back to article Musk: Come ride my Big F**king Rocket to Mars

Elon Musk thinks he can get humans onto Mars within the next seven years. On Friday, he told the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, Australia, how he intends to do it. Key to Musk's plans is the BFR (aka a Big Fucking Rocket), a 106-metre (348-foot) tall beast slightly shorter than the Saturn V, and 9 …

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    1. Vulch
      Headmaster

      Re: "They put their first rocket into orbit just nine years ago"

      Technically they've only landed fourteen rockets in a row, it's just that two of them have landed twice.

      1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

        Re: "They put their first rocket into orbit just nine years ago"

        Technically, he said they've performed 16 successful landings in a row. He didn't say how many rockets were involved....

  2. Geoffrey W Silver badge
    Gimp

    Elon Musk - With his boundless ambitions and a name straight from a Philip K Dick novel, he's the Palmer Eldritch of our times and there's no knowing what doom he will bring back to our planet. Flow my tears, Perky Pat, and pass the ChewZ. Ubik help us...

    1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

      Well... I think the name Delos D. Harriman fits much better.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      I remember this idea being proposed for the HOTOL craft in about 1981, and apparently the idea was suggested by Barnes-Wallis in the 50s.

      1. Neil Stansbury

        Reaction Engines and their SABRE platform - the son of HOTOL - lets see what happens....

      2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        HOTOL / Skylon / A2 is a very different cryptid

        Skylon would use liquid hydrogen and air up to mach 5.4 then switch to liquid oxygen to LEO. Payload of 17T to LEO (F9 is 22T) or 10T to ISS (F9/Dragon is 6T) with anticipated launch cost of $10M. The long range aircraft variant (A2) only goes up to mach 5ish, so flight time is nearer 4½ hours. A2 has a fuel efficient subsonic mode allowing takeoff and landing at existing airports.

        The advanced technology for Skylon/A2 requires large investment over a long time period. Skylon has only attracted a tiny fraction of the required funding and A2 has not been funded at all.

        The other good comparison is Sea Dragon. Reusable LOX/RP-1 first stage, launch cost looks like half the price of a Falcon 9 but inflation would have doubled it a few times since 1962. 550T to LEO is almost 4x BFR. Sea dragon would have been a VBFR made of cheap thick steel, towed out to sea by a nuclear powered aircraft carrier which would break sea water into hydrogen and oxygen for stage 2. Stage 1's unpowered "landing" (huge splash) would have been spectacular.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: HOTOL / Skylon / A2 is a very different cryptid

          The advanced technology for Skylon/A2 requires large investment over a long time period.

          Using the £7bn mentioned on Wikipedia, that would be about half the money being frittered on the UK smart metering programme. Or a quarter of the cost of a new power station in Somerset. Or less than 10% of the cost of the ridiculous HS2. Or half of one year's waste by the British government on "foreign aid". Or less than the cost of the failed NHS records project. Or about three year's "average" waste and inefficiency by the MoD in cancellations, failures and overspends.

          The money's clearly there, what is needed is a British government with vision, spine, technical competence. Those sadly won't be arriving any time soon, given the collection of wankstains sitting on both sides of both houses of Westminster.

          1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

            Re: ledswinger

            Sorry I can only give you one up vote.

            1. Pedigree-Pete
              Pint

              Re: ledswinger

              @ Flock Kroes. That's OK. I can give ledswinger 1 too. Beers all round. PP

          2. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: HOTOL / Skylon / A2 is a very different cryptid

            @Ledswinger hard to disagree with you, but I think you will concede that any such effort would not, and should not, end with a single project. Hence money on, for example, space programme, would by necessity have to be also committed in the long term. It is much easier for political classes to blow this sort of money on ad-hoc bungs, failures and waste, as there will be very little backlash if they do their usual, that is U-turn.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: HOTOL / Skylon / A2 is a very different cryptid

              but I think you will concede that any such effort would not, and should not, end with a single project

              I do concede that. But if they committed say an additional £2bn a year, then as and when Skylon (or whatever) became a reality, the nation could keep that up. No shortage of follow on projects elsewhere - look at Crossrail - we spent £15 billion to speed middle class Thames Valley commuters to their over-paid City jobs. And now that's nearing completion, they are talking about Crossrail 2, a £16bn+ boondoggle that essentially duplicates the existing Thameslink services.

              If the idiots can justify that, and still find £13bn every year to give away to other countries for little or no return, then £2bn is peanuts. Or they could get a grip and fund it from stamping out benefit fraud (£1.6bn+ annually) or tax and VAT fraud of about £15bn (that's not including the US tech tax dodgers).

              The UK can easily afford an effective space programme. We're already seeing tax and spending levels that could deliver one, but our lazy, feckless, ignorant, dishonest political classes are so beholden to the Canutian fight against climate change, and so disinterested in this country and its people that all that money is just pissed up the wall.

              1. GraemeMRoss
                Mushroom

                Re: HOTOL / Skylon / A2 is a very different cryptid

                The problem about government funding is that Reaction Engines have explicitly said they are very reluctant to accept it.

                The story is that during the HOTOL debacle the government came in and said they would fund it if they (British Aerospace and the designers) signed a confidentiality clause. This was duly done and the first tranche of money arrived, for feasibility studies etc. These studies were successful (yes there were problems but nothing insurmountable), however the government turned around and said, sorry we don't want to fund it any further.

                British Aerospace said ok can we go out to the market and get funding, to which the government said "No you have signed a confidentiality clause you cannot release any details of what has been developed and you cannot develop it further"

                This has meant that Reaction Engines had to go back to the drawing board and completely design the SABRE engines from the ground up, so as not to violate the governments rulings.

                You can understand why they don't want to get involved with the dead hand of government again

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: HOTOL / Skylon / A2 is a very different cryptid

                  You can understand why they don't want to get involved with the dead hand of government again

                  Of course. But in my imaginary universe of a competent government and competent civil service, they'd be paying the full bill, rather than a bit of crappy seed funding followed dog-in-the-manger stupidity.

                  The MPs and civil servants who've fucked up UK technology, aerospace and manufacturing for years deserve to have their fingers broken one by one. Maybe BEIS could offer seed funding through TechUK to support a competition for an automated means of breaking fingers?

                  1. ProppedUp

                    Re: HOTOL / Skylon / A2 is a very different cryptid

                    Why on Earth would the gov. pay the full bill? The gov. invested £60 million, enough money to help them attract further (private) investment from BAE and DARPA. The gov. did exactly what it should have done.

              2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: HOTOL / Skylon / A2 is a very different cryptid

                "They are talking about Crossrail 2, a £16bn+ boondoggle that essentially duplicates the existing Thameslink services."

                Have you USED the Thameslink services end to end? Hint: "Fucking slow" doesn't even begin to describe it.

          3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            Re: HOTOL / Skylon / A2 is a very different cryptid

            "Or about three year's "average" waste and inefficiency by the MoD in cancellations, failures and overspends."

