You might be excited about the Falcon Heavy launch later today, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has already set anticipations high for what might be coming next.
Taking questions from reporters yesterday (February 5) in a conference call, Musk said the spaceship part of SpaceX’s next venture – the Big F*cking Rocket, or BFR – could be ready by next year. That’s even before we’ve seen the Falcon Heavy take flight.
BFR, if you remember, is Musk’s vision to send people around the Solar System and colonize Mars. It consists of a single giant reusable booster – dubbed by Musk the BFB (you can work that acronym out for yourself) or BRB (as it’ll “be right back”) – and a reusable spaceship on top.
The somewhat ambitious plan is to use that ship for many different missions, including trips into deep space – such as the Moon, Mars, or even icy moons like Europe and Enceladus – and also to take passengers on flights on Earth, reducing the time between distant cities to 30 minutes at the cost of an airplane ticket.
“We’ve decided to focus our future developments on the BFR,” said Musk. “It looks like the BFR development is moving quickly.”
SpaceX had originally planned to use its Falcon Heavy to send two paying customers on a Crew Dragon spacecraft around the Moon at some point in the coming years. But Musk said they were not going to push ahead with putting Falcon Heavy through tests to enable it to carry humans, something that is costly and time-consuming, unless progress on the BFR stalls.
“Our focus is on the [BFR] ship,” said Musk, adding somewhat surprisingly that they “expect to do short flights with the ship next year. That’s aspirational.” Exactly what those flights will entail isn’t clear, but we’d guess it could be similar to the “grasshopper” reusability tests done to practice landing rockets a few years ago.
So where does that leave Falcon Heavy? Well, we’re not sure. What we do know is at 1.30pm EDT (6.30pm GMT) today, a 2.5-hour launch window opens for its inaugural launch. It’ll take off from Launch Complex 39A at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
On board is Musk’s Tesla Roadster car, which will be sent towards the orbital plane of Mars if all goes to plan. After the launch, SpaceX hopes to land the three boosters of the Falcon Heavy back on Earth – two on land and one at sea.