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Elon Musk's next big gamble
Posted: 3 October 2017

Elon Musk is not afraid to take a chance, if the potential rewards are there. His latest concept called BFR could stand for Big Freaking Rocket or Big Fat Risk - either would make sense. But there is method in his apparent madness.

The key to all this lies in reusability, the holy grail of affordable and profitable launch systems. SpaceX has already proved they can reuse the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, and have landed 16 of those boosters. But making the second stage and the Dragon self-landing too would be more difficult, if not impossible. If they had a more powerful engine, they could combine the upper stage with a space plane and make the whole unit reusable.

That's where the Raptor engine comes in, already extensively tested. Burning liquid methane, it's much more powerful than Falcon's Merlin engines, and could land the BFR on a single engine. That's another part of the problem - you need a different kind of rocket engine in the vacuum of space to the one used to land at sea-level atmospheric pressures. The BFR will have two sets of engines, four vacuum engines to get to the Moon or wherever, and two normal engines for landing, with their own fuel tanks.

If the BFR concept works, the entire system becomes reusable, and makes the existing system of reusable first stage and expendable second stage and cargo/crew module obsolete. Which means they can turn all those resources currently devoted to Falcon and Falcon Heavy (yet to fly) to developing and maintaining the BFR. And no-one will be able to compete with them.

And what better way to make a completely reusable spaceship pay for itself, than trips to the Moon, or Shanghai, or wherever the profit lies? Perhaps our MindBullet was close to the mark!

SpaceX’s Elon Musk unveiled a rocket that can fly to the Moon, Mars—and Shanghai
3 October 2017
A slightly smaller rocket with a slightly bigger chance of becoming reality.
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