SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk has hinted on Twitter about a potentially smaller rocket that will be used in the plan to send humans to Mars in or from 2020. The rocket may have a diameter of 9 meters, making production easier to realize.
Musk has responded on Twitter to a question to provide an update on the specifications of the rocket used for the Mars mission. The chief executive of SpaceX said in his brief response that a vehicle with a diameter of 9 meters will fit into the existing factories. He did not give more explanation or context, but he probably refers to the size of the rocket that will be used for the mission to send people to Mars.
The Interplanetary Transport System was originally planned to be 12 meters in diameter and powered by 42 rocket engines. The diameter of the rocket may now be reduced to 9 meters, which will probably also significantly reduce the number of engines and the mass of the rocket.
However, the rocket will still be significantly larger than the current Falcon 9 rocket, which has a diameter of 3.7 meters. With the Falcon 9, SpaceX launches satellites into orbit around the Earth. The rocket also brought the Dragon capsule to the ISS in March. The Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo crew to the moon was 10 meters in diameter.
Reducing the diameter of the rocket is probably related to simplifying production. With a diameter of 9 meters instead of 12 meters, the rocket can be built in SpaceX’s existing factories, eliminating the need for a new, larger factory. This may also make the missile more interesting for commercial and military use.
In February, SpaceX indicated that it had to postpone its ambitious plans for a space trip to Mars from 2018 to 2020. Originally, the intention was to land a further developed version of the Red Dragon capsule on Mars during the mission. First, it would be determined whether this would allow heavy material to get onto the Red Planet, after which manned missions would have to follow. However, these plans have been canceled by Musk, due to the enormous efforts that would have to be made to get the capsule safe enough for a crew.