Feeds

Elon Musk plans new Mars rockets bigger than Saturn Vs

Claims endorsement from the Dead Sea Scrolls. No, really

Seven Steps to Software Security

SpaceX, the rocket company founded and bankrolled by famous PayPal nerdwealth icon Elon Musk, has revealed radical plans for a colossal launcher as big as the Saturn Vs which sent men to the Moon - and has also proposed nuclear-powered spaceships to carry astronauts to Mars.

SpaceX plans for future launcher development. Credit: SpaceX

The future of heavy lift?

The plans were discussed by SpaceX honcho Tom Markusic at a conference in America last week, but thus far the company hasn't publicised its ideas widely. At the moment, the only rockets SpaceX offers are its Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 designs.

Falcon 9, which has so far made a single (successful) trial launch, is capable of lifting as much as 10 tonnes into orbit. A planned "Falcon 9 Heavy" might manage better than 30 tonnes.

This is impressive stuff for a company which was set up just eight years ago and which uses all-new, proprietary designs. However, it's not in the league required for ambitious goals such as a manned mission to Mars.

The Apollo missions, travelling only to the relatively nearby Moon, required the use of colossal (and extremely expensive) Saturn V launch stacks able to lob 118 tonnes into Earth orbit. The Constellation programme planned under the Bush administration, intended to first return to the Moon and then travel on to Mars, was supposed to produce a replacement Ares V heavy lifter - though it would have been based on old technology from Apollo and the Shuttle.

But Congress never agreed to supply the funds required for Constellation, and President Obama has largely axed it. He has also cancelled plans for a manned Moon return, though boots on Mars remains a stated US aspiration. The president has said that a new, unspecified heavy lifter will be selected in 2015 for use by American astronauts as they head out first to nearby asteroids and then onward to the red planet.

In April, Obama said:

In developing this new vehicle, we will not only look at revising or modifying older models; we want to look at new designs, new materials, new technologies.

At the time, there were no known hundred-tonne-plus designs based on new technology, though we on the Reg rocket desk did note that Obama had lately been spending time chatting to Elon Musk.

It now seems possible that Musk had given the president a sneak preview of the plans now being discussed by SpaceX among its fellow aerospace folk. These plans can be seen in outline in two PowerPoint presentations given last week by SpaceX's Markusic, downloadable here and here courtesy of the Commercial Space Wiki.

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.