Big Falcon Rocket

outdated, now on ⇛ Starship

SpaceX Big Falcon Rocket v2018
Big Falcon Rocket (shortened to BFR) is a fully reusable two-stage super heavy-lift launch vehicle and spacecraft currently developed by leading NewSpace company SpaceX. BFR will be capable to lift over 100 metric tons to low Earth orbit (LEO) when fully reused. It will eventually replace all of SpaceX's launch vehicles (Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy) and spacecrafts (Dragon and Dragon 2) currently in use.

On November 2018 Elon Musk announced "Big Falcon Rocket" has been renamed to "Starship" for the spacecraft part and to "Super Heavy" for the booster part. Will see if the naming stands as it has been changed several times, so we will keep referring to the full stack (consisting from both the booster and the spacecraft) as the "Big Falcon Rocket" or "BFR".

The main purpose of building such a large rocket is to enable the colonization of Mars but BFR will be capable to do a lot of different tasks – to place satellites or space stations in orbit, ferry passengers to space stations or the Moon and even ferry passengers or cargo between any destinations on Earth within an hour.

Big Falcon Rocket consists of two stages – the booster (aka "Super Heavy") and the spacecraft (aka "Starship"). Both stages will use methalox rocket engine called "Raptor". SpaceX chose methalox fuel for its next generation rocket engine not only because it can be easily produced on Mars but also because it burns cleaner (allowing cheaper reusability) and don't require super-low temperature for storage as hydrogen does. Another novelty – while previously SpaceX intended to use carbon fiber for the body of BFR, now the plan is to use stainless steel polished to mirror-like level for better thermal protection and higher strength-to-weight ratios at both cryogenic and high temperatures. Stainless steel will be used for both the Starship and the Super Heavy booster.

Originally "BFR" stands for "Big Fu**ing Rocket" (inspired by the "Big Fu**ing Gun" in DOOM computer game) but to be more polite the official full name of the rocket system is/was "Big Falcon Rocket".


SpaceX Big Falcon Ship v2018Starship (formerly known as Big Falcon Ship/Spaceship) is the 2nd stage of BFR and will be made in three versions – crewed, cargo and tanker. Starship will be 9 meters in diameter and use 7 Raptor engines. It will have a pressurized volume of over 1000 m3 – more than the International Space Station.

Starship, having three landing pads, heat shield and actuated fins both on aft and forward, is designed to be able retropropulsively land anywhere in the Solar system, including Earth, the Moon and Mars. It's also the first spacecraft designed to be able to support and land large quantity of cargo and passengers on other planetary bodies. To do so it will require on-orbit refueling by one or more Starship tankers depending on the destination and cargo.
SpaceX stainless steel Starship test vehicle (hopper)

SpaceX is currently building first prototype Starship test vehicle (the hopper, called Starhopper by some of the fans) at its Boca Chica launch facility in South Texas to be able to start hop tests in March/April 2019. The test vehicle is slightly shorter than the full Starship will be and SpaceX has already requested permission for test flights up to 5 kilometers high.

SpaceX is hoping to make first orbital flight of the full BFR system (with Super Heavy boosting the Starship) by the end of 2020, perform first flight around the Moon in 2023 and land first humans on Mars in 2025 (although Musk has recently expressed doubts there will be humans on that flight). We are predicting the later two milestones will happen several years later – in 2027 and 2031 respectively because developing a human-rated spacecraft is a lot harder task than building "just" a cargo rocket, as the example of Dragon 2 teaches us.

Super Heavy

SpaceX Starhopper, Starship and Super Heavy comparison Super Heavy (formerly known as Big Falcon Booster) is the 1st stage of BFR, will be 9 meters in diameter and use 31 Raptor engines. It will have more thrust than any rocket in human history – more than all the stages of Saturn V combined. It will be used only to boost the Starship from the surface of Earth because of its deep gravity well; from other possible destinations, as Mars or the Moon, Starship will be capable to lift off by itself.

After boosting the Starship (in its crewed, cargo or tanker version) Super Heavy will be capable to retropropulsively land back on its launch mount (although the initial block 1 version of Super Heavy will have similar landing legs/fins as Starship).

Iterations of Big Falcon Rocket (Starship):

Official and fan-made art of Big Falcon Rocket (Starship):

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating articles and beautiful renditions of all these fantastic machines!