Artistic rendition of the Big Falcon Rocket during ascent
|Country of origin||United States|
|Project cost||US$5 billion, estimated|
|Height||118 m (387 ft)|
|Diameter||9 m (30 ft)|
|Mass||4,400,000 kg (9,700,000 lb) [needs update]|
|Payload to LEO||100,000+ kg (220,000+ lb)|
|Payload to Moon||100,000+ kg (220,000+ lb)|
(with orbital refueling)
|Payload to Mars||100,000+ kg (220,000+ lb)|
(with orbital refueling)
|Launch sites||Test flights:|
|First flight||2020 (planned)|
|First stage – Super Heavy|
|Length||63 m (207 ft)|
|Diameter||9 m (30 ft)|
|Gross mass||3,065,000 kg (6,757,000 lb) [needs update]|
|Engines||31 × Raptor|
|Thrust||61.8 MN (13,900,000 lbf)|
|Specific impulse||330 s (3.2 km/s)|
4 / LOX
|Second stage – Starship|
|Length||55 m (180 ft)|
|Diameter||9 m (30 ft)|
|Empty mass||85,000 kg (187,000 lb) [needs update]|
|Gross mass||1,335,000 kg (2,943,000 lb) [needs update]|
|Engines||7 × Raptor|
|Thrust||13.9 MN (3,100,000 lbf)|
|Specific impulse||380 s (3.7 km/s) (vacuum)|
4 / LOX
The Big Falcon Rocket (officially shortened to BFR) is a privately-funded, fully-reusable launch vehicle and spacecraft system in development by SpaceX. In November 2018 the second stage and ship was renamed by Elon Musk to Starship, while the first stage was given the moniker "Super Heavy". The overall space vehicle architecture includes both launch vehicle and spacecraft, as well as ground infrastructure for rapid launch and relaunch, and zero-gravity propellant transfer technology to be deployed in low Earth orbit (LEO). The payload capacity to Earth orbit of at least 100,000 kg (220,000 lb) makes BFR a super heavy-lift launch vehicle. However, if the pattern seen in previous iterations holds, the full Starship-Super Heavy stack could be capable of launching 150 tons or more to low earth orbit, more than any other launch vehicle currently planned. The first orbital flight is tentatively planned for 2020.
SpaceX has been developing a super heavy-lift launch vehicle for many years, with the design (and nomenclature) of the vehicle undergoing several revisions over time. Before 2016, the vehicle was referred to as the Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT), then in 2016 Elon Musk presented the vehicle as the ITS launch vehicle, forming a core part of Musk's comprehensive vision for an Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). In September 2017, the design changed to a much smaller 9 m (30 ft)-diameter vehicle and was renamed BFR.
The launch vehicle design is dependent on the concurrent development work on the Raptor rocket engines, which are cryogenic methalox-fueled engines to be used for both stages of the BFR launch vehicle. Development on the Raptor began in 2012, leading to engine testing which began in 2016.
The BFR system is intended to completely replace all of SpaceX's existing space hardware (the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles, and the Dragon spacecraft), initially aiming at the Earth-orbit launch market, but explicitly adding substantial capability to support long-duration spaceflight in the cislunar and Mars transport flight environments.
- 1 History
- 2 Nomenclature
- 3 Description
- 4 Applications
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The development of the BFR, as unveiled in 2017, started in 2012, when in March, news accounts asserted that a Raptor upper-stage engine had begun development, although no details were released at that time. In October 2012, Musk publicly stated a high-level plan to build a second reusable rocket system with capabilities substantially beyond the Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy launch vehicles on which SpaceX had by then spent several billion US dollars. This new vehicle was to be "an evolution of SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster ... 'much bigger'." But Musk indicated that SpaceX would not be speaking publicly about it until 2013.
In June 2013, Musk stated that he intended to hold off any potential initial public offering of SpaceX shares on the stock market until after the "Mars Colonial Transporter is flying regularly."
In August 2014, media sources speculated that the initial flight test of the Raptor-driven super-heavy launch vehicle could occur as early as 2020, in order to fully test the engines under orbital spaceflight conditions; however, any colonization effort was reported to be "deep into the future".
In early 2015, Musk said that he hoped to release details in late 2015 of the "completely new architecture" for the system that would enable the colonization of Mars. Those plans were delayed, following a launch failure in June 2015 until after SpaceX returned to flight in late December 2015.
