SpaceX has signed its first customer to fly on the company’s huge new rocket, the BFR, the company says. The passenger will fly on the monster ship around the Moon, though there are no details yet regarding when the trip will happen. SpaceX says it will announce who is flying — and why — on Monday, September 17th.
The BFR, or the Big Falcon Rocket, is the giant rocket that SpaceX is currently developing to send humans to the Moon and Mars. The BFR design, presentated by CEO Elon Musk last year, consists of a combined rocket and spaceship, called the BFS for Big Falcon Spaceship. The main rocket will have 31 main Raptor engines and be capable of sending up 150 tons to low Earth orbit, according to that presentation.
In February 2017, SpaceX announced plans to send two passengers around the Moon on the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket, claiming that the flight would happen at the end of 2018. SpaceX never named the passengers, and ultimately Musk admitted during the inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy that the trip probably wasn’t going to happen. “We’re sort of debating whether to do that on Falcon Heavy or BFR,” Musk told The Verge before the launch in February of this year. “It will sort of depend how well BFR development is going as to whether we focus on BFR for deep-space human flight or whether we do that on Falcon Heavy.”
SpaceX has signed the world’s first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle—an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space. Find out who’s flying and why on Monday, September 17. pic.twitter.com/64z4rygYhk
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 14, 2018
It’s unclear if this new passenger being announced is one of the two original passengers from the Falcon Heavy flight or a new customer altogether. Musk hinted on Twitter that the customer might be from Japan. SpaceX says it will give more details on Monday, and the company has set up a livestream for the announcement.
Musk gave a detailed presentation about the design for the BFR last September, during the annual International Astronautical Congress. The presentation called for a slimmed down version of the vehicle, using 31 main engines, compared to the version Musk had pitched the year before, which would have had 42. However, on Twitter this evening, Musk confirmed that the rendering of the BFR posted by SpaceX for the announcement was a new version of the vehicle.
Both the BFR and BFS are reusable and designed to use their engines to lower themselves to the ground, much like how the Falcon 9s land. Musk envisions using the BFR for setting up a Moon base on the lunar surface, as well as starting a human settlement on the surface of Mars. However, Musk also noted that the BFR could be used to launch satellites, and he even proposed the idea of using the vehicle to do point-to-point travel. Conceivably, passengers on Earth could ride the rocket to distant cities, with travel times lasting just 30 minutes for destinations on the other side of the planet.
Musk noted last year that his ultimate goal is to transition SpaceX’s focus from the company’s current line of vehicles — the Falcon 9, the Falcon Heavy, and the Dragon spacecraft — to the BFR. “All our resources will turn toward building BFR,” Musk said last year. “And we believe we can do this with the revenue we receive from launching satellites and servicing the space station.”