Elon Musk says SpaceX still growing in Texas, plans rocket engine factory near Waco

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Austin American-Statesman 10 July, 2021 - 08:41pm 14 views

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is expected in court on Monday, and the stakes are high — if he loses he could have to pay upwards of $2 billion from his considerable personal wealth.

Musk will be the first witness in a trial to defend his role in Tesla's $2.6 billion acquisition of SolarCity. Shareholders have sued Musk and members of the Tesla board, alleging that the 2016 deal amounted to a SolarCity bailout.

They also allege that it unfairly enriched the Musk family, who were among the largest shareholders, and that Musk and others failed to disclose all pertinent details and breached their fiduciary responsibilities. Musk has insisted he was "fully recused" from negotiations over the deal. 

Last year, the board members named in the suit settled with the Tesla shareholders for $60 million with no admission of wrongdoing. Musk, the second-richest person in the world, was the only defendant who chose to take the fight to court.

There's no jury to persuade in this matter. His fate will be determined by the Delaware Chancery Court's judge, Vice-Chancellor Joseph Slights III.

Musk has had his share of legal problems beyond SolarCity.

For example, the SEC sued him in 2018 for fraud, with Musk and Tesla settling, paying $20 million each. The charges came after Musk tweeted about taking Tesla private for $420 a share, a move that sent Tesla's stock price soaring. Musk had to temporarily relinquish his chairman role at Tesla as one of the terms of the settlement.

In a separate case, he emerged victorious after caving expert Vernon Unsworth said Musk had defamed him when the Tesla CEO called him a "pedo guy" on twitter. His attorneys argued that "pedo guy" was heated rhetoric and not meant as statement of fact.

Tesla and Musk are facing many other lawsuits, including one over Musk's unprecedented CEO compensation package, and a number of federal probes according to the company's own financial filings.

In the SolarCity case, the judge will have to decide whether Musk was a conflicted controlling shareholder who met the "entire fairness" standard in his handling of the SolarCity acquisition.

In other words, was Musk acting in Tesla shareholders' best interest? And did Musk tell shareholders everything they deserved to know?

Known as a shareholder derivative action, this kind of lawsuit is filed by investors on behalf of a corporation, rather than the individuals or funds themselves. If the plaintiffs win, proceeds may go to Tesla and not to the stakeholders who brought the suit.

According to a filing with the chancery court, Musk owned 22.1% of Tesla common stock at the time of the deal, and 21.9% of SolarCity. SolarCity was a troubled asset that was bleeding cash in the capital-intensive market of residential solar deployment.

Musk's attorneys are expected to argue that the SolarCity deal hasn't harmed shareholders at all and that they voted overwhelmingly to approve the acquisition. After all, Tesla shares have skyrocketed from a closing price of $43.92 on June 21, 2016 — when Tesla announced it would bid for SolarCity — to a closing price of $656.95 on July 9, 2021 (Friday) after a five-for-one stock split last year.

The company is also part of the S&P 500 now, and reports profits regularly.

SolarCity was founded and run by Musk's cousins, Lyndon and Peter Rive, but backed by Musk who served as chairman of the board. Meanwhile, he also was CEO of Tesla, as well as the company's chairman.

That wasn't his only potential conflict. SpaceX, Musk's aerospace venture, had invested $255 million in SolarCity bonds from March 2015 to March 2016. Four members of Tesla's board directly or indirectly owned SolarCity stock at the time the acquisition was under consideration. And some Tesla board members also held shares in SpaceX and were on its board.

To Musk and many of his supporters, the acquisition of SolarCity in 2016 represented a natural combination of his companies and a way for Tesla to pursue its environmental mission with a broader array of products. Homeowners would be able to finance and install solar rooftop panels from the same company that provided their electric vehicle, home charging station and backup battery for energy storage.

Tesla had already launched an energy division in late 2015, with a home battery dubbed the Powerwall and other big batteries for use by businesses and utilities.