In September 2016, at the 67th annual meeting of the International Astronautical Congress, Musk unveiled substantial details of a design for a much larger transport vehicle, 12 meters (39 ft) in diameter, the ITS launch vehicle, aimed specifically at the interplanetary transport use case. At the time, the system architecture was referred to as the "Interplanetary Transport System" (ITS) and included detailed discussion of the overall SpaceX Mars transportation mission architecture. This included the launch vehicle (the very large size 12-meter core diameter, vehicle construction material, number and type of engines, thrust, cargo and passenger payload capabilities) but also on-orbit propellant-tanker refills, representative transit times, and various portions of the Mars-side and Earth-side infrastructure that SpaceX would require to support a set of three flight vehicles. The three distinct vehicles that made up the 2016 ITS launch vehicle concept were the:
- ITS booster, the first-stage of the launch vehicle
- ITS spaceship, a second-stage and long-duration in-space spacecraft
- ITS tanker, an alternative second-stage designed to carry more propellant for refueling other vehicles in space
The talk included presentation of a larger systemic vision, aspirationally hoping that other interested parties (whether companies, individuals, or governments) would utilize the new and significantly lower-cost transport infrastructure that SpaceX hoped to build in order enable a sustainable human civilization on Mars.
In July 2017, Musk indicated that the architecture had "evolved quite a bit" since the 2016 articulation of the Mars architecture. A key driver of the updated architecture was to be making the system useful for substantial Earth-orbit and cislunar launches so that the system might pay for itself, in part, through economic spaceflight activities in the near-Earth space zone. In September 2018, a less drastic redesign was announced, stretching the second stage slightly and adding radially-steerable forward canards and aft fins, used for pitch control in a new reentry profile resembling a descending skydiver. The aft fins act as landing legs, with a third leg on the top that looks identical but serves no aerodynamic purpose.
In September 2017, at the 68th annual meeting of the International Astronautical Congress, SpaceX unveiled the updated vehicle architecture. Musk said "we are searching for the right name, but the code name, at least, is BFR." The 2017 design is a 9-meter (30 ft) diameter technology, using methalox-fueled Raptor rocket engine technology directed initially at the Earth-orbit and cislunar environment, later, being used for flights to Mars.
The 2017 design was cylindrical with a small delta wing at the rear end which included a split flap for pitch and roll control. The delta wing and split flaps were said to be needed to expand the flight envelope to allow the ship to land in a variety of atmospheric densities (no, thin, or heavy atmosphere) with a wide range of payloads (small, heavy, or none) in the nose of the ship.:18:05–19:25 Three versions of the ship were described: BFS cargo, BFS tanker, and BFS crew. The cargo version will be used to launch satellites to low Earth orbit—delivering "significantly more satellites at a time than anything that has been done before"—as well as for cargo transport to the Moon and Mars. After retanking in a high-elliptic Earth orbit the spaceship is being designed to be able to land on the Moon and return to Earth without further refueling.:31:50
Additionally, the BFR system was shown to theoretically have the capability to carry passengers and/or cargo in rapid Earth-to-Earth transport, delivering its payload anywhere on Earth within 90 minutes.
By September 2017, Raptor engines had been tested for a combined total of 1200 seconds of test firing time over 42 main engine tests. The longest test was 100 seconds, which is limited by the size of the propellant tanks at the SpaceX ground test facility. The test engine operates at 20 MPa (200 bar; 2,900 psi) pressure. The flight engine is aimed for 25 MPa (250 bar; 3,600 psi), and SpaceX expects to achieve 30 MPa (300 bar; 4,400 psi) in later iterations. In November 2017, SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell indicated that approximately half of all development work on BFR was then focused on the Raptor engine.
The aspirational goal in 2017 was to send the first two cargo missions to Mars in 2022, with the goal to "confirm water resources and identify hazards" while putting "power, mining, and life support infrastructure" in place for future flights, followed by four ships in 2024, two crewed BFR spaceships plus two cargo-only ships bringing additional equipment and supplies with the goal of setting up the propellant production plant.
