TIME Automakers

Tesla Motors’ New ‘D’ Cars Are All-Wheel Drive, Not Self-Drive

US-AUTO-IT-TECHNOLOGY-ENEGY-TESLA
Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk unveils a new dual-engine chassis at the Hawthorne Airport in Los Angeles on Oct. 9, 2014 Mark Ralston—AFP/Getty Images

The “D” in Tesla’s big reveal stands not for “self-driving," but for “dual motor”

Tesla Motors on Thursday night disappointed some auto-market watchers’ expectations that it would put out a self-driving car — but the electric car juggernaut did announce the release of a higher tech version of its Model S car, with all-wheel drive and rapid acceleration rivaling that of luxury vehicles, USA Today reports.

The tripped-out new Model S will have all-wheel drive, plus acceleration of 0-60 mph in just 3.2 seconds, says the newspaper. It can also reach a top speed of 155 mph, up from the Model S’s peak velocity of 130 mph.

“This car is nuts. It’s like taking off from a carrier deck,” Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, told press assembled at Los Angeles’ Hawthorne airport, where his commercial space travel company SpaceX is also based.

The “D” cars will also come with a package of new safety features, including the ability to read speed-limit signs and shift speeds, USA Today says.

Tesla will release three versions of the upgraded car under the “D” designation. The all-wheel drive version without the acceleration boost will be a $4,000 add-on to the basic and mid-level models of the Model S, which starts at $71,000, says the Associated Press. The base price for the all-wheel drive car with boosted acceleration, dubbed the P85D, is $120,000.

The P85D will go on sale in December, while the other versions will go on sale in February, the Associated Press reports.

Musk had fueled speculation about the announcement in Los Angeles with a tweet that the company would roll out something he referred to just as “the D,” plus “something else.” He also tweeted a photo that appeared to be of Tesla’s Model S car.

Some Tesla fans had speculated that the unveiling might be of a ramped-up version of the Model S — but observers had debated if the “D” referred to an automated driving feature, or all-wheel drive.

TIME space travel

Boeing and SpaceX Win Major NASA Space Taxi Contract

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Unveils The Dragon V2 Space Taxi
Seats rest inside the Manned Dragon V2 Space Taxi in Hawthorne, California, U.S., on Thursday, May 29, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

NASA will rely on them to send astronauts to the International Space Station

Updated at 5:26 p.m.

NASA awarded Tuesday aeronautical firms Boeing and SpaceX with contracts totaling $6.8 billion to launch astronauts into low Earth orbit under its Commercial Crew Program.

Proposals by Boeing and NASA were selected by NASA to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), with the goal of certifying crew transportation capability by 2017, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a news conference.

Boeing was awarded a $4.2 billion contract, while SpaceX was awarded a $2.6 billion contract, said Kathryn Lueders, Program Manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

“These contracts highlight what commercial companies can accomplish and we are counting on them to deliver our most precious cargo: the crew who will perform vital science research on the ISS,” Lueders said. “Two contracts give us the necessary mechanisms to assure we’re on the right track.”

The contracts are subject to the completion of safety certifications and development efforts for Boeing’s CST-100 capsule and SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, according to Lueders. Specifically, both Boeing and SpaceX will conduct five certification milestones: a baseline review, a design review, a flight test readiness review, an operational readiness review, and certification review.

Once NASA approves that Boeing’s and SpaceX’s systems meet its requirements, the systems will be certified for two to six human missions to deliver cargo and a crew of up to four to the ISS. The missions will enable NASA to nearly double today’s scientific research potential, Lueders said. The capsules will also serve as a “life boat,” capable of holding crew members safe up to 210 days in the event of an emergency.

Bolden emphasized that the contracts are intended to end by 2017 America’s sole reliance on Russia, whose government charges the U.S. $71 million a seat for rides to the ISS. NASA had previously been able to transport crew to the ISS with its Space Shuttle, but retired the vehicle in 2011. Its replacement craft, the Orion, isn’t set for manned missions until after 2020.

A third contender in the space race, Sierra Nevada, did not secure a piece of the deal with its winged spacecraft, the Dream Chaser. Boeing, with its decades of experience supplying parts and expertise to NASA, was widely considered a favorite among the three companies vying for the NASA contract. SpaceX founder and billionaire Elon Musk had previously criticized Boeing for being too close to NASA.