            Or only 2 months national debt paymernts

  3. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Alien

    Moonbase Alpha

    Liking it, but could we have some mini skirts and purple wigs too?

    UFO, I know, but...

    1. Mark York 3 Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Moonbase Alpha

      ITC cancelled the second season plans.

      Unwilling to let the UFO 2 pre-production work go to waste, Anderson offered ITC a new series idea, unrelated to UFO, in which the Moon would be blown out of Earth orbit taking the Moonbase survivors with it.

      Icon obviously because September 13th.

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: (Don't mention) Moonbase Alpha

        Andersons ex got all the rights to the much longer running Space 1999

        Personally, having seen both, I prefer UFO.

        1. The Brave Sir Robin

          Re: (Don't mention) Moonbase Alpha

          UFO was far better IMV.

          1. Paul 195

            Re: (Don't mention) Moonbase Alpha

            UFO was both genius and unbelievably f***ing miserable. Every episode starts with a funky and swinging Barry Gray theme tune with lots of exciting visuals, purple wigs, silver minidresses etc. Followed by death, destruction, and SHADO just narrowly averting disaster again. Even the end credits seemed kind of bleak.

            In fact, the only optimistic thing about it was the idea that governments would spend all that money trying to protect us from aliens. We know now that they'd be far more likely to lease them landing rights provided they kept their organ harvesting within some kind of prearranged boundaries.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: (Don't mention) Moonbase Alpha

          "Space 1999"

          The live action series with more wooden acting than Joe 90

  4. redpawn Silver badge

    People are Heavy!

    "150 tons or 100 people" equating to 1.5 tons per person. Projecting people will weigh this much in 2024 should alarm the health services. I figure it is time to eliminate non-beer carbonated drink consumption so they can transport 150 people as a result of the 33% savings in fuel per 2024 person. Note: 2024 pounds is slightly more than an ton but rockets usually respect rounding when budgets are involved.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: People are Heavy!

      Presumably the 1.5 tons per person includes things like life support, seats, insulation, luggage...

      1. Adrian Midgley 1

        Re: People are Heavy!

        Food, or less than 100 would arrive wherever

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: People are Heavy!

          Food, or less than 100 would arrive wherever

          Fewer.

          1. horse of a different color

            Re: People are Heavy!

            Calm down, Stannis!

            1. JDX Gold badge

              Re: People are Heavy!

              It's not necessarily even that you need 1500kg to transport a human safely, but that they need a very large amount of space to be carried in.

              If you guesstimate 5m^3 per 100kg human, the transport density of people is actually very very low.

      2. macjules Silver badge

        Re: People are Heavy!

        Err, he said "put them on Mars". Nobody said "alive".

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Coat

      ""150 tons or 100 people" equating to 1.5 tons per person. "

      That'll be that "super morbid obesity"* you hear Americans suffering from

      *Or wobblebottomitis to give it its medical name.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dear Mr Musk

    Please fill your B-Ark and depart as soon as possible.

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Dear Mr Musk

      Are you offering to give up your place for him, seat warmer?

    2. ChrisElvidge

      Re: Dear Mr Musk

      "B Ark" - people seem to forget it was the passengers on the b-ark that survived. Golgafrincham suffered a wipe-out plague caused by unsanitary telephones.

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: Dear Mr Musk - we're doomed

        Golgafrincham suffered a wipe-out plague caused by unsanitary telephones.

        Between IOS and Android, all our phones are pretty odious, should we be worried?

        1. Martin Budden

          Re: Dear Mr Musk - we're doomed

          We should be worried (but not by phones).

  6. bazza Silver badge

    New York to London by rocket? Ok it's a short flight time, but the journey time will be terrible. First get to the boat. Then motor out to the rocket. Then put on a spacesuit. Then get in the rocket, shut the door. Then complete all the pre launch checks. Then whooosh bang up into the sky and back down again. And then the reverse process. I reckon the whole thing could be slower than flying.

    Concorde was very fast of course, but one of the lesser known aspects of Concorde travel was the ground arrangements. They had a dedicated 10 minute check in (none of this 3 hours early nonsense. Though of course they had a lovely lounge if one wished to arrive early). They had dedicated baggage, customs and immigration queues on arrival. Saved about 3 hours airport time off the journey too. So whilst Concorde itself saved about 3 hours, the overall service loped another 3 ish hours off the time too, or about 6 hours quicker.

    BA were (still are) running a similar service from London City. Ok it was subsonic, but overall still 3, 4 hours quicker than an ordinary flight from London Heathrow (City airport is very handily placed). The new C series from Bombardier is very interesting because it can manage London City to New York without having to refuel at Shanon in Ireland on the way, saving another hour or so.

    I reckon Musk's half hour rocket would take a ton of time...

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      You solved the biggest problem your mentioned

      Today cattle are required to spend three hours laughing at the insane prices in the airport Mall.As you say, in the past 10 minute check-in worked. Security, baggage handling, customs and immigration can all happen on the boats. (The boats are required. BFR is far too loud to get near a city). Getting into an EVA suit is difficult and time consuming. Getting into a Dragon flight suit is much easier, but decompression would mean you could barely move until pressure is restored. Soyuz crew flew without flight suits (until a crew died from decompression). I expect BFR passengers will not wear flight suits.

      I can easily imagine half an hour added to each side of the journey. Getting 1000 people from the ship to a BFR will take time, but one of the advantages of Concorde was you could do about twice as many flights per aircraft because the journey time was short. That goes x5 for BFR.

      BFRs hanging around while 1000 people climb the stairs in the strong back is not going to be cost effective. No doubt Musk will come up with something quicker.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "Today cattle are required to spend three hours..in the airport Mall."

        Except (I'm told) at Regan National in Washington DC.

        Where the demands of the USians law makers and their assorted entourages ensure a considerably faster service.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: You solved the biggest problem your mentioned

        "BFR is far too loud to get near a city"

        Taking a boat or whatever to get to a place where a _minimum_ 24 hours of being airborne (usually more like 2 days end to end) can be whittled down to less than 4 hours is a win for me, even if the whole trip is 12 hours door to door.

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Setting aside my own scepticism for just a moment...

      Slower than flying depends very much on the corridor. London to North America takes 8 to 12 hours and to south-east Asia takes 12 to 14 hours. London to south-east Australia can't even be done in a single hop, but when it can it's expected to take 20 hours to Sydney.

      Tanking before passengers have boarded may well take some bravery from legislators, operators and passengers alike, but a lot of the other pre-flight checks don't require passengers to be around. That's going to take some interesting work on the sequencing, I suspect.

      How long the boat journey takes depends on how far out to sea it is. That's quite an unknown at the moment.

      I think it's fair to say that personal spacesuits for each passenger aren't likely to be terribly useful; if the craft has lost cabin pressure at any point in its journey, I'd expect a raft of other individually catastrophic (and terminal) failures to also have occurred! However, the spacesuits used by national space agencies are as complicated as they are because they are required do a lot more (and for much longer) than would be required of these ones.

