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SpaceX launches Starlink satellites, misses booster landing for second time – SpaceNews



WASHINGTON — SpaceX successfully launched 60 satellites for its Starlink broadband constellation March 18, but failed to recover the rocket’s first stage, marking the company’s second consecutive booster miss on a Starlink mission. 

The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 8:16 a.m. Eastern from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and deployed the satellites into a 221-kilometer low Earth orbit about 15 minutes later. One of the nine engines on the rocket’s first stage shut down prematurely during ascent, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted after the mission. 

The engine shut down didn’t affect orbital insertion, he said. Musk did not address if the engine outage was influential in SpaceX’s inability to recover the booster, which was completing its fifth reflight — the highest SpaceX has attempted. Musk said a “thorough investigation” will be needed before SpaceX’s next mission. 

SpaceX previously planned to launch its latest Starlink satellites on March 15, but aborted the launch immediately after engine ignition due to what SpaceX described as “out of family data” during an engine power check.

The launch Wednesday was SpaceX’s first to use the same Falcon 9 booster for a fifth time. SpaceX used the same booster to launch 10 Iridium Next satellites in July 2018, Argentina’s Saocom-1A satellite in October 2018, the Indonesian Nusantara Satu satellite in February 2019, and the second dedicated Starlink mission in November. The company has designed Falcon 9 first-stage boosters to complete 10 flights each. 

SpaceX tweaked the mission profile for Starlink launches starting with its Feb. 17 mission, dropping off 60 satellites in an elliptical orbit rather than a circular one, to reduce the load on the rocket and ease booster recovery. Neither mission using that modified profile has been successful, however. 

SpaceX did successfully recover a booster in between Starlink missions, landing the first-stage used for NASA’s CRS-20 space station resupply mission March 9.

SpaceX’s March 18 launch did successfully reuse payload fairing halves from a Starlink mission last May. The company said it retrieved the fairing halves again, but by pulling them out of the ocean instead of catching them during descent with the boats “Ms. Chief” and “Ms. Tree,” which are outfitted with large catcher’s nets. 

SpaceX has now launched 362 Starlink satellites, counting two demonstration spacecraft in 2018. The company said it will test the latest 60 satellites at their drop off altitude before using electric propulsion to raise them to their target 550-kilometer orbit.

SpaceX is building and launching a constellation of up to 12,000, and potentially even 42,000, satellites for global internet connectivity. Musk said at the Satellite 2020 conference that Starlink is designed to serve the 3-4% of the population that is most difficult to reach. Musk said SpaceX is not thinking about spinning off Starlink as a separate business. 

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Tesla's Musk earns $770M in stock options, company confirms –



DETROIT — Tesla confirmed Thursday that CEO Elon Musk will get the first tranche worth nearly $770 million of a stock-based compensation package triggered by the company meeting several financial metrics.

The electric car and solar panel maker’s board certified that Musk earned the big payout, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing says Musk can buy 1.69 million shares of Tesla stock for $350.02 each, but it wasn’t clear whether he had exercised the stock options. His payout is based on the difference between the option price and Thursday’s closing share price of $805.81.

Musk earned the options as part of an audacious compensation package approved by the board in 2018.

According to the filing, the board certified that Tesla had reached the milestones by hitting $20 billion in total revenue for four previous quarters and a total market value of $100 billion. The company also reached $1.5 billion in adjusted pretax earnings, but that must still be certified by the board, the filing said.

Musk has to hold the stock for a minimum of five years, under the terms of the compensation package.

Musk can afford to wait before cashing in on his latest windfall, given his wealth is estimated at $39 billion by Forbes magazine.

All told, the incentives approved by Tesla’s board in 2018 consist of 20.3 million stock options that will be doled out in 12 different bundles if the company is able to reach progressively more difficult financial goals. It’s one of the biggest corporate pay packages in U.S. history.

In order for Musk to receive all 20.3 million stock options, Tesla will have to generate adjusted annual earnings of $14 billion on annual revenue of $175 billion coupled with a market value of $650 billion. In the past four quarters, Tesla, which is based in Palo Alto, California, has reported adjusted earnings totalling $3.6 billion on revenue totalling $26 billion.