By June 2016, Musk said Tesla would bid $2.8 billion to buy SolarCity. "I don't think this creates additional financial risk for Tesla," he said at that time, and called a merger "blindingly obvious." But Tesla investors were skeptical, with the stock price plunging more than 10% on the announcement. 

In July 2016, Musk presented his vision of Tesla as an automotive innovator and renewable energy titan in his famous "Master Plan Part Deux."

As CNBC previously reported, unsealed court documents, including emails between Musk and SolarCity execs, would later reveal that he knew SolarCity was facing a "liquidity crisis" even as Tesla pursued the acquisition.

"Three things need to happen to change investor sentiment: SolarCity solving its liquidity crisis, an LOI with Panasonic to address solar cell production risk, and a joint product demo," Musk wrote to SolarCity execs in September that year. "Should be able to do all those before the shareholder vote."

In October 2018, Tesla and SolarCity jointly announced a combined solar roof and battery pack. Musk showed off what looked like a solar panel, miniaturized and sleek enough to be mistaken for high-end roofing materials, at the Hollywood set of Desperate Housewives. 

The hype event did help him to turn investor sentiment. In November, the deal was approved in a vote by 85% of shareholders. But after it closed, Tesla's SolarCity business would falter.

Through the years, the company repeatedly delayed mass manufacturing its Solarglass roof tiles. The ones Musk presented as a production-ready prototype in 2016 were actually a non-functional design prototype.

Walmart sued Tesla after fires broke out on panels the company had installed atop their facilities. A former Tesla Energy employee filed a whistleblower complaint to federal agencies about the fire risks of Tesla's solar rooftops. And Panasonic exited from the Buffalo plant that Tesla took over, once it was clear Tesla was not going to manufacture its solar roof tiles there.

While the Tesla solar roof tiles have not taken off, the company's energy storage products are on a tear, as demand for lower-cost electricity from renewable sources picks up worldwide.

In the trial starting Monday in Wilmington, Delaware, Musk will be represented by attorneys with Ross Aronstam & Moritz (David E. Ross, Garrett B. Moritz and Benjamin Z. Grossberg). The trial is expected to run until July 23, 2021, unless the entities seek a settlement before it's done.

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Elon Musk says SpaceX planning second rocket facility near Waco

KWTX 10 July, 2021 - 11:19pm

The SpaceX Rocket Development Facility is currently located at 1 Rocket Road in McGregor, just outside Waco.

“We are breaking ground soon on a second Raptor factory at SpaceX Texas test site,” Musk said in a tweet, “It will be the highest output & most advanced rocket engine factory in the world.”

“This will focus on volume production of Raptor 2, while California factory will make Raptor Vacuum & new, experimental designs.”

When asked why the new rocket facility will not be built at the site of SpaceX’s Starbase Rocket Launching Facility in South Texas, Musk said, “the challenges of operating at Starbase left us with no choice but to put engine production in McGregor.”

Musk later tweeted that by “ volume production,” he meant two to four engines a day. “That’s super high volume for big rocket engines, but low volume by automotive standards,” Musk tweeted.

When asked how many of the raptor engines he hopes to produce a year, Musk answered, “roughly 800 to 1000 per year.”

Musk said that is what is needed “over ten years to create the fleet to build a self-sustaining city on Mars. City itself probably takes roughly 20 years so, hopefully, it is built by 2050.”

We are breaking ground soon on a second Raptor factory at SpaceX Texas test site. This will focus on volume production of Raptor 2, while California factory will make Raptor Vacuum & new, experimental designs.

Elon Musk says SpaceX’s next Texas venture will be a rocket engine factory near Waco

The Dallas Morning News 10 July, 2021 - 09:29pm

9:29 PM on Jul 10, 2021 CDT

The facility, which will be in McGregor, will be the aerospace company’s second rocket engine manufacturing facility and will produce Raptor 2 engines, Musk wrote on Twitter.

SpaceX’s Raptor engines are a family of full-flow stage combustion cycle rocket engines designed for use in Starship launch vehicles. Musk said the company’s California factory will focus on SpaceX’s newer Raptor Vacuum engines, a variant designed for vacuum conditions, as well as new and experimental designs.