In a subsequent announcement held at SpaceX's Hawthorne headquarters in September 2018, Elon Musk showed a redesign of the BFS with added three rear fins and two front canard fins. The revised BFR concept has seven identically-sized Raptor engines in the second stage. The second stage also has two small actuating fins near the nose of the ship, and three large fins at the base, two of which actuate, and all three doubling as landing legs. Additionally, an initial 2023 lunar circumnavigation mission was announced. The spaceship is to be used for a proposed private mission to fly space tourists around the Moon, sponsored by Yusaku Maezawa along with several artists of various disciplines.
SpaceX also stated in the second half of the month that they were "no longer planning to upgrade Falcon 9 second stage for reusability." The two major parts of the BFR launch vehicle were also given their own descriptive names in November: Starship for the spaceship/upper stage and "Super Heavy" for the booster stage "needed to escape Earth’s deep gravity well (not needed for other planets or moons)."
By early 2018, the first ship was under construction, and SpaceX had begun constructing a new permanent production facility to build the 9-meter vehicles at the Port of Los Angeles. Manufacture of the first ship was underway by March 2018 in a temporary facility at the port, with first suborbital test flights planned for no earlier than 2019. The company continued to state publicly its aspirational goal for initial Mars-bound cargo flights of BFR launching as early as 2022, followed by the first crewed flight to Mars one synodic period later, in 2024, consistent with the no-earlier-than dates mentioned in late-2017.
Back in 2015, SpaceX had been scouting for manufacturing facility locations to build the large rocket, with locations being investigated in California, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. By September 2017, SpaceX had already started building launch vehicle components. "The tooling for the main tanks has been ordered, the facility is being built, we will start construction of the first ship [in the second quarter of 2018.]"
In March 2018, SpaceX publicly announced that it would manufacture its next-generation, 9-meter-diameter (30 ft) launch vehicle and spaceship at a new facility the company is constructing in 2018–2019 on Seaside Drive at the Port of Los Angeles. The company had leased an 18-acre site for 10 years, with multiple renewals possible, and will use the site for manufacturing, recovery from shipborne landings, and refurbishment of both the booster and the spaceship. Final regulatory approval of the new manufacturing facility came from the Board of Harbor Commissioners in April 2018, and the Los Angeles City Council in May. By that time, approximately 40 SpaceX employees were working on the design and construction of BFR. Over time, the project is expected to have 700 technical jobs. The permanent facility is expected to be a 203,500-square-foot (18,910 m2) prefabricated building that would be 105 feet (32 m) tall.
Nine months after starting construction of some parts of the first test article carbon composite Starship low-altitude test vehicle, SpaceX CEO Musk announced that the "counterintuitive new design approach" he had been mentioning for a month was that the primary construction material for the rocket's structure and propellant tanks would be "fairly heavy...but extremely strong" metal.
Following a personal trip to the South Texas Launch Site in Boca Chica, Texas, Elon Musk revealed on 23 December 2018 that the first test article Starship had been under construction there for several weeks, out in the open on SpaceX property. The "hopper" was being built from a special alloy of stainless steel—not carbon composite as previously thought. According to Elon Musk, the reason for using this material is that "it’s [stainless steel] obviously cheap, it’s obviously fast—but it’s not obviously the lightest. But it is actually the lightest. If you look at the properties of a high-quality stainless steel, the thing that isn’t obvious is that at cryogenic temperatures, the strength is boosted by 50 percent." Starship would be used on the initial test flights to characterize the vehicle and develop the landing and low-altitude/low-velocity reentry control algorithms. The initial vehicle will fly with three of the seven possible Raptor methalox engines installed, and the initial flight is expected no earlier than the first half of 2019.
In January 2019, SpaceX changed course and said it would also build the second test vehicle—the Starship orbital prototype—in Texas, after having earlier said that it would be built in the Port of Los Angeles.
Super Heavy prototype assembly is planned to start NET April 2019. The first Super Heavy flights may not feature all 31 Raptor engines of engines in case the booster experiences a failure.
Testing began at the subsystem level, as it does with most launch vehicles, with rocket engine component tests, followed by tests of the complete rocket engine in ground test facilities. Raptor engine component-level testing began in May 2014 with the first full-engine test in September 2016. By September 2017, the development Raptor engine had undergone 1200 seconds of hotfire testing in ground-test stands across 42 main engine tests, with the longest test at that time being 100 seconds.
SpaceX indicated in November 2018 that they were considering testing a heavily-modified Falcon 9 second stage that would look like a "mini-BFR Ship" and be used for atmospheric reentry testing of a number of technologies needed for the full-scale spaceship, including a high-Mach control surfaces. Several weeks later, Musk clarified that SpaceX would not build a mini-BFR but would accelerate development of the full-sized BFR instead.
