Great Overview of the Technical Aspects of Elon Musk’s BFR

Video Caption: Elon Musk presented the latest updates on SpaceX’s long term plans for their ‘BFR’ at the IAC in Adelaide. I now have an inbox of messages asking for my take on it all so – let’s talk about the plans that he presented.

The main points are the BFR (Big Rocket) is now a lot smaller than the original design, it still uses 2 stages and refuels in orbit enabling it to go to Mars, but now it’ll also be setup as a satellite launch vehicle, cargo ship able to visit ISS and the surface of the moon. But most surprisingly, and perhaps least realistically, he pitched a new passenger design intended to carry people halfway around the Earth at hypersonic speeds.

Meet the Son of Shuttle: Elon Musk’s BFR Will Do It All

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk introduced a renamed version of his Martian colonial transport vehicle on Friday that was simultaneously shrunken somewhat in size but much larger in its ambition.

The big change in the newly renamed BFR  — for big effing rocket — involved reducing the number of first stage engines from 42 to 31 engines. Despite the reduction, the second stage booster/spacecraft would still be capable of carrying up to 100 people to the Red Planet.

The biggest change involves BFR’s scope. Not only would it the basis for building a Mars colony and moon base, it would completely disrupt terrestrial transportation by taking passengers between any two spots on Earth in less than an hour.

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Musk: Moon In, Red Dragon & Propulsive Landings Out

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

During an appearance at the International Space Station Research & Development Conference on Wednesday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said plans for propulsive crew Dragon landings and Red Dragon missions to Mars had been scrapped, downplayed the probability that the first Falcon Heavy launch will succeed, and even had a good word to say about the moon.

Here are notes from the talk.

State of Space Exploration

  • Entering a new era of space exploration
  • SpaceX and other companies developing new systems
  • NASA approaching things in new ways
  • Space station resupply program should be adapted across the government
  • Key to opening up space is “rapid and complete reusability”, but it is very difficult

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Elon Musk’s Ambitious Mars Plan Now Online

A view from martian orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)

If you liked the talk, you’re going to love the paper.

New Space journal has published an article by SpaceX Founder Elon Musk in which he puts down in writing the presentation he gave in Mexico last year about his company’s plan for a human transportation system to Mars.

You can read the paper here.

Congress, President Fail to Embrace Musk’s Bold Plan for Mars

Last September, Elon Musk made his pitch for a bold new approach to sending people to Mars that requires substantial taxpayer supporter. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed a NASA authorizing act that maintains the slow, steady-as-she-goes status quo. The billionaire was not amused.

Video: Experts Discuss Elon Musk’s Mars Plan

Stanford University Professor (and former NASA Ames Director) Scott Hubbard and Starburst Accelerator Founder Francois Chopard discuss Elon Musk’s transportation architecture for Mars.

Musk Reaches for Mars; NASA Worries About Reaching Space Station

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While Elon Musk was in Mexico last week wowing the world with his plan to send a million people to Mars, NASA officials north of the border in Houston were contemplating a more mundane problem: how to continue sending a handful of American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

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Elon Musk, Wernher Von Braun and Gigantism: What is Old is New Again

Interplanetary Transport System at Enceladus. (Credit: SpaceX)
Interplanetary Transport System at Enceladus. (Credit: SpaceX)

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Elon Musk’s obsession with making giant leaps forward in technology and how the approach has likely contributed to some of the company’s problems. I posited that SpaceX needs fewer leaps and more plateaus so its employees can consolidate what they have learned and get really good at it before moving on to the next level. [SpaceX: Giant Leaps, Deep Troughs But No Plateaus].

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Detailed Information About Elon Musk’s Mars Plans

A view from martian orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)
A view from martian orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)

Below is a detailed summary of Elon Musk’s talk on Tuesday.

Why Go to Mars?

