SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has projected the blueprint of the proposed Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) flight that will take a crewed mission to Mars. .
Musk's answers touched many questions on topics like Mars colonization, radiation hazards and habitats for those seeking to live on Mars.
Answering the innovations that Space X might add to the ITS, Musk said the goal had been to design a new metal alloy that can withstand oxidation of the hot oxygen-rich turbo pump that is operating at extremely high pressures for feeding the main chamber.
He said during test firings, Raptor turbopump showed zero erosion but more optimization can still be done.
Resisting oxidization is the key goal along with addressing the bigger challenge of sealing up the carbon fiber tanks against cryo-propellants of hot autