Elon Musk talks Tesla, SpaceX setback

Elon Musk talks Tesla and SpaceX explosion

Among the billionaires, tech titans and media moguls who have arrived for the Allen & Co conference in Sun Valley, Elon Musk is a first-time attendee. And he is ready to talk.

In his first TV interview since one of his SpaceX rockets exploded moments after launch on June 28, Musk told CNBC he did not yet know what caused the explosion, which was the first major Falcon 9 failure in 19 launches. He called the rocket failure "definitely a setback," saying it made it tough for NASA because it illustrated just how hard it was to deliver to the space station.

So, how long until SpaceX will be able to launch rockets again?

"I think we need to understand exactly what went wrong and be very deliberate at it," Musk says.

"We need to look at the data and see if there were any near-misses. Could something else have gone wrong and what do we need to do to fix that. Our goal is to have the most reliable rocket ever because it's going to be launching astronauts soon, so it needs to be super reliable."

The biggest surprise since the explosion, Musk said, was what SpaceX was finding as it interpreted the data: "We're looking at it internally and externally, and whatever it is, was a pretty tricky thing that happened."

SpaceX explosion unsolved

Musk told CNBC he was hopeful the company would be able to compete for its first defense launch later this year.

As for Musk's other company, Tesla, he said the SUV in the works - the Model X - would drive the company's next leg of growth.

"It has the potential to double Tesla's volume because demand for SUVs is about equal," the magnate said. "That would suggest if the ModelX is well received it would double Tesla's volume. That's fairly significant."

He added that while he believed the ModelX would be "transformational" in the SUV market, a key question was how long it would take to ramp up production of the vehicle.

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Musk also weighed in on artificial intelligence (AI), an area of technological innovation that he had described in the past as potentially dangerous.

"Every year the advances I see in AI are more than I expected in the prior year, so it seems to be accelerating," he said.

AI may be a topic of conversation in Musk's on-stage conversation at the conference with Reid Hoffman, an old friend of Musk's from his days at PayPal. Hoffman went on to found LinkedIn, and is now its chairman, as well as a partner at VC firm Greylock.

Musk called Hoffman "very intellectual and philosophical."

"I think it will be a wide-ranging conversation."