Elon Musk Reveals SpaceX Starbase Factory and Elons Five Key Steps

Elon Musk gave a tour of the Starbase Factory to the Everyday Astronaut. He says that manufacturing systems are much harder than designing rockets. He says the launch tower and launch facilities are far more challenging than the rockets.

Highlights:
The hard part about the Raptor engine is how do we make it for less than $1000 per ton.
Things that reduce cost per ton to orbit are good. The other key metric is cost per ton to the surface of Mars.
Everything is currently to heavy in the Super Heavy Starship. They can drop the battery mass by a factor of ten in the advanced design.

One of the big things is Elon described his 5 key steps for making things better.

1. Make your requirements less dumb. Question requirements even from very smart people. Whatever requirement you have must have a person responsible for it. If people are questioning the requirement, then you need to go back to a person who knows why the reason it was needed in the first place.
2. Try to delete processes and steps. You want to be forced to add back in at least ten percent of the steps you tried to take out. If you are not forced to add back then you are not working hard enough to remove steps.

In school, we get stait jacketed into not being allowed to question the question or questioner and not being allowed to reject questions and steps.

3. Simplify.

4. Accelerate cycle time.

5. Try to automate it.

After you have diagnosed your production line, then remove the in-process testing.

They should be testing version 2 of the Raptor engine in about one month.

Elon hates certain units of measure that make things harder to understand.

He hates newtons of force. He prefers metric tons of thrust.

He wants everyone who is working on his systems to be a chief engineer. Understand the systems at a high level. This way if you are working on details then you will know if you are or can optimize the right way.

Rocket generates a lot of hot gas. Normally the hot gases are wasted. SpaceX uses the hot gases for maneuvering.

SOURCES= Everyday Astronaut, Elon Musk
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

26 thoughts on “Elon Musk Reveals SpaceX Starbase Factory and Elons Five Key Steps”

  1. "a cup of rice, some vegetables, and two eggs is enough for a once daily meal."

    My sister in less than 5 ft and needs a caloric intake of less than 1k calories. I am over 6ft and if I take in a caloric intake of less than 2200 ill begin to lose weight. To add to this 1 meal a day will cause the body to go into starvation mode and make disease and sickness more of a worry.

    So…Yes thats enough to let the person slowly starve to death before they go mad and try and kill themselves or others.

    This is why people that try and micro manage people tend to leave chaos and destruction in their wake.

    People don't fit in your boxes.

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  2. Remembering that Musk made it big in the internet. And did so back when the internet was very new.
    At that point there weren't many established rules of thumb for how to do things.
    I suspect this affects his outlook on such things.

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  3. I like hydrazine better than he does. The bit with the cup is priceless. The hot gases may make Starship stiffer, so don’t waste it. His mind was faster than his body. Tesla trouble helped him. In terms of 1.) there used to be a requirement for amounts of psi of air, only based on what a battery atop a WWII bladder could force.

    Now, had shuttle been like Buran they could iterate and blow things up. Putting the engines on the orbiter for the sake of reusability killed innovation. I want SLS to evolve into an Energia Buran Shuttle II so we can have hypersonic boilerplates tested at large scale thanks to side mount. Pressure-fed Beal type strap-one with the plastic coating for carbon fiber I saw at Parabolic Arc a few days back. Keep the hydrogen tank for wet workshops instead of landing it.

    My belief is that with large factories in orbit you can grow a Single Stage To Earth craft out of one giant crystal perhaps. Instead of RLVs first…the best of them may come last…so big expendables to do station construction is no sin.

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  4. I'm not going to downvote you, but you do need something explained:

    For Starship you're talking about a combined height of 120 meters, and 5,000 tons. They're aiming for a payload to orbit of 100 tons, 2% of the total weight. If you make it 2% heavier than it needs to be, there's no weight left over for payload, and it becomes a useless 4th of july firework.

    So they do NOT need to make it stronger. They need to make it *lighter*. Right now it's actually too strong, because that was convenient during testing.

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  5. I've advocated panels that integrate the phased array antenna and the solar cells, to avoid long distance power transmission within the satellite. Just thousands upon thousands of identical, mass produced modules, mounted on an inert frame. 

