Video: Elon Musk presentation at IAC 2016

September 27, 2016
Blue OriginBlue Origin


NewSpace Watch
September 27, 2016

Elon’s talk can be seen here [ Update: The SpaceX video of the talk:


Notes on the event:

  • Prior to the talk:

    • Elon Musk on Twitter: “12m rocket booster diameter, 17m spaceship diameter, 122 m stack height”

      • For comparison, the Saturn V rocket was 10.1 m in diameter and 110.6 m high
      • The video says the booster produces 28,730,000 lbf at liftoff. The Saturn V first stage produced 7,891,200 lbf at liftoff.

    • From various Tweets, it appeared things were a bit chaotic with a huge crowd waiting and the doors to the auditorium not opening till 2:30 pm.

      • E.g. Nadia Drake on Twitter: “The floor is literally shaking as people run (sprint) in to grab seats for Elon Musk’s talk at #IAC2016.”

    • Elon Musk on Twitter: “Waiting for everyone to reach their seats and get settled. Starting in 5 to 10.”
    • 2:54 pm ET: Still waiting for the presentation to start.

  • Begins talk at around 3:05 pm ET
  • Talks first about the high cost preventing those who want to go to Mars from going.
  • Aims to reduce costs to where a significant percentage of those who want to go can go.
  • Goal is $200k for ticket price.
  • Need to reduce costs by 5 million per cent.
  • Sounds impossible but thinks its possible.

Booster and transport ship cross-section

  • Need

    • Full reusability
    • Refilling in orbit
    • Make propellant on Mars
    • Choice of propellant

  • Reusability is the hardest
  • Although Mars access is every 2.5 years, can use booster and tanker for other applications in between.
  • Refilling in orbit is beneficial in several ways – e.g. smaller vehicles, shorter development time, etc.
  • Mars propellant production enables return of ships back to earth for reuse.
  • Key factor in lowering costs.
  • Can make methane fuel – specifically “deep cryo methalox”
  • Wins over hydrogen
  • Shows the video.
  • Says afterwards that it is not just an artist’s impression but is very close to their technical design.
  • The tanker actually goes up several times to fill the spaceship with propellants.
  • A fleet of ships will be prepared in orbit and leave en masse at the Mars alignment time.
  • Over a long period could reach a fleet of 1000 ships.
  • Minimum number people is 100 per ship. May raise that up to 200.
  • Use carbon fiber structure
  • Believe carbon fiber technology has reached a stage where metal liner isn’t needed.
  • Only use oxygen and methane for all propulsion systems
  • Will be the most efficient rocket ever built in terms of getting mass to orbit.

The transport ship.

  • Began working on the most important components.
  • Raptor engine will have highest combustion chamber pressure.
  • Feed very cold propellants to raise combustion density. Improve performance more than 10%
  • Mars booster similar in many ways to F9 booster.
  • 42 engines on base.
  • FH will have 27
  • Redundancy such that if an engine fails, can still accomplish mission.

Engine configuration

  • 7% of takeoff weight goes to propellants needed for the return and landing.
  • Booster only needed for the earth’s heavy gravity well.
  • F9 landings are getting increasingly precise.
  • Believe with some additional thrusters, can land right back on launch platform.
  • Describes the transport ship.
  • Oxygen tanks difficult since they also serve as aerodynamic surfaces.
  • Payload of 300 tons to Mars.
  • Average time is 115 days. Eventually could lower that to 30 days with higher performance propulsion.
  • Goal is to make the ship environment enjoyable, not cramped and uncomfortable
  • $140k per ton to Mars. – sufficient for a person and
  • Eventually lower it to $100k

