SpaceX CEO Elon Musk went right into a bit extra element about the timelines and automobile necessities to not solely attain Mars, however to arrange a sustainable base on the purple planet that may function an precise city, supporting an area inhabitants. That’s the long-term imaginative and prescient for Musk and his house know-how firm, in spite of everything making people an interplanetary species. The timeline that Musk mentioned at the moment, replying to followers on Twitter, could be each extremely impressed or extremely bold, relying on your perspective.
Addressing a query about feedback he made earlier this week at the U.S. Air Pressure startup pitch day occasion in California, Musk mentioned that his acknowledged launch value of solely round $2 million per Starship flight are basically required, ought to the ultimate objective be to arrange a “self-sustaining city on Mars.” As a way to make that city a actuality, he added, SpaceX will must to build and fly around 1,000 Starships in keeping with his estimates, which will want to move cargo, infrastructure and crew to Mars over the course of around 20 years, since planetary alignment solely actually permits for a realistically achievable Mars flight as soon as each two years.
Musk addressed extra near-term potential for Starship as effectively, together with how a lot payload capability Starship will present for Earth orbital transportation. Starship’s design is meant to maximise re-use, and in actual fact Musk famous that ideally it could possibly fly as much as thrice per day. That quantities to greater than 1,000 flights per yr per Starship, which implies that in the event that they find yourself with as many Starships as they at present have constructed Falcon rockets (round 100) and these can every transport as a lot as 100 tons to orbit, then on an annual foundation, SpaceX will be capable to launch upwards of 10 million tons to orbit per year.
To place that in perspective, Musk factors out that for those who take all cargo-bearing spacecraft at present in operation under consideration, the whole payload capability is simply 500 tons per yr with Falcon series rockets from SpaceX itself making up around half of that.
That’s loads of payload; in actual fact, it’s most likely greater than there will be demand for in any near-term time scale. However it’s additionally true that Musk envisions a future the place orbital house is a a lot busier place, and a staging floor for orbital cargo switch and refuelling as Moon and Mars-bound spacecraft prepared themselves for the outward journey.
In fact, to arrange a everlasting, sustainable city on Mars, we first need to get there with a crewed flight. There’s one other step between now and then, which is touchdown astronauts again on the Moon. NASA has set 2024 as its objective for that milestone, and SpaceX has mentioned it hopes to land Starship there by as early as 2022 to assist with staging in preparation for that touchdown. In the previous, Musk has mentioned crewed Mars mission additionally happening as early as 2024, however that objective appears mighty aspirational (as do most of his timelines) from the place we sit at the moment.