TIME technology

SpaceX Delays Launch Days After Test Mishap

SpaceX
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sits on a lauch pad on Oct. 7, 2012 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX is delaying this week's Falcon 9 rocket launch by a day following an explosion of a test flight of its experimental Falcon 9R rocket. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

The company says it will review flight record details before the next test flight

SpaceX delayed the launch of a commercial communications satellite on Tuesday, days after an experimental rocket failed mid-flight.

The private space firm founded by Elon Musk was set to launch the AsiaSat 6 satellite on its Falcon 9 rocket early Tuesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, but the launch was delayed 24 hours, the Los Angeles Times reports.

On Friday, a test flight of the Falcon 9R, an experimental reusable rocket, experienced an anomaly, SpaceX said in a statement. As a result, the flight was terminated–the rocket blew itself up.

No one was injured in the incident, and the company said that the experimental flight was “particularly complex.”

But SpaceX said at the time that it would review flight record details before the next test flight, and the LA Times reports that the space exploration company is taking extra time to review the case ahead of the AsiaSat 6 satellite launch.

[LA Times]

TIME space

SpaceX Is Building a New Launch Site In Texas

The next launch site for billionaire Elon Musk's space company will be built in one of the poorest cities in America

Texas Governor Rick Perry announced Monday that private space company SpaceX will build the first-ever exclusively commercial launch site near Brownsville, Texas. SpaceX, owned and operated by PayPal billionaire Elon Musk, received a $2.3 million investment from the state to build its site in Texas.

Brownsville has a median income of $30,000, and nearly 40% of Brownsville’s population lives below the poverty line — the highest percentage in the country. Perry said in his announcement that the SpaceX site will bring 300 new jobs and inject $85 million into the local economy.

TIME space

Window on Infinity: Pictures from Space

From Martian vistas to NASA's #GlobalSelfie, here are the month's best photographs from space

TIME SpaceX

SpaceX Unveils Next Generation Spacecraft

Elon Musk's bid to build NASA's new space taxi

Billionaire Elon Musk revealed Thursday a new state-of-the-art spacecraft that will carry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

“SpaceX’s new Dragon V2 spacecraft is a next generation spacecraft designed to carry astronauts into space,” said SpaceX in an official statement.

NASA has been relying on Russian spacecraft to get American astronauts to and from the space station since the agency retired its shuttle fleet in 2011. Russian flights, however, come at a hefty price: more than $70 million per seat. SpaceX hopes that its latest project, Dragon V2, will be the first commercial crew capsule to carry U.S. and partner astronauts to and from the space station, limiting American reliance on Russia.

TIME space

Watch Elon Musk Unveil SpaceX’s Dragon V2 on This Livestream Tonight

The state-of-the-art Dragon spacecraft will carry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space system

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk will unveil a brand new Dragon spacecraft, which will be responsible for ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station, on this livestream at 10 p.m. ET Thursday, May 29.

“SpaceX’s new Dragon V2 spacecraft is a next generation spacecraft designed to carry astronauts into space,” said SpaceX in an official statement.

NASA retired its fleet of shuttles in 2011. It has since been using Russian spacecraft to reach the ISS, paying Russia $71 million per person per trip. This puts NASA in a precarious situation as Russia could cease service at will — the country’s deputy prime minister, Dmitry Roxine, tweeted such a threat from his Twitter account in April, stating “After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline.”

Musk replied:

SpaceX’s current Dragon design has been used to shuttle cargo to the International Space Station three times.

TIME space travel

SpaceX Dragon Capsule Returns to Earth With Space Station Research

SpaceX Dragon
In an image from video provided by NASA, the SpaceX commercial cargo ship Dragon prepares to leave the International Space Station on May 18, 2014. NASA/AP

The commercial cargo ship touched down in the Pacific Ocean Sunday with research samples that could help improve astronaut health. The Dragon, which arrived in the Pacific Ocean, will be retrieved by boats and taken to Los Angeles, then to SpaceX's McGregor, Texas facility

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo ship returned safely to Earth Sunday afternoon, NASA announced shortly after its arrival in the Pacific Ocean. Dragon touched down packed with more than 3,500 pounds of scientific samples and other cargo from the International Space Station.

