What would Steven Spielberg be thinking? (While we squarely thank him for the child hood memories). Could he in turn one-up SpaceX … again?
SpaceX is writing history today thanks to a surprisingly successful lift off of its first Falcon Heavy rocket ever. Elon Musk famously tweeted before the launch that he would be happy if the behemoth rocket did not blow up (on) the expensive launch pad, but that nightmare fireworks scenario turned into a resounding success. The excitement at the launch pad was palpable, as many youth, both grey haired, and in their teens, were cheering during this momentous and awe-inspiring event.
With a capability to put 63 metric tons into orbit (a Boeing 737) or about 16 metric tons to Mars (a Crew Dragon Capsule + small inflatable Module) and 20 to the Moon (a Freight truck with load), the options for manned explorations to these destinations again are starting to become wide open. SpaceX plans to use the new rocket, Falcon Heavy, or Three Falcon 9’s strapped together, only for ultra heavy cargo to Geostationary Orbit and test orbital refueling techniques, useful for sending even heavier payloads to deep space.
But contrary to earlier rumors, SpaceX is not taking risks. The two people who last year bought tickets for a flight around the moon, – combining the Falcon Heavy launch with a ride aboard the SpaceX crew Dragon capsule, coming online end of this year, and which will ferry the crew to and from the ISS in Low Earth Orbit-, were asked to wait until Tesla’s follow-up rocket, the even bigger mega ship BFR (Big Freaking Rocket, or Big Falcon Rocket) comes online in the 2022-2024 time-frame.
BFR is specifically designed to take humans to the surface of the Mars and the Moon, together with 150 metric tons of surface equipment, slightly more than a Saturn V.
Unlike single use rockets, like the Saturn V, and the partially reusable labor intensive Space Shuttle, The BFR is designed not to require ANY refurbishment between flights beyond inspection. As a result, the cost of an extra reuse of a BFR: about a million USD. The cost of one extra equally capable NASA SLS: USD 1 Billion. A slight difference. Will SpaceX be able to fulfill the ambition of its founder? Well. Today is another testimony that this company, the only one who routinely reuses orbital rockets*, does delivers on its most outlandish promises.
What does all of this mean? Almost 45 years after the last manned mission to the Moon, humanity again has a Moon and Mars capable rocket, and a center of competence with the will, funding and goal to establish a permanent manned presence on the Moon and Mars. Elon Musk’s personal goal is to make man a multi-planetary species. Not only as an insurance policy against catastrophe, but because exploration is worth while and… cool. Furthermore, although SpaceX is leading the pack, with a very low-cost rocket (90 million per flight), Jeff Bezos from Amazon/Blue Origin, NASA and China are far down the path of constructing of their own moon capable rockets.
SpaceX’s Starman zooming past Earth on his way to Mars, accompanied by David Bowie’s Space Oddity playing on the radio. On the dashboard, right above the “Don’t Panic” message, barely visible, we see a little Tesla Roadster with a little Starman inside. The Starman is dressed in a fully functioning space suit prototype, clients of SpaceX will be wearing, on their ride to the ISS with Dragon Crew capsule, later this year.
Today felt like a birth day. Humanity has finally found a way to continue with the building of the future that was promised to us almost 50 years ago. And surprisingly, we are even beginning to see workable flying Jetson cars (but that’s another article for another day). Here at ONESTAGETOSPACE we plan to be an active contributor to help make that future a reality for the many.
Europa, and fund-raising sons of Europa, where art thou? Openeth thine check books and free-eth thine money. The future isseth nigh.
* New Glenn, the Jeff Bezos rocket from Amazon and Blue Origin, will also be a reusable orbital rocket, lifting 45 metric tons to LEO in its current iteration. It will come online around 2020. Jeff Bezos has proven to be a very client oriented and competitive person in the online sales arena. Industry agrees that his rocket designs are proving to be equally well thought out products. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos concur that strong competition between them, will bring a healthy new breeze in the ossified space launcher field, opening up the galaxy to many business ventures, who thanks to lower prices now become profitable and economically desirable endeavors, like for instance 24/7 solar power stations in orbit, or in orbit recycling of spent rocket stages and satellites.