The Associated Press

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Elon Musk reaches first Tesla compensation award worth nearly $800 million – The Verge



Tesla CEO Elon Musk has unlocked the first of 12 possible stock option awards from the massive compensation plan he signed in 2018, and it’s worth nearly $800 million. The company disclosed on Thursday that Musk now has the option to buy 1.69 million of its shares because Tesla eclipsed $20 billion in total revenue over the last four quarters and a market capitalization of more than $100 billion — the first in a series of tandem milestones Tesla must hit for Musk to realize the full value of the plan.

Tesla’s stock price was $805.81 when the markets closed on Thursday, meaning those shares are worth about $1.36 billion. But Musk only has to pay a $350.02 per share “strike price” to get them, according to the agreement, or a total of about $591 million — meaning he could net around $770 million depending on when he pulls the trigger.

If Tesla’s stock price keeps going up, and the company hits additional revenue goals, Musk could wind up collecting around 20.3 million new shares of Tesla at that strike price, clearing a path for him to collect tens of billions of dollars or more.

Musk does not collect a salary at Tesla, and the company originally categorized the compensation plan — which replaced one from 2012 — as an “at-risk performance award” that “ensures [Musk] will be compensated only if Tesla and all of its shareholders do extraordinarily well.” Musk is worth around $40 billion on paper already, but has downplayed his personal wealth. He repeatedly points out that he reinvests a lot of the money he makes back into his own companies and is relatively cash poor. But he also borrows against his Tesla holdings and puts that money into his companies as well, so the more of the company he owns, the more money he could have access to in the future.

Confirmation of the award was tucked inside Tesla’s annual “proxy filing,” a document that lays out what shareholders should expect at the company’s annual meeting. This year that meeting will take place on July 7th, according to the filing. While many companies have been holding online-only shareholder meetings during the pandemic, Tesla says it will hold an in-person event at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California in addition to a webcast. The company is leaving room for that to change, though.

“[W]e will continue to monitor public health and travel safety protocols required or recommended by federal, state and local governments. If necessary or advisable to protect our personnel and stockholders, we will change the date, time, location and/or format of the 2020 Annual Meeting,” the company writes.

Shareholders will have seven proposals to vote on at that meeting, the first three of which are from Tesla. The first is to reelect Elon Musk and Tesla chairwoman Robyn Denholm to the board of directors, and to approve the recently-announced appointment of Hiromichi Mizuno. The second is to approve compensation for Tesla’s executives. The third is to reappoint PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP as Tesla’s auditor.

Proposal four is from shareholder James M. Danforth, who wants Tesla to start spending money on advertising — something Musk has famously avoided. Danforth says Tesla should “spend at least $50/car produced to advertise its products/services in order to increase brand and product awareness and interest, achieve other goals set forth in the supporting statement below and to help mitigate and/or reduce harm to Tesla’s goals, objectives, reputation and finances.”

Danforth says advertising “became necessary the moment Tesla announced in Q1-19 that it would shut down retail stores and start focusing solely on website based sales instead.” He says Tesla ads could “mitigate and dilute substantial FUD (“Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt”) and misinformation campaigns sponsored by competitors and detractors worldwide and steer the narrative more favorably,” and “increase knowledge and support for climate damage avoidance worldwide.”

“Tesla’s call to action via advertisements will ring loudly and credibly with billions of consumers, many of whom who don’t know who Tesla is at all. This call to action has never been more necessary or important than right now,” he writes.

Tesla disagrees, and is recommending shareholders vote down the proposal. “While we welcome stockholder feedback, we also believe we have an experienced management team that is best situated to determine Tesla’s day-to-day business operations, including our sales and marketing practices and expenditures,” the company writes. Tesla also disagrees with Danforth’s assessment of the changes it made last year to its retail operations.

The fifth proposal comes from shareholder James McRitchie, who wants these votes to be measured by a simple majority — something he’s done repeatedly in the past. Tesla recommends voting it down.

Proposal six is for Tesla to scrap forced arbitration. It comes from impact investment firm Nia, which argues that forced arbitration “limits employees’ remedies for wrongdoing, keeps misconduct secret, precludes employees from suing in court when discrimination and harassment occur, and prevents employees from learning about shared concerns.”

