SpaceX began development of the large Raptor rocket engine for the Mars Colonial Transporter before 2014, but the MCT will not be operational earlier than the mid-2020s.
Musk stated that Mars Colonial Transporter will be "100 times the size of an SUV", and capable of taking 100 people at a time to Mars. Also, SpaceX engine development head Tom Mueller said SpaceX would use nine Raptor engines on a single rocket, similar to the use of nine Merlin engines on each Falcon 9 booster core. He said "It's going to put over 100 tons of cargo on Mars." The large rocket core that will be used for the booster to be used with MCT will be 10 meters (33 ft) in diameter, nearly three times the diameter and over seven times the cross-sectional area of the Falcon 9 booster cores.
The super-heavy lift launch vehicle for MCT will lift the 100 tonnes (220,000 lb)+ payload of the MCT into orbit and is intended to be fully-reusable. The rocket has not yet been named by SpaceX. The MCT launch vehicle will be powered by the Raptor bipropellant liquid rocket engine.
Elon Musk provided information to Waitbutwhy about his vision for colonizing Mars and his expectation that humanity would colonize the solar system after conquering Mars.
When writer Ross Andersen asked Musk about the prospect of moving beyond Mars to other places in the Solar System, Musk was optimistic: “If we can establish a Mars colony, we can almost certainly colonize the whole Solar System, because we’ll have created a strong economic forcing function for the improvement of space travel. We’ll go to the moons of Jupiter, at least some of the outer ones for sure, and probably Titan on Saturn, and the asteroids. Once we have that forcing function, and an Earth-to-Mars economy, we’ll cover the whole Solar System.”
But, he added, “the key is that we have to make the Mars thing work. If we’re going to have any chance of sending stuff to other star systems, we need to be laser-focused on becoming a multi-planet civilization. That’s the next step.”
In that way, colonizing Mars isn’t just important because we expand outward and back up the hard drive, but also because colonizing Mars turns us into a species that knows how to expand to new planets and terraform them. It builds us what is probably the most important skill a species can have if they’re to survive for a long time.
With enough time, we’ll move out to many other bodies in the Solar System, and we’ll terraform each of them into a place humans can call home.
The Solar System could become one vast world for humans. Maybe Jupiter’s moon Europa becomes known as the Solar System’s tech hub, while Saturn’s Titan becomes the place you have to move if you really want to be in the entertainment industry. Maybe some people will spend their whole lives on one heavenly body, while others will be avid travelers and brag that they’ve set foot on 12