You’ve heard of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy. But have you heard of SpaceX’s BFR?
A Science Enthusiast
Last week, SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon Heavy on its maiden voyage to Mars and the Asteroid Belt, surpassing even SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s own expectations for the mission. We know it exceeded his expectations based on his reaction to the launch itself:
Holy flying fuck, that thing took off!
Indeed it did, and it’s on its way for a heliocentric orbit that will extend even beyond Mars, for at least the next 10,000 years or so (you can track its current location here). Eventually Jupiter will tug on the Tesla Roadster atop the craft, making its orbit more elliptical, and possibly ejecting it from the solar system entirely.
We have even more Falcon Heavy launches to look forward to this year, with the Arabsat 6A communication satellite being launched during the first half of 2018 for Saudi Arabia, and another Falcon Heavy launch planned for June!
That’s not all SpaceX has planned, though.
Elon Musk’s main goal is to make us an interplanetary species. To do that, we need to get equipment and people to another planet – Mars. And, obviously, we can’t just get to Mars one Tesla Roadster at a time… Not to mention the need to retrofire the rockets and actually land safely.
Elon Musk on Instagram: “Moon Base Alpha”
233.7k Likes, 2,445 Comments - Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on Instagram: “Moon Base Alpha”
To do this, SpaceX has another, even larger, rocket in development – the BFR. Supposedly, this stands for “Big Falcon Rocket,” but let’s be honest. It’s a Big Fucking Rocket.
How big is “big” for SpaceX, who just last week set the record for the heaviest rocket currently in use (by nearly a factor of 2) last week? Well, big. Really fucking big.
As you can see, the Falcon 9 dwarfs the original Faclon 1, which is then dwarfed by the BFR. What’s more, the BFR is capable of carrying 150 tons into low Earth orbit (LEO), while the Falcon Heavy can “only” get about 55 tons to LEO.
If that doesn’t demonstrate the size difference, or the difference in payload capability, this full lineup should. You can see that prior to the Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket was the Delta IV Heavy, which could lift just over 28 tons to LEO.
The size of the BFR rivals that even of the monstrous Saturn V rocket, but even then, the BFR can lift an extra 15 tons to LEO (I assume in case you need some extra snacks).
And if that’s not remarkable enough, there’s the cost comparison of the BFR to the Falcon Heavy and Saturn V. No parts from the Saturn V were re-usable, meaning all of the very expensive engines were trashed after the launch. The Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy introduced reusable first stage rockets, dramatically cutting down launch costs. The BFR takes this a step further though, in that every part of the rocket is reusable. Because of this, as Musk points out in the video below, the only actual expense for launching the BFR is the cost of liquid oxygen and methane, which he says are ‘cheap.’
What makes it even better, and capable of going to Mars, is the ability to refuel while in orbit around Earth. The upper stage of the BFR is only capable of getting the 150 ton payload around Earth, at least at first. As Musk explains, rockets with refueling tankers can be set up, which then rendezvous with the BFR in orbit around Earth, extending the range of the upper stage to be able to land on Mars.
That’s a lot of Delta-V for a payload of 150 tons in orbit!
While there are no formal plans to launch, at the beginning of the video below, Musk explains that SpaceX is getting “serious” about its development of the BFR.
What blows me away is the speed in which SpaceX has progressed, and the amount of success they’ve had so far as a private company. It will be exciting to see how quickly SpaceX moves forward in its plans on making homosapiens multiplanetary!
Watch the full talk by Elon Musk below: