Author Topic: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4  (Read 610714 times)

Offline RonM

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Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #100 on: 06/17/2015 06:59 PM »
A single MCT won't be billions of dollars of investment or the $500k per passenger figure will be impossible. An order of magnitude less like $100-400 million. Also, electronics can easily be made reliable enough. We have lots an lots of experience running spacecraft for years at a time without maintenance. 6-9 months won't be a challenge for a company that will launch thousands of satellites into LEO.

As these craft are supposed to effectively be the DC-3s of space, acting as both cargo and passenger carriers, Billions would be possible.  After all, airliners cost tens of millions of dollars and most airline tickets are less than $400.

Airliners fly multiple flights per day to achieve their low cost per passenger. An MCT will make one Earth to Mars flight about every two years. That will be about 15 flights over the life of the MCT. With 100 passengers per flight at $500k each, the lifetime gross revenue of an MCT will be $750M. The MCT cost and all operating and maintenance costs had better be less than that.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #101 on: 06/17/2015 07:06 PM »
A single MCT won't be billions of dollars of investment or the $500k per passenger figure will be impossible. An order of magnitude less like $100-400 million. Also, electronics can easily be made reliable enough. We have lots an lots of experience running spacecraft for years at a time without maintenance. 6-9 months won't be a challenge for a company that will launch thousands of satellites into LEO.

As these craft are supposed to effectively be the DC-3s of space, acting as both cargo and passenger carriers, Billions would be possible.  After all, airliners cost tens of millions of dollars and most airline tickets are less than $400.
No, billions would not be possible. 15 reuses for passenger MCTs, 100 passengers max, $500k per passenger yields a maximum cost per MCT of $750m. But you also have the BFR (first stage) and refueling flights plus operations and refurb cost, etc, plus cargo (although some of that will be funded in other ways perhaps), cost of capital over 30 years, plus the desire to reduce costs to below $500k, and you really, really need to get costs to around $200-400m per MCT. Which also means lightweighting the heck out of it, using as small of volume as you can get away with, etc.

But if each MCT cost billions (not counting BFR), Musk's goals are impossible to reach. But good news is that it shouldn't be anywhere near that expensive. A good rule of thumb for aerospace hardware like launch vehicles or airplanes is about $1k-4k/kg empty (True for Delta IV, Falcon 9, 747, 737, Bombardier, etc). If MCT has an empty mass of 50-100t, that gives a price range of about $50-400m per MCT (given the costs for F9v1.1, it'd be $100-200m per MCT, but MCT will be produced at a much greater rate than F9, so it could get down to $50-100m). Spacecraft are usually more expensive than this, but I think economies of scale (both production rate and size of the vehicle) can reduce the cost to somewhere in that range.

BFR first stage may be reused hundreds or even thousands of times.
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Offline JamesH

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Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #102 on: 06/17/2015 07:30 PM »
Don't forget that your income calculation is only for colonists. There will also be a market for cargo on the MCT as well, which may well be able pull in more per KG (scientific payloads etc). I reckon you might be able to pull in $1B on each MCT trip.

How much does it currently cost to put a 100kg payload on Mars?

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #103 on: 06/17/2015 08:35 PM »
Don't ask how much it costs, ask what the total market size is likely to be. Sending 80k colonists per year at $500k each is just $40B per year, which is over twice NASA's budget. NASA is not going to get a huge funding increase any time soon and neither is NASA going to devote all their money to SpaceX. And NASA is the largest such organization by far. So initially, yes scientific payloads could be a significant source of income, but not for colonization and $500k per passenger stage. And Musk doesn't think there's anything worthwhile exporting from Mars, so MCT has to be able to pay for itself.

The base itself, however, may be built using revenues from the SpaceX constellation which would dwarf the revenue of even the full-swing colonization stage of $40B/year. The Constellation when built and fully populated should see revenues of $50B-$500B per year.

Satellite telecomm is hundreds of billions per year industry and growing at a fairly good clip... If all of a sudden you can compete for much of the business of Comcast--$65B--and Verizon at $145B and AT&T at $132B... But all over the world including the fast growing developing world, then over a trillion dollars in revenue is possible (not at all guaranteed) although that would take decades and likely require climbing up the value chain to mobile services as well (with requisite ground and/or air infrastructure).

But this is the sort of thing that may help pay for the Mars colony. Scientific payloads on MCT will be a pittance in comparison.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #104 on: 06/17/2015 08:49 PM »
Don't forget that your income calculation is only for colonists. There will also be a market for cargo on the MCT as well, which may well be able pull in more per KG (scientific payloads etc). I reckon you might be able to pull in $1B on each MCT trip.

How much does it currently cost to put a 100kg payload on Mars?
About once a decade, NASA might spend a billion dollars to put a fancy rover on Mars. Maybe $1-4 billion per year to transport stuff for a crewed research outpost, I don't imagine much more than that. But that's still only a tiny fraction of the $500k per person ticket price. At such high flight rates, a single MCT will not be able to command anywhere near $1B.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline spacenut

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Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #105 on: 06/17/2015 09:01 PM »
If the reusable BFR and MCT are eventually built, NASA will probably abandon SLS and use the money to pay SpaceX to launch their payloads for whatever they are doing.  It was stated about 10 years ago that NASA needed to get out of the launch vehicle building business and build payloads and bid out the launch services as rockets were getting bigger and cheaper.  For what they have spent on Constellation and SLS, they could have built and launched Nautilis X and we would probably be on Mars now at least with flags and footprints. 

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #106 on: 06/17/2015 09:59 PM »
Unfortunately, NASA's funding is not purely for exploration, science, tech, etc, it is also a regional development program for Dixie and a couple other places. So you can have the coolest spaceship ever imagined for super cheap and amazing capability, and it still won't get but a small fraction of funding from NASA. Additionally, NASA is so much more than human spaceflight and launch services. $4 billion annually is the max possible I can imagine anything like BFR/MCT ever getting from NASA (in the next half century), with maybe $1-2 billion being far more likely.
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Offline Impaler

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Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #107 on: 06/17/2015 11:53 PM »
You may have smaller tanks, but they'll still be large in relation to the overall vehicle. 
It's not what I am or am not a fan of, but what must be at a minimum.  MCT must be a single stage to Mars orbit vehicle at a minimum.  And thus, it will still be a big gas can that must get through EDL, whether it does direct return or not...whether it's it's own 2nd stage on Earth ascent or not.

:-)

Mars Orbit needs a 66% propellent fraction, 33% dry, if takeoff weight is 150 mT then we need 300 mT propellent and this would be about 300 m^3.  Were both assuming a vehicle of ~1500 m^3 so were talking about tank sizes that are 1/5 of total volume.  Hardly large relative to the whole vehicle.

I'm looking at a Bi-conic with the following dimensions, at the tip a half-sphere with 6.5 m diameter, first frustum with 17 degree wall slope 8.5 m tall and with an 11 m diameter base, second frustum 8 degree slope 7.5 m tall with a 13 m diameter base, 2 meter cylindrical unpressurized skirt divided into control flaps.

Volumes are 72 m^3 for half-sphere, 453 m^3 for the first frustum, 819 m^3 for second frustum, 265 m^3 for skirt.  Total volume 1609 m^3 including volume in the skirt.  In addition the 4 Raptor engine bells would extend 2 meters beyond the skirt.

Cargo hold is inside the second frustum, 7 m wide, 13 meters long at the base (running fully from the from one side of the vehicle to the other) and it's belly extends into the skirt area making it 8.5 m tall totaling ~700 m^3.  It would accommodate 9 standard 20ft shipping containers stacked 3 wide and 3 tall.  A folding ramp forms the first few meters of the floor and can reach the ground which would be some 5 meters below the floor upon landing.  Containers would be offloaded to the ground with an on-board gantry crane in the roof of the cargo hold which would telescope out only a meter or two to clear the edge of the vehicle.

The cords to the side of the cargo-hold hold the landing gear legs (6) which are simple tube-rod pneumatically extended, rocket plumbing, and possibly additional propellent tanks or storage compartments. 

The upper frustum and half-sphere would be tanks, probably in the form of carbon fiber wrapped spheres or ellipsoids as in Dragon.  Two weights on semicircular tracks allow the vehicle to adjust center of mass for reentry and to compensate for variations in cargo density that might offset the center of mass.  Their may also be a small manned compartment (it might or might not separate in emergencies) for return to orbit of 6-8 persons at a time and an external docking mechanism to transfer them to a waiting transit vehicle.