The new McGregor facility will produce roughly 800 to 1,000 rocket engines per year, or about two to four engines per day, according to Musk. By big rocket engine standards, the amount is “super high volume” and would make it the highest output and most advanced rocket engine factory in the world, Musk said.

We are breaking ground soon on a second Raptor factory at SpaceX Texas test site. This will focus on volume production of Raptor 2, while California factory will make Raptor Vacuum & new, experimental designs.

SpaceX already has a significant Texas presence, including in McGregor, where it has a testing facility used for research and development of new rocket engines and thrusters and for testing of final engines and components.

SpaceX leases about 4,280 acres and employs about 500 people in the area, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald, and last year officials allocated $2 million to the company, which plans $10 million in infrastructure improvements on the site. At the time, the Tribune-Herald also reported that the company planned offices in Waco for key personnel.

In far South Texas, SpaceX has an operations center called Starbase near Boca Chica, about 20 miles east of Brownsville. It includes a production facility and a launch site where the company tests its Starship rocket prototypes.

Musk said the new engine production factory would be in McGregor because of “challenges” at the South Texas site. He did not give details.

“The challenges of operating at Starbase left us with no choice but to put engine production in McGregor,” Musk tweeted.

In June, Musk said in a Twitter post that he lives primarily in a Boca Chica home worth $50,000 that he rents from SpaceX. He previously said he moved to Texas last year to be closer to his two biggest focuses, SpaceX’s South Texas facility and the Tesla facility currently being built in Austin.

The billionaire also said Saturday that he intends to use the new engine production facility near Waco to help fuel his plan for a city on Mars by 2050. Musk said the engines will be needed for a fleet of rockets to be used over a 10-year period to create the city, which he predicts will take about 20 years to build.

“That’s about what’s needed over ten years to create the fleet to build a self-sustaining city on Mars. City itself probably takes roughly 20 years, so hopefully it is built by 7/8 2050,” Musk wrote.

The company also appears to have plans for growth in Austin. In March, SpaceX posted new job openings for engineers in Austin that said the company is “breaking ground on a new, state of the art manufacturing facility.”

The company has not announced any official plans for the region, nor has it said where the facility might be, but the posts provided a glimpse of the manufacturing that could occur at the site.

Last year, Musk announced that Tesla had chosen Travis County as the site for a $1.1 billion factory. It will produce Tesla’s Cybertruck, Semi, Model 3 company sedan and other vehicles, and it will include a battery manufacturing element It is expected to start production this year.

Neuralink, Musk’s neurotechnology company, also had job postings for Austin in recent months, though the company’s plans are not clear. And last summer, Musk moved his private foundation, the Musk Foundation, from California to Austin.

His infrastructure and tunneling company also seems to have Central Texas operations. The Boring Co. is renovating a space in Pflugerville and has multiple job postings for Austin. A company affiliated with the company also bought 73 acres in Bastrop County in May. The company first hinted that it was hiring in Austin with a cryptic tweet last year.

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Elon Musk trial asks $2 billion question: Who controls Tesla?

Autoblog 10 July, 2021 - 03:00pm

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Does Elon Musk control Tesla Inc or does Tesla control Elon Musk? More than $2 billion hinges on that question as a trial kicks off on Monday. Shareholders allege that Musk used his control of Tesla to force the company in 2016 to rescue SolarCity, saving the solar panel maker - and Musk's investment in the company - from bankruptcy.

The union pension funds and asset managers leading the case want Musk to repay to Tesla the cost of the $2.6 billion deal and to disgorge the profits on his SolarCity stock. If they win, it would be one of the largest judgments against an individual.

The two-week trial in the Court of Chancery in Wilmington, Delaware, will boil down to whether Musk, who owned about 22% of Tesla at the time of the deal, is that rare controlling stockholder who does not hold a majority stake.

"I think it's going to be very hard for the court to ignore the reality that Elon Musk is Elon Musk and his relationship with Tesla," said Ann Lipton, a professor at Tulane University Law School.

