Elon Musk has unveiled the next step in SpaceX’s plan to send humans to Mars in the release of a new rocket design, dubbed BFR.
While BFR stands for Big Falcon Rocket, others have already dubbed the "F" to stand for other more colorful verbiage.
Musk says the BFR in development could replace its current launch vehicles — Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon — freeing up capital directed at those vehicles for the new rocket. Musk says that the technology to build the rocket is already available and SpaceX plans to begin construction on the BFR before July of next year with the aim to send two cargo spaceships to Mars by 2022. The company also wants to fly two additional flights to Mars by 2024, these containing crew.
This crew would then get to work building a plant on the surface of Mars that would be able to develop fuel for journeys back from Mars.
“I feel fairly confident that we can complete the ship and be ready for a launch in five years,” Musk says during a presentation on the new rocket.
The rocket will be able to house 100 travelers for the six-month journey with two or three passengers each in a total of 40 cabins on the rocket. As with SpaceX’s strategy of reusability, the rocket then could be used again for other trips after the passengers have been deployed to the red planet. Musk says that the price per launch would be about $8 million. Spread across 100 paying passengers, the SpaceX CEO claims it would be economically feasible.
SpaceX also plans to use the BFR for trips on Earth reducing the time of long travel distances from multiple hours to under 30 minutes in most cases. The company also envisions the rocket being able to help build a lunar base in the future.
“If we’re building this thing to go to the Moon and Mars then why not go to other places on earth as well,” Musk says.
Lockheed Martin also this week revealed an update to its Mars Base Camp, which would provide a space station around the red planet to act as a vessel to send astronauts to and from the surface of Mars.