      I enjoyed the video because it shows they're thinking about crazy things. I just love the madness of some of these ideas and I don't mind at all that they will likely never happen.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > How long the boat journey takes depends on how far out to sea it is. That's quite an unknown at the moment.

        In the big scheme of things, I'd have thought the extra cost of a few helicopters should be pretty small.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Joke

        "How long the boat journey takes depends on how far out to sea it is. That's quite an unknown at the moment."

        Most waterways anywhere within easy ride of London are pretty congested already. IIRC, Spaceport UK is pencilled in for Prestwick in Scotland, so that'll be at least 30 years before HS4 (5? 6?) reaches there and may require a stop at passport control.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      "none of this 3 hours early nonsense"

      for the very wealthy, who can afford chartered flights, the check-in process would be considerably faster. first, you're going to use a 'branch' air terminal. In San Diego, for example, that would be the commuter terminal, which only services smaller planes that do short commercial flights (like from San Diego to L.A., or San Diego to Monterey or some other 'whistle stop' airport), as well as CHARTERED planes. And a small private airport (which just has private and chartered planes) would be even easier to do check-in at.

      So when you consider the TSA-caused slowdowns of normal "coach" flyers, the really really rich ALREADY have their "separate and UNequal" system locked-in. For them, it's still "fun to fly".

      but since rockets to mars (or suborbital earth city to city) would ONLY have the super-rich affording the cost of a ticket, then I suppose whatever check-in process THEY go through could be a 'new experience' of sorts.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Aside: I once got us a business upgrade form Boston to Dublin* so I was able to use the fast check-in lane and fast security lane. But, because we were so early there weren't any significant lines for check-in or security so it didn't save us any time.

        * Good timing because it made the 3 hour delay due to a mismatch between fuel readings a _lot_ more bearable. Still missed the connecting flight though.

    4. Wandering Reader

      Re: rocket powered travel, didn't Arthur C Clark point out that - Half the time the toilet's out of order, the other half it's out of reach.

    5. macjules Silver badge

      I can do London (LCY) from DLR station to the plane in 10 minutes. I go through it enough times now to know the security teams by name, which means that you almost get a wave-through.

      The only problem I have now is the evening bottleneck at passport control on the way back.

  7. Martin Summers Silver badge

    I hope he makes it, the future is built on the dreams that men like him have.

  8. Dave Bell

    This could change a lot.

    If this is going to end up as the only SpaceX booster, it changes a huge amount. The sub-orbital hops depend on very high reliability. The price per person suggests an astonishingly low price to LEO. Is it too big a system for the LEO market? At the price, you don't need to use the full payload to undercut everything else in the launch business.

    Airliner-class reliability is maybe the biggest change. I don't have solid figures for Concorde, but 4 flights a day for 27 years and 3 major incidents suggests better than 1 in 10,000 as a working figure. For spaceflight that is an incredible target. I have probably under-guessed the total number of Concorde flights.

    Can the new Raptor Methane-LOX engine work out as part of a Falcon replacement without the BFR-scale system? A Falcon-level booster using the Raptor might be an option, but it would look like a failure. It might turn out to be a neccessary intermediate. Remember, the Falcon has had several step improvements, such as engine details and super-cooled LOX to increase density.

    I think there's a lot of advertising hype here, but the lead times in the whole industry are so long that Elon Musk has to get the basic ideas out in the open well in advance. It's "we're going to do this, start thinking about how you can use this." It might be getting satellite designers to think how they could put multiple big satellites on a booster. Do you have to trade-off between diameter and length to put three Falcon 9 payloads on the BFR? Falcon 9 fairings are already a bigger diameter than the booster: it might not be a good idea to keep doing that.

    But will it work? That is the key.

    1. annodomini2

      Re: This could change a lot.

      Raptor wouldn't work for the F9, the tanks are sized for the Fuel/Oxidiser ratio. Methane needs a lot more fuel (unchilled & unpressurised volume) for the equivalent energy.

      Basically they would have to redesign the whole rocket, at which point build something bigger.

  9. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    I'm not buying any of this

    Not just single stage to orbit, but single stage to orbit while carrying a second stage and/or a massive interplanetary module (I assume it's or even if the article suggests otherwise). This is so far beyond what anyone has achieved so far (and its not like they haven't tried) I have to suspect musk has let something very potent go to his head.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: I'm not buying any of this

      I don't believe it's SSTO. The slides show the second stage's fuel depleted once it's in orbit and requiring in-orbit refuelling before it can proceed to the Moon, Mars or wherever he decides it should go next.

    2. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: I'm not buying any of this

      They are already doing this on the small scale. They only need to scale it up. That is still a very difficult part.

      It's impractical, but not impossible.

      As the other replies suggest, you misunderstood the video/discussion massively, and it is a 2 stage to anywhere (not orbit) for the point to point on a sub orbital trajectory. And 2 stage to orbit and refuel to get anywhere else for the Mars/Moon missions.

      If you doubt it, go away and do the rocket equation, double check your maths against everyone else's (NASA etc) and come back. :)

    3. MrXavia

      Re: I'm not buying any of this

      it's two stage to orbit.... perfectly feasible, even SSTO is feasible with rockets, just not practical (low payload capacity)...

      Also the falcon 9 is two stage to orbit, except they dump the 2nd stage once in orbit, the new one doesn't, they sacrifice payload capacity for re-usability.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Frack Me.......

    Don't tell Michael O'leary.

    He'll want it to be called Ryanspace.

    Flights from a starting price of $2, however with fees, taxes and surcharges minimum price of a one way ticket will be $450,002. Doesn't include luggage, peanuts.

    Flights from London to New York actually go from just off the Isle of Sheppey to New London, NY.

    Commuter boat services to the take off and landing point are a reasonable extra charge of $25,000 each way, space suit rental $42,000, Oxygen supply $18,000..

    Doesn't bear thinking about......

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Economy price flight = NONSENSE

    Musk is full of crap:

    Assume the much much bigger BFR costs the same to launch as the Falcon 9, but will be much higher: $60,000,000.

    Economy ticket NY-> Shanghai: $1000

    Passengers per BFR flight to deliver on ticket price: 60,000

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Economy price flight = NONSENSE

      F9 still costs a significant fraction of what it did when it was fully disposable because they're currently amortising the ~$1bn they spent developing the reusability. That's going to take a little time.

      Now that they've worked that bit out, they're counting on developing rapid turnaround with minimal refurbishment for hundreds, perhaps thousands of flights. Hence, flights for the cost of fuel and not much else.

      Ambitious, certainly, but not the thing you said.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Economy price flight = NONSENSE

        Number of passengers that fit in BFR: 500 ( no way, but let's take that )

        Price of ticket: $1000

        Income from flight: $500,000

        Cost of Falcon 9 launch: $62,000,000 ( with first stage recovery )

        You and Musk think he can launch a BFR for 124 times less than the cost of a Falcon 9 launch ?

