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How many people will be on SpaceX’s first manned BFR mission?
150 ton payload.
825 cubic meters of cabin space.
40 individual cabins.
Three people per cabin max – 120 individuals max. That’s more than 1 tonne per person. More than enough for 30 month trip. 840 cubic meters divided by 120 is 7 cubic meters per person. About 10x the volume in a typical airliner. Using VR gear and suspended animation – more than 120 could be flown per BFR.
But that’s for later commercial operations
On the first flight they would put 40 individuals max in a BFR, and have 6 BFR ships going together in a single fleet. That way, they’d have back up capability. The same way they were able to use resources on the LEM to help recover Apollo 13.
They would also have about 480 tons extra capacity between them for landing capability and up to 240 people. Probably a few adventurous news folk.
If any ship failed, they would be able to transfer crew to the remaining ships, and even if 4 out of 6 failed, everyone could get back alive.
They would pair up and be joined by a tether, and spin round their common axis, and create artificial gravity during transit. This has already been done with Gemini 11 and Agena target vehicle.
Depending on when the failure occurred, the only thing affected is what they can do on Mars.
Rocket belts and flying seats were studied as an alternative to the lunar rover. Pressurised lunar rovers and mars rovers are being studied to this day.
These rocket belts were looked upon as scout craft and even emergency rescue craft in the event the lunar lander failed to return the astronauts to orbit.
Enter Mars Orbit
So, the spacecraft aerobrake into a parking orbit, and then circularise that orbit coming to rest near enter Mars orbit, but do not land on Mars. Much the same way Mars Express operated.
The spacecraft slowly aerobrake into an orbit where the periapsis is near Mars and the apoapsis is near Phobos.
We use rocket belts equipped with a heat shield to bring astronauts individually to the surface of Mars in a long duration biosuit. There they spend up to three days, and return to orbit. The rocket belt is refueled.
Mars orbital velocity is 3.56 km/sec. Total delta vee to make the rocket belt work is 4.00 km/sec. Using LOX/LH2 made from water using solar electricity, produces an exhaust speed of 4.62 km/sec in vacuum at modest pressure. This means 58% of the weight on orbit, must be propellant. 12% is the rocket belt itself, and 30% is the astronaut with long duration space suit and other hardware.
Allowing 120 kg for the astronaut implies 400 kg total weight on Orbit. Of that 48 kg is the rocket belt itself. 120 kg is the astronaut. 232 kg of LOX/LH2. With a 5.4 to 1 Oxidiser fuel ratio this is 36.25 kg LH2 and 195.75 kg of LOX. From 326.25 liters of water and 20 kW – every three days.
Here’s my approach to an updated rocket belt with thermal protection system. Its like a flying surfboard – that’s smart and can keep the astronaut safely on board – even during entry into Mars’ atmosphere.
Equipment can be stowed in a bag between the astronauts feet. The photo on the right shows a quad rotor that successfully maintains an inverted pendulum in flight.
In this way, 500 flights can be taken to Mars surface from Mars orbit, across 240 people with 200 of these units.
With a 500 day stay time, one landing a day could be carried out. With 3 to 5 days on the surface, three to five people would be on the surface at any one time.
Lots of data would be generated about Mars.
Significant savings in fuel can also be afforded without landing the big BFR stages on the surface. This could increase the amount of useful payloads brought to Mars.
This would include pressurised Mars rovers, pressurised Mars tents to extend stays at interesting locations, farming domes to see if crops could be raised on Mars.
If successful, (raising two to three crops over the 500 day period) two of the six ships may stay on Mars orbit, and people on the surface, to stay through another synodic period to develop more ‘homesteads’ on Mars from local resources.
At $3 billion a copy, six units flying to Mars will cost $18 billion. Outfitting the ship and training a crew this size, probably by flying to the moon to try various aspects out, will cost another $12 billion. A total of $30 billion and then there’s the non recurring engineering development costs associated with all the activities descrbed. Let’s say $50 billion total.
This is more than Elon Musk has.
Its more than the US government has for this purpose.
So, isn’t this just idle dreaming?
SpaceX is going to use its ability to reuse rockets cheaply to orbit a lot of satellites. Over 4400 satellites. To provide global wireless telecom services. This will allow them to capture a significant portion of the world’s $887.4 billion per year telecom market.
Capturing 21% of the wireless services world wide translates to over $187 billion per year. NASA’s budget is $18.7 billion per year by comparison. DoD space budget is $7.3 billion per year.
In one year Musk could earn twice as much money as the program described above.
What would Musk do with the rest?
Acquire aerospace companies, keep assets beneficial to his long term vision, restructure other assets, and sell the companies to earn back the acquisition price or even profit.
This is possible because large conglomerates are less than perfectly efficient, and they run some programs at a loss to fund dominance in other programs. By buying Lockheed and Boeing for example, elements now in competition can be joined, other elements can be refined and spun off as companies that focus 100% on what they do best. In short, efficiencies can accrue, which will lower cost for their customers, and give SpaceX all the assets it needs to produce its vison for the future.
Consider what the value of $110 billion profit on $187 billion in sales is as an annuity over 30 years. Discounted at 8% per annum, this is worth $1238.36 billions. Boeing is worth $193 billions, Lockheed $85.3 billions. Northrop Grumman $54.7 billions.
Musk could then upgrade the satellite network, to expand demand for broadband services and capture greater market share.
Musk could then develop solar power satellites that beam laser energy to Earth – and capture the $6400 billion per year energy markets.
This annuity discounted at 8% per year is worth $113,800 billions and can form the basis of a bank of issue to issue currency to support the development of Mars as a colony for long term human habitation.
This can all be done after the 4425 satellites are generating revenue, and before the first flight to Mars. Which has the support of the Trump Administration at least.
As the President said, ‘these rich guys’ will develop property on Mars. It will be the largest property development opportunity ever!
According to the World Wealth Report there are 175,000 people worth $100 million and more. So, if 4% of these people or 7,000 decide to spend $50 million on automated solar powered homesteads off world, this is $350 billion per year. They will of course hire others.
As prices drop, volume increases, and so do dollar amounts.