RSS

The Bulletin

Tesla to Boeing: We can get your Dreamliner up again

Posting in Government

Flame free. SpaceX's Dragan spacecraft - and the rocket that launches it - uses lithium ion batteries, and has yet to catch fire, unlike the Dreamliner.

By now everyone knows the story of the Boeing nightmare: The proud aeorospace giant grounded all 50 of its vaunted Dreamliner planes because the aircraft's lithium ion batteries have displayed a troubling tendency to overheat and in one case, catch fire.

Boeing won't fly them again until it sorts out the problem.

Wait. Doesn't Elon Musk use lithium ion batteries for some heavy lifiting? You know, Elon Musk, the serial entrepreneur (to my mind he takes the mantle from the late Steve Jobs as the reigning prince of business innovation) who runs maverick electric car company Telsa, and private space transport pioneer SpaceX.

Indeed he does, and not just in his cars.

"We fly high capacity lithium ion battery packs in our rockets and spacecraft, which are subject to much higher loads than commercial aircraft and have to function all the way from sea level air pressure to vacuum," Musk told Reuters. "We have never had a fire in any production battery pack at either Tesla or SpaceX."

Fireman. Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk wants to help extinguish the Dreamliner's problems.

With those fire-free credentials, Musk is offering to help Boeing - as he announced on Twitter three days ago, where he said he is talking to the chief engineer of the Dreamliner (also known as the 787). The tweet said:

Desire to help Boeing is real & am corresponding w 787 chief engineer," Musk wrote on the social media website.

He told Reuters that SpaceX battery packs could help the Dreamliner. Boeing and 787 chief engineer Mike Sinnett did not comment in the Reuters story.

Based on a fresh conclusion by Japanese airline safety inspectors, however, any in-depth discussion of the batteries per se could be moot. Japan's transport ministry has now declared that the battery was not the problem, the BBC reports. "Attention has now shifted to the electrical system that monitors battery voltage, charging and temperature," the story states.  (An MIT professor says it will take years to get to the bottom of what's going on).

And don't forget that the Dreamliner has also been leaking fuel, and not all of it's windows have been up to scratch.So there's still plenty to talk to Musk about.

Photo: Dragon spacecraft from NASA. Elon Musk from Brian Solis. Both via Wikimedia.

More Boeing dream catchers on SmartPlanet:

— By on January 28, 2013, 7:10 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure