SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR, is getting yet another new name. Though the maiden voyage isn’t scheduled until the mid-2020s at least, Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, seems to be having trouble sticking with a name for the BFR. The rocket has garnered plenty of attention from the media, but don’t let the changing name fool you. SpaceX means business.
What’s In A Name?
The Big Falcon Rocket, now being called “Starship,” has been known by many names in the past. The rocket has been called the ITS or the Interplanetary Transport System, the MCT or Mars Colonial Transport, and the BFS or Big Falcon Spaceship. As much as the name has changed, the premise of the craft has remained the same throughout all of its iterations.
Starship’s new full name is Super Heavy-Starship, with the other part of the name coming from the thruster stage of the rocket. No matter the name, the objective of the craft hasn’t changed. Of all its monikers, the Mars Colonial Transport has been the most accurate description of the craft’s mission.
Mars Or Bust
It’s no secret that Elon Musk has had his sights set on Mars since the very start. However, he doesn’t intend to start there. Starship is slated to make a tour of the more immediate neighborhood before heading toward Mars. Even before that, tests need to be conducted on the propulsion system that is meant to carry the craft across the interplanetary expanse.
Currently, the first test flights are hopefully slated to occur in 2019. The first trials would involve suborbital hops to test the Super Heavy stage of Starship. Once the unit completes its suborbital and low-Earth orbit tests, its first big trial is going to be a trip around the moon. After that, Mars. The lunar tour recently made headlines as Musk named Japanese artist Yusaku Maezawa as the VIP of the journey. Starship’s lunar flyby is currently scheduled for 2023, barring any setbacks.
More Than A One-Trick Pony
In addition to being a bit of a showboat, Musk plans to use Starship and other craft modeled off its design to their full potential. Other BFRs will be used to transport components between Earth and its orbital satellites, facilitate voyages between Earth and the near side of the moon, and transport people on long-range excursions across the planet. Outside of Earth’s orbital system, we can expect to see the BFRs in use for transport between Earth and Mars and future voyages to the outer planets of the solar system.
Following the press release announcing the name change of the primary BFR to the Super Heavy-Starship, Musk fielded questions about the implications of the craft’s name. Fans have pointed out that the name “Starship” implies travel outside the solar system. Musk replied that future iterations of the ship would head for new worlds. For now, we can shoot for Mars, and after Mars, Musk has his sights set on Europa and Enceladus, two moons belonging to the gas giants in the outer solar system.