SpaceX Just Announced What Would Be the Largest Rocket of All Time

This is how Elon Musk wants to take us to Mars.
September 27, 2016, 6:39pm
Illustration of SpaceX's proposed Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). Image: SpaceX/Flickr

And you thought you had ambitious plans for yourself this Tuesday. SpaceX founder Elon Musk just announced that he wants build the biggest rocket in the history of the world to take people to Mars.

The new rocket would dwarf even the Saturn V rocket that took Apollo astronauts to the moon, the largest so far in history.

Musk gave a presentation this afternoon at the International Astronautical Congress, outlining his company's plans to colonize the Red Planet using a new "Interplanetary Transport System" or ITS.

But Musk couldn't help but scoop his own announcement: half hour before his talk was supposed to begin, SpaceX posted a theatrical animated video (above) on YouTube showing an absolutely enormous rocket, even by rocket standards. ("Better than any porn," one fawning YouTube commenter opined)

Musk also preemptively tweeted the dimensions of this new, yet-to-be built SpaceX rocket as follows: "12m rocket booster diameter, 17m spaceship diameter, 122 m stack height." That's a booster 39 feet in diameter, a spaceship 55 feet in diameter, and a full stack 400 feet high.

12m rocket booster diameter, 17m spaceship diameter, 122 m stack height

Elon MuskSeptember 27, 2016

To put that into comparison, the Saturn V rocket that took the first astronauts to the moon measured 111 meters (363 feet) high, and 10 meters (33 feet) in diameter, according to NASA.

The tallest active rocket in recent times, the Ares I-X, measures 327 feet tall, according to NASA. United Launch Alliance, a joint-venture rocket company from Boeing and Lockheed Martin, also has an active rocket setup called the Delta IV Heavy, which measures 70.7 meters tall (231 feet), according to Spaceflight Now. And NASA is working a rocket called the Space Launch System that would come close to Musk's planned rocket at 384 feet tall (117 meters), but still fall short of it.

Earlier this month, rival tech billionaire turned commercial spaceflight magnate Jeff Bezos (yes, the Amazon CEO) tweeted plans to build a large rocket called the New Glenn. But even the biggest version of that would only measure 313 feet tall, according to the plans Bezos shared.

So, Musk's rocket would indeed earn the nickname "BFR" (Big Falcon Rocket or Big Fucking Rocket). Too big to fit out the door of NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) in Kennedy Space Center, Florida? Thankfully not, as the VAB doors are 456 feet high (139 meters).

In case you're wondering, new SpaceX rocket would indeed fit inside a VAB high bay. 122 meter stack barely clears 139-meter high doors.

Jason DavisSeptember 27, 2016

In his actual talk, Musk said the rocket booster would have 42 "Raptor" engines, a prototype of which SpaceX just tested. The rocket would also be modeled after SpaceX's existing Falcon 9 rocket boosters, but made of a more advanced carbon fiber.

"In the longterm, the ships will be even bigger than this," Musk said during his presentation, pointing out he wanted the passenger section to be able to carry 100 people.

Musk also said he wanted to make it possible for "anyone who wanted to go" to Mars to be able to get there, and predicted that it would take 40-100 years to establish a Mars colony with a million people.

"Obviously it's going to be a challenge to fund this whole endeavor," Musk said, adding he was accumulating his own money expressly to help fund this mission.

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