Dragon will be retrieved by boats and taken to Los Angeles, California, then eventually to SpaceX’s McGregor, Texas facility. Some of its cargo, including frozen research samples, will be returned to NASA by Tuesday.

“The science samples returned to Earth are critical to improving our knowledge of how space affects humans who live and work there for long durations,” NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations William Gerstenmaier said in a statement. “Now that Dragon has returned, scientists can complete their analyses, so we can see how results may impact future human space exploration or provide direct benefits to people on Earth.”

The research materials carried by Dragon could help scientists to understand why antibiotics aren’t as effective in space as they are on Earth.

TIME Environment

How I Almost Got to Decide the Next XPRIZE

XPRIZE CEO Peter Diamandis
XPRIZE CEO Peter Diamandis takes the stage at Visioneering Donald Norris for XPRIZE

Some of the smartest and most influential people gathered in outside L.A. this weekend to brainstorm the next great innovation contest

Pro-tip: if you’re trying to pitch a winning concept for an XPRIZE contest, get NY1 news anchor Pat Kiernan on your team. I’m pretty sure Kiernan’s presence — and his smooth, TV-honed baritone on stage — was the main reason why the idea designed by Pat, myself and TIME’s Siobhan O’Connor made it to the finals here at XPRIZE Visioneering. We didn’t win — in what I would describe as grand larceny, we lost out to a contest focused around developing forbidden sources of energy. But for three journalists with pretty much zero experience in the digital innovation field, I’d say we did pretty well.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I was in sunny Palos Verdes in southern California for XPRIZE Visioneering. It’s a now annual summit that brings together some of the smartest and most influential people in the world — and a few journalists like myself — to brainstorm what could become the next multi-million dollar XPRIZE concept. XPRIZE was founded in 1995 by the engineer, entrepreneur and relentlessly positive futurist Peter Diamandis, to incubate prize-driven contests meant to inspire innovation. The first XPRIZE is still the most famous — the Ansari XPRIZE, which offered $10 million to the first privately-financed team that could build and fly a three-passenger vehicle 62 miles (100 km) into space twice within two weeks.

It took 26 teams investing more than $100 million dollars for eight years before the prize was won by Mojave Aerospace Ventures, which completed their flights in the custom-built SpaceShipOne. Private space travel was a dream before Diamandis established the XPRIZE — today, the industry is worth more than $2 billion, as entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and his SpaceX company successfully put satellites in orbit without NASA’s help. “It used to be only governments and big companies that could play on a scale like this,” Diamandis has told me before. “But times have changed and accelerated in the direction where agents of change are small entrepreneurs who are enabled by new technologies to do extraordinary things.”

As you might be able to tell from the buzzwords, XPRIZE is extremely Silicon Valley. The contests the foundation has formulated unleash digitally-empowered entrepreneurs on some of the very problems where the government has failed, like ocean health and oil spills. Diamandis himself isn’t shy about the scale of his ambitions. “This is where we imagine the future and create the future,” he told the audience at the opening of the Visioneering conference. “We’re living in a world where you can solve ideas and not just complain about them.” It’s a vision where doing good also means doing well, where an intractable problem like child poverty isn’t a failure of global will, but a market failure. Those who can innovate successful solutions won’t just help the world, they’ll be helping themselves — starting with the multi-million dollar checks that come with an XPRIZE win.

But such contests actually aren’t new. Before centralized government and corporate R&D boomed in the post-WWII era, one of the best ways to encourage innovation was through a prize contest. Some group or person — the government or an individual tycoon — would set out a challenge with a cash reward. The British government did this back in 1714 with the Longitude Prize, to be awarded to the first person who could develop a way for a seagoing ship to measure longitude. The prize was won not by a navigator or ship’s captain — the class of experts who had been trying and failing to discover a solution — but by a clock maker named John Harrison. The 25-year-old Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly nonstop from New York to Paris in 1927 in order to win a contest established by a hotelier named Raymond Orteig. (It was the Orteig Prize that directly inspired the Ansari XPRIZE for space travel.) Lindbergh took home the $25,o00 winnings — and everlasting global fame — but more importantly, the prize kicked off global air travel, seeding an industry of vastly greater value. “Within 18 months of the contest, air passenger traffic had gone up 30 times,” says Chris Frangione, the vice president of prize development at XPRIZE. “This is why prizes are so powerful — they leverage resources.”

