Speaking at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, SpaceX’s Elon Musk has unveiled an ambitious plan for the colonisation of Mars using massive reusable launchers.

The plan would see giant Interplanetary Colonisation Transport (ICT) launchers – each with 42 Raptor engines, three times the power of Falcon 9’s Merlin engines. This would enable the ICT, with lift off thrust of 13,033t to put 550t into LEO – compared with Saturn Vs 135ts. Once in launched the booster would return, while the interplanetary spaceship, equipped with its own engines would be refueled in orbit. The interplanetary spaceship would be sized to take 100 colonialists at a time, with Musk envisaging a fleet setting off ‘en masse’ for the Red Planet every two years – allowing for a transit time of 80 days. Using reusable boosters and spaceships, Musk believes the cost of sending a human to Mars could fall from $30bn to around $200,000 and a self-supporting colony of a million humans be established in 40-100 years. SpaceX has already tested the new Raptor engine and during the presentation Musk also revealed it had already built a huge composite fuel tank prototype for the rocket.       

28 September 2016