Surprise! Elon Musk actually gets his tunnel-boring machine at SpaceX
Sections of a tunnel-boring machine are being worked on in a parking lot along Crenshaw Blvd. across the street from SpaceX in Hawthorne on Thursday, April 27, 2017. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)
When SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told his Twitter followers in December that he was sick of traffic and planning to build a tunnel-boring machine to “just start digging,” most thought it was a joke.
Musk insisted, on Twitter – his favorite form of public communication – that it was true.
He even proposed a name – The Boring Co. – and a slogan: “Boring, it’s what we do.”
Sections of a tunnel-boring machine are being worked on in a parking lot along Crenshaw Blvd. across the street from SpaceX in Hawthorne on Thursday, April 27, 2017. “The Boring Company” name already has been applied. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)
On Thursday, an all-white tunnel-boring machine appeared outside SpaceX’s Hawthorne headquarters.
“The Boring Company” was written on the side of the massive cylindrical machine sitting in the parking lot. Still in three pieces from its transport, it wasn’t fully put together yet.
SpaceX officials did not comment, and a SpaceX employee immediately took down a photo of the machine he had posted on social media.
Though Musk initially said SpaceX engineers would build the machine, he later said he planned to “get” one and take it apart to learn how to make it more efficient.
Last week, a tunnel-boring machine used by L.A. Metro to carve out 2 miles of earth for the new Crenshaw/LAX line was removed from the future Leimert Park Station in South Los Angeles in three pieces.
No one confirmed whether the 950-ton, 400-foot-long steel grinder would go to SpaceX. Metro had dubbed the machine “Harriet,” in honor of Harriet Tubman, an American abolitionist instrumental in the Underground Railroad, after a student contest.
The day Harriet finished work for Metro, Musk submitted plans to Hawthorne officials to build an underground pedestrian tunnel from SpaceX headquarters to its parking garage across Crenshaw Boulevard.
A vertical tunnel shaft already has been dug in the SpaceX parking lot.
Now, The Boring Co. machine will dig – cheese grater-style – a 500-foot-long, horizontal pedestrian tunnel that is 20-by-150 feet and 13.5 feet in diameter, according to interim Hawthorne City Manager Arnie Shadbehr.
While Musk said he wants to build tunnels for automobiles, he hasn’t specified where or how he would do that.
Tunneling would fit nicely with Musk’s Hyperloop plan, which he announced in a 2013 white paper as a new kind of mass-transit technology that would propel passenger pods through vacuum-sealed tubes at hundreds of miles per hour.
At the first-ever university Hyperloop-pod prototype competition in January outside SpaceX headquarters, Musk discussed his tunneling plans. He said his ultimate goal is to improve tunnel engineering to build tunnels better and faster.
“We started digging a hole on Crenshaw just in front of SpaceX,” Musk said. “There’s a giant hole. So, that’s going to be the start for the tunnel-boring machine.
“We’re going to try to figure out what it takes to improve tunneling speed between 500 and 1,000 percent. So we’re just sort of muddling along. We have no idea what we’re doing. We’re going to get this (tunnel-boring) machine, take it apart (and) figure out how to make it go faster while still being safe and not affecting people on the surface.”