BFR

On September 29th, 2017, SpaceX CEO and Lead Designer Elon Musk presented an updated vehicle design for what’s currently being referred to as BFR. A key challenge with the original vehicle design was figuring out how to pay for it. The updated design solves this problem by leveraging a slightly smaller vehicle that can service all greater Earth orbit needs as well as the Moon and Mars. This single system—one booster and one ship—will eventually replace Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon.  By creating a single system that can service a variety of markets, SpaceX can redirect resources from Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon to the BFR system—which is fundamental in making BFR affordable.

Missions to Mars

Our aspirational goal is to send our first cargo mission to Mars in 2022. The objectives for the first mission will be to confirm water resources and identify hazards along with putting in place initial power, mining, and life support infrastructure. A second mission, with both cargo and crew, is targeted for 2024, with primary objectives of building a propellant depot and preparing for future crew flights. The ships from these initial missions will also serve as the beginnings of our first Mars base, from which we can build a thriving city and eventually a self-sustaining civilization on Mars.

Mars Entry

BFR will enter the Mars atmosphere at 7.5 kilometers per second and decelerate aerodynamically. The vehicle’s heat shield is designed to withstand multiple entries, but given that the vehicle is coming into the Mars atmosphere so hot, we still expect to see some ablation of the heat shield (similar to wear and tear on a brake pad). The engineering videos below simulate the physics of Mars entry for BFR.

BFR Capabilities

An important question we have to answer is “how do we pay for this system?” The answer lies in creating a single system that can support a variety of mission types. In turn, SpaceX can redirect resources from Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon to this system.

Satellites

International Space Station Missions

Moon Missions

Earth to Earth Transportation

With BFR, most of what people consider to be long distance trips would be completed in less than half an hour. In addition to vastly increased speed, one great thing about traveling in space is there is almost no friction. Once the ship leaves the atmosphere, there is no turbulence or weather. Consider how much time we currently spend traveling from one place to another. Now imagine most journeys taking less than 30 minutes, with access to anywhere in the world in an hour or less.

Time Comparisons to Major Cities

Route Distance Commercial Airline Time via BFR
Los Angeles to New York 3,983km 5 hours, 25 min 25 min
Bangkok to Dubai 4,909km 6 hours, 25 min 27 min
Tokyo to Singapore 5,350km 7 hours, 10 min 28 min
London to New York 5,555km 7 hours, 55 min 29 min
New York to Paris 5,849km 7 hours, 20 min 30 min
Sydney to Singapore 6,288km 8 hours, 20 min 31 min
Los Angeles to London 8,781km 10 hours, 30 min 32 min
London to Hong Kong 9,648km 11 hours, 50 min 34 min