Achieving anywhere close to becoming a trillionaire who enables reusable rockets and some level of human colonization on Mars would put Elon Musk to the level a hero in a Robert Heinlein classic science fiction story.
Tesla is creating a Gigafactory battery factory which would enable Tesla to produce batteries for 500,000 electric cars per year. Elon Musk has talked about making many Gigafactory battery factories.
Spacex has privately sold ten percent of the company with a recent ten billion valuation.
Depending upon the stock prices on any particular day, Elon Musk already has a net worth of $10 to 20 billion.
Elon Musk and his new investors (Google and Fidelity) were planning to create a lower altitude network of thousands of satellites for high speed internet service. The plan is to create a global internet service that could help fund the city on Mars. Spacex satellite network would have up to 4000 smaller mass produced satellites that would fly at about 700 kilometers for faster response and communication speeds.
“[Elon Musk] is hopeful that the first people could be taken to Mars in 10 to 12 years. Elon think it is certainly possible for that to occur. He says the thing that matters long term is to have a self-sustaining city on Mars, to make life multiplanetary.
Here I have combined various statements from Elon Musk with my own extrapolation of developments towards and eighty thousand person Mars City by 2040.
Spacex hopes to recover and reuse a first stage this year. They have gotten close with one stage returning to the barge but it came in too fast after hydraulic fluid ran and the second having to hover and soft land vertically into the ocean when 25 foot waves prevented the barge from holding position.
Spacex hopes the Dragon 2 will carry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station as soon as 2017.
The seven person Dragon 2 capsule is also designed to land and be reused.
Musk’s schedule puts him well ahead of NASA, which is only talking about getting man to Mars by the 2030s – and then only if it can get billions in public funding and build a rocket big enough for the job. Musk’s Falcon Heavy booster is scheduled to fly within the next year, and will carry enough payload to make assembling a Mars spaceship possible.
After Spacex has developed a Mars vehicle and ideally flown it a few times then they will probably go public.
If the reusable Mars Colonial Transports (MCT) have begun taking people to Mars in 2026, then they would would be taking full loads of 100 people per trip by 2030. Averaging eighty Earth to Mars trips per year using Mars Colonial Transports would enable 80,000 people to be on Mars by 2040.
If each MCT costs about $200 million, then making 200 would cost about $40 billion. Each might make one trip to Mars and back once every 30 months.
The Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) is prospective vehicle that SpaceX plans to design and build. It would be a reusable rocket for transporting humans to Mars and return to Earth.
The MCT is not projected to be operational until the mid-2020s.
In February 2014, 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.
Comparison of rocket cores for SpaceX launch vehicles: (from left) Falcon 9 v1.0 (2010), Falcon 9 v1.1 (2013)/Falcon Heavy, and the 10-meter diameter, 9-Raptor, first-stage booster for the Mars Colonial Transporter.
The Raptor engine will be the first member of a family of methane-fueled rocket engines under development by SpaceX. It is specifically intended to power high performance lower and upper stages for SpaceX super-heavy launch vehicles. The engine will be powered by methane and liquid oxygen (LOX), rather than the RP-1 kerosene and LOX used in all previous Falcon 9 upper stages, which use a Merlin vacuum engine. Earlier concepts for Raptor would have used liquid hydrogen (LH2) fuel rather than methane.
The Raptor engine will have over six times the thrust of the Merlin 1D vacuum engine that powers the second stage of the current Falcon 9, the Falcon 9 v1.1.
The Raptor is being designed to produce 8,200 kN (1,800,000 lbf) of thrust with a Vacuum Isp of 380 seconds and a sea-level Isp of 321 seconds.
The Raptor would be more powerful than the F1 rocket engine used in the Saturn V (five F1 rocket engines were used for the Saturn V).
Mars injection orbit spacecraft
Mars Colonial Transporter has been notionally described as being a large interplanetary spacecraft capable of taking 100 people at a time to Mars, although early flights are expected to carry fewer people and more equipment. The spacecraft has been notionally described as using a large water store to help shield occupants from space radiation and to possibly having a cabin oxygen content that is up to two times that which is found in Earth’s atmosphere.
The Mars colony envisioned by Musk would start small, notionally an initial group of fewer than ten people. With time, Musk sees that such an outpost could grow into something much larger and become self-sustaining, perhaps up to as large as 80,000 people once it is established. Musk has stated that as aspirational price goal for such a trip might be on the order of US$500,000, something that “most people in advanced countries, in their mid-forties or something like that, could put together [to make the trip].”
Before any people are transported to Mars, a number of cargo missions would be undertaken first in order to transport the requisite equipment, habitats and supplies. Equipment that would accompany the early groups would include “machines to produce fertilizer, methane and oxygen from Mars’ atmospheric nitrogen and carbon dioxide and the planet’s subsurface water ice” as well as construction materials to build transparent domes for crop growth.
