Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX, has presented an updated plan for colonizing Mars with 1 million people.
The International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia, hosted Musk’s presentation on Friday, and SpaceX streamed video of the event via a YouTube Live feed. (You can replay the 42-minute talk here.)
Musk tweeted on Monday that he’d unveil “major improvements” and “unexpected applications” in the talk, which is an update to his one-hour presentation at last year’s IAC in Guadalajara, Mexico — where he revealed his gigantic Mars vehicle plans.
“This should be worth seeing,” Musk tweeted before his IAC 2017 talk. “Design feels right.”
Here are the highlights of Musk’s latest presentation.
He teased a big improvement in cost.
“The future is vastly more interesting and exciting if we’re a space-faring civilisation and a multi-planet species than if we’re not,” Musk said at the beginning of his talk. “I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there there among the stars.”
But he quickly got down to business outlining the updates to his IAC 2016 talk in Mexico.
“I think the most important thing I’m going to convey in this presentation is that I think we’ve figured out how to pay for it,” he added, referring to the launch system. Musk previously called it the “Interplanetary Transport System” or ITS, but this year he re-adopted an older name: the BFR, which is short for “Big F—ing Rocket.”
“We’re still sort of searching for the right name,” he added.
Musk said the goal of the BFR is to “cannibalise” and replace all of SpaceX’s current launch and spaceflight systems, including its 229-foot-tall Falcon 9 rocket, the upcoming Falcon Heavy rocket, and Dragon (its spaceship for NASA).
“If we can do that, then all the resources that are used or Falcon 9, [Falcon] Heavy, and Dragon … can be applied to this system,” he said.
Musk then gave a progress update on developing the BFR
Earlier this year, SpaceX built a 39-foot-wide fuel tank for the spaceship made out of carbon-fibre.
Engineers then put in on a barge, towed it into the ocean, and pressure-tested it (to ensure it could handle the pressure of holding 1,200 tons of liquid oxygen). The test was successful — but Musk said they pushed it as far as it could go to see when it’d burst.
“It shot about 300 feet into the air and landed in the ocean. Then we fished it out,” Musk said, adding that a working carbon-fibre tank — the core of the BFR spaceship — is essential to keeping the spacecraft lightweight and efficient.
Musk also recapped the progress on its giant Raptor rocket engines.
The plan is to put dozens of Raptors on the bottom BFR’s main rocket, giving it extremely powerful lift — enough to loft 150 tons into low-Earth orbit, where the space station resides. (By contrast, the space station weighs about 450 tons.)
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