From as early as October 2017, the month after the BFR concept was unveiled, flight tests at the launch vehicle subsystem level of the Big Falcon Rocket were expected to begin with short suborbital hops of the full-scale reusable second stage—subsequently named Starship—likely to be no more than few hundred kilometers altitude and lateral distance, with initial test flights projected to be as early as 2019. By September 2018, it was clear that hops of the upper stage spaceship were to be conducted from the SpaceX South Texas Launch Site near Brownsville, Texas. SpaceX filed an application with the FCC in November 2018 for an experimental radio communications license to support the test flight program, with all test flights on that permit slated to remain under 5 kilometers (16,000 ft) in altitude. Both the test article Starship and the launch site were under construction in South Texas by late 2018 and the primary structure of the first test "hopper" was complete by 10 January 2019. On 15 January 2019, SpaceX technicians separated the nose and tail sections of the Starship hopper so fuel and oxidizer tank bulkheads could start being installed on 21 January 2019. Unfortunately, on 23 January 2019, the Starship hopper's nose section was toppled over by strong winds. According to Musk, the propellant systems needed for flight were undamaged, but the nose section will take a few weeks to repair.
At least as early as 2005, SpaceX had used the descriptor "BFR" for its conceptual large Mars rocket, even noting that the notional goal of the launch vehicle was 100 t (220,000 lb) to orbit, but also noting that SpaceX had not figured out how to pay for development. Beginning in mid-2013, SpaceX referred to both the mission architecture and the vehicle as the Mars Colonial Transporter. By the time the large 12-meter diameter design was unveiled in September 2016, SpaceX had already begun referring to the overall system as the Interplanetary Transport System and the launch vehicle itself as the ITS launch vehicle.
With the announcement of a new 9-meter design in September 2017, SpaceX resumed using the name "BFR". Musk said in the announcement "we are searching for the right name, but the code name, at least, is BFR." SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell subsequently stated that BFR stands for "Big Falcon Rocket". However, Elon Musk has explained in the past that although BFR is the official name, he drew inspiration from the BFG weapon in the Doom video games. The BFR has also occasionally been referred to informally by the media and internally at SpaceX as "Big Fucking Rocket". The upper stage is also the spaceship, or for a time in 2017–18 was referred to as "BFS".[NB 1] The booster first stage has also been referred to as the "BFB".[NB 2] In November 2018, the spaceship was renamed Starship, and the first stage booster was named Super Heavy.
Notably, in the fashion of SpaceX, even that term super heavy had been previously used by SpaceX in a different context. In February 2018, at about the time of the first Falcon Heavy launch, Musk "suggested the possibility of a Falcon Super Heavy—a Falcon Heavy with extra boosters. 'We could really dial it up to as much performance as anyone could ever want. If we wanted to we could actually add two more side boosters and make it Falcon Super Heavy.'"
The SpaceX next-generation launch vehicle design combines several elements that, according to Musk, will make long-duration, beyond Earth orbit (BEO) spaceflights possible. The design is projected by SpaceX to reduce the per-ton cost of launches to low Earth orbit (LEO) and of transportation between BEO destinations. It will also serve all use cases for the conventional LEO market. This will allow SpaceX to focus the majority of their development resources on the next-generation launch vehicle.
The fully reusable super-heavy-lift Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) will consist of two main parts: a reusable booster stage, named Super Heavy and a reusable second stage with an integrated payload section, named Starship.
Combining the second-stage of a launch vehicle with a long-duration spaceship will be a unique type of space mission architecture. This architecture is dependent on the success of orbital refueling.
- Both stages are designed to be completely reusable, with the booster returning to land on the launch mount while the second-stage/spaceship will have the ability to return to near the launch mount. Both will use retropropulsive landing and the reusable launch vehicle technologies developed earlier by SpaceX.
- The full Starship-Super Heavy stack will stretch 118 m (387 ft), 25 m (82 ft) taller than the Statue of Liberty.