    To avoid cosine loss on either end, you'd keep the array pointed at the Earth, and feed it sunlight from a large thin film reflector. (Doesn't have to have a good figure, so it's cheap.) Such a reflector could potentially be wavelength selective, only sending to the panel the wavelengths it would efficiently convert, and so reducing the heat load.

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  6. Generally speaking, there is no orbital bias to speak of. There is no idea of what it means, popularly. Mars, thousands of years of free publicity. Easy to visualize living there. A planet, as the gods intended. The reason to question is to expose bias and correct.

    "1) There's mass already there." All of the mass in the Universe is in Space. How hard is it to get and handle? BIS sez Bennu is easier than Moon, to O'Neill/L5. I need to check this out further, as mass driver delta v is cheaper than reaction mass delta v, so they may be underestimating Moon potential, and we are going there for other reasons too.

    "2) There's gravity already there." Inescapably. Well, hard to at least. Far better to have it avail as needed. No contest.

    "a lifeboat for humanity ASAP" Do what you were going to do on Mars at the ISS, then tow it as far out as needed. Materials a little harder (abundant water for radiation, looks like, btw), from Moon or Bennu? Everything else, easier perhaps? Than on Mars. If you don't define living on a gravity prison floor as a requirement, is has no advantage except as an excellent heat dump, I will admit. Globus ELEO far easier than Mars, quicker to lifeboat as side project. Really!

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  7. I think the supporting material for Earth solar is also protective, large wind and damaging hail sort of stuff. Only if already building a roof or such anyway does it make sense at large scale, even in the desert or ocean.

    A particular question, the efficiency of cells is now so high that the beam strength limit seems to equal the power supplied by the cells, both per area considerations. So, the cells are just the same size as the radars, and on the back rather than separate with conduction lines. This seems to favor a big L5 flat with such a radar and cells on back, and a big flat mirror. And a few redirectors, also for Earth to Earth beams. Criswell may lose an advantage of free flat place for cells, as he builds radar flats vertically, structurally. Or, we could go to Mars. Joke!

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  8. more about the Investors – the money bags.
    With enough money you can do anything and Do It Your Way.
    that's the key – being the Space Whisperer – attract that cash, those prime workers, and get the FAA eating out your hand…
    https://appleinsider.com/articles/21/08/05/steve-jobs-biographer-walter-isaacson-is-writing-elon-musks-biography
    His future Biographer is already indicating a remarkable charisma that just makes you drop your wallet on his first 'line'.

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  9. Sure. but some industries are very mature (e.g. conventional buildings and infrastructure, agriculture, textiles/ furniture….) and many have room to expand due to recent improvement in analysis or material performance or regulatory freedom. It's not long before someone identifies the market for the improved product/ service and assembles the technical team. It is then a race to optimize – and the best team (usually not enough of these to allow all competitors to compete – best to hoard per Musk) will be efficient and creative.

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  10. Not just micro gravity robotics, but vacuum technology. I think once out in space, sputtering and related deposition technologies will have much more extensive application than you see on Earth, where a good vacuum is hard to come by.

    For instance, solar panels on Earth are incredibly heavy, when you consider the working material is microns thick. In space, (Particularly once you get away from Earth's exosphere.) a solar panel could be basically ALL active material, nothing wasted on supporting material. The power to mass ratio could be amazing.

    You'd need to switch to designs that generated high voltage at low current, but it would be well worth it.

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  11. Agreed. Also – Personalities Matter. The members of your key design team have very different personalities. Curmudgeon wants the inefficient but tried and true way that contractor #1 and #2 like. Young Buck wants new materials, new methods, even though Contractor #1 and #3 are not comfortable with that. Woke Token Engineer wants only non-conflict-mined materials and disadvantaged region work location. Boss wants you to meet Client's cost range so full re-design is required over the Weekend of your daughter's birthday.
    It is only very special rare work environments that one can achieve true, efficient, creative excellence. The people that function and lead these things are rare, expensive, and difficult to manage. But hey if you're a billionaire 'just make it happen' guy who promises glory to all – then, hey, these people come to you.
    Musk's success is his ecosystem not his 'self'

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  12. "going to
    Mars requires us to transit through the 'High Frontier' and allows those
    who have a vision of developing the High Frontier to stay and build
    there." Where were you from 1977 until Bridenstein? I've been feigning an interest in Mars until quite recently to just get into the discussion, so I could recommend Moon then Mars, rather than Mars First/Direct/Only, which does absolutely nothing O'Neill. Even Mars ISRU is pretty useless O'Neill, at least until mass can be removed from Mars.