Super-heavy lift launch vehicle
The super-heavy lift launch vehicle for MCT will consist of one or three 10-meter (33 ft)-diameter cores and use nine Raptor LOX/methane engines to power each core. The rocket has not yet been named by SpaceX. As of March 2014, no launch site has been selected for the super-heavy lift rocket, but SpaceX has indicated that their leased facility in Florida at Launch Pad 39A is not large enough to accommodate the vehicle, and that a new site would be built in order to launch the 10-meter diameter rocket.
The MCT launch vehicle is intended to be reusable—making use of the SpaceX reusable technology that is currently being developed for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy—and producing approximately 62 or 190 MN (6,300 or 19,000 tonnes-force) (formerly roughly sized at greater than 40 or 120 meganewtons (9,000,000 or 27,000,000 lbf)) of thrust at liftoff.
Big MCT would be able to launch six to ten thousand cubic meter expandable space station modules with each launch
Bigelow Aerospace has designed 2100 cubic meter expandable space station modules which might be launchable by a slightly refined Spacex Heavy.
The larger MCT would be able to launch modules that are three to five times larger.
Fuel could be launched and stored at fuel depots in orbit. This would enable more cargo to be moved to Mars with refueling in orbit and other locations in space.
This would be 200,000 cubic meters of volume. This would be enough for 2000 people with the same facilities per person as the Hercules resupply depot design.
Spacex could launch 1000 Bigelow 6000 cubic meter modules using reusable Mars transports in one year.
This would be 600,000 cubic meters of volume. This would be enough for 6000 people with the same facilities per person as the Hercules resupply depot design.
Robotic and additive manufacturing could enable massive frames and massive solar power arrays
Tethers Unlimited is currently developing a revolutionary suite of technologies called “SpiderFab” to enable on-orbit fabrication of large spacecraft components such as antennas, solar panels, trusses, and other multifunctional structures. SpiderFab provides order-of-magnitude packing- and mass- efficiency improvements over current deployable structures and enables construction of kilometer-scale apertures within current launch vehicle capabilities, providing higher-resolution data at lower life-cycle cost.
They have received a $500,000 phase 2 NASA NIAC contract, which follows a $100,000 phase 1 contract to develop the technology.
There was a recent Tethers Unlimited update on the Spiderfab work. They have build cubesat sized trusselators for deploying 50 meter trusses. The trusses can be combined into structures.
100 of the 2100 cubic meter stations would be about $50 billion without any volume discount.
100 of the 6000 cubic meter station might be about $100 billion.
Launching with reusable rockets would be about $1 billion.
Say $10-20 billion for Spiderfab constructed solar power dish arrays and structure.
There would need to be $10-20 billion for operations.
It would be less than the cost of the international space station.
Scale of a ten thousand person colonization base would be within reach
A ten thousand person colonization space ship design is proposed with a focus on how the community and living spaces should be designed. People are assigned area with the density of the city of Seattle and standard mixed use living areas. Everyone has 50 square meters of living space. There is agricultural and other green areas.
The International space station was built with 160 modules and dozens of launches over fifteen years. It weighs 450 tons. It has about 850 cubic meters of pressurized volume and has a crew of 6.
The cost is $150 billion including 36 shuttle flights at $1.4 billion each, Russia’s $12 billion ISS budget, Europe’s $5 billion, Japan’s $5 billion, and Canada’s $2 billion. Assuming 20,000 person-days of use from 2000 to 2015 by two to six-person crews, each person-day would cost $7.5 million, less than half the inflation adjusted $19.6 million ($5.5 million before inflation) per person-day of Skylab.
Self Sustaining on Mars
A permanently staffed base will approach Mars from the standpoint of agricultural and industrial society. It will develop techniques for extracting water out of the soil, for conducting increasingly large-scale greenhouse agriculture, for making ceramics, metals, glasses and plastics out of local materials, and constructing large pressurized structures for human habitation and industrial and agricultural activity. Here we look at modifying the proposals for Mars colonization by Robert Zubrin and others.
With massive material transport via MCT, Elon Musk could rapidly skip over interconnected network of Mars Bigelow habitats. Expansion would first be with brick-and concrete-built pressurized domains the size of shopping malls. Industrial capability from one MCT could make possible a vast expansion in living space by manufacturing large supplies of high-strength plastics like kevlar and spectra that will allow the creation of inflatable domes encompassing Sun-lit pressurized areas up to 100 meters in diameter.
Each reactor landed will add to the power supply, as will locally produced solar panels and windmills. However because Mars has been volcanically active in the recent geological past, it is also highly probable that hot underground hydrothermal reservoirs exist on the Red Planet. Once such reservoirs are found, they can be used to supply the settlers with abundant supplies of both water and geothermal power.
An economically self-supporting Mars colony will need to export both ideas and materials.
Mars is already known to possess a vital resource that could someday represent a commercial export. Deuterium, the heavy isotope of hydrogen currently valued at $10,000 per kilogram, is five times more common on Mars than it is on Earth. Deuterium has its applications today, but it is also the basic fuel for fusion reactors, and in the future when such systems come into play as a major foundation of Earth’s energy economy, the market for deuterium will expand greatly.
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.
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