        Nonsense.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Economy price flight = NONSENSE

          Whilst I don't think the numbers stack up either, this isn't an economy service. Long distance high speed travel isn't going to come with a cheap ticket. Take a business ticket price then multiply it by 5 or 10 to compensate for the travel time saved. It makes long distance business travel viable as a day trip.

          If you get enough flights out of the BFR and spaceship the cost per flight starts to approach the fuel cost plus landing fees, maintenance and staff costs. Interestingly the fuel cost is much the same for however long the journey. For an F9 the most costly fuel part is the RP1 kerosene which costs five times as much as the LOX. The BFR uses methane and LOX so fuel costs don't rise that much. So cost wise it could be viable particularly on the longest hops.

          The big problem is selling enough tickets to fill it till it becomes routine not to mention the capital outlay of building the launch/landing sites and getting regulatory approval to use them.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Economy price flight = NONSENSE

            "this isn't an economy service"

            That's my point.

            Musk: "Cost per seat should be about the same as full fare economy in an aircraft."

            https://www.instagram.com/p/BZnVfWxgdLe/

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Economy price flight = NONSENSE

              > Musk: "Cost per seat should be about the same as full fare economy in an aircraft."

              Have you ever looked at the cost of *full fare* (fully flexible) economy tickets? It's comparable to semi-flexible business class.

          2. annodomini2

            Re: Economy price flight = NONSENSE

            I can't see the 2 stage approach working, there isn't a need to reach orbital velocity (the reason for multiple stages), but the first stage may achieve enough velocity and altitude for a sub-orbital trajectory on it's own.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Economy price flight = NONSENSE

              "the first stage may achieve enough velocity and altitude for a sub-orbital trajectory"

              Suborbital is trivial. In fact you want to avoid too much velocity.

              If falcon9 and stage2 went straight up and straight down I wouldn't be at all surprised if they could reach 15-25,000 miles out.

        2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

          Re: Economy price flight = NONSENSE

          I repeat: F9 launch costs haven't moved very far despite now being substantially reusable because they're still amortising paying off the development costs for the reusability technology. You're assuming that situation remains true forever. SpaceX is assuming it won't.

          1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Economy price flight = NONSENSE

            Ugh, I edited that poorly. With any luck it still makes sense though...

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Economy price flight = NONSENSE

      The cost/launch including re-use slide shows BFR < Falcon 1. SpaceX launch prices for Falcon 1 have been between $5M and $10M, so the upper limit for the target price is 10K per BFR seat. At first I had difficulty finding flights costing over $600, but adding business class gave me results in the required $5K to $10K range. I am sure if I change the browser id to something Apple flavoured then BFR will look like a bargain.

      (Payload to LEO 150T. The payload should be higher for a ballistic flight, but sticking with 150T allows 1000 passengers with luggage weighing 150kg each. Finding 1000 rich tourists per flight may well be tricky.)

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Economy price flight = NONSENSE

        (Payload to LEO 150T. The payload should be higher for a ballistic flight, but sticking with 150T allows 1000 passengers with luggage weighing 150kg each. Finding 1000 rich tourists per flight may well be tricky.)

        Finding 1000 rich tourists to squeeze into the available payload volume might be a tad tricky too.

    3. Kernel

      Re: Economy price flight = NONSENSE

      "Musk is full of crap:"

      Ah, that'll be why he's a multi-zillionaire making videos about space flight and you're writing comments on el Reg, then.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mars is a doddle.

    All you need to do is build extremely long elastic bands, attach them to the rocket then you won't need fuel for the return journey as the bands will effortlessly pull your ship back to earth.

    Problem solved.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      You will have to offload your mars passengers in a hurry before the elastic goes twang!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I have thought this through, you can hook the band on phobos.

        What could possibly go wrong? I mean it's only named after Horror.

    2. Mephistro Silver badge
      Happy

      "All you need to do is build extremely long elastic bands..."

      Joerg? Is that you??

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It would be like living in a Westfield

    I can't imagine anything worse than living on mars in a kind of base station. I hate Westfield and Canary Wharf. So I can only imagine what living on Mars would be like. A shitter version of Singapore or UAE. Fuck that.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: It would be like living in a Westfield

      oh come on - if we've learnt anything from Hollywood its that Mars is where all the 3 boobied women live.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting stuff

    Achievable? Nah! But what if he does it? Mars I mean. Let's give him some more time, let's say 2030. Is the world in a place were individual dudes (or individual dude's companies) can achieve stuff that entire nations cant? Total game changer if so. This sort of development might even effect the paradigm of nationality. Will it be more important for a person to be an employee or customer of a company, or a citizen of a country? Will the importance of being a nation diminish? Will Olympic medals one day be won, not by the United States or Russia, but by Apple or Gazprom? Weird shit.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Entire nation's goals

      Congress allocated large amount of cash to NASA with the restriction that a hefty chunk of it had to be spent on SLS. If the goal had been to build a self sustaining colony on Mars then spending the SLS budget on appropriate projects would have put the US government well ahead of SpaceX.

      The publicly stated goal of SLS is to create jobs. I am sure it has done so, but probably not cost effectively. Other possible goals are to create profits for aerospace contractors and to fund campaign contributions. On those terms, I am sure SLS is already wildly successful.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Interesting stuff

      "Is the world in a place were individual dudes (or individual dude's companies) can achieve stuff that entire nations cant?"

      I'd like to think so. Because when GUMMINTS get involved, it becomes political. Then the cost inflates for various political reasons (because, gummint). And then the funding gets cut because, political reasons.

      Look at NASA in the 60's, and then the 70's, for a clear example, with respect to moon landings and what they were spending taxpayer money on. LBJ's socialist programs were eating too much of the budget, so NASA took the hits (in favor of re-distributing money via social programs to likely demo-rat voters). So much for Buck Rogers in the latter half of the 20th century. We have been confined to Earth orbit ever since.

      I would prefer that all SOCIALIST spending be dropped in favor of rockets to Mars. At least THAT way you get something for the money being spent [a rocket, to Mars, and the technological breakthroughs in the private sector that go with it]. I doubt that ANY gummint would EVAR see it THAT way, again, not since the 1960's...

      /me watched every manned rocket launch and related broadcast that I could, in the 60's and 70's, ever since I was old enough to be aware of what was going on - that'd be since the Gemini program, actually... and *DAMN* those socialists for DE-FUNDING NASA.

      1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

        Re: Interesting stuff

        @Bombastic Bob: I agree with you about the issues related to funding science and exploration (although there are legit questions as to whether NASA is the best vehicle for that), but the funding dropped between 1968 and 1975, rebounded a little and then remained flat through most of the 1980's, before picking up for the decade between 1988 and 1998 (which was the "peace dividend").

