SpaceX’s upcoming rocket is getting a redesign. The BFR, designed for the company’s most ambitious projects including a manned mission to Mars, is set to receive a “delightfully counter-intuitive” new design ahead of its completion, CEO Elon Musk stated on Saturday.
The announcement comes just two months after Musk announced a BFR redesign, which took The Adventures of Tintin as its inspiration. The concept art featured marginal tweaks when compared to the initial version unveiled 12 months prior at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia. The redesign switched from two sea-level Raptor engines plus four space-ready engines, to a design with seven sea-level engines. New concept images also demonstrated the spaceship section’s jump in length to 55 meters, seven meters longer than the original. Over the weekend, Musk teased that the next design could make even bolder tweaks, described the upcoming third iteration of the rocket as a “radical change.”
The BFR is an integral component of SpaceX’s future plans. At the 2017 IAC event, Musk said that the company was aiming for an ambitious timeline with the rocket, to send two unmanned ships to Mars by 2022 and a further four ships in 2024, two of which would send the first humans to the red planet. Musk has detailed a planet-hopping design for the ship, thanks to its use of liquid oxygen and methane as propellant that makes refueling simpler from other planets.
Musk also confirmed via Twitter that SpaceX is not planning any upgrades for the Falcon 9, the rocket used in almost all missions this year for sending satellites and other cargo into space. Musk explained that the company’s focus is on accelerating BFR development instead, and it has abandoned plans to develop the Falcon 9’s second stage into a more reusable design. With the BFR built from the ground-up for reusability, this could prove an ideal use of limited resources.
SpaceX is scheduled to start short “hop tests” of a few kilometers for the BFR at its Boca Chica facility in Texas sometime next year.