Space X: What is next?
Today Space X landed a Falcon 9 1st stage on a drone in the Atlantic Ocean. The overarching goal of Space X is to colonize Mars and this is a significant advancement towards that goal. Reusable rockets will dramatically lower the cost of rocket launches and space travel. Elon Musk compares it to how expensive air travel would be if we destroyed a plane every time we took a flight. Space X previously landed a rocket on land, but this is the first time on the ocean after four previous failures. Longer range rocket launches are too far from the landing site and don’t have enough fuel to bring them back. They have test fired the other recaptured rocket and Elon Musk said they will likely reuse this rocket and launch it as early as June.
So what is next on the horizon?
18 Launches in 2016
Space X is planning 18 launches in 2016, up from 6 last year.
MCT plans released — September 2016
Elon Musk is planning to unveil the plans for the Mars Colonial Transporter in September. This will carry 100 people and 100 tons of cargo to Mars. Elon Musk has recently asserted that Space X will go to Mars in 10 years.
Falcon Heavy launch — Late 2016
The Falcon Heavy is essentially 3 Falcon 9s joined together and will be the highest capacity rocket system in use. It is only second to the Saturn V rockets that took us to the moon.
Manned launch — 2 to 3 years
Space X is planning to launch a manned spacecraft, Dragon. The test flight are planned to be at near the end of 2017. It is possible Dragon will land propulsively.
Mission to Mars 2024
Space is planning to send a dragon capsule to Mars in 2018. They also plan to send more cargo at each launch window (2020, 2022) and they plan to send people in 2024, arriving in 2025. Long term Elon Musk expects trips to Mars to take 3 months and possibly as low as 1 month.