        So to me that looks like conservative pressure, not some failing from Democrats. Sure, I'll gladly agree that there is a dynamic where it appears R's want to cut spending in one area because D's overspent elsewhere, and that NASA was a frequent victim of this sort of thing, but the general trend is that D administrations tend to include NASA as a recipient of government largess, while R's tend to chop it.

        (Of course, none of this truly gets to any kind of "whose to blame" answer, but I'd argue that _in the abstract_ D's tend to like spending government money on research, science and exploration, while R's tend to assert that private interests will do all the work necessary).

      2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Re: Interesting stuff

        I don't think you know what "socialism" (sorry, "SOCIALISM") means.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Interesting stuff

        "Because when GUMMINTS get involved, it becomes political."

        I wonder where we'd be now if not for the political cold war and the political "space race"?

      4. DanceMan
        Mushroom

        Re: LBJ's socialist programs

        You've never heard of this thing called the Vietnam War, enthusiastically expanded by Mr Nixon when he got in? Probably a better explanation for where the billions went.

      5. IT Poser

        Re: I would prefer that all SOCIALIST spending be dropped in favor of rockets to Mars.

        So you want to replace one set of socialist programs with the set of socialist programs you prefer.

        That will go over really well. /sarc

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Come on Elon

    Bring the schedule forward to January 2021 and make a rocket that does the one way trip have space for just three people

    - The donald

    - his current wife

    - Jared K

    I'm sure lots of people would chip in a few buck even the other Dear Leader from N. Korea

    The world will be a better place without him.

  16. ridley

    Missing the point

    "Musk said he wants the BFR to replace SpaceX's existing fleet of hardware – realistically that isn't going to happen any time soon. There just isn't that much stuff that needs to go into space to make it the company's sole launch vehicle."

    You are missing the point. If the BFR is fully reusable your costs per launch are so low that you do not need to lift the full 150 tonnes possible to justify the flight as the cost per flight is below that of a Falcon 9.

    1. maffski

      Re: Missing the point

      You're also missing the point - if the cost is that low then there is much more 'stuff that needs to go into space'. IBM was probably right with 'I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.' for computers at the time.

      For example why bother trying to develop balloons/drones for communications relays if you can lace the entire planet with a low orbit sat mesh for a few hundred million.

      1. chebucto

        Re: Missing the point

        To expand a bit, I imagine the design goals for space gear would change. Now, there's a huge premium on light weight, with an absolute maximum of, what, tens of tonnes? If that constraint is diminished the types of spacecraft made will change. We may see craft to get out into the solar system; flying garbage collectors to grab and de-orbit space junk; larger telescopes, etc etc etc.

  17. Sssss

    I imagine if they kept the landing platform outside the 13 mile limit, it might be easier to do, but what about weather. A storm front starting up has to be planned for in landing. Playing it safe can mean chunks of time lost and delays.

    Now, he said the ride will be as smooth as silk? What does he mean? The film footage of people leaving the atmosphere I've seen is far from smooth. Does he think he has an em drive, but he hasn't contacted somebody?

    1. ridley

      Smooth as silk?

      I suspect that many will not define accelerating to 27000km/h and back again in less than half an hour as being "as smooth as silk".

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Smooth as silk?

        I would expect that it's a bit like taking off with a steam catapult on an aircraft carrier, but with more jolting and vibration. But "scaling up" might make the ride smoother, and ya never know until you try, right?

      2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Re: Smooth as silk?

        I would certainly define it as exciting, however!

        1. Martin Budden

          Re: Smooth as silk?

          The ballistic glide between boost and re-entry would be smooth as silk, but the bits at either end would more than make up for a spot of turbulence.

  18. Craig 2

    Rockets, as well as deadlines, make a whooshing sound* as they fly by so I'm sure Douglas Adams would have approved!

    *BEFORE they leave the atmosphere, smart alec.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      "make a whooshing sound* as they fly by"

      the turbine pump noise, however, would be continuous

  19. Geoffrey W Silver badge

    Half hour inter city rocket travel...My granny always told me "Don't put all your elite in one basket". I foresee a thinning of the 1%, and the meek shall inherit the earth. (The meek can have it, I want no trouble from the meek)

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      What you don't seem to realise is that it's the meek that are the problem.

  20. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Devil

    "let mankind escape the surly bonds of Earth"

    more like, "escape the surly bonds of Earth GUMMINTS"

    A new frontier! YAY!

  21. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

    What is the actual fucking point?

    So... we fuck up this World and move to Mars, if you can afford it. Then you find there is fuck all on Mars worth having.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What is the actual fucking point?

      Mars is red, poppies are red.

      Therefore Martian dust is the shit.

      Tomorrow I will prove that the link between ducks and cows is the reason for their fondness of bread because cows drink milk as it can be combined with flour and eggs to make Yorkshire puddings which is like muffins and that is a form of bread. I'm trying to avoid chickens.

      1. Mephistro Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: What is the actual fucking point?

        "I'm trying to avoid chickens."

        Why? Do you feel bad about them or have you been served an ASBO?

    2. Orv Silver badge

      Re: What is the actual fucking point?

      Yeah, it always strikes me that arguments that the human race needs to spread out to survive contain a hidden assumption that as long as we save a few thousand humans, letting the other ~7.5 billion die is no biggie. Forget asteroid redirection, carbon sequestration, clean energy, any of that stuff, apparently the unseen hand has decided we're just going to dump money into building a private escape pod for the rich.

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: Private escape pod for the rich

        Even with the worst predictions of climate change and Musk delivering a self sustaining Mars colony on schedule, Earth will still be more comfortable for the rich for centuries.

        If you want asteroid redirection, would you fund SLS or buy a ride on a BFR?

      2. Brangdon

        Re: What is the actual fucking point?

        It's not that it's no biggie, it that's having a few million humans survive on Mars is better than humanity being wiped out entirely. Especially if those few million can help the ones left on Earth recover.

        1. Orv Silver badge

          Re: What is the actual fucking point?

          It's just that it's a zero-sum game -- any money we spend on sending an (un)lucky few to Mars is money we don't spend on keeping people safe here on earth. But of course solving problems here isn't exciting or sexy in the way that taking joyrides to other planets is. I'm sure for the 0.1% there's a certain smug satisfaction in being able to think, "well, we've ruined this planet, but at least there's a backup just for us."

          1. Brangdon

            Re: What is the actual fucking point?

            We can do more than one thing at once. People have skills in different areas, and the ones who are good at rocket science are unlikely to be good at the social problems we have on Earth.

            And I doubt anyone is smugly thinking that. Mars will be less pleasant then Earth for the foreseeable future. Musk is planning for unforeseeable events, with long horizons, not some situation likely to arise within the lifetime of anyone currently alive.

    3. Long John Brass Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: What is the actual fucking point?

      So... we fuck up this World and move to Mars, if you can afford it. Then you find there is fuck all on Mars worth having.

      I remember very similar ideas being discussed when I was knee hight to a rats arsehole. We have so many pressing needs down here on earth; Why spend so much money on space?

