities for Dragon’s return to Earth and splashdown is available on SpaceX’s website.

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NASA Would Receive $4.4 Billion Under House Bill; DOE’s Radioisotope Processing Facility Funding Increased

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA would received an additional $4.4 billion to perform repairs and upgrades on its aging infrastructure, conduct climate change research and development (R&D) and improve cybersecurity under an infrastructure spending bill now under consideration by the House of Representatives.

The funding does not include any money to fund a second human lander for NASA’s Artemis program that would likely have gone to the National Team led by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. The space agency awarded a single source contract to Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

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Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin Invites Elon Musk to View Launch at Baikonur Cosmodrome

Roscosmos is launching actress Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko to film a movie named “Challenge” on the International Space Station. The Soyuz spacecraft will be commanded by cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov. Rogozin has snagged a producer credit.

Report: Government Documents Allege SpaceX has Violated FAA Permit, Encroached on Boca Chica National Wildlife Refuge

Starship SN8 takes off from Boca Chica, Texas. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

60 Minutes+ reports that government documents back up allegations that SpaceX’s Starbase test facility in Texas has violated its federal permit through excessive road closings and has encroached and trespassed on the protected Boca Chica National Wildlife Refuge.

The documents back up a claim by the environmental group Save Rio Grande Valley (Save RGV) that SpaceX has been closing the Texas state highway that runs through its operation for more than the 300 hours per year allowed under the permit from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The organization sent a letter to the local district attorney outlining its concerns.

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Blue Origin Sues in Federal Court Over Human Landing System Contract Loss

The National Team’s engineering mockup of the crew lander vehicle at NASA Johnson Space Center’s (JSC) iconic Building  9. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has filed a lawsuit over its failure to win a NASA Human Landing System to return astronauts to the lunar surface. The lawsuit follows the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) rejection last month of its appeal of the space agency’s decision to award a single contract to Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Reuters reports:

Blue Origin said its lawsuit filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims on Friday is “an attempt to remedy the flaws in the acquisition process found in NASA’s Human Landing System.”

It added it believes “the issues identified in this procurement and its outcomes must be addressed to restore fairness, create competition, and ensure a safe return to the Moon for America.”

Blue Origin’s lawsuit remains under seal. NASA must file a response to the challenge by Oct. 12.

Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics have argued that NASA was required to make multiple awards. The GAO said it “denied the protest arguments that NASA acted improperly in making a single award to SpaceX.”

The appeal will likely further delay SpaceX’s development of its lander, which is based on the company’s Starship vehicle.

Video: Starbase Launchpad Tour with Elon Musk

Video Caption: Join me as I take a tour of SpaceX’s Starbase launchpad with Elon Musk as our tour guide! This is part 3 or 3, so if you haven’t seen parts one and two, definitely start there!

NASA IG Says: Lunar Spacesuits Behind Schedule, Would Not be Ready for 2024 Landing

Artemis and Orion spacesuits. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s 14-year effort to build lunar suits is going to consume more than $1 billion and will deliver working products after the space agency’s goal of landing two astronauts at the moon south pole in 2024, according to a new audit from NASA’s Inspector General.

“NASA’s current schedule is to produce the first two flight-ready xEMUs by November 2024, but the Agency faces significant challenges in meeting this goal,” the report said. “This schedule includes approximately a 20-month delay in delivery for the planned design, verification, and testing suit, two qualification suits, an ISS Demo suit, and two lunar flight suits.

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Video Tour of SpaceX’s Starbase in Boca Chica (Part II)

Video Caption: Join me as I take a tour of SpaceX’s Starbase facility with Elon Musk as our tour guide! This is part 2 of 3, so stay tuned, there’s another one coming!

If you need some notes on this video with key points, check out our article – https://everydayastronaut.com/starbas…

Need a rundown on Starship? I’ve got you covered with our “Complete Guide to Starship” https://youtu.be/-8p2JDTd13k