Behind The Scenes At The Tesla Secret Level III Event, The Launch Of The SpaceX Falcon Heavy

April 22nd, 2019 by  


Although we at CleanTechnica have already published one article on the Falcon Heavy launch, I decided to also write about what I learned at the event.

Why Go To The Launch?

There are many answers to this question, but the first answer is FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out. I didn’t know what this event was going to entail, but since I was invited, I didn’t want to miss out. Similar thoughts went through my head at the Model Y unveiling a month earlier. My income tax return is due in a few days. My project at work could use my attention. A couple members of my family are still recovering from surgery. But it would be an excuse to spend some time with my son (who conveniently lives in Orlando).

I’ve lived in Florida for almost 30 years and never gone to a launch. Would Elon Musk be at the event and would I get to meet him in person? With all those thoughts in my mind, the deciding factor was that the event was a Secret Level 3 Tesla event and, with few exceptions, only people who had 35 or more referrals would be there. This would be a much smaller event than the Model Y unveiling (which had about 700 people) and, according to this site, only about 120 people in the world qualified. I knew with work schedules and the delays inherent in space launches that many people wouldn’t be able to make it.

My logic was correct and it was a small event of fewer than a 100 people. The small size (and the fact that the launch was delayed) meant that I got to spend more time meeting the amazing people who have helped promote Tesla over the last few years.

Bus Trip To Cape Canaveral

Starman joins the bus (https://twitter.com/myteslaadventur)

The journey begins…

Although it would have been more convenient for me to just drive to Cape Canaveral than to meet the group of Tesla enthusiasts in Orlando and ride to the event on the bus, I decided to take the bus for two reasons. First, I wanted more time to socialize with the group. Secondly, I was concerned about the traffic and didn’t want to miss the launch because I got caught in traffic or made a wrong turn or had trouble finding the event.

That ended up being a wise decision. The first person I met was a wise trauma surgeon who has been involved with Tesla far longer than I have and was willing share how these events usually go down. He had brought a picture and a sharpie, just in case we got the chance to meet Elon (unfortunately, that didn’t happen). He shared stories of other Tesla events that he had attended and I realized that these events were pretty special if important people like him were making time for them.

We Arrive At Exploration Tower

This picture was taken after the launch when SpaceX Engineer Trip Harriss was celebrating the successful launch with a glass of wine.

My wife enjoyed getting invited to the event

We arrived at the event and found they had rented out a 7 story tower just for our group and provided a SpaceX Launch Engineer to give us a presentation on the upcoming launch and answer any questions we had. I was confused as to why SpaceX was developing two rockets of similar power — the Falcon Heavy and the Starship (previously called the Big Falcon Rocket or BFR) — so I asked Trip about that and he said the difference was that the Falcon Heavy is built using well tested parts, while the Starship is the next generation that is using new technologies that hopefully will be great but aren’t ready for production use yet.

Since the launch was delayed from 6:30pm till 8:30pm (before being delayed 22 hours till the next day), we had plenty of time to enjoy the catered food and drink at the event.

The Influencers

Enough of details of the event — what did I learn about the people who have been promoting Tesla (most of them for years).

They fell into 4 main groups (as usual, I don’t fit into any of them).

  1. The YouTubers have done a lot to promote Tesla and to get the message out there that Tesla makes great cars. Andy Slye, LikeTesla, and Ben Sullins were some of the biggest YouTubers at the event. No surprise that they all made videos on the event — that’s what they do. They did a great job of capturing the event, so check out their videos. I enjoyed meeting them and learning some of their tricks. Focus on your unique perspective and don’t try to out-do the professionals was the best tip that I got from Ben. In addition to Ben, it was obvious in talking to Kim and Andy why they have successful channels; they have a genuine interest in Tesla, have great charisma, and have learned the technical skills to make a quality product.
  2. The Veterans are members of the community like the surgeon I mentioned earlier that have been with Tesla community since the beginning. They bought the original Roadster and most have bought the S and/or X and maybe even the 3 as each of them came out. They don’t have 100,000 followers like the YouTubers, but they have been talking about Tesla to their friends and coworkers for 10 years. They were Tesla fans before it was cool. They have followed the company through some tough times and stuck with Tesla through thick and thin.
  3. The Renters (who typically use the Turo platform) have done a lot to help people experience the thrill of EVs, and specifically Teslas, and most recently the Model 3. A car as different from anything else out there, the Model 3 is tough to accept with a short two-mile test drive, so the fact that many people decided to put their cars up on Turo to let others try them out has done a lot to encourage people a little more cautious to buy a Tesla. The best tip I got from this group is, “You don’t want to be the cheapest Tesla in your market.” This is because the shopper that is solely focused on price may not be the kind of renter you want driving your car. I have used the Turo platform in the past and had some issues with last-minute cancellations. Turo has now instituted a cancellation charge that discourages cancellations and has largely eliminated this problem. That’s cool to hear.
  4. The Presidents of the Tesla Owners Clubs. I haven’t been too involved in the Florida Tesla Enthusiasts club, but I am a member and have attended one function. I have been pretty involved with organizing both parent–teacher groups and some political groups, so I do understand what a thankless job leading volunteer groups can be. There is a certain amount of overlap with the veterans mentioned above, but some of these presidents are newer to the party than the vets. I didn’t spend as much time as I should have with this group, but will be sure to look these guys up at the next event.

Conclusion

The team at Tesla that organized this amazing event and made our dream come true

The launch was a big success for SpaceX and the two-day event was a great chance for me to network with some amazingly talented people. I also want to give a shoutout to the team from Tesla that put on the event.  They put on a First Class event and had to deal with the uncertainty of a space launch and a total of 3 delays.  Through it all, they never complained and stayed 100% focused on making it an experience of a lifetime for each person attending.

I’m glad that I had the chance to attend this event and learn from all these people who know more about Tesla than I do. The reason I’m able to go to the event is that our editor and my mentor, Zachary Shahan, encouraged me to share my passion for Tesla with CleanTechnica readers*. I’m thankful for all the readers who bought Tesla vehicles due to my work and especially those who used my referral code, allowing me to get invited to events like this.

If you want to take advantage of my Tesla referral link to get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging on a Tesla Model S, Model X, or Model 3, here’s the code: https://ts.la/paul92237 (but as I have said before, if another owner helped you more, please use their link instead of mine). I encourage you to buy before May 1st if you believe in Tesla’s ability to get Full Self Driving (FSD) working soon. Elon has said he will raise prices on May 1st for FSD, but if you buy now, you can avoid that price increase. I just ordered the Model Y  today because I know I want a Model Y with FSD, so I might as well order now (you can’t use a referral code for that, but that is the car I want).

*Editor’s note: Paul was generous enough to drive his Model 3 down from Tampa to give me my first drive in the transformative vehicle. From meeting him, due to his long enthusiasm for EVs (he bought a Nissan LEAF years ago), and because I learned of his software expertise, I asked him if he wanted to write an article for us on a Tesla Autopilot update. Clearly, he has done a good job making the most of the opportunity! 
 





 

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About the Author

A Software engineer for over 30 years, first developing EDI software, then developing data warehouse systems. Along the way, I’ve also had the chance to help start a software consulting firm and do portfolio management. In 2010, I took an interest in electric cars because gas was getting expensive. In 2015, I started reading CleanTechnica and took an interest in solar, mainly because it was a threat to my oil and gas investments. Follow me on Twitter @atj721 Tesla investor. Tesla referral code: https://ts.la/paul92237



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