Outer skin and TPS are integrated and metallic, titanium skin on the majority of the vehicle, inconel or ceramics on the hottest parts aka nose cone and control flaps.  Maximum entry speed is 4 kms, with a L/D of >1 it would experience no more then 2 g's (very important for our potentially weakend astronauts) resulting in considerable savings in mass.  Structures are carbon fiber as well.  Estimated mass is under 100 mT with plenty of growth margin.


Flight for Early exploration would be as follows

Launching without crew but with a monolithic surface habitat in cargo-hold and small propellent load used for either abort or as 3rd stage to reach higher orbit and rendezvous with a SEP transit vehicle.  The combined vehicle moves to Lagrange or LDRO, crew is send by taxi craft and enter habitat.  Combined vehicle transits and captures to LMO from which lander enters.  Surface stay and early base aggregation using surface habitats which are on wheels to facilitate removal from lander and high mobility exploration, it is left behind to establish a perment base.  Crew returns to orbit in landers small compartment and docks with the SEP and a pre-placed return habitat which was stocked with sufficient provisions should the landing have been aborted.  This combined vehicle transits back to High earth orbit and meets another taxi craft which returns the crew to Earth, the Lander is return to LEO refueled by tanker and performs a braking maneuver to allow a low speed entry and landing, the SEP is also re-propellented and ready for another round.

Flight for Cargo (Early)

Launch with cargo and same small propellent load, rendezvous with SEP vehicle in LEO, slow high ISP transit to low Mars orbit.  Entry and landing, cargo unloaded, refuel and launch.  Dock with SEP return to LEO, refuel and land.

Flight for Cargo (Late)

Cargo containers are launched in a payload fairing rather then the lander itself and are pushed all the way to Mars from LEO by SEP (this should be nearly 2 lander loads worth per launch).  At LMO they are loaded into the lander which land and immediately relaunch to orbit to take down more cargo, lander returns to Earth periodically for inspection after making many cargo landings in a single synod.

Flight for mass colonization would be modified as follows

Launch with a monolithic high-density 'sleeper-car' like module holding 100 passengers, same abort propellents.  Rendezvous in LEO with a 2nd stage that has been refilled by several other similar 2nd stages acting as tankers.  The combined vehicle is propelled to Lagrange/DLRO rendezvous with a large inflatable (BA 2100) transit habitat placed earlier by SEP, passengers transfer to habitat.  The lander and habitat are pushed to Mars by two separate SEP vehicles, upon reaching LMO passengers transfer back to the lander for entry and landing.  Passenger modules is returned to orbit with any return passengers and it and the transit habitat are returned to Earth orbit.  The lander is returned to LEO and as usual refueled for Earth landing and the habitat is only returned to high orbit.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #108 on: 06/18/2015 12:30 AM »
Except Musk, in the biography, said MCT would go from the surface of Mars to Earth (in a single stage). But what does he know.
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Offline Impaler

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Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #109 on: 06/18/2015 12:41 AM »
Again please link me to this quote.

Musk has said a lot of stuff that did not survive contact with reality, and we know they are looking at SEP right now.  So this is very much a viable profile and frankly it is FAR superior to a direct return.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #110 on: 06/18/2015 02:22 AM »
Again please link me to this quote.
http://www.amazon.com/Elon-Musk-SpaceX-Fantastic-Future/dp/0062301233
And here: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=37839.msg1390934#msg1390934

Quote
Musk has said a lot of stuff that did not survive contact with reality
And? You've done better? Musk and occasionally Shotwell are basically the ONLY source for anything about MCT. So like it or not, that's all we've got right now.
Quote
and we know they are looking at SEP right now.
And one of the best ways of using SEP is to haul propellant around, from LEO to EML1/2 (or high Earth orbit).
« Last Edit: 06/18/2015 02:30 AM by Robotbeat »
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline CuddlyRocket

Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #111 on: 06/18/2015 03:16 AM »
And Musk doesn't think there's anything worthwhile exporting from Mars, so MCT has to be able to pay for itself.

That's not entirely true - there are things that might be available on Mars whose value on Earth would exceed the marginal cost of transporting them via the MCT - but it's unlikely that they'd make a significant contribution to defraying the MCT's operational costs. But hey, every little helps!