First stage: Super Heavy
The first stage, or booster—also referred to as Super Heavy—of the SpaceX next-generation launch vehicle is 63 meters (207 ft) long and 9 m (30 ft) in diameter. It is expected to have a gross liftoff mass of 3,065,000 kg (6,757,000 lb) It is constructed of stainless steel tanks and structure, holding subcooled liquid methane and liquid oxygen (CH
4/LOX) propellants, powered by 31 Raptor rocket engines providing 61.8 MN (13,900,000 lbf) total liftoff thrust. The booster is projected to return to land on the launch mount, although it might land on legs initially.
Second stage and spaceship: Starship
Starship is a reusable launch vehicle second stage with an integrated payload section, that has the ability to operate as a long-duration crewed spacecraft on flights both in, and beyond Earth orbit. It will be built in at least three versions:
- spaceship: a large, long-duration spacecraft capable of carrying passengers or cargo to interplanetary destinations, to LEO, or between destinations on Earth.
- tanker: a cargo-only propellant tanker to support the refilling of propellants in Earth orbit. The tanker will enable launching a heavy spacecraft to interplanetary space as the spacecraft being refueled can use its tanks twice, first to reach LEO and afterwards to leave Earth orbit. This design reaches a Delta-v similar to three-stage rockets without needing the corresponding large mass fractions.
- satellite delivery spacecraft: a vehicle with a large cargo bay door that can open in space to facilitate the placement of spacecraft into orbit, or the recovery of spacecraft and space debris.
- The ability to return to near the launch mount using retropropulsive landing and the reusable launch vehicle technologies developed earlier by SpaceX.
- The landing reliability is projected by SpaceX to be able to ultimately achieve "airline levels" of safety due to engine-out capability.
- Rendezvous and docking operations will be automated.
- There will be on-orbit propellant transfers from Starship tankers to Starship spaceships or cargo spaceships.
- A Starship and its payload will be able to transit to the Moon or fly to Mars after on-orbit propellant loading.
- Stainless steel structure and tank construction. Its strength-to-mass ratio is comparable to or better than the earlier design alternative of carbon fiber composites across the anticipated temperature ranges, from cryogenic to the high temperatures of atmospheric reentry.
- Some parts of the craft will be built with a stainless steel alloy that "has undergone [a type of] cryogenic treatment, in which metals are ... cold-formed/worked [to produce a] cryo-treated steel ... dramatically lighter and more wear-resistant than traditional hot-rolled steel."
- The thermal protection system against the heat and ablation of atmospheric reentry, will not use a heatshield, but a double stainless-steel skin with active coolant flowing in between the two layers. The windward side has several small pores that will allow for transpiration cooling, essentially sweating water or methane fuel.
- As envisioned in the 2017 design unveiling, the Starship is to have a pressurized volume of approximately 1,000 m3 (35,000 cu ft), which could be configured for up to 40 cabins, large common areas, central storage, a galley, and a solar storm shelter for Mars missions plus 12 unpressurized aft cargo containers of 88 m3 (3,100 cu ft) total.
When Starship is used for BEO launches to Mars, the functioning of the overall expedition system will include propellant production on the Mars surface. This is necessary for the return trip and to reuse the spaceship at a minimal cost. Lunar destinations (some flybys, orbits and landings) will be possible without lunar-propellant depots, so long as the spaceship is refueled in a high-elliptical orbit before the lunar transit begins. Some lunar flybys will be possible without orbital refueling as evidenced by the mission profile of the SpaceX lunar tourism mission.
Launch vehicle specifications and performance
|Overall launch vehicle
(booster + ship)
|Super Heavy (booster)||Starship (spaceship/tanker/|
|LEO payload||100,000+ kg (220,000+ lb)|
|Return payload||50,000 kg (110,000 lb)[needs update?]|
|Cargo volume||1,088+ m3 (38,400+ cu ft)||N/A||1,000+ m3 (35,000+ cu ft)|
88 m3 (3,100 cu ft)
|Diameter||9 m (30 ft)|
|Length||118 m (387 ft)||63 m (207 ft)[needs update?]||55 m (180 ft)|
|Maximum mass||4,400,000 kg (9,700,000 lb)[needs update?]||1,335,000 kg (2,943,000 lb)|
4 – 240,000 kg (530,000 lb)[needs update?]