“Continuing to rely on arbitration clauses when these protections may be removed, with retroactive implications, creates a long-tail risk for Tesla,” Nia writes. “Investors’ concerns about non-transparent working conditions, which allow for potential harassment and discrimination, are particularly pertinent to Tesla, which has faced allegations of sexual harassment and racial discrimination.”

Tesla disagrees, and recommends shareholders vote against the proposal. The company defends its use of arbitration, and says Nia “does not state convincing support for a correlation between arbitration and harassment, discrimination, or limits on employee grievances generally.”

The final proposal comes from the Sisters of the Good Shepherd New York Province, who want Tesla to prepare a report about human rights violations at the companies it buys raw materials from. Tesla believes the Supplier Code of Conduct and Human Rights and Conflicts Minerals Policy on its website and the company’s annual conflict minerals report (the 2019 version of which was published Thursday) go far enough, and recommends shareholders vote against the proposal.

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SpaceX's historic astronaut launch try draws huge crowds despite NASA warnings –



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Spectators crowd the lawn at the end of Main Street in Titusville, Fla., to watch SpaceX launch Demo-2, its first astronaut launch for NASA, from the Kennedy Space Center on May 27, 2020. (Image credit: Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
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Spectators pack the sidewalk near Space View Park in Titusville, Fla., on Wednesday, May 27, 2020.

Spectators pack the sidewalk near Space View Park in Titusville, Fla., on Wednesday, May 27, 2020. (Image credit: Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
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One mask is visible in this photo of people gathered to watch SpaceX's launch attempt May 27, 2020.

One mask is visible in this photo of spectators gathered in in Port Canaveral, Florida to watch SpaceX’s first astronaut launch for NASA on May 27, 2020. (Image credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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A hopeful, future astronaut celebrates the SpaceX launch attempt in person.

A hopeful, future astronaut celebrates SpaceX’s first astronaut launch attempt in person in a park in Titusville, Florida on May 27, 2020. (Image credit: Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Despite warnings from NASA officials and the risks implied by the current pandemic, which has so far claimed over 100,000 lives in the U.S., approximately 150,000 people gathered on Florida’s space coast to watch SpaceX’s first attempt at launching astronauts to space yesterday (May 27).

SpaceX attempted to launch its Crew Dragon spacecraft with two veteran NASA astronauts from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center yesterday as part of the Demo-2 test flight to the International Space Station. Unfortunately, bad weather delayed the launch to no earlier than Saturday (May 30). 

Despite the risks of the coronavirus pandemic (there have been over 52,000 cases and 2,300 deaths related to the novel coronavirus in Florida so far), stormy weather and a tornado warning, approximately 150,000 people traveled to watch the event. “We are still running cell phone data and other reports for possible additional insight, but the estimated number of viewers in person was 150,000,” Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism told in an email. 

Full coverage: SpaceX’s historic Demo-2 astronaut launch explained

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine made a public announcement before the launch, urging people to do the exact opposite of what these visitors did: stay home. Bridenstine said that people should watch the launch virtually, as full launch coverage was available live on NASA TV and, by gathering and not social distancing, there is a risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Kennedy Space Center was not even open to visitors for SpaceX’s launch attempt yesterday, but its visitor center reopened to the public today (May 28). NASA scheduled the facility’s big reopening for after the SpaceX launch. But, as photos from the event show, people still came in droves and packed into Florida’s nearby beaches and the causeway, desperate to get a peek at the launch. 

Related: Live updates about the coronavirus and COVID-19

The crowds of spectators, who filled highway lanes, creating serious traffic jams on their drives home following the launch delay, were impressive. However, if this launch didn’t take place during a pandemic, approximately 500,000 people could’ve been expected on the space coast, Dale Ketcham, the vice president of government & external relations at Space Florida, told in an email. 

Florida has recently begun to loosen its restrictions, originally imposed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, by reopening businesses and public spaces like beaches. It is yet to be seen how many people will return to Kennedy (which will by then be open to the public) this Saturday for the next launch date. 

Email Chelsea Gohd at or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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