      To be fair in the 70's there were some major issues WRT clean air, water etc, some have been sorted, new problems have cropped up; But that's the thing, there will ALWAYS be some pressing problem that needs to be solved, if we as a species don't invest at least SOME time and effort into space exploration, it will never happen.

      “The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there's no good reason to go into space - each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision.”

      ― Randall Munroe

  22. Dr. Cybrid
    Meh

    Musk has done good stuff with SpaceX, but...

    It's still just 40's / 50's tech, unfortunately. We just aren't going to get our asses to Mars in any sort of practical manner with these tinkertoys.

    The future belongs to EMDrive (paired photon) / Woodward (MET / MEGA) engines though. And we still need to lick the radiation shielding, gravity, etc. problems too.

    *sighs*

    It'd be nice if somebody could actually be arsed to devote a decent amount of funding and lab resources to the boffins working on those things. There is much to be learned from it, instead we sadly seem to be stuck in the ditch, exploring the final frontiers of political corruption, oligarchy, etc. :-(

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Musk has done good stuff with SpaceX, but...

      "The future belongs to EMDrive"

      well, if it would work, you would have thought that 17+ years later, someone like Musk would've built one, right?

      I see it as being similar to 'cold fusion': MAYBE you get "something" but it's so impractical in actual practice that it's not gonna go anywhere.

      I suspect that things *like* the EM drive actually get thrust due to photons and the reaction drive effect you'd get by shining a flashlight. Get a big enough light, and you'll get measurable thrust. Similarly, that conical 'exhaust port' is probably getting the benefit of microwave photons bouncing off of it [effectively, though it would be a form of scattering] and imparting some of their energy to it in the process. One end of the cone has a different resonant frequency than the other end, so if you're converting higher frequency microwaves into lower frequency microwaves, maybe SOME of that energy is becoming kinetic energy... or more likely, HEAT... and the rest would be 'exhausted' out of the back as microwaves (or infrared photons caused by all of the heating).

      Still, NOT enough to be practical. Maybe mildly amusing, for a scientist, but that's about it.

      1. Dr. Cybrid

        Re: Musk has done good stuff with SpaceX, but...

        bob, you DO realize that for "17+ years" hardly any proper funding and R&D has actually been done with it because most of the boffins have been swearing up and down that it can't possibly work, except that it does right?

        It works on at least some level, and the most important part about it is that we DON'T KNOW HOW it works.

        Sure, you can say that it isn't practical now, but they said that about jet engines back in the day, look at where we are with them now today.

        But sure, ignore what you can't explain and keep throwing tons of money away on old obsolete tech. You'll make the gatekeepers very, very rich in the short time before China masters the tech and leaves you behind in Trumpworld. Oh, wait, you mean you didn't know that they already have patents on some designs and have a satellite in orbit testing these?

        Heck, Boeing even went to the trouble to get the tech for this stuff, tested it under their "Phantom Works", but has suddenly shut up about it. You don't suppose certain business interests might have had something to do with that do you?

        1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

          Re: Damn good reason EMDrive hardly funded

          I read Shawyer's grant proposal for EMDrive back in 2001. The clear defect in the mathematics was so glaringly obvious that it would take government grade stupidity to miss. Shawyer at least had the brains to avoid showing his face at EPSRC where anyone with A-level mathematics would have laughed in his face. Shawyer got his grant from DTI who clearly lacked the skills to spot blatant deception.

          In science, the test of truth is an experiment. The experimental results for EMDrive are 0 ± experimental error. Sometimes people get a non-zero result, but wait a year or two and a source of error is identified sufficient to make the result 0 ± experimental error. Given such consistent results it is amazing that anyone gives Shawyer the time of day.

          You can patent just about anything. So far the UK patent office has drawn the line at perpetual motion machines, but for anything else, getting a patent involves time, money and some knowledge of how to game the system. Working prototypes or a design with a remote possibility of being functional is not required. If the Chinese have a satellite testing EM drive then PT Barnum was right.

          If I was the guy at Boeing who spent money on EMDrive then I would try to hide all evidence that I had anything to do with it out of shame.

          Mentioning Shawyer and EMDrive in the same post as Woodward is a massive disservice to Woodward. Woodward's idea is based on physics that has stood the test of experiment. When he fucked up big time by testing a defective by design prototype he did not throw a tantrum and blame an international conspiracy of mean scientists. Instead he came up with a new design that actually tests the Mach effect properly. I wish the guy luck as he is trying to measure a small force close enough to 0 that extreme care has to be taken to avoid the result being swamped by experimental error in an environment thoroughly poisoned by Shawyer.

          A Mach effect thruster will never get you off the surface of Earth. It will not get you out of Earth orbit or into Mars orbit. It will not land you on Mars. The thrust to weight ratio is far too low. Skylon's tech is way more ambitious than BFR but it only gets you to LEO. I am sure Musk considered it, but he would still need BFR's upper stage to get to Mars, land there and return to Earth. He will recycle much of the upper stage R&D on BFR's booster so he gets that at a huge discount compared to expense and risk of a scaled up Skylon.

          "ignore what you can't explain and keep throwing tons of money away on old obsolete tech."

          I am not ignoring experimental results. EMDrive thrust is zero as expected from theory. MAT and MEGA thrust is really close to zero as expected from theory. Determined effort has got the theoretical minimum mass of useful warp drive and worm holes to approximately that of Jupiter but the entire world's economy is currently too small for an experimental test and no-one has the negative density matter required for stability for sale at all.

          You may not think BFR is sexy, but it is approximately practical.

        2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: Musk has done good stuff with SpaceX, but...

          It doesn't work. No reputable tests have ever found an effect.

    2. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Musk has done good stuff with SpaceX, but...

      EM Drive doesn't really help you here. The thrust is actually far lower than you'd get from an ion drive, which is itself impractically low for a manned mission with this kind of delta-V. The only real application for EM Drive is things like deep space probes, where running out of fuel is often what defines the maximum life of the mission.

      I remain a skeptic about the EM Drive. The experimental setups so far have been such that thermal expansion could create a false impression of thrust, and basically all of the power pushed into an EM Drive comes out as heat. I fear that, like Cold Fusion, EM Drive only works when the person doing the experiment really wants to tease out evidence it's working from the experimental noise.

      I'd love to be proven wrong, mind. But see my first paragraph; this is not going to revolutionize manned missions. It might make for some longer-lived probes, at best.

      1. Dr. Cybrid

        Re: Musk has done good stuff with SpaceX, but...

        Putting aside the recent Finnish theory regarding paired photons, we're back to researching Woodward's MET / MEGA Mach effect drives then.

        That said, its not just longer-lived probes that would benefit. Station keeping thrusters would still be immensely useful for satellites.

        Regardless, I still think both should be getting more effort and funding for research. Even getting a concrete yes or no on whether it works or not is learning something worthwhile. There are after all, worse things we can be spending the money on. Like, F-35s that don't work and worthless politicians. :-P

    3. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      Re: Musk has done good stuff with SpaceX, but...