She said the case might present an unusual situation given Musk's celebrity status, his personal ties to Tesla board members and those board members' financial ties to SolarCity.

"Put it all together, and it might be enough to count as a controlling shareholder," she said.

Few executives dominate their company's image as much Musk, known for taunting regulators, battling naysayers and personally engaging with his 57 million Twitter followers.

"We are highly dependent on the services of Elon Musk, Technoking of Tesla and our Chief Executive Officer," said Tesla's 2020 annual report.

Plaintiffs allege that Musk drove the negotiations and even pushed Tesla's board to raise, not lower, the price for SolarCity.

A higher price benefited Musk, who was the largest shareholder of SolarCity, with a stake of about 22%, as well as four members of Tesla's board, who directly or indirectly owned SolarCity stock, according to court records.

Board members settled allegations against them last year for $60 million and did not admit to any fault.

Plaintiffs also allege the deal benefited two of Musk's cousins who founded SolarCity, saving a company that was rapidly running low on cash.

Musk has said he was "fully recused" from board negotiations and that shareholders voted to approve the deal because it was central to his "Master Plan, Part Deux" that aims to integrate sustainable solar energy with electric self-driving cars.

He has said that what plaintiffs see as evidence of control is little more than strong management.

"Taken to its natural conclusion, virtually all 'hands-on' and 'inspirational' CEOs with minority stock ownership would be deemed controllers," Musk's lawyers wrote in a court filing.

If Vice Chancellor Joseph Slights determines Musk was a controlling shareholder, it will fall to Musk to prove the SolarCity deal met the high bar of the "entire fairness" standard, which examines process and price, said legal experts.

Musk has noted in court papers that the SolarCity deal has been a huge success for Tesla shareholders, demonstrating the deal was not only fair, but a boon. After Tesla split its stock 5-1 in 2020, it has risen to $652 on Thursday from near $37 a share when the deal closed in November 2016.

"If the vice chancellor thinks this deal was awful and was not effectively negotiated on behalf of the company, he’ll strike it down," said Larry Hamermesh, a professor at Delaware Law School.

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Tesla starts rolling out its long-delayed Full Self Driving version 9 beta

Yahoo Tech 10 July, 2021 - 12:09pm

The update simultaneously references a recently-activated feature that uses the cabin camera to make sure you're paying attention while Autopilot is engaged. Regardless of improvements, Musk urged beta testers to "please be paranoid" and be ready to take the wheel at a moment's notice.

Version 9 has been a long while in coming, as The Verge noted. Tesla first promised to begin activating FSD features in August 2018, and Elon Musk vowed to have "over a million" cars driving themselves in 2020. Clearly, that didn't pan out — even a small beta from October of that year didn't come close to letting you keep your hands off the wheel. This latest release suggests there's some progress, even if it's unlikely that true autonomous driving will be ready in the near future.

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The future of self-driving? Maybe less like Elon Musk and more like Domino's pizza robots

CNBC 10 July, 2021 - 09:58am

As companies like Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk come to Austin, Texas, the booming city and new tech hub has grown so much it has struggled to make good on its "keep it weird" motto.

But since early June, when residents of the South Congress, Downtown, or Travis Heights neighborhoods order pizza from Southside Flying Pizza, their pies might arrive inside a three-wheeled robot — the REV-1. But it is no full self-driving Tesla.

About two dozen REV-1 vehicles now trundle down the roads of Austin and Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the company behind the robots — Refraction AI — first launched in 2019 in a bid to harness driverless technology in a new way.

Autonomous vehicles, and their potential to disrupt the way people get around, have hovered on the horizon for years. But the technology hasn't matured as dramatically as early investors had hoped. Tesla says it is full speed ahead with autonomous and is launching its latest beta test on July 10, but the company has missed many self-imposed deadlines and Musk recently conceded that full self-driving is harder than he had forecast. Meanwhile, both Uber and Lyft sold off their self-driving research divisions in recent months.

For start-ups like Refraction AI, though, the aim is to speed the arrival of a driverless future by starting small, with more modest systems focused on moving packages, rather than people.

