Elon Musk Dares Himself to ‘Eat His Hat’ if a Competitor Launches Another Rocket Before 2023

Talking about United Launch Alliance's plan Musk said, “I will seriously eat my hat with a side of mustard if that rocket flies a national security spacecraft before 2023.”
Sibel Nicholson

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk began discussing the performance of the Falcon Heavy rocket on Monday after its launch last week.

Musk sounded irritated about the comparisons between the Delta IV Heavy rocket, which is manufactured by SpaceX competitor United Launch Alliance, and the Falcon Heavy.

Doug Ellison, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory visualization producer, shared last week on Twitter some calculations showing that in some cases the Delta IV Heavy rocket could match Falcon Heavy’s performance for certain missions to the outer Solar System.

Falcon Heavy less costly

Elon Musk responded by saying that the data Ellison's numbers were based on was flawed. Musk also said that the Falcon Heavy cost much less than the competition.

Tory Bruno, the chief executive of United Launch Alliance, also joined the discussion.

Elon Musk did not seem to believe these numbers, and he also did not believe the slightly higher forecast of the Delta IV Heavy's cost ($400 million).

Replying to David Legangneux’s tweet “Just under $400M for Delta IV Heavy, not over. The cost of the Parker Solar Probe launch is $389.1M (contract announced in 2015).”, Musk said, “That was three years ago, before ULA cancelled all medium versions of Delta IV. Future missions have all Delta fixed costs piled on, so their cost is now $600M+ for missions contracted for launch after 2020. Nutty high.”

Talking about United Launch Alliance's plan to replace its Delta and Atlas rockets with a new, powerful booster called the Vulcan rocket, Musk said, “Maybe that plan works out, but I will seriously eat my hat with a side of mustard if that rocket flies a national security spacecraft before 2023.”

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Originally planned for a launch in 2019, the Vulcan rocket's first launch may now slip into mid-2020 at least. But Musk seems to believe the test flight and Air Force certification process may delay that quite a bit longer.

Help NASA's mission

Musk hopes that the Falcon Heavy, which was launched last week, will help with interplanetary exploration and assist the mission of Nasa.


Considered the world’s most powerful space rocket in operation, it will work towards a return to the moon for the first time since 1972, and is designed to eventually land humans on Mars before the middle of the century.

The Falcon Heavy’s upper stage has a $100,000 Tesla Roadster sports car and a dummy in the driver’s seat called Starman. Musk, the founder and lead designer of SpaceX had first announced plans for a heavy-lift rocket in 2011. He constructed the Falcon Heavy by putting together three boosters from the company’s smaller Falcon 9 cargo rockets.