SpaceX CEO Elon Musk went right into a bit extra element concerning the timelines and car necessities to not solely attain Mars, however to arrange a sustainable base on the Crimson Planet that may function an precise metropolis, supporting an area inhabitants. That’s the long-term imaginative and prescient for Musk and his house know-how firm, in any case — making people an interplanetary species. The timeline that Musk mentioned at this time, replying to followers on Twitter, is likely to be extremely spectacular or extremely bold, relying in your perspective.
Addressing a query about feedback he made earlier this week on the U.S. Air Power startup pitch day occasion in California, Musk stated that his acknowledged launch price of solely round $2 million per Starship flight are basically required, ought to the ultimate aim be to arrange a “self-sustaining metropolis on Mars.” So as to make that metropolis a actuality, he added, SpaceX might want to construct and fly round 1,000 Starships based on his estimates, which might want to transport cargo, infrastructure and crew to Mars over the course of round 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 actually Musk famous that ideally it may well fly as much as 3 times per day. That quantities to greater than 1,000 flights per yr per Starship, which signifies that in the event that they find yourself with as many Starships as they presently have constructed Falcon rockets (round 100) and people can every transport as a lot as 100 tons to orbit, then on an annual foundation, SpaceX will be capable of launch upwards of 10 million tons to orbit per yr.
To place that in perspective, Musk factors out that for those who take all cargo-bearing spacecraft presently in operation into consideration, the whole payload capability is simply 500 tons per yr — with Falcon collection rockets from SpaceX itself making up round half of that.
That’s loads of payload; in reality, it’s in all probability greater than there will probably be demand for in any near-term time scale. But it surely’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 refueling as Moon and Mars-bound spacecraft prepared themselves for the outward journey.
After all, to arrange a everlasting, sustainable metropolis on Mars, we first should get there with a crewed flight. There’s one other step between from time to time, which is touchdown astronauts again on the Moon. NASA has set 2024 as its aim for that milestone, and SpaceX has stated it hopes to land Starship there by as early as 2022 to assist with staging in preparation for that touchdown. Up to now, Musk has mentioned crewed Mars mission additionally happening as early as 2024, however that aim appears mighty aspirational (as do most of his timelines) from the place we sit at this time.