System architecture

  • Talks about funding.
  • Expect to make money from current apps such as ISS cargo/crew, launching satellites, etc.
  • Know of people who want to fund a Mars settlement.
  • Expect it will become a public-private partnership.
  • Will go as far as possible with internal funding.
  • Expect support to snowball
  • Accumulating personal assets to fund this as much as possible.
  • When starting in 2002, wasn’t clear they could even get a rocket to orbit.
  • Rockets won’t improve unless a concerted effort is made to improve it.
  • Things can go backwards.
  • Reviews the accomplishments of SpaceX since 2002.
  • Shows rough timeline for future plans.
  • Hope to fly a prototype transport ship in four years.
  • Suborbital first. Might reach orbit but couldn’t return.
  • Will look into feasibility of long distance fast cargo delivery.
  • Booster development looks relatively straight forward. Scale-up of F9
  • Could have a Mars transport ready in 10 years if everything went well.
  • Plan to do a Mars Dragon mission for every 2.5 year window.
  • Welcomes offers of payloads to host on Red Dragon missions.
  • Dragon can land on any hard surface in the solar system due to its propulsive landing system.
  • Shows Raptor engine tests.
  • Raptor involves very tricky, difficult technology.
  • Thought it would probably blow up on first firing test but it went well.
  • Despite 3 times the performance, the Raptor is not physically much bigger than Merlin because it has 3 times the chamber pressure.
  • So can use much of the same production equipment and assembly line setup as for the Merlin.
  • Carbon fiber structures that are large and strong are quite hard to make.
  • Shows picture of a huge carbon fiber tank that they have built and begun testing.
  • Talks about going beyond Mars.
  • Need propellant depots Mars, asteroid belt, etc.
  • Full access to the entire solar system.

First SpaceX carbon fiber liquid oxygen tank.

Begins Q&A.

  • Pad 39A mods?

    • Some changes.
    • Would scatter component construction to
    • Assembly at Cape.

  • Mars waterless toilet system?

    • Water actually plentiful on Mars.
    • Energy is the big challenge.

  • Who will be first people to go?

    • First pioneers will be taking high risks.
    • Not a Apollo mission.
    • About spreading humans
    • A grand adventure.
    • A very inspiring goal.

  • Life support systems:

    • Radiation raises risks but not a huge issue.
    • Need shielding for a solar storm/flare.
    • Once on Mars the mass of the planet and the atmosphere greatly reduce rad.
    • Artificial magnetic field can help.
    • SpaceX’s goal is to provide the transport systems.
    • Expects others to step up and develop the infrastructure to live and flourish on Mars.

  • What about hiring people outside the US?

    • US govt treats rockets as munitions.
    • Does not agree with the policy.
    • Would love to have talented people from around the world.
    • But legally cannot.
    • Tesla, OTOH, has about a quarter of the workforce from immigrants.

  • One way only?

    • Just having the option of returning will greatly expand the number of people who will be interested in going.
    • The spaceship is coming back so people can jump on or not.

  • How to attract more interest in Mars?

    • Need to make the trip affordable.
    • Can go any where on earth within 24 hours or so.
    • Space is different. Still an adventure.

  • Health requirements:

    • Trying to make it possible for most anyone to go.

  • Resources going into it right now?

    • Under 5% of the company devoted to the Mars system right now.
    • Amount of money is relatively small.
    • After Crew Dragon, Falcon Heavy and reuse of F9 first stage going well, will be able to put more resources on the interplanetary program.
    • Could be up to $200M-$300M per year in a few years.
    • Expect program to achieve first mission would cost a total of $10B

  • Plan to go yourself?

    • Will go but want to make sure that if something happens to him, there is a succession plan that will keep the focus on Mars.
    • Doesn’t want some investors to take over and turn the company away from Mars.

  • Interstellar travel thoughts?

    • Expect that an antimatter type drive will be needed.
    • Once there is a base on Mars, there will be a powerful forcing function to make propulsion and space technology better and better every year.
    • Doesn’t expect a big jump right to an interstellar transport.
    • It will be a step by step process.

  • Cycler option?

    • Their analysis shows that going directly is best, at least initially.
    • Put a cycler in the category of future optimizations.

  • Naming?

    • Naming is hard.
    • First ship to Mars will be called “Heart of Gold” from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

  • Launching of people and propellants:

    • Still looking at that.
    • Best case, launch people and then do multiple propellant loadings over a few weeks.
    • Option is to launch the ship empty, do fueling, and then send the people.

  • Should other Mars programs be canceled?

    • No. good to have multiple organizations building interplanetary spacecraft with different designs.
    • More the better.
    • Chose the IAC as a way to reach the world community and encourage them to compete or collaborate.

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