Elon Musk Talks About Innovation at ISSR&D Conference

The ISSR&D Conference (International Space Station Research and Development Conference, if you want the mouthful version) Is a yearly event, this time being held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington DC.

Numerous personality attended including Robert Bigelow, the founder and president of Bigelow Aerospace, and Kate Rubins, NASA Astronaut who was a part of Expedition 48/49 to the ISS in 2016.

The conference mainly focuses around ISS Science and Research topics, but also around companies like SpaceX, as they are currently ferrying cargo to and from the ISS using the Dragon Capsule, and eventually with the Dragon V2 or Crew Dragon, will be transporting crew members.

Elon’s Talk was originally scheduled to begin at 12:30pm ET but was later delayed until 1:00pm ET / 17:00 UTC. (Typical Elon Time 😉 )

The talk lasted just under an hour and was packed full of information.

The Main Points

  • Around 12 Flights still scheduled for the rest of 2017. We’ve heard this before, but it’s good to see it being re-enforced as a dozen more flights would bring the tally up to 22, the highest annual cadence for SpaceX to date, compared to 2016’s eight successful launches, and 2015’s six.
  • Want’s reuse nailed down so well, that by 2018, the paint won’t even have to be replaced on Falcon, and only inspections will take place, no refurbishment (a good sign for 24 hour turn arounds in the near distant future.)
  • Also quite close to recovering the fairing, worth around 5-6 Million Dollars. Also good because it’s not just the cost of the fairings, but the time it takes to make them. Reuse will eliminate that factor. Elon estimates that fairing reuse will be achievable by late this year or early next year. 
  • 1st Stage and Fairing makes Falcon 80% reusable. All that’s left is the upper stage. For some missions, performance is available to recover second stage, so they’ll probably give that a shot at some point in the future. (How is not yet clear.)
  • Elon thanks NASA for their support with CRS and Commercial Crew. (His password used to be “I love NASA”)
  • Cargo Version of Dragon V2 won’t have Launch Escape System. Elon suspects it could still survive a booster anomaly. Also won’t have Super Dracos.
  • “The key to opening up the LEO and beyond marked is complete and rapid reusability”
  • Boca Chica – South Texas Launch Site will give SpaceX good contingency if there was say a hurricane at KSC/Cape Canaveral.
  • “Lots of opportunities in LEO for providing internet to rural and sparsely populated areas.”
  • Elon is Moon First? “If you wanna get the public fired up, we need a base on the moon, then mars.”
  • Elon: “Upcoming IAC would be a good place for the updated Mars plan. It’s evolved quite a bit since the last talk.” New plan goes over how to pay for all the architecture, about downsized ITS for Earth Orbit capability.


Questions and Answers

  • Q: “How are you managing risk for FH/ Private Lunar Circumnavigation?”
  • A: “A lot can go wrong” “Guaranteed to be exciting” “Difficult to test on the ground” “Real good chance that the vehicle does not make it to orbit.” “Would consider no pad damage a win.” “FH was a lot harder than we thought it’d be.”


  • Q: “Do you think there will be any conflict for the best resources on Mars?”
  • A: “There’s a lot of land on Mars, and not that many people.” “History of civilisation does contain a lot of war.” “I don’t think we’ll go to Mars and it’ll be war free for ever.”


  • Q: “I heard that Dragon is no longer planned to be landed propulsively. Is that true?”
  • A: “Yeah, that was a tough decision. Dragon 2 is capable of landing propulsively. Reason we decided against it was because it would take a tremendous amount of effort to test and validate for crew safety. Could be something that we bring back later, but not right now.” Elon also hinted of Red Dragon’s Cancellation.


  • Q: “Concerns about human health during trips to Mars?”
  • A: “Mars is not for the faint hearted.” “There will be issues. Radiation levels are equivalent to smoking during the trip.” “With some light shielding, we could cut down a large percentage of the radiation.” “It’s not a show-stopper.”


  • Q: “Will we see you riding Dragon to the ISS?”
  • A: “I would like to at some point. Assuming things work out, maybe in 3-4 years.”


  • Q: “Do you see SpaceX having a part in developing biological technology for colonisation of Mars?”
  • A: “For SpaceX, were trying to get people and cargo to Mars for low-cost.” “Will possibly have a propellant plant on Mars. We don’t want to get in the way of what others are doing.”


  • Q: “Advice on space exploration and entrepreneurialism?”
  • A: “Lot’s of technical problems to solve, like making a city on Mars.”


  • Q: “Do you see SpaceX utilising expandable modules?” (like BEAM)
  • A: “I think there will definitely be inflatable modules on the surface of Mars, not focused on them on the way there.”


Only questions that were Space/SpaceX related were included.

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