2 – 860,000 kg (1,900,000 lb)[needs update?]
|Empty mass||85,000 kg (187,000 lb)[needs update?]|
|Engines||31 × Sea level Raptors||7 × Sea level Raptors|
|Thrust||52.7 MN (11,800,000 lbf)||11.9 MN (2,700,000 lbf) total|
The Raptor engine design chamber pressure is 25 MPa (250 bar; 3,600 psi), although SpaceX plans to increase that to 30 MPa (300 bar; 4,400 psi) in later iterations of the engine. The engine will be designed with an extreme focus on reliability for any single engine and "seven engines means it's definitely capable of [mitigating] engine out at any time, including two engine out, in almost all circumstances. So you could lose two engines and still be totally safe. In fact, [in] some cases you can lose up to four engines and still be totally fine. So it only needs three engines for landing; three out of seven." In this way, the ship is being designed to achieve "landing reliability that is on par with the safest commercial airliners."
- Starship test flight rocket
The construction of the initial test article—the "Starship test flight rocket" or "test hopper"—was begun in early December 2018 and the external frame and skin was complete by 10 January 2019. Constructed outside in the open on a SpaceX property just two miles from Boca Chica Beach on the Gulf of Mexico in South Texas, the rocket rapidly came together in less than six weeks. Originally thought by watchers of construction at the SpaceX South Texas Launch Site to be the initial construction of a large water tower, the stainless steel vehicle was built by welders and construction workers in more of a shipyard form of construction than traditional aerospace manufacturing. The vehicle is 9 meters (30 ft) in diameter and 39 meters (128 ft) tall. The test article will be used to flight test a number of subsystems of the Starship and will be used to expand the flight envelope as this radically unusual reusable Starship second stage and spaceship continues in design, build and test for the next several years.  Testing will commence at the SpaceX South Texas Launch Site near Boca Chica, Texas, with the initial test flight of the low-velocity prototype anticipated by February or March, approximately one year ahead of schedule. All test flights of the "test hopper" will be low altitude, under 5 kilometers (16,000 ft).
- Starship orbital prototype
In addition, a Starship orbital prototype, also referred to as the "Starship Mk I orbital design," was under construction in San Pedro, California by December 2018. Planned for high-altitude and high-velocity testing, it is expected to be completed by June 2019. The orbital prototype will be taller than the suborbital hopper, have thicker skins, and a smoothly curving nose section.
The Big Falcon Rocket launch vehicle is designed to replace all existing SpaceX vehicles and spacecraft: Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles, and also the Dragon capsule. SpaceX estimates that BFR launches will be cheaper than the existing fleet, and even cheaper than the retired Falcon 1, due to full reusability and precision landing of the booster on its launch mount for simplified launch logistics. SpaceX intends to fully replace its vehicle fleet with BFRs during the early 2020s.:24:50–27:05
- legacy Earth-orbit satellite delivery market
- long-duration spaceflights in the cislunar region
- Mars transportation, both as cargo ships as well as passenger-carrying transport
- long-duration flights to the outer planets, for cargo and astronauts
- commercial passenger travel on Earth, competing with long-range aircraft. Although both CEO Musk and COO Shotwell have mentioned the theoretical ability of BFR to carry passengers on suborbital flights between any two points on Earth in under one hour, they have not announced any concrete plans to pursue this use case.
Lunar flyby tour
In September 2018, SpaceX announced that it signed a contract to fly a group of private passengers around the Moon aboard Starship. In addition of the pilots, this lunar flyby will be crewed by Yusaku Maezawa, who will invite 6 to 8 artists to travel with him around the Moon in 2023. The expected travel time would be about 6 days.
Transport to Mars and Mars surface ship use
Any Mars expeditions would refuel Starships in low Earth orbit before departing for Mars. Early ships would be left on Mars to house equipment, store propellant, or provide spare parts. Eventually, once humans travel to Mars, at least one of the reusable Starships from earlier flights would be capable of being refueled to provide a redundant spare spacecraft for a return journey to Earth. 
- Big Falcon Spaceship
- Big Falcon Booster
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- "Mars". 2016-09-20.
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Construction of the first prototype spaceship is in progress. 'We're actually building that ship right now,' he said. 'I think we'll probably be able to do short flights, short sort of up-and-down flights, probably sometime in the first half of next year.'
- "The first SpaceX BFR should make orbital launches by 2020". 2018-03-19. Retrieved 2018-10-14.
