Target - Mars: Ilona Mask's Big Rocket

The founder of SpaceX never hid what the whole story with private astronautics was up to. Back in 2002, Elon Musk shared his grandiose plans for settling other planets, and a little later he outlined the main goal - Mars. So far, mankind is not ready for such flights, and perhaps the main problem remains the lack of launch vehicles and spacecraft of sufficient size. The Mask team hurries to their creation by leaps and bounds, approaching the completion of their, possibly best, creation. The reusable superheavy rocket Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) is preparing to supersede all previous developments of the company.

In the first, Elon Musk announced the launch of work on heavy-duty rockets in 2010. Unlike the classic sketch-drawing-production scheme, the creators of BFR seem to step to the touch, constantly returning back, recounting and weighing new options. While the site for the construction and maintenance of the BFR is being prepared at the port of Los Angeles, and the production of some components has already begun, even the final appearance of the rocket remains undetermined. This approach causes a wave of criticism: they say that SpaceX simply does not know what they are doing. However, the usual schemes for some reason do not work too much: the NASA SLS superheavy rocket hovered for the fifth year at the construction stage, the completion dates are constantly shifting, and the presence of approved and signed drawings does not help in this situation.

In addition, the next changes concern mainly the second stage of the BFR. The first remains virtually unchanged, fuel tanks and other elements have already been created and worked out for it. The main novelty in rocket architecture is interchangeable reusable second stages. So there is nothing surprising in the fact that their refinement continues during the construction of the prototype. It is assumed that the first BFR will be assembled in the port of Los Angeles and delivered to Florida by sea for launch: land transport will not cope with such a massive cargo. It is planned that after the start from Cape Canaveral, the spent steps will land on offshore platforms and will be towed back to Los Angeles to check and prepare for the next launch.

All sit down

The key difference between BFR and all currently existing missiles should be full reusability. But if the return of the first stage performed by Falcon 9 over the past few years has become routine, then landing the second stage is not a trivial task: it will need to extinguish much greater speed. Like the first, it will descend vertically, using engines and folding supports, recessed into the hull at the initial stages of the flight.

However, the second stage will have to land not only on Earth, but also on Mars, delivering people and cargo. Therefore, outwardly it looks more like not a usual cylindrical rocket stage, but a cosmoplane from the future - with small influxes of deltoid wings in the upper and lower parts and flaps necessary for maneuvering. More fuel is needed, which is why the second stage of the BFR is only slightly less than the first. Most modern missiles are made from light metal alloys, but Elon Musk creates BFRs from stainless steel. There are several reasons for this: first of all, the “stainless steel” is cheaper than modern composites, and, among other things, with such a case, the BFR will receive an ablative heat shield that works when braking in dense layers of the atmosphere. Through special valves, the remaining fuel, methane, will flow to the surface of the rocket, protecting it from overheating.



Height: 118 m

Gross weight with fuel: 4400 t

Height: 111.2 m

Gross weight with fuel: 2490 t

First Stage Super Heavy

First stage

Dimensions: 63x9 m

Gross weight: 3065 t

Engines: 7 Raptor

Thrust: 61, 800 kN

Accelerators: None

Dimensions: 64.6x8.4 m

Gross weight: 979.5 t

Engines: 4 hydrogen-oxygen Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25

Thrust: 7440 kN

Accelerators: 2 solid fuel with a total thrust of 32, 000 kN

Second Stage Starship

The second stage of Block 1 (Block 2)

Dimensions: 55x9 m

Gross weight: 1335 t

Engines: 31 Methane Oxygen Raptor

Thrust: 13, 900 kN

Dimensions: 13.7x5 (13.7x8.4) m

Gross weight: 30.7 t

Engines: 1 (4) Hydrogen Oxygen Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10

Thrust: 110 (440) kN


Low Earth Orbit: 100 t

To the Moon (with refueling in orbit): 100 t

To Mars (with refueling in orbit): 100 t

Low Earth Orbit: 130 t

To the Moon (with refueling in orbit): 37 t

To Mars (with refueling in orbit): 45 t

The first stage, called Super Heavy, will use Raptor methane and oxygen engines - one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly fuel pairs. On February 7, 2019, SpaceX engineers managed to bring the prototype engine to full capacity. The second stage of the engines will have seven: the developers combined it with the spacecraft in one structure - Starship, receiving a huge (18 m longer than the “shuttles”) spaceship with the possibility of refueling in orbit, landing on Mars and (after replenishment of fuel supplies) even take-off its surface. However, the “hybrid” second stage will be able to take on not only Martian missions. SpaceX engineers announced the development - so far - of three specialized modifications.

Three hybrids

The key option in both the cargo and manned versions will, of course, be the BFR Starship - a stage with a spaceship. A large space promises acceptable conditions for a small crew or even a group of colonists: according to the latest data, BFR Starship will have from 850 to 1000 cubic meters of pressurized volume and another 88 cubic meters for goods and devices that are not afraid of outer space. This is comparable to the space of a large passenger plane like the Airbus A-380 - nothing like this has ever happened in space. Space Shuttles, considered to be spacious for the work and flight of eight astronauts, had only 86 cubic meters of sealed space, divided into a flight deck and a passenger compartment.

The architecture of the future mission to Mars

The second version of the second stage of the BFR will be auxiliary: its task is to ensure the fulfillment of long-distance space missions by Starship ships. The BFR Tanker refueling tank - apparently unmanned and with the possibility of automatic docking in space - will allow replenishing fuel reserves in orbit before departure, and he will return for a new refueling to Earth. Finally, a modification of the BFR Satellite Delivery Spacecraft with large opening flaps (like shuttles) is designed to launch satellites.

At the present time, a mockup of the future Starship stage is already ready at the Boka Chica cosmodrome in southern Texas. At the end of January he was blown away, but everything was restored in a few weeks: Starhopper is just an empty cylinder, which is necessary for testing Raptor engines. Similar to the chopped off Starship, it will land with the help of engines and make atmospheric jumps - first low, then several kilometers.


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