Offline Darkseraph

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Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #112 on: 06/18/2015 03:20 AM »
I've extremely high doubts that once the BFR/MCT package is complete, SpaceX will just cancel its breadwinning Falcon9/Falcon Heavy lines and launch all commercial satellites on a Saturn V class rocket. Mostly for the same reason that Boeing doesn't cancel the 737 regional jets because, hey they have a shiny new 787, and its fuel economy, reusuability and scale will make it more attractive for flying a few people 400kms away :P

The Falcon 1 analogy is bad here. It wasn't cancelled because the Falcon 9 could do those missions cheaper as such..it was cancelled because there wasn't a huge market for small satellites to low earth orbit in the late 00s. It was the wrong time for such a vehicle.

My own guess on this is that the Raptor engine is put on a ~5 meter reusable vehicle comparable in stats to Vulcan, for human launches to LEO, Military, commercial satellites and other bread-winning applications. I wouldn't be surprised if we even see this vehicle first, before the BFR, as a step on the way. I think it will be a long while before the Falcon line is discontinued.
« Last Edit: 06/18/2015 03:21 AM by Darkseraph »
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Offline QuantumG

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Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #113 on: 06/18/2015 03:26 AM »
I've extremely high doubts that once the BFR/MCT package is complete, SpaceX will just cancel its breadwinning Falcon9/Falcon Heavy lines and launch all commercial satellites on a Saturn V class rocket.

.. and assuming that's the case, what's BFR for? Annual (at best) launches of MCTs?

Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline nadreck

Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #114 on: 06/18/2015 03:42 AM »
I've extremely high doubts that once the BFR/MCT package is complete, SpaceX will just cancel its breadwinning Falcon9/Falcon Heavy lines and launch all commercial satellites on a Saturn V class rocket.

.. and assuming that's the case, what's BFR for? Annual (at best) launches of MCTs?

For every MCT going to Mars there will be 4 BFR launches. At a guess the first MCTs going to Mars will be preceded by more than 12 months by a first orbital flight, by 6-12 months the establishment of a propellant depot (4 BFR flights), then when the first MCTs go to Mars there will be 4 or more MCTs and for each MCT 3 tanker flights of the BFR with a reusable tanker upper stage. Then in the 22 months that follow the last of the MCTs from the first wave at least 10 more MCTs will have been built, maybe a few of them are contracted to others who want to establish a lunar mining operation, L2 L4 or L5 base. The depot is probably expanded, maybe someone contracts the BFR and MCTs just to built their own LEO or even GEO station.  At the price point of the BFR maybe the Clarke vision of 3 to 6 huge communications stations in GEO makes sense.
It is all well and good to quote those things that made it past your confirmation bias that other people wrote, but this is a discussion board damnit! Let us know what you think! And why!

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #115 on: 06/18/2015 03:43 AM »
I've extremely high doubts that once the BFR/MCT package is complete, SpaceX will just cancel its breadwinning Falcon9/Falcon Heavy lines and launch all commercial satellites on a Saturn V class rocket.

.. and assuming that's the case, what's BFR for? Annual (at best) launches of MCTs?
You would be sending up cargo and propellant flights all year round, waiting in Earth orbit for the departure window, not waiting on the ground. (Or possibly more exotic ballistic trajectories.)

Dark seraph:
But anyway, all these analogies are silly. Who cares about the relative power or size, what matters is cost. If you are comparing the cost of pizza delivery in a Ferrari vs a Camry that needs to be half replaced each time, the Ferrari will be cheaper.
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Offline Impaler

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Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #116 on: 06/18/2015 03:45 AM »
Thanks for the link, this seems to be the key quote.

“And then one of the key questions is can you get to the surface of Mars and back to Earth on a single stage. The answer is yes, if you reduce the return payload to approximately one-quarter of the outbound payload, which I thought made sense because you are going to want to transport a lot more to Mars than you’d want to transfer from Mars to Earth. For the spacecraft, the heat shield, the life support system, and the legs will have to be very, very light."


It's largely as I suspected, Musk is describing what COULD be done and the constraints he would face in doing it, but it is by no means a commitment that this is how he will proceed even with the initial design.  I think the incredible lightness necessary to make it work will prove too risky of a development challenge, he could end up in Venture Star territory if just one of his lightening strategies fails to work the whole thing could collapse.

By setting low bars like Mars surface to Low Mars orbit and low entry velocity the whole design process becomes a much less risky and cutting edge.  SpaceX has traditionally not done high risk designs so I think it is far more likely that in the end he chooses the safer design even if it dose require a second SEP vehicle to function and a good deal of rendezvous in space for refueling.

