Elon Musk: SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch has 'real good chance' of failing

Claudine Rigal
Juillet 20, 2017

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk on Wednesday downplayed expectations for the upcoming demonstration flight of the company's giant Falcon Heavy rocket, saying there was a "good chance" the vehicle would not make it to orbit in its first launch.

"To really get the public real fired up, I think we've got to have a base on the moon", the billionaire founder and CEO of SpaceX said today (July 19) at the 2017 International Space Station Research and Development (ISSR&D) conference in Washington, D.C. He also had an adjective for the customers whose payloads are slated to fly on the Falcon Heavy's first flight: "brave".

Musk also teased a part of his updated Mars plans, which he first unveiled past year, involving launching spaceships to travel en masse to the Red Planet.

He said those Earth-orbit missions could be a way to pay for the cost of the system.

Musk's latest tunnel-digging exploits outside SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne could eventually play a role in the company's plans for the Red Planet.

Musk has been relatively quiet about the ITS since then, but he said he plans to give an update about the architecture at the next IAC conference, which will be held this September in Adelaide, Australia.

But advanced tunneling technology will also be in high demand on Mars, Musk said, citing the likely need to mine large amounts of ice and other natural resources.

The key to opening up low-Earth orbit, and space travel in general, is building rockets and spacecraft that are nearly entirely reusable, said Elon Musk.

The company had said prior to that June flight that some parts of the capsule, such as the heat shield, had to be replaced, though a SpaceX executive said the majority of the spacecraft had flown in space before.

SpaceX recently relaunched and recovered a Dragon space capsule that first flew in 2014. Next time around, it should be able to shave a few percentage points off the cost of refurbishment, he said, which makes it sound like in the case of the capsule at least, there's still lots of work to be done for rapid reflight capabilities.

"That's one of the key elements in the new architecture", Musk said. The company also hopes to finish its development of fairing recovery by the end of this year.

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