Private spaceflight company SpaceX has released a video that details its long-awaited "Interplanetary Transport System." The video was published less than an hour before CEO Elon Musk was scheduled to detail the system at the International Astronautical Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The video appears to show SpaceX's new rocket — the BFR, or "Big Fucking Rocket" — as well as the company's interplanetary spaceship — the BFS, or "Big Fucking Spaceship."
The rocket and spaceship combination will apparently be much bigger than SpaceX's Falcon 9. Elon Musk tweeted that, together on the launchpad, they will reach 122 meters tall — almost twice as tall as the 70-meter Falcon 9. The BFR has 28,730,000 pounds of thrust at liftoff. Musk has said that the Raptor engine — SpaceX's next generation rocket engine — has about 500,000 pounds of thrust, which means the BFR would use somewhere in the neighborhood of 50–60 Raptor engines in its first stage. (For reference, the Falcon 9 generates 1.7 million pounds of thrust at liftoff and uses nine "Merlin" engines.)
The simulation video shows that, after reaching space, SpaceX plans to park its spaceship in orbit while the BFR returns to the launchpad. SpaceX has landed six of its Falcon 9 rockets so far — two on solid ground and four at sea — and it plans to do the same with the BFR, though the process looks much more precise here. The BFR will apparently land directly back on the "launch mount," in order to allow SpaceX to rapidly attach a fueling tank to the top of the BFR. That fueling tank will then be sent back up into space to fuel up the BFS for its trip through the Solar System.
The fuel tanker ship (which looks very much like the BFS in this video) presumably lands back on Earth. The BFR is shown taking off from and landing back at Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. SpaceX signed a 20-year lease for Launch Pad 39A in 2014 — it was the famous launch site for many of the Apollo missions (including Apollo 11) and hosted the first and last Space Shuttle launches.
The BFS is the other major component being shown off here, and it is detailed in the second half of the video. It has solar arrays that will deploy during the trip to Mars, and they are capable of generating 200kW of power.
The BFS will "coast" to Mars at a speed of more than 62,000 miles per hour, according to the video. Upon entering Mars' atmosphere, the outside of the ship will heat up to more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It will then use supersonic retro propulsion (or "many rockets firing at once") to lower the giant craft to the surface of Mars.
And that's about it. The video is short on details beyond what you see here. We still don't know how Musk plans to keep travelers alive either during or after the trip to Mars, where they'll live, how much any of this will cost, or where he'll get the money from. There is one final bit, though: an animation of Mars becoming a lush, green-and-blue world, much like Earth. Is terraforming going to be part of Musk's announcement, too? We'll hopefully find out shortly when he takes the stage in Mexico.