      "It's still just 40's / 50's tech,"

      AI landing platforms with names of GUV's? 40's * 50's -- yeah, righto, whatever you say . . .

    4. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: Musk has done good stuff with SpaceX, but...

      EMdrive is rather less likely to be the future than something which actually works. Still, perhaps it can be powered with cold fusion and run on polywater, though it might need some serious N-ray shielding.

  23. James 51 Silver badge

    Surely given the destination the name is an homage to Doom?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boeing?

    So will Boeing try to get the BFR banned through legal means or simply arrange to have Elon assassinated?

  25. Martin Budden
    Thumb Up

    Elon has all the best names.

    Raptor, BFR, Moonbase Alpha... all so very cool!

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: Elon has all the best names.

      Add a VASMIR and we could even cut down transit times. :D

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: VASIMR

        Getting useful numbers for VASIMR from the internet is like pulling teeth, but eventually I found this example. In summary a 48T VASIMR tug uses 79T of propellant to take a 61T Mars lander from LEO to LMO.

        BFR's lander is 85T plus 150T cargo. 1100T of propellant gets it from LEO to surface of Mars. At a guess, only 20T is needed to get from LMO to Mars surface, so here is a sensible guess at a VASIMR+BFR mission.

        First use 1⅓ BFR cargo launches to put 4 VASIMR tugs in LEO. This is a one-off cost, but from now on the tugs must be serviced in space. (A BFR can get 1 tug from LEO to Earth, but it may need 0.1 tanker launches to do it).

        Launch a BFR passenger ship and about two tankers to fill up the tug's propellant tanks and give the passengers some landing fuel. I think at this point VASIMR has saved 2-4 tanker launches.

        After a quick trip to Mars, Elon wants his space ship back. Martians load it up with 1100T of propellant and it can go home by itself. That leaves four tugs in LMO. Martians could probably shuttle about 50T of propellant at a time from the surface of Mars using their BFR (if they build an Argon mine), but it would cost them 1100T for each trip.

        Earthlings could have launched an extra couple of tugs in the first place added an extra two taker runs to fuel them and then the 6 tugs at LMO would have 111T of propellant left over to get home. They do not have to rush because they are not pulling tourists, but I have no idea if 111T is enough for a slow ride home. The example does not include the return journey in the budget.

        Factor in Musk's plan to send multiple BFRs to Mars at the same time and you can see why he hasn't ordered a fleet of VASIMR tugs. This back of the envelope calculation shows VASIMR is interesting, but it costs R&D money Elon doesn't have.

    2. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      Re: Elon has all the best names.

      "Just Read the Instructions "

      "Of Course I Still Love You"

      damn right he does.

  26. Elmer Phud Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    BFR

    Anyone calling the main vehicle a BFR is in my good books.

  27. unwarranted triumphalism

    Poor attempt at a joke, just like the man himself. Stick to the overpriced golf buggies, I'll enjoy seeing him fail.

    1. psychonaut

      except that he doesn't seem to be failing...and may actually be the catalyst for many many very good things that govt's just don't want to do.

      i like the guy. He doesn't take himself too seriously, he knows that things will go wrong and doesn't cover it up in bullshit when they do, and he doesn't tie himself to artificially invented "success" time frames. he takes big risks and see's the long game rather than the 4 year bullshit we get from politicians.

      He at least dares to dream, and even better, sticks his money (alright, maybe his shareholders) where his mouth is.

      he certainly doesn't have unwarranted triumphalism....

    2. detritus

      What do people like you gain out of making comments like this?

      Is your life in any way improved, or are you still glumly despairing at the blunt end of irrelevancy?

      - ed

      sorry, @ 'unwarranted triumphalism'

      1. unwarranted triumphalism

        I'm just being realistic. None of this has any chance of happening.

        1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge
          Mushroom

          @unrealistic triumphalism...

          That's what they said about Dragon...

          ... but the reality is that Dragon *has* happened. Together with Falcon 9, It is, literally, a privately-developed system that can carry a man to LEO (never mind that NASA hasn't rated it for manned flight... that rating is just a risk/contingency management plan).

          So some rando proclaiming "none of this has any chance of happening" is, basically, on a verisimilitude par with Donald J. Trump.

          Oh, and while we're at it, those "overpriced golf buggies" can outperform 99% of petrol-engined vehicles, and have a range over 250 miles. So I don't know where you play golf, but I suspect your knowledge of the game's equipment is as flawed as your character.

        2. Long John Brass Silver badge

          Just being realistic

          @unwarranted triumphalism

          So you are one of these people who will only ever try something if they are guaranteed of a success?

          Pretty shit way to live your life mate; But each to their own. Might pay for you to keep the trap shut when others are giving it a go. You're welcome to laugh from the sidelines when they screw up. But don't be too surprised to not get invited to the party when they eventually succeed

          1. unwarranted triumphalism

            Re: Just being realistic

            So you're one of those people who waste time and money on the impossible? Pretty shit way to make a living but each to their own.

            Why not keep your trap shut while other people are making a living being normal instead of nerdy losers? Too bad you won't be invited to share any of the wealth.

            And yeah, I'll enjoy laughing while you and your fellow dweebs keep screwing up and you still have no idea why the laws of physics won't do what *you* want and no one will listen to your crazy ideas.

            1. Seajay#

              Re: Just being realistic

              Unfortunately I'm not one of those people but I wish I were because we need more of them.

              Being sceptical about Musk's plans was entirely reasonable 10 years ago. Given the information at the time, they seemed crazy. But now he's delivered it's not vapourware it worked. Those Tesla Model S and X really are a stunning technological success and a decent commercial success. The Model 3 is an unprecedented commercial success even before it's been built. The Falcon 9 has managed 16 launches and landings in a row. Belief is no longer required, you can see the results.

              Given that track record, if he says that 2022 for a mars trip and 2024 for a manned trip is possible but aspirational, I believe him. I don't think he'll hit those dates but even if he's a few years off, the reasonable response is not "What a loser, he missed his deadline" but "Holy shit, a private citizen acting almost alone is going to put people on mars in the next decade!!!"

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Just being realistic

                Those Tesla Model S and X really are a stunning technological success and a decent commercial success. The Model 3 is an unprecedented commercial success even before it's been built.

                Erm..... a "commercial success" is usually one that makes a profit, isn't it?

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Just being realistic

                @Seajay#

                Exactly what I was going to say, but you beat me to it.

                I would much rather see a privately funded aspirational "deadline" missed by a few years, than a NASA deadline of 15 years later used to pump masses of money into Boeing and Lockheed, before being cancelled by an administration down the line.

                I am much more inclined to believe that Elon will deliver based on the track records of NASA (post Apollo) and SpaceX.

  28. Mark Lockett

    even if the price is possible - how much fuel would this lot need for mass transport

    Musk talked about using this system for mass transport, and getting the price down around current flight tickets.