    Now, if you are saying there is support for Mars that is so simple minded that "Space" means "planet", then humor those people along. DO NOT wait for them to achieve their goals before going on. They have had their chance, and failed.

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  13. I think my point there is that there's planetary bias, and there's orbital bias, and I think you're exhibiting the latter.

    The big advantages of planetary surfaces are that,

    1) There's mass already there.
    2) There's gravity already there.

    The big advantages of space are that,

    1) There's a lot of it.
    2) 24/7 sunlight
    3) Zero G.

    Which is preferable depends on which advantages are more immediate.

    In terms of relatively immediate colonization, IF 0.38 gravity is sufficient for good health long term, then I think the fact that you don't have to provide a lot of infrastructure to get your gravity, and have mass already available on site, are decisive. And since Musk's goal is achieving a lifeboat for humanity ASAP, he IS concerned with immediate colonization.

    In the long term, space dominates, because there's only so much planetary surface available, while one good asteroid would provide enough material for a thousand times as much living space.

    But one has to get through the short term in order to reach the long term…

    Now, I did say, "if" 0.38 gravity is sufficient. If it isn't, Mars starts to look bad, because setting up centrifuges on Mars is a lot more inconvenient than on the Moon or in orbit. But, why does Musk need to concern himself with that at this point? He's building a rocket, it can go anywhere, it can launch the variable gravity research facility needed to answer the question. 

    If 0.38 isn't enough, he can change his plans, the effort isn't wasted.

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  14. Familiar with both, but I find Mars a more compelling vision. We've had space stations since the 70's; while granted they are canoes compared to what we could do with a sustained investment – they've been done before. Mars brings back the New Frontier vibe.

    And in the end, going to Mars requires us to transit through the 'High Frontier' and allows those who have a vision of developing the High Frontier to stay and build there.

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  15. Sigh.
    Of course these are lovely 'rule of thumbs' for any aspect of a person's life – organizing your closet and kitchen, fixing and building things around the home, creating effective pattern flow at work, etc.
    "…In school, we get stait jacketed into not being allowed to question the question or questioner and not being allowed to reject questions and steps …" – that's because in school you're an empty-headed-knob (even until your second PhD) that needs to know how to do it the old way/ tried-and-true way First. Know your First Principles. Avoid cutting corners or making unsubstantiated assumptions. Doing everything by Long Hand. Check your own numbers. Be fully aware and comfortable with the 'realistic results' (have a feel for what the 'right' answer should be – don't assume that the number that comes out is always the 'correct' answer). Even after school, no one designs in a vacuum – you are subject to technical literature (steel book, concrete book, etc), standards (ASTM, ASCE…), unfair timelines, idiot bosses/ client/ colleagues/ workers/ technicians/ sub-consultants, unreasonable cost restrictions, and always-always too late to get easy changes done. Even when 10 years into your career, your relationship with your manufacturer/ contractor is key — timely questions, communications, 30%-60%-90% reviews….
    The problem is that most designers are not great at doing things the old way before they go ahead and try to redesign the wheel.

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  16. I've recently realized that design of micr0g mfg equipment can *only* happen in micr0g. The designer has to be with the machine to see what is happening. The machine has to be in micr0g. Also, the machine itself will likely be too flimsy to build or test in 1 g, even if that were otherwise possible. "Only" and "possible" are not absolute, but I'm encouraging young people to study micr0g robots as a ticket to Space.

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  17. Janov is hard science, so the term *question* is more than "How do you do the experiment?" The first thing to question is whether the subject of the Science exists, that is, does the Science itself even exist? Primals exist, but are very impossible to describe as an experience. However, once one has succeeded in doing the experiment, the Primal, there is no doubt, so the questions become much more detailed and, well, scientific in nature. Repression is the model, btw. Not really sure those who have yet to Primal can meaningfully question Janov as in challenging him. They can look for fakes in the epigenetic change claims, but that will lead them to confirmation, not fakes. There is a lot of related stuff in the popular press now, and ACEs, PTSD, childhood PTSD in particular, epigenetics of any kind, childhood neglect caused epi changes in particular, genetic Pain if royalty, these are all parts of Primal Science. They just do not realize it yet.

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  18. O'Neill Space is a synthetic practical even economic plan, based upon simple, rock solid Physics, such as micr0g exists only in freefall. There is sunlight in Space, close to the Sun. There is vacuum in Space. There is *room* in Space. No, I did not say the word. As a Physics, and Astronomy guy, these are not questionable, but others should if they are not clear about it. Also, as a Physics guy, as was O'Neill, I do not pay much attention to the examples. I do question Bezos and much of popular O'Neill stuff as not connecting the big dream to the current situation. ISS micr0g stuff is correcting that. You can do this stuff ONLY in Space!!!

    https://space.nss.org/settlement/MikeCombs/LSP_vs_L-SPS.htm

    "Despite the fact Dr. Criswell brought up much new and helpful information
    and helped me appreciate certain aspects of LSP a bit better, I still
    can't entirely rid myself of the conviction a planetary bias may be involved here.
    When he says, "The Moon exists. You do not have to build it, and you can use its
    materials," I think we're veering from the point. The O'Neill proposal agrees the moon
    is the right source for the materials, and I don't think our choice is between building an
    orbital ore refinery or not, it's between building a refinery in orbit or on the lunar surface.
    Ditto manufacturing facilities."

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  19. On some scale, certainly, as science and prospecting are about the same thing. I compare living, settlements, on the planet that has enuf gravity to do that *planetology* as if I were going to see Montana and only helicoptering into the bottom of the mine pits. Sure, science in particular is there. No micr0g anything. Too tiny to matter! The overall plan has to be big enuf to get the attention of the average person. O'Neill certainly does. Fast interstellar would too, I suppose. Mars? Not for me. Some are really into Mars. Do you suppose they are as familiar with O'Neill plans as they are Mars?

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  20. An expanding technological civilization still needs raw materials. Even O'Neill recognized that, and included lunar mining in his concepts. Since Mars had volcanoes, water, and an atmosphere, it has a varied geology. So some places will likely turn out good places to mine for particular things. Mining camps tend to turn into towns. See: Alaska and the Gold Rush.

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  21. "1. Make your requirements less dumb. Question requirements even from
    very smart people. Whatever requirement you have must have a person
    responsible for it. If people are questioning the requirement, then you
    need to go back to a person who knows why the reason it was needed in
    the first place." -Musk

    "Is the surface of a planet" such as Mars "the right place for an expanding technological civilization?"-O'Neill

    Houston, we have a problem. Musk is planning on going to live on Mars!

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  22. Very insightful comments on the engineering process, that's for sure. My entire career says that he's right about these things.

    The only thing I would add is that anybody designing a component or system must understand the processes that will be used to manufacture it.

    If you don't understand manufacturing processes, you will fall into two errors, sometimes both in the same part:

    1) Designing in features which are extremely difficult or expensive to manufacture, where alternate feature might be easy to manufacture.

    2) Failing to design in features that the manufacturer would have no trouble with, because you mistakenly think that they aren't feasible.

    The best design engineers have spent part of their time manufacturing the things they design, it is a highly useful discipline, which teaches you to design things in terms of manufacturing steps, not modeling steps.

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  23. "Everything is currently too heavy in the Super Heavy Starship"
    Then make stronger rockets.
    You do not need a solid floors or solid internal walls, use grills.
    Cut food to minimum: a cup of rice, some vegetables, and two eggs is enough for a once daily meal.
    Aerodynamics for the super heavy is not that important: minimize material by making the fuel tanks more spherical.

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