SpaceX second stage Kestrel engine assembly clean room. (credit: Ken Gosier)
[Editor’s Note: Sam Dinkin recently went on a tour of SpaceX’s facilities in El Segundo, California, as part of a group that won the tour in a silent auction at last October’s Space Frontier Conference. The tour was recorded with the permission of SpaceX. The following is the final part of an edited transcript of an interview that took place during the tour; part 3 was published last week.]
Elon and Arnold
Sam Dinkin, The Space Review: How would you characterize the city of El Segundo?
Dianne Molina, Marketing Manager, SpaceX: There’s a main street. It’s very Mayberry [North Carolina, the ideal small town fictionalized in the Andy Griffith Show]. At the same time there’s multi-billion dollar industry here: Raytheon, Chevron, and Mattel.
TSR: Chevron—that’s where the name of the city came from: El Segundo, the second Standard Oil refinery, in 1911. I wouldn’t be surprised if you could get the attention of Governor Schwarzenegger.
Molina: You know, he has come by.
TSR: He was so excited about the stem cell initiative. I wrote a column about having a California Mars shot (“Vote yes on Prop 2001”, The Space Review, November 8, 2004). Put in on the ballot.
Molina: He and Elon are acquaintances. Arnold has a great after school program: Arnold’s All-Stars. They had about 200 of them visit and outnumbered us. We did a great tour for them.
TSR: Can anybody take a tour?
Molina: We’re not open to the public. As my time is getting more and more limited, it may be cut back even more.
Molina: Here is a pump that we talked about, and the ablative nozzle. It has been difficult to get the right performance, as [VP of Propulsion] Tom Mueller will attest. If you picture the engine sitting on top of this, this is the base of the rocket.
Ken Gosier, Space Frontier Foundation and amateur photographer: This is reusable. You recover it after each time right?
“Elon is very committed to driving the cost lower. The reuse part of the vehicle is a key part of bringing the cost down.”
Molina: Everything below the interstage is what we recover. Obviously valves and different portions of the engine will not be reusable. It’s somewhat of an experiment.