Boyle, Alan (19 November 2018). "Goodbye, BFR … hello, Starship: Elon Musk gives a classic name to his Mars spaceship". GeekWire. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
Starship is the spaceship/upper stage & Super Heavy is the rocket booster needed to escape Earth’s deep gravity well (not needed for other planets or moons)
- SpaceX Aims to Begin BFR Spaceship Flight Tests as Soon as Next Year. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics. 7 February 2018.
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The new rocket is still known as the BFR, a euphemism for 'Big (fill-in-the-blank) Rocket.' The reusable BFR will use 31 Raptor engines burning densified, or super-cooled, liquid methane and liquid oxygen to lift 150 tons, or 300,000 pounds, to low Earth orbit, roughly equivalent to NASA’s Saturn 5 moon rocket.
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SpaceX is in the midst of a variety of ambitious engine programmes, including the Merlin 2, a significant modification of the Merlin 1 series, and the Raptor upper stage engine. Details of both projects are tightly held.
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The fully reusable rocket that Musk wants to take colonists to Mars is an evolution of SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster.... 'It's going to be much bigger [than Falcon 9], but I don’t think we’re quite ready to state the payload. We’ll speak about that next year,' Musk said. ... 'Vertical landing is an extremely important breakthrough — extreme, rapid reusability.'
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The Mars transport system will be a completely new architecture. Am hoping to present that towards the end of this year. Good thing we didn't do it sooner, as we have learned a huge amount from Falcon and Dragon.
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We'll have the next generation rocket and spacecraft, beyond the Falcon and Dragon series... I'm hoping to describe that architecture later this year at the International Astronautical Congress. which is the big international space event every year. ... first flights to Mars? we're hoping to do that in around 2025 ... nine years from now or thereabouts.
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the updated version of the Mars architecture: Because it has evolved quite a bit since that last talk. ... The key thing that I figured out is how do you pay for it? If we downsize the Mars vehicle, make it capable of doing Earth-orbit activity as well as Mars activity, maybe we can pay for it by using it for Earth-orbit activity. That is one of the key elements in the new architecture. It is similar to what was shown at IAC, but a little bit smaller. Still big, but this one has a shot at being real on the economic front.
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wide-reaching changes to BFR’s general structural composite, Musk at long last confirmed what some suspected – now known as Starship/Super Heavy, the BFR program has officially moved away from carbon fiber composites as the primary material of choice for the rocket’s structure and propellant tanks, instead pivoting to what Musk described as a “fairly heavy metal”.
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Falcon 9 second stage will be upgraded to be like a mini-BFR Ship," Musk said. The BFR’s upper stage is sometimes referred to as a "spaceship
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[The] spaceship portion of the BFR, which would transport people on point-to-point suborbital flights or on missions to the moon or Mars, will be tested on Earth first in a series of short hops. ... a full-scale Ship doing short hops of a few hundred kilometers altitude and lateral distance ... fairly easy on the vehicle, as no heat shield is needed, we can have a large amount of reserve propellant and don’t need the high area ratio, deep space Raptor engines.
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SpaceX would build a huge rocket: the BFR, or Big Falcon Rocket—or, more crudely among staff, the Big Fucking Rocket
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So it is a bit tricky. Because we have to figure out how to improve the cost of the trips to Mars by five million percent ... [which] translates to an improvement of approximately 4 1/2 orders of magnitude. These are the key elements that are needed ... to achieve ...[this] improvement. Most of the improvement would come from full reusability—somewhere between 2 and 2 1/2 orders of magnitude—and then the other 2 orders of magnitude would come from refilling in orbit, propellant production on Mars, and choosing the right propellant.
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[Musk wrote,] "The flight engine design is much lighter and tighter, and is extremely focused on reliability."
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Seven engines means it's definitely capable of [mitigating] engine out at any time, including two engine out, in almost all circumstances. So you could lose two engines and still be totally safe. In fact, [in] some cases you can lose up to four engines and still be totally fine. So it only needs three engines for landing; three out of seven.
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In a move that would have seemed crazy a few years ago, Mr. Musk stated that the goal of BFR is to make the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy rockets and their crew/uncrewed Dragon spacecrafts redundant, thereby allowing the company to shift all resources and funding allocations from those vehicles to BFR. Making the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, and Dragon redundant would also allow BFR to perform the same Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Beyond LEO satellite deployment missions as Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy – just on a more economical scale as multiple satellites would be able to launch at the same time and on the same rocket thanks to BFR's immense size.
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