10 Facts About SpaceX And How It Is Revolutionizing Space Travel

Cargo Delivery To The International Space Station That’ll Be $150 Million

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Beginning in 2009, NASA awarded SpaceX a $1.6 billion contract to begin resupply missions to the ISS. Coming on the heels of the space shuttles’ retirement, this agreement marked the first time that NASA would rely on a private company to deliver cargo to the station.

Over an eight-year period, SpaceX was charged with sending a minimum of 20 metric tons of supplies—including food, water, and scientific equipment—to rendezvous with the ISS in low Earth orbit. In 2015, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said that each of the three planned missions for that year was valued at around $150 million. Since 2016, NASA has signed on for another 14 resupply missions with SpaceX.

The contract between NASA and SpaceX is a standard money-for-services style of interaction. Although $150 million per mission may seem like a lot, it is a fraction of what NASA and US taxpayers would pay if they were to oversee development of their own launch and payload vehicles. NASA is also assisting SpaceX in the development of its crewed Dragon capsule. Combined with the Falcon 9, the Dragon will take astronauts to the ISS within several years.

As with the far cheaper resupply missions, the development of the manned Dragon capsule is projected to cost NASA about $17 billion less than the design and construction of their own vehicle, the Orion. Per launch, it is expected that the Dragon will again be cheaper by a significant margin. It would seem that the future of space travel currently lies in a partnership between private space corporations and government agencies.

Planned Colonization Of Mars When Can I Buy My Ticket?

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Everything that SpaceX has worked for so far has been in service of its founding vision: making humanity a multiplanetary species. In 2017, Musk said, “You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great—and that’s what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.”

For the past 10 years, the company has worked to perfect propulsive landing technology, optimize boosters to become as close to 100 percent reusable as possible, and experiment with carbon fiber space frames to produce lighter, stronger vehicles that cost less than those made from traditional materials.

The purpose of all these advancements is to make a trip to Mars financially feasible, as in $500,000 per ticket instead of several billion. Musk believes that the cost could dip below $100,000 with a continued refinement of the reusable technology.

The timeline for Mars is fast and furious, with at least two cargo missions to the red planet scheduled for as soon as 2022. Two years later, Musk and his team intend to send four ships to Mars, two carrying additional supplies and two carrying crews of astronauts. The enabler of these ambitions is the massive rocket code-named the BFR.

The BFR One Rocket To End Them All

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Once constructed, the Big F—king Rocket (BFR) will be the most powerful rocket ever made—and for good reason. It must be able to lift the equivalent of a blue whale’s weight in cargo and people into orbit. The rocket is a single stage to orbit design. (By comparison, the current Falcon 9 and Heavy rockets are two stages.) This means the entire rocket is completely reusable.

As a result, the BFR, a design almost 12 times as powerful as the Falcon 9, will be cheaper to launch and far more versatile. The endgame is for the BFR to replace all of SpaceX’s vehicles currently in operation: the Falcon 9, Heavy, and Dragon capsule.

A spaceship or a tanker vehicle can be mounted atop the booster. The spaceship can land anywhere in the solar system and has a planned capacity of 100 people, their cargo, and other supplies for a total mass of 150 tons. It has a pressurized volume of 825 cubic meters (29,000 ft3), which is greater than the main deck of an A380 commercial airliner.

In its Mars transit configuration, it is planned to have 40 cabins (which can comfortably house two to three people each), a galley, several large common areas, an entertainment center, a solar storm shelter, and a large cargo hold.

If that doesn’t seem impressive enough, you could give the aforementioned blue whale a partner and a baby and happily fit all of them inside the spaceship. The tanker vehicle will have the same space frame as the spaceship, but it will be filled with liquid methane and liquid oxygen fuel.

BFR’s design is truly monstrous. The booster with payload vehicle attached stands 106 meters (348 ft) off the ground and 9 meters (30 ft) in diameter, on par with the Saturn V rocket which carried men to the Moon. The proposed system will send the spaceship and all its occupants and cargo to a “parking orbit.”

While the spaceship waits, the booster will return to its launchpad via propulsive landing and be mounted with the tanker. Then the booster will blast off again and propel the tanker to rendezvous with the spaceship. The tanker will refuel the spaceship and return to Earth with the booster as the spaceship departs for Mars.

At a speed of 100,000 kilometers per hour (62,000 mph), the passengers aboard the spaceship will become the fastest humans to have ever lived and will reach Mars within three months.

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