During a 40-minute talk in a stage, Musk spent much time sharing technical details about the “BFR” technology, which combines a reusable rocket with 31 Raptor motors and a staggeringly tall 48-meter shuttle. It seems that SpaceX hasn’t completely yet come up with an adequate name for the system. Last year, it was the Interplanetary Transport System, but now Musk has reverted to using the original, cheeky “code name” BFR, in which the B stands for big, the R stands for the rocket, and the F stands for fun.
The rocket, which would hold 106 meters tall, would have the ability to lift 150 tons to low Earth orbit under its fully reusable mode. It would have almost double that in an expandable capacity, but Musk envisions traveling the BFR for mostly reusable flights. Certainly, a spacecraft with 31 engines seems unwieldy, but later this year, or in early 2018, SpaceX will likely fly its Falcon Heavy rocket. It will be powered by 27 Merlin engines, which although smaller and less strong, will nonetheless provide a test case for accomplishing so many engines in flight.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Friday’s talk was Musk’s comment on the spacecraft, which has a width of 9 meters and encompasses six engines, propellant tanks, and a large payload area that could carry multiple satellites into space or house 100 people on a journey to Mars. The spacecraft has a pressurized volume of 825 cubic meters, Musk said, which is only regarding 100 meters less than the entire interior volume of the International Space Station.
For crew comfort, the inside of the spacecraft could have up to 40 cabins, a galley, and a shelter for travelers to climb into during a solar storm. Notably, the spacecraft would also have the capability to dock with the extra one in Earth orbit. Using several of these refueling exercises, a spacecraft might leave Earth orbit with full fuel tanks and thereby deliver as much as 150 tons to the surface of Mars.
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