Explaining Southern California's economy

Elon Musk on a roll: First SpaceX succeeds, and now Tesla wins Motor Trend Car of the Year

Paul Sakuma/Associated Press

Tesla workers cheer on one the first Tesla Model S cars sold during a rally at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., in June. The luxury all-electric sedan just won Motor Trend's Car of the Year award.

Elon Musk is a on a serious roll.

He's CEO of two companies: SpaceX and Tesla Motors. SpaceX, based near Los Angeles, just completed the first paid commerical resupply mission to the International Space Station. 

The news just broke that Tesla's Model S sedan has won Motor Trend's Car of the Year award. And here's what the publication has to say:

[T]his is the first COTY winner in the 64-year history of the award not powered by an internal combustion engine? Sure, the Tesla's electric powertrain delivers the driving characteristics and packaging solutions that make the Model S stand out against many of its internal combustion engine peers. But it's only a part of the story. At its core, the Tesla Model S is simply a damned good car you happen to plug in to refuel.

Indeed. I'm not entirely sure, but I think this may be the first time that a car made in the San Francisco Bay Area has ever won COTY. 

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SpaceX claims its first victims as Rocketdyne lays off 100

elon musk

Photo Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk watches Dragon's progress inside of SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne last May. Rocketdyne is firing, but he could be hiring.

Not SpaceX directly. NASA is backing off from running its own missions - and is turning over the servicing of the International Space Station to commercial space companies like SpaceX. Elon Musk's Hawthorne-based startup just recovered the capsule from its first mission to the ISS on a $1.6 billion contract. 

But the money that NASA is spending on SpaceX and others who are offering lower-cost private missions is money it won't be spending on Rocketdyne, which was sold in July by parent company United Technologies to GenCorp for $550 million.

So Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is lay ing off 100 employees, most in the San Fernando Valley,  the Daily News reports.

If commercial space traffic really takes off (the puns are impossible to avoid here), this could become more of a trend. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, long-term, for Rocketdyne and other's Southern California based workers. SpaceX has created the groundwork for the region to become a center of private, startup space companies. They'll be employers, and if they're successful, they could make rocket scientists more than smart. They could make them rich.

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Tesla reports HUGE quarterly revenue increase in latest earnings statement

Tesla Model S electric car on display du

STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

Tesla Model S electric car on display during the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. Will Tesla be able to deliver 20,000 of these babies next year?

The startup electric carmaker Tesla, helmed by CEO Elon Musk (his other company, SpaceX, just splashed-down its first successful commerical resupply mission to the International Space Station), continues to lose money — $1.05 a share in the third quarter, says its most recent earnings statement released today. 

That's worse than in previous quarters and a lot worse than last year's third quarter, when Tesla lost 63 cents a share.

Compounding this bad news: Tesla lost more than analysts had expected. But there's some good news, too - a massive uptick in revenues for this quarter over the one before. This is from Tesla's SEC filing:

Our Q3 revenues were $50 million, an 88% increase from the prior quarter, which reflects ramping deliveries of Model S, continued sales of the remaining Roadsters internationally, and an increase in powertrain component sales to Toyota for the RAV4 EV. We delivered 253 Model S and 68 Roadsters in the quarter. Limited development services revenue was recognized in the quarter; however, progress on the full electric powertrain for the Mercedes Benz EV continues on schedule.

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Hello, commercial space! SpaceX launches first Space Station supply mission

Space-X-Falcon9-Launch-Oct12

SpaceX

The era of commercial space flight officially begins. SpaceX has sent its first full resupply mission to the International Space Station.

It didn't go off without a hitch — although what hitch there was the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket booster's computers handled deftly as it blasted a cargo-laden Dragon capsule toward the International Space Station last night. 

Something went wrong with one engine, but the Falcon 9 was able to adjust in flight and continue the mission. According to SpaceX, the Falcon 9 is the only rocket currently flying that can do this. 

Also, it looks extremely cool when launching at night in Florida (see above).

This is the first of 12 missions that SpaceX will undertake, to resupply the ISS in the wake of the cessation of Space Shuttle flights. The Hawthorne-based startup — whose CEO, Elon Musk, also runs electric carmaker Tesla — proved earlier this year that it could launch a capsule, rendezvous with the ISS, and return cargo to Earth via the old-school splashdown route. 

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Is Tesla Motors running out of money — again?

Tesla Worldwide Debut of Model X

Jordan Strauss/Getty Images for Tesla

Tesla's recently revealed Model X crossover electric vehicle. The company has just announced a new sale of shares to raise money — and avoid payment problems with a Department of Energy loan.

Tesla Motors, the startup electric carmaker whose CEO, Elon Musk, also runs private space-exploration firm SpaceX, is having another one of its periodic financial near-heart attacks. The latest news is that the company, which staged a $226-million IPO in 2010, wants to sell additional stock. A second offering of 6.9 million shares would bring in close to $150 million. [UPDATE: As a commenter notes, the offering was rather less than 40 million shares. Don't know where I got that... Also, this is Tesla's second secondary offering. So really, it's the third offering, including the IPO.]

Why? Yet another cash crunch for the company, which was pretty close to checking out in 2008, before Musk managed to find additional funding and do a deal with Daimler. The critical issue this time around involves the Department of Energy and it controversial loan program for greentech companies. Who can forget Solyndra? But electric cars are also a substantial part of the program, with both Tesla and Fisker Automotive — the two biggest names in alt.transportation — winning loans.

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