    Would that not mean a PHENOMENAL amount of fuel? we may or may not have global warming now, but to burn methane to get lots of these rockets into orbit every day would surely be Huge (to use a technical term). I can't see how we would get enough methane to fuel this lot. (actually, with the 100 tonne behomoth returning to earth after only half an hour in orbit, would it need a lot of fuel for braking on top of the fuel to get up to orbit velocity), and then is there going to be a parachute to help the landing, or fire up the rocket motor again to land. It all sounds quite tricky

    1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

      Re: even if the price is possible - how much fuel would this lot need for mass transport

      @Mark... Falcon 9 uses aerodynamic breaking on the vehicle itself (no parachutes), and would probably be travelling at something in the range of 180kts immediately before the rocket ignites for the landing burn. (Based on the speed at which parts of the 747 hit Lockerbie following that attack). There's also the two larger burns at the beginning of the recovery process / re-entry...

      All in all, numbers like 3% of the launch mass is the fuel needed to land the booster. So, yeah, if you're landing a Saturn-V sized thing daily you need a lot of fuel, but proportionally that seems like something relatively speaking close to noise in the overall cost of things!

    2. Seajay#

      Re: even if the price is possible - how much fuel would this lot need for mass transport

      It's mentioned in the talk. The ship has to refuel on mars so it will make methane from ice and CO2, using solar panels. In the long term we could do that on earth too and the whole thing would be carbon neutral.

    3. cray74

      Re: even if the price is possible - how much fuel would this lot need for mass transport

      Would that not mean a PHENOMENAL amount of fuel? we may or may not have global warming now, but to burn methane to get lots of these rockets into orbit every day would surely be Huge

      Given the limited size of the market for international, really fast flights that cost $10,000 or more, fuel consumption would not be large compared to the rest of the transportation industry. Airlines alone are using about $190 billion in fuel a year (ignoring the early 2010s spike), while a few rocket flights per day (at guestimated $10 million in fuel per flight) would only add a small percentage to that.

      1. Zmodem

        Re: even if the price is possible - how much fuel would this lot need for mass transport

        it will cost less then flights of today on airbus concorde 2 with EM Drive that can go half the speed of light

        https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/2/2017/07/27/nasa_lights_bloody_big_rocket_that_doesnt_go_anywhere/#c_3245239

        1. Zmodem

          Re: even if the price is possible - how much fuel would this lot need for mass transport

          >flying at mach 8 at 80->90 km high just below micro gravity, carrying enough oxygen for the generator only, to generate the electric needed for the EM Drive

          1. Zmodem

            Re: even if the price is possible - how much fuel would this lot need for mass transport

            make a miniture EM pulse thruster so you have 1 lb/s of thrust from a single pulse on some kitchen weighing scales and multiply the dimensions and watt/s and then come up with an efficient design

            if you need 8000kW maximum to fly a 900 ton plane into space, it would be a whole lot easier to be able to push a 150 plane along at mach 8 using the retracting force of magnets

            your miniture dimension * 40,000 to match concorde 1, 4 engines of thrust total output until you get everything right and able to fit on a plane

  29. hoola

    So what

    So far we have littered the Moon, with plastic bags and bits of lander. Mars has had allsorts of stuff dumped on it, along with all the other junk in space in the name of science and now Musk thinks it is a good idea to put 100 meatbags in a giant rocket. I supposed on the plus side that is 100 less rich idiots around when they get incinerated on takeoff. landing or suffocated when something goes wrong a the far end.

  30. Zmodem

    i would have to duck past all the windows on the way so i don't get shamed

  31. Otto is a bear.

    Is it me or

    Isn't it a bit ironic, IT article commenting on SpaceX not being good at deadlines, we have a whole industry that has probably never met a single one, merely shifted the target.

  32. hatti

    zero gravity

    What happens if the flights get oversubscribed rather like with United Airlines? There would be a zero gravity fracas with folks spinning in all directions as the winner straps in for orbit.

  33. unwarranted triumphalism

    Countdown to the next failure...

    It must be so disappointing to see your hero fail all the time.

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      Re: Countdown to the next failure...

      Progress come from failure. That's why the greatest sound in Science is not Eureka but, 'er ... that's odd'

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Countdown to the next failure...

      SpaceX has failed?

      Which other non government rocket business is delivering/returning cargo to/from the ISS, putting commercial and USAF kit into space and returning their rockets intact for re-use?

      Maybe you should have a look at their completed missions and future order book before talking about failure:

      http://www.spacex.com/missions

      Are you classing the unsuccessful landings as failures? These were always tests which were secondary to the actual mission of launching something. Every time it didn't land, it was more data for the next attempt. The result being 16 successful landings in a row.

      When Elon Musk says he will do something, I believe him based on his track record. Yes, it will probably be a few years later than initially planned but he will get there. Setting these aspirational dates gives SpaceX something to aim for.

      Compare this to NASA. When they announce a new launcher it is so far in the future that it is almost certain it will get cancelled by a future administration when they no longer need to bribe congressmen/senators in particular states.

  34. Semianonymous Megacoward

    Pedantic point

    Launch windows to Mars occur roughly every 26 months, not every 18 as implied by the article. A window opens not when Earth and Mars are closest, but when the target planet will be located at the far end of the spacecraft's most efficient transfer orbit.

    e.g., https://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/launchingrockets/launchwindows.html

  35. shawnfromnh

    Sure he will but if his autonomous cars get hacked resulting in deaths then his money to do this because of lawsuits may very well not exist to do this.

  36. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Go

    Some points about passengers and P2P

    NASA standard mass for consumables is 5Kg/person/day of air, water and food, of which about 3.5Kg of that is water.

    So a vehicle that can take 100 people to Mars on at least a minimum 90day there/90day back trip is carrying 90 tonnes on top.

    I'd suggest 30-45 mins flight is not really enough for an in flight meal so you could carry a lot more people. Between 450-900 people say

    Now assume a high end ticket to the States is $5000 that's at least $2.75m revenue while the propellant (1100 tonnes) is say $220k-440k max.

    So maybe $2m/flight operating profit (if fully booked)?

    Across 5-10 locations globally, at least twice a day. ?

    1. Seajay#

      Re: Some points about passengers and P2P

      I don't think every kilo of water that you drink on your trip to mars is going to be a brand new bottle of Fiji water. It's going to be urine recyc. So maybe 3.5kg of emergency water per person (total not per day) and perhaps a 20kg machine with a 100l holding tank, plus a standby plus some spares and tools. That brings the water down from 63 tonnes to ~1/2 tonne.

  37. zealien
    Coat

    Not impressed

    Ok, so he opened new market opportunities for the US car industry. Whatever. As if we didn't have enough cars around.

    What? No service stations?

    Wake me up when he delivers something that works.

    :-)

    That aside, the most remarkable thing is actually landing back those things - game changer (and yes, I know he does it routinely).

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