Elon Musk has taken another ace of the sleeve: his new Interplanetary Transport System will obsolete his current fleet of rockets. And when? We do not know. But probably soon.
Elon Musk was one of the great attractions at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia. In just one day it has already announced two of the most ambitious and interesting plans of the aerospace industry of all time. The first is to take us to any city in the world in less than an hour, using the technology used to deploy satellites and other ships into Earth orbit. But the next announcement has left everyone with goosebumps: SpaceX has in its plans to finance a complete fleet of ships with which to colonize Mars. A fleet that will render obsolete the Falcon Heavy, Falcon 9 and the dragon capsule, the jewels of the company.
Interplanetary Transport System
According to announced at the conference, the aerospace company is behind thirty-one engine proposals for what will be the company’s new flagship. Nicknamed BFR ( “Big Fucking Rocket”), the new nave of Interplanetary Transport System is already in the mind (and perhaps in the tables) SpaceX engineers. This system is one of the two official and rigorous ones that exist in the planet for the conquest of Mars. According to Musk, their operators intend to build this system progressively, “cannibalizing” their current rockets so that technology can be reused to benefit the new interplanetary system.
Over the next year, the company will try to build a scaled device, which, according to the CEO, may be useful for current aerospace operations. These include the launching of satellites and operations in low earth orbit. With the money from these operations, as well as the contracts currently being executed SpaceX, Musk ensures that the construction of an interplanetary system can be assumed with seriousness and good expectations and practical.
First, the Moon
But before reaching Mars, Elon Musk seems to have glanced at the Moon. Now that agency attention is returning to our natural satellite, SpaceX’s proposal could help us establish regular contact with it. In this way, we could maintain a regular transport and expand the industrial or research activities in a supposed lunar colony, which would allow us to learn a lot for our next mission: to conquer the red planet.
However, the CEO has made it clear that the Moon, while being a first and necessary step, is not one of the most lucrative goals. It is not a trivial issue because maintaining an acceptable range of dates requires healthy and constant funding. The Moon does not offer such a good business framework, Musk explained, due to the huge competition from the agencies and the general interest placed on the satellite, among other reasons. However, it is a mandatory stop at the technical level, and SpaceX is not going to skip it.
And when is all this?
Elon Musk has predicted the deployment of a crew in the direction of Mars at most by 2024. The first cargo with resources will come out for the red planet in 2022, always in the CEO’s words. These dates, according to the company, are affordable. By contrast, NASA, who have the only serious plan to compete with SpaceX forecasts, shuffled more flexible dates. Is this philanthropist being too ambitious? Last year they already unveiled several engines and combinations in a display of efficiency quite surprising. These included forty-two Raptor engine types capable of carrying up to 450 cubic meters of material to Mars. However, SpaceX is also known to have failed in its own time goals. According to his old plans, the company should have put several astronauts into orbit earlier this year. That plan has extended its deadline until the end of 2018 or early 2019.
On the Interplanetary Transport System, Musk still does not dare to give more dates than the commented ones, between teeth, previously. Are they realistic? Although there are those who are very skeptical about it, the truth is that the company has proven to surprise at previously unsuspected levels. On this occasion, and without a clear timeline, we have on the table an increasingly realistic plan, increasing resources and the possibility, as has been explained, of reusing 80% of the technology of the rockets built to date, which it would save an incredible amount of resources and, the key, time. Who knows. The first flag to be placed on the red surface may be SpaceX.