On Tuesday 27th September 2016, the biggest day in the current history of SpaceX and Elon Musk arrived as they announced the architecture that will enable humans and cargo to and from Mars. The talk took place at IAC 2016 at 19:30 UTC and amazed not just the attendees but the online audience which were watching and listening to Elon’s talk. The long awaited provided an insight into the design and ultimate destination of SpaceX and Elon’s plans.
It has been known from the inception of SpaceX that the company goal was Mars, and that the ultimate goal would result in routine journies to and from Mars, and generally space. From Falcon 1, the company has been learning the ropes of rocketry, with many failures on the way, including recently with a Launch Pad Anomaly which destroyed a Falcon 9 and its payload ahead of standard procedure Static Fire Test.
Here is the full livestream from IAC 2016:
Outlining his biggest ambition of the company from the near inception, Musk provided an insight into the Mars Architecture that could lead humanity to be multi-planetary. Initially it is beleived that the Big F!@& Rocket will carry at least 100 people and cargo to the red planet. Envisioning a big space to hang around, Musk hoped that inflight entertainment would include an Earthy feel and that the at least 6 month transit would be furfilled with plenty to do.
The BFR (as previously known) or as it’s now known as the Interplanetary Transport System was introduced about an hour before the talk Elon was about to present at IAC 2016, and was ultimately the precursor of the presentation which would outline the preliminary details of the system. The Super Heavy Lift rocket is described to be a 12 meter diameter rocket booster and a 17 meter spaceship/transporter. Ultimately the whole stack height measures to 122 meters, resulting being roughly 11 meters taller than the Saturn V rocket of the Apollo era.
With a bigger rocket, calls more engines with more power. RP-1 and Liquid Oxygen can only go so far when it comes to rocketry, and this is where SpaceX changed to Methane for their new rocket system. It also called for a new engine to enable the rocket to fly and to adopt the company’s view on reusablity. The ITS is powered by 42 Raptor engines, with the centre engines being able to gimbal, with main outer engines being locked in one position. In SpaceX timing, the Propulsion team in McGregor fired up for the first time a Development Model of the Raptor – Successfully! From footage which was released, it was estimated that the firing lasted for 8 seconds – however the timings officially haven’t been released by SpaceX. For the first firing the data collect will be valuable, and though successful, Elon joked, ‘I’m surprised it didn’t blow up’.
With all 42 engines firing in unison, it will provide a near 29 million pounds of thrust, engulfing the might Saturn V’s thrust at lift off, which was just short of 8 million pounds. Here are the stats of the Raptor engine which were provided at the talk:
Ultimately, Elon hopes to assist in making humans a multiplanatary specie and that if something did occur to Earth as we know it, humans at least have a chance else where in the solar system.
Though we are a few years away from the complete system launching from a launch pad, SpaceX have begun the development phase of the systems which are need to launch the Biggest Rocket currently being designed. With a development Raptor being tested, it was also revealed that SpaceX engineers have already began building development upper stage LOX tanks and already verified their strength with cryogenic liquids. Below are the released pictures of the developmental tank: