Elon Musk is developing rockets that could be reused, rather than burn up on re-entry to earth’s atmosphere, in the belief they’ll drastically reduce the cost of trips to Mars. Launch has been delayed until Friday because of some Z actuator glitch.
He could make history — and remake the space launch sector — when new technology that captures spent rocket segments is put to the test for the first time today.
Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. will try to land a Falcon 9 rocket atop an unanchored ocean platform bobbing in the Atlantic Ocean after the missile propels a cargo capsule towards a rendezvous with the International Space Station.
The livestream of the launch is at this link At T-1 hour 20 minutes, weather has improved to 90% “go”. (2 am PST, 5pm EST)
Elon Musk also says that in 2015, he will unveil his plan for getting human colonists to Mars, as well as his 21st-century design for spacesuits.
Q: Mars. Could you please clarify what the Mars Colonial Transporter actually is? Is it a crew module like Dragon, a launch vehicle like Falcon, or a mix of both? Does it have inflatable components? Is MCT just a codename?
A: The Mars transport system will be a completely new architecture. Am hoping to present that towards the end of this year. Good thing we didn’t do it sooner, as we have learned a huge amount from Falcon and Dragon.
Goal is 100 metric tons of useful payload to the surface of Mars. This obviously requires a very big spaceship and booster system.
Q: In order to use the full MCT design (100 passengers), will BFR be one core or 3 cores?
A: At first, I was thinking we would just scale up Falcon Heavy, but it looks like it probably makes more sense just to have a single monster boost stage.
Q Why does Musk say there’s just a 50-50 chance that Tuesday’s landing maneuver will work?
A: I pretty much made that up. I have no idea
Q: Raptor engine plans?
A: Default plan is to have a sea level and vacuum version of Raptor, much like Merlin. Since the booster and spaceship will both have multiple engines, we don’t have to have fundamentally different designs.
This plan might change.
Q: Spacesuits. How does SpaceX plan to address the limitations and contribute to the advancement of current spacesuit technology to best serve humans enroute and on the surface of Mars? You mentioned in 2013 that there’d be an update to SpaceX’s “spacesuit project” soon – how is it coming along?
A: Our spacesuit design is finally coming together and will also be unveiled later this year. We are putting a lot of effort into design esthetics, not just utility. It needs to both look like a 21st century spacesuit and work well. Really difficult to achieve both.
Q: Falcon Heavy. Some have speculated that at stage separation the Falcon Heavy center core is too far downrange and travelling too fast to be feasibly returned to the launch site. Could you go into some detail on whether you plan to use barge landings permanently for this core, expend it depending on the mission, or take the payload loss and boost back to the launch site?
A: Yes, the Falcon Heavy center core is seriously hauling a** at stage separation. We can bring it back to the launch site, but the boost back penalty is significant. If we also have to the plane change for geo missions from Cape inclination (28.5 deg) to equatorial, then a downrange platform landing is needed.
Q: Has the Raptor engine changed in its target thrust since the last number we have officially heard of 1.55Mlbf SL thrust?
A: Thrust to weight is optimizing for a surprisingly low thrust level, even when accounting for the added mass of plumbing and structure for many engines. Looks like a little over 230 metric tons (~500 klbf) of thrust per engine, but we will have a lot of them 🙂
Video from previous launch and soft splash landing
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.