The point of the Visioneering conference was to brainstorm the next contest. No one thought small. Bill Gross, the CEO of Idealab, urged the audience to try to solve Beijing’s killer air pollution problem. Shaifali Puri, the executive director for global innovation at Nike, told us to aim for a “moon shot for girls,” to find a way to ensure that tens of millions of girls around the world received the education and protection they needed to flourish. Ratan Tata, one of India’s richest men, said we should focus on the malnutrition and housing woes that still hold back the developing world. “It’s not just tech and it’s not just start-up companies,” he said. “It’s making a difference for disadvantaged people.”

To do that, we needed ideas, and we slotted ourselves into different tracks for brainstorm sessions. I took the future of cities on the first day, where New York University’s Paul Romer, who told us that “cities are where the action is.” We were broken into groups and asked to devise, bit by bit, a new contest that could produce an innovation that would improve life in cities, for the poor and for the rich. Once we’d completed that task — a process that used a lot of Post-It notes and whiteboard space — we pitched our ideas to the larger group, and voted on which one would move to the next stage. I should have known that my group’s idea — loosely centered around finding a way to provide infinite water to urban households — might be in trouble when we began debating whether to play Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” during the pitch. (Our title: “What a Watterful World.” I know.) We did not advance.

But that experience was useful for the next day’s session, on disaster prediction and response. The seismologist Lucy Jones — whom Los Angeles residents know as the “Earthquake Lady” for her ubiquity on TV every time a temblor strikes Southern California — told us the unsettling fact that the next big quake that strikes the San Andreas Fault could essentially cut off water to L.A. for months. We were broken into groups again, and tasked with designing a contest that would help cities prepare and bounce back from the next big natural disaster.

I roped in Siobhan, who had come to Visioneering as my guest, and NY1’s Kiernan, who had also come as a guest and who had only landed in L.A. that morning. None of us were disaster experts, unless you can count living through Superstorm Sandy in New York City. But between the three of us — though sleep-deprived and inexperienced — we managed to come up with a pretty decent idea. We’d called it Web in a Box: to win our proposed contest, a team would have to design a piece of technology capable of providing backup internet service on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis in the event of a sustained blackout following a disaster. Our rationale was that the Internet is now the most important communication hub we have, as vital a resource in the aftermath of disaster as food and water — and not just because you can’t tweet about a disaster if you can’t get online.

We honed our pitch and made it through the initial stages, where the entire Visioneering conference is brought together to vote on different ideas. We were even one of the five pitches that went up against each other in the finals on Saturday night—but no fault of Pat’s, we eventually went down in defeat, as the entire conference cast their votes in what felt a bit like a high school election contested by very rich and powerful people. The winner was a contest that offered $20 million to anyone who could prove an effective, entirely new form of energy. Ambitious, but I still say we were robbed. (We also came out behind a contest that offered prize money to develop a water cleaning system capable of filtering out the microscopic amounts of prescription drugs that are now found in our drinking water. This pitch memorably featured the actress Patricia Arquette asking the audience if they’d taken Viagra that day.)

The winning Visioneering idea won’t automatically become the subject of the next contest, but it will get automatic consideration by the foundation’s board as they decide the subject of the next XPRIZE. The winners also received a trophy created by a 3D printer, which might be the most XPRIZE thing that happened all weekend. We live in a strange age where we seem beset by enormous problems that seem to have no realistic solution: climate change, global inequality, the Alzheimer’s epidemic. As a society, we seem helpless in the face of those ills, gridlocked before looming catastrophe. Sometimes it’s hard to share Diamandis’s relentless optimism. And yet, he’s not wrong: the spread of information technology and education has made it possible as never before for anyone to put forward their solutions — and to be heard. “There is no problem that can’t be solved,” Diamandis said at the close of the conference. “We are heading towards an extraordinary world.” That’s a prize we can all share.

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