Elon Musk Targets Orbital SpaceX Starship in 2021 and Unmanned Mars in 2024

Elon Musk spoke for nearly an hour at the 2020 Mars Society Event. Elon said that he was 80-90% confident that the SpaceX Starship would reach orbit in 2021.

Elon was interviewed by Robert Zubrin.

Elon wants to make a city on Mars self-sustaining to offset the risks of a disaster on Earth.

Confidently getting one million tons to Mars needs 5 million tons to low earth orbit. This requires fully reusable rockets.

If we someone tried to make an expendable airplane or car then you would be laughed out of the room. Those would be vehicles for single once and one way and then losing the vehicle.

If someone suggested an expendable horse. People would laugh at you and think you were mentally ill.

Making a fully reusable rocket work would be to start with an expendable rocket that would get 4% of the mass as orbital payload. Half of the payload launch capacity would be sacrificed for full reusability.

Achieving rocket payload efficiency is helped by making a larger rocket.

In 2022, SpaceX should be reaching high volume reusable rocket flights.

Elon Musk wants to keep increasing the rate of innovation. If innovation is exponential then an unmanned mission could be sent to Mars in 2024. There must be rapid and radical innovation to achieve the goal.

The essential things for Mars development are:
Rapid and complete rocket reusability
Propellent transfer in orbit (NASA has provided $53 million in funding for a demonstration of fuel transfer in orbit)
Fuel production on Mars.

Elon thinks they have a shot at demonstrating orbital refueling in 2022. SpaceX going to the moon would be 2022-2023. The orbital refueling would enable 100 tons of payload to be sent in one shot to the moon.

Elon needs the intersection of people who want to get to Mars and the people who can afford to go to Mars to reach 1 million people. Mars Society needs to provide the will. SpaceX will provide the way.

Elon will probably just take unmanned vehicles that people or companies make to Mars. He seems to imply this would be free.

SOURCES – 2020 Mars Society Event, Elon Musk
Written By Brian Wang