SpaceX's New Rocket Blasts Off, Puts Sports Car in Space

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Demonstration missions like this one typically carry steel or concrete blocks as mass simulators, but SpaceX decided it would be more worthwhile to launch something fun and without irreplaceable sentimental value: a red Roadster for the red planet. When asked in November whether that was still doable, the CEO paused for 12 seconds and then didn't directly answer.

This still image taken from a SpaceX livestream video shows "Starman" sitting in SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's cherry red Tesla roadster after the Falcon Heavy rocket delivered it into orbit around the Earth on February 6, 2018. Also avidly interested will be numerous hundreds of thousands of would-be buyers who put down $1,000 deposits, starting nearly two years ago, to reserve Model 3s. While most of those funds are from the almost half-million reservations Tesla has for the Model 3, a growing portion comes from the battery-powered Class 8 truck and high-end sports vehicle. The moonshot was planned for late this year but SpaceX has yet to commit to that timeline.

Establishing a colony on Mars is Musk's stated long-term goal and Falcon Heavy is one step in the ambitious project he outlined a year ago. It doesn't help that Chris Lattner, who led the team from January 2017 until June, recently got his Model 3 and threw some shade via Twitter about lack of progress on Autopilot.

Musk revealed his most recent plan at a conference in Australia past year.

In addition to the new electric cars, Tesla last fall introduced a new electric trailer called the Tesla Semi.

It is also planning an autonomous coast-to-coast drive to "showcase a major leap forward for our self-driving technology", according to Musk.

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For 2017, Tesla's net loss totaled $1.96 billion, almost three times 2016's red ink and reflecting the growing pains of a company with massive ambitions.

At those levels, it would qualify as one of the world's best-selling vehicles.

Tesla investors continue to display patience, as well. In this heliocentric orbit, the spacecraft can, as Mask said, remain for even a billion years. The company is bursting at the seams at its auto plant in Fremont, California, and is still building out its Gigafactory near Reno, Nevada. The company sold 28,425 of those vehicles in the fourth quarter.

The loss was narrower than Wall Street had expected, however. "We expect energy generation and storage gross margin to improve significantly in 2018 as we enter the year with a backlog of higher-margin commercial solar projects and a more profitable energy storage business due to manufacturing efficiencies from scaling".

The comparatively cheap Model 3 is aiming to put Tesla sales over the hump and into wider acceptability.

Tesla ended the fourth quarter with $3.37bn in cash, just below the $3.5bn in the previous quarter, which had been boosted by a $1.8bn debt sale.