  • Need to establish a civilization of Mars to ensure continuation of human race
  • If we stay on Earth, we risk all life being wiped out in a catastrophe
  • Colonizing Mars is different from Apollo because it’s about minimizing existential risk to human and having a sense of adventure
  • We could go to the moon, but Mars is much better suited for human life
  • Can grow plants on the surface, higher gravity than the moon
  • Can eventually terraform the planet
  • Terraforming would take a long time and be up to the citizens of Mars

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How Will Musk Sell His Mars Plans?

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)
Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Later today, Elon Musk will stand on a stage at the International Astronautic Congress in Mexico and reveal his plans for sending humans to Mars and making humanity a multi-planet species.

His talk will be webcast on Tuesday, Sept. 27 beginning at 2:30 pm EDT. To access the webcast, please click here or connect on one of these websites: IAF website, IAC 2016 website and AEM website. Musk will hold a press conference afterward; it’s not known whether it will be webcast.

The description of the talk on the conference website gives us a hint about what lies ahead.

SpaceX Founder, CEO, and Lead Designer Elon Musk will discuss the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. The technical presentation will focus on potential architectures for sustaining humans on the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead.

There are three questions that loom on the eve of the speech: What exactly is he going to propose? Who will pay for it? And how will he convince people it’s worth doing? A bit of parsing of the above description gives us some clues.
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Parabolic Arcers Keen to Live on Mars

Musk_Mars_Colony_PollThe results are in on our poll about Elon Musk’s Mars plans. And it seems the majority of Parabolic Arc readers would consider living in the SpaceX founder’s martian colony.

Thirty-three percent of voters want to be in the first wave of settlers on the Red Planet. An additional 40 percent of voters said they might go later once the colony was up and running.

Other readers were less enthused. Twenty-two percent said they really like the big blue marble that is Earth and had no desire to live on a frozen planet.

Another 6 percent of voters already understand what it is like to live and work in a desert and had no desire to live in a Martian one. This group is composed of present and past residents and workers of Mojave, Calif.

A big thank you to everyone who voted in the poll. Please take a moment and vote in our latest poll about former shuttle commander Eileen Collins’ decision to speak at this week’s Republican National Convention.

As I always say. Vote early. Vote often. Just vote, dammit! Vote! And no wagering.

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Readers on Lynx: It’s Dead, Jim

Lynx_suspended_pollParabolic Arc readers are not real optimistic about the future of the Lynx, the suborbital space plane that XCOR suspended work on recently when it laid off most of the staff working on it.

Sixty-nine percent of voters believe that Lynx is as dead as a door nail despite XCOR’s pledge to revive work on the program at a future date. Only 13 percent of voters believe Lynx will fly at some point in the future.

The remaining 18 percent of voters just didn’t care, viewing suborbital space travel as being about a dozen years past its prime.

We’ve got a new poll up on the site asking whether you would like to go to Mars on one of the human missions Elon Musk is planning to launch beginning in 2024.

As I’ve said before: vote early, vote often. Just vote, dammit! Vote! And remember, no wagering.

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SpaceX Working With NASA on Sending Dragon Spacecraft to Mars

Red Dragon landing on Mars (Credit: SpaceX)
Red Dragon landing on Mars (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX announced today that it would be sending a modified robotic Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018. The company has been working with NASA on key elements of the mission under a non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement signed in December 2014 as part of the space agency’s Collaborations for Commercial Space Capabilities (CCSC) program.

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Elon Musk & The End of the World as We Know It

nuclear_explosion
Elon Musk wants to build a colony on Mars to ensure the human race will survive if Earth is somehow wiped out. He argues that putting all of humanity’s eggs in one basket — as they have been for millions of years — is too big a risk.

Is he right? Is settlement on a cold, barren lifeless world that’s trying to kill us six ways to Sunday the only way to ensure our long-term survival? Or would it be better to focus on the actual threats at hand?

Let’s take a closer to look at all the things that could potentially wipe humanity off the face of the Earth. It’s not very pretty. So, if you’re squeamish, stop here. Some of the stuff that follows is kind of disturbing.

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