"We think this is the future of autonomy," Refraction AI CEO Luke Schneider said.

While one might technically call the electric REV-1 a driverless vehicle, it's a completely different beast from the LiDAR-equipped multi-ton vans in development from Alphabet-backed Waymo, General Motors-backed Cruise, and other multibillion-dollar ventures. Musk has bashed LiDAR in the past, calling it a "crutch," though recent reports indicate the company has recently used the technology for reasons that remain unclear.

The REV-1 "trikes" stand 4.5 feet tall and weigh 150 pounds, making their profile more like bicycle couriers than delivery vans. And they act like cyclists too. After a restaurant worker places the "payload" in a REV-1's storage compartment (which fits about six grocery bags), the robot uses an array of sensors to navigate to the edge of the road, or, if available, a bike lane. It then drives away at no more than 15 miles per hour toward its destination, where the customer greets it at the curb and unlocks their meal or package with a unique code.

If the vehicle runs into trouble along the way, which could include unusual obstacles like a curbed couch, or common but tricky-to-automate moves like turning left across traffic or navigating crosswalks, a dozen "pilots" are standing by to remotely and temporarily take control of the REV-1. 

In Schneider's eyes, these distinctions give the REV-1 a crucial edge in the delivery business. The small, slow carts can't do much damage in the event of a malfunction. They don't hog the road. And the outsourcing of the trickiest driving to the pilots means the company is ready to deliver food today. Spending years and billions of dollars to develop a fully autonomous 4,000-pound vehicle and then using it to deliver pizzas, to Schneider, is overkill. "I call it bringing a ballistic missile to a knife fight," he says.

So far, the company appears to be making progress in solving this facet of the overall challenge of autonomous driving. They recently reconfigured the REV-1's sensors to give it night vision, allowing it to work during the most popular time for meal delivery. Schneider says the REV-1 fleet carried seven times more meals early this year than it did late last, and has continued to make more deliveries every month since March. The 50-employee company recently raised 4.2 million dollars in seed money, for a total funding of $8 million.

Refraction AI isn't the only self-driving start-up thinking small.

Nuro, a California company that has raised about $1.5 billion in funding according to Crunchbase, has developed a golf-cart sized delivery vehicle called the R2 capable of driving at 25 miles per hour. In April, the R2 began delivering pizzas for Domino's Pizza in Houston, Texas. Last week, the company announced that its next-generation vehicle will deliver packages in a partnership with FedEx.

Nuro was founded by Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, two former Alphabet engineers whose self-driving enterprise became Waymo. They were motivated by an assumption similar to that driving Refraction AI: Getting people entirely out of the equation would allow for a lower stakes first application of driverless vehicles.

"We set out to build a new class of vehicle, designed purely for transporting things," wrote Ferguson in a 2020 Medium post. "A zero-occupant vehicle."

A Chinese startup, Unity Drive Innovation, has taken a similar approach to distributing vegetables and meal boxes during the pandemic.

Even as mini-delivery carts start to venture out into residential streets and bike lanes, self-driving behemoths continue to doggedly pursue the technology's full potential: vehicles that can carry anyone or anything anywhere without a driver.

Alphabet's Waymo initially rolled out a partially autonomous beta test of its ride hailing service, Waymo One, in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2018. Last October, it opened the service to the public, simultaneously making it fully autonomous, with no drivers and no remote pilots — although it does use a "fleet response team," specialists who feed the cars information when the machines can't interpret an ambiguous situation, such as construction or road closures.

Waymo has also worked with UPS in Phoenix to shuttle packages between UPS stores and a local shipping hub. And two weeks ago it announced a partnership with trucking company J.B. Hunt to autonomously haul cargo across a route in Texas, initially under human supervision.  

The company's leadership remains confident in what Julianne McGoldrick, a Waymo spokeswoman, describes as a flywheel effect. Once you develop a vehicle that can navigate the roads about as well as a human can, you can use it for any number of applications that will mutually reinforce one other.

"We have seen that all the progress we're making on ride hailing and on passenger cars directly feed into the trucking and local delivery areas, and then the progress we make there also goes back into ride hailing," McGoldrick says.