And? You've done better? Musk and occasionally Shotwell are basically the ONLY source for anything about MCT. So like it or not, that's all we've got right now.

Actually their is a LOT of information on rocketry out their on the inter-webs and we can and should do our own research if we expect to speculate with any kind of informed way.  If Musk & Shotwell quotes were the only permissible source material then this thread would be nothing more then a religious war between the SpaceX fan-boys and the SpaceX haters.  If my analysis disagrees with anyone else's, even Musk's I have every right and indeed the responsibility to point that out and I will not heckled by you or anyone else simply because I don't own a rocket company.
« Last Edit: 06/18/2015 03:50 AM by Impaler »

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #117 on: 06/18/2015 03:55 AM »
Extreme lightness is a SpaceX specialty. That is one area we can assume they'll do better than the status quo, certainly much better than is typically assumed for Mars architecture.

SpaceX boosters can do on the order of 30 mass ratio. The shell of MCT may be similarly constructed. I think this is quite doable with the right design.

Just by pressured volume, we'd be talking about approximately 16 tons for the crew section, another 16 tons of the engines and propellant tanks, plus the TPS and legs to support it all (of course the legs only need to support a 100 payload plus dry mass on Mars, not on Earth since a smaller payload would be sent to Earth. 50 tons dry mass should be more than doable, if you strip out the cheap stuff.

Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #118 on: 06/18/2015 03:57 AM »
BTW, nobody is stopping you, Impaler, from starting a new thread with your own idea of how to transport people to Mars if you don't like how Musk is doing it or think it's unworkable.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline SLC17A5

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Re: MCT Speculation and Discussion Thread 4
« Reply #119 on: 06/18/2015 06:58 AM »
In 2016 SpaceX has bookings for ~$1.3B of rockets (22 at $57m via Google and the US launch schedule thread).  They receive about $650M annually from the CCtCap award ($2.6B through 2019) and about $200M from CRS, that's about $2.15B in revenues.  A very cursory search suggests that Tesla and Google both have 25% profit margins so let's assume that SpaceX gets the same and makes a profit of ~$550M.  Suppose half that profit goes into funding private Mars work, so that 1/8th of all revenue is being spent on internal Mars R&D and mission costs.  That's a $275m annual budget for Mars efforts, on the order of half their yearly costs on the CCtCap award.

A doubling of commercial sales -- 50 launches a year -- adds about $170m to this estimate and puts the effort at $450M yearly.  A great success of reuse might drastically affect profit margins, or it might not, since now you need to build fewer rockets for the same flight rate, but you also need to maintain reflown stages, and you might end up discounting your launch price anyways.  Imagining a 50% profit margin and doubled sales, SpaceX can spend $900M on Mars work yearly.

What I am getting at is that the scale of SpaceX's commercial rocketry business is borderline in terms of building and operating individual exploration craft.  Fleets of $500M MCTs are beyond SpaceX's independent means, even under optimistic expectations.

I am also skeptical of SpaceX trying to switch horses in midstream between kerolox Falcon and methalox BFR architectures with this cost structure.  Before they had an order book and DoD certification, they had a lot of freedom to change rocket configurations.  Now, they have an ongoing business of maintaining Falcon service and associated Falcon costs.  If SpaceX tries to leap directly to methalox and BFR in one go, that adds on Raptor costs and BFR costs and MCT costs all at once.  These are going to be Large Rocket Costs, much larger than those incurred for Falcon.  I am skeptical that the existing business can bear them.  SLS costs are $2.2b/year, and BFR is larger than SLS.  I don't see how SpaceX can develop a rocket larger than SLS and a very advanced upper stage / spacecraft capable of Mars EDL/ascent for a small fraction of the price.

I think Musk's comments about a "single monster boost stage" can encompass a range of monstrosity.  A single core equivalent of Falcon Heavy would, after all, be at least a smidge monstrous.  A craft that delivers "100 metric tons of useful payload to the surface of Mars" can be assembled in Earth orbit and does not need to launch intact from Earth's surface.

Ultimately I think that SpaceX might well achieve a manned Mars landing, but I am doubtful of their ability to independently fund a major colonization architecture. It does make me wonder if SpaceX might try to get into the satellite business to scale up their revenues in order to better follow up on the Mars goal.

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