SpaceX Tour?

SpaceX Tour?

Does anyone know how to get one of these? I was there last week charging (on a Sunday) and they left the hanger door open - looked to me like they were putting finishing touches on the Falcon Heavy rocket. It was incredible to watch I got chills down my spine.

As a Tesla owner (and I've sold 7 of them so far) is there anyway to get a tour? I'd be happy to pay for it, not looking for a freebie.

SamO | 29 août 2013


I've peeked in and talked to some of the employees in Hawthorne. I got to explain the iPhone app to one air dynamics engineer who didn't know that much about Tesla.


He probably doesn't have the time to monitor the forums ;-)

KOL2000 | 29 août 2013

LOL Sam --wow. I'd actually prefer the spaceX tour to the Tesla one (I haven't done that yet). I already drive a Tesla but never in my life could I see up close or touch a rocket!

They should give owners a choice of tours - Factory or SpaceX!

SamO | 29 août 2013

I took the factory tour when I picked up my car and I think I'd rather see SpaceX too!

But maybe only because there is so much video from the factory. I haven't seen much from SpaceX other than the launch and NASA docking videos.

DanielR | 29 août 2013

I talked to a Model S Owner and SpaceX employee two weeks ago at the Hawthorne Supercharger. They do not give tours. I think you have to know someone inside the SpaceX hierarchy to get a personal tour.

KOL2000 | 29 août 2013

Oh well. I guess I'll just have to settle with ordering a SpaceX t-shirt and cap :(

TeslaWeasel | 29 août 2013

KOL2000 - Head to Florida and the space coast/KSC for lots of great up close and personal interaction with rockets, rocket engines. And talk about heavy lift, there is a complete Saturn V on display (or as my somewhat disinterested wife asked - 'which shuttle is this?'. | 29 août 2013

I'm sure you can get a free tour with every rocket purchase. You may have to take delivery at Hawthorne though.

KOL2000 | 29 août 2013

Thanks Weasel, will definitely do that. The intrigue with SpaceX is higher for me since they are building the future of rockets.

shop | 29 août 2013

Oh man. I was lucky enough to get a private tour Tuesday - you guys have no idea how cool it is! But first, you can have your own tour hosted by Elon himself:

I got invited by a friend who is friends with one of the senior VPs, so we got a private 4 person tour. First, I hadn't realized that the one building in Hawthorne is the entire design, development, and manufacturing line for SpaceX.

At the front of the building, the execs and design engineers have their cubicles (even a senior VP reporting to Elon gets a cubicle). Then you walk into the cavernous manufacturing part of the building. The first thing you see is a giant carbon fiber leg attached to a piston assembly. This is the prototype for the first Falcon 9 re-usable first stage. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out this video to see what what Elon's latest "impossible" achievement is going to be:

The next thing you see is the company cafeteria, staffed so those workers can work long hours (and the place had an amazing energy to it - I'd be pulling long hours if I were there too!).

Then we saw the final assembly for the falcon 9 stage 1 main engines. Falcon 9 uses nine of these engines, and they are working on manufacturing efficiency to pump these out quickly (sound familiar?). Apparently the engines are relatively simple, sacrificing fuel efficiency for less complexity, lower cost, and higher reliability.

We then saw some Dragon capsules in various stages of integration and assembly.

They use a lot of carbon fiber as well as an advanced aluminum alloy called aluminum-lithium. For high strength small parts they had a titanium "printer" that took raw titanium powder and used a laser sintering process to build up the part layer by layer.

They are also using robotic welders, something almost unheard of in the industry. Normally volume is so low, that programming a robot to do thousands of welds is uneconomical, but Elon is planning on dominating this space lift, so he is automating as much as he can.

I saw three almost fully assembled falcon 9 rocket tubes on their sides, almost ready to go to their launch facilities.

They build pretty much every piece of the rockets and capsules in-house. The only off the shelf stuff they buy are computer chips and raw materials (maybe some pumps and stuff like that, but I didn't ask). They make their own PCBs for the avionics, write their own firmware, and construct their own farings, tanks, etc.

This is one reason they are so cost competitive - as opposed to the Boeing way of having dozens of subcontractors, integration meetings, fixed in stone requirements documents, etc. SpaceX allows the faring structural engineer to discuss a weight problem with the engine designers, for example. Highly productive and iterative.

And cost competitive they are - supposedly their prices today undercut the next cheapest space lift competitor (the Chinese) by 30%. Think about that for a moment. A heavily labor intensive manufacturing operation in Los Angeles is able to undercut cheap labor from China.

As far as I can tell, the only reason they don't completely own the commercial lift market today is that they are relatively new (only five paid launches to date have gone up), and customers have long term contracts with other operators. But it appears it is just a matter of time before SpaceX has a virtual monopoly on lifting stuff to orbit. Continued...

KOL2000 | 29 août 2013

my goodness Shop your write up was almost as good as a tour. I'm drooling. Thank you so much!!

shop | 29 août 2013

I also saw one of their mission control centers. It was classic Elon - cheap melamine tables holding up lots and lots of PC and displays. No reason to spend the money, just get the job done.

So, what's next for SpaceX? Very soon now (within a year? I hope so, but I don't know), we will witness history being made when one of their Falcon 9 first stages flys back down to earth and lands on its lunch pad, ready for its next mission. When they get re-usability working their launch prices will drop to 1/10 the cost it is today (my estimate, not theirs). This will open up the market to many more customers.

Once again (as with Tesla, even if "analysts" are too dense to realize it), Elon will own this market. Even today, if you are a bright new engineer, who do you want to work for? You can't compete if you don't have the brain power.

Already today their order book is about $5B (I wasn't sure if that number was only commercial, or both commercial and government).

We all know Elon's ultimate goal is a Martian colony. But do you realize what SpaceX is going to be? It is the modern day equivalent of the East India Company of British colonial times. Huge. Awesome, Impressive. We are seeing really big history being made before our eyes.

NKYTA | 29 août 2013

@shop, thanks!

Brian H | 29 août 2013

How to be a multi-planet species, Step One (or maybe Two).