Waymo, Nuro and Refraction AI are proving that machines can navigate the world well enough to start ferrying around people and pizzas in small numbers.

But the billion-dollar question remains: Will either model prove profitable enough to make self-driving vehicles go mainstream, potentially reducing the world's carbon emissions and auto-accidents?

Ashley Nunes, a transportation research fellow at Harvard Law School, says that driverless vehicles might supplement current ride hailing and delivery services in places like densely packed urban areas with mild weather. But he suspects the harsh economics of competition with personal vehicle ownership will challenge the truly transformational benefits. He points out that all self-driving fleets require oversight, whether in the form of remote pilots or a fleet response team, and that the price of this human labor limits how affordable the vehicles can become.

"'Autonomous' or 'driverless' does not mean 'humanless,'" he says.

But that won't stop companies like Nuro and Refraction AI from aiming to bring a future brimming with driverless vehicles closer, one pizza at a time.

"This is going to take a lot more money and a lot more time than we thought it was," Schneider says. "It's not going to be a flip switch overnight."

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Twitter user asks Elon Musk if he has seen Loki, he says this in reply

Hindustan Times 10 July, 2021 - 02:53am

Are you a Marvel Cinematic Universe fan? Then there is a high possibility that you have seen Marvel Studios' latest creation Loki. Starring Tom Hiddleston as the God of Mischief, the series has already earned praise from fans and critiques alike. There are also many who have taken to Twitter to express how much they like the show. One such post is by a Twitter user who not only praised Loki but also asked Elon Musk if he has seen the show. And the tech billionaire replied.

It all started with a tweet by Elon Musk. “Fellowship of the Raptors,” he wrote giving a twist to the title of the popular movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Replying to the post, the Twitter user shared a LOTR-related punny post and also asked Musk the Loki-related question. Elon Musk in reply wrote, “Indeed, Loki is quite good.”

Elon Musk's reply, since being shared a few hours ago, has already gathered more than 2,300 likes and counting. It has also prompted people to share all sorts of comments.

“Favorite marvel movie?? (Endgame is clearly the only acceptable answer)” wrote a Twitter user. “Cool,” shared another. “Awesome,” commented a third.

What are your thoughts on the Twitter exchange between Elon Musk and a user of the micro-blogging site?

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World's 2nd richest man Elon Musk reveals the cost of his house - Tamil News - IndiaGlitz.com

IndiaGlitz.com 09 July, 2021 - 07:00pm

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Even though people might expect one of the richest men in the world to be residing in a luxurious villa or a castle type building, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has made an astonishing revelation that he currently lives in a house worth merely $50,000 in Boca Chica, Texas.

Elon Musk also recently mentioned that he only owns one house in California's Bay Area - Tesla's event home and that he has sold his remaining properties. A Twitter user had earlier posted, "Elon Musk lives very modestly by billionaire standards. Only 1 residential house (plus 1 for events). @ElonMusk uses less resources than most multi-millionaires despite working way harder. Plus $ sitting in stocks, makes each $ outside worth more exactly proportionally."

In response to that, Elon Musk had said, "My primary home is literally a ~$50k house in Boca Chica / Starbase that I rent from SpaceX. It’s kinda awesome though. Only house I own is the events house in the Bay Area. If I sold it, the house would see less use, unless bought by a big family, which might happen some day."

Elon Musk's Texas house is reportedly a Boxabl Casita, which is a foldable, prefabricated home designed for quick installations and maximum affordability, and generally has a layout similar to that of a mini studio apartment. It consists of a large room divided between the living room, bedroom area, kitchen and bathroom.

"A 20×20 unit such as the one that Elon Musk reportedly owns is priced at only $50,000, less than the cost of a Model Y Long Range Dual Motor AWD. The Boxabl Casita is durable, too, being made of concrete panels and steel. It could be installed very quickly and transported easily, as well, with the home being light enough to be pulled by a vehicle like a Model X," according to Elon Musk's fan blog Teslarati.

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