Below is the keynote speech at the 2017 International Astronautical Congress (IAC) from none other than Elon Musk of SpaceX.
Elon outlines his plan to build the “BFR” rocket which can be used to launch over 150 tonnes of payload into orbit at the lowest marginal cost per launch of any rocket in history. Key to that is the vertical propulsive landing approach, which is becoming so precise that the future versions of their rockets won’t even have legs to stabilise the landing. It is a beast of a rocket at 160m tall and 9m in diameter.
The BFR project has already commenced, with the tooling ordered and construction of the facilities underway.
Elon’s targets are:
- Landing so precise that risk tends to zero and compares to commercial airlines
- Establishing a Moon base (no propellant plant needed as they can be refuelled in upper Earth orbit and have enough to launch and land on Earth)
- BFR able to dock with the International Space Station (ISS)
- BFR able to refuel in space by docking with another BFR upper module and “sloshing” the fuel over using control thrusters to apply milli-g acceleration
- 2022 for the first cargo mission to Mars (to scout for resources like H²0)
- 2024 for the first cargo and crew mission to Mars (to build the propellant plant among other things)
- BFR upper module able to fly from surface of Mars back to Earth as Martian gravity is weak enough to allow for a booster-free launch
- Use of BFR between cities on Planet Earth could massively reduce journey times (e.g. 25 mins from LA to NYC)
Oh and here is my favourite little nugget of wisdom from Elon’s talk:
“On Mars, sunrise and sunset are blue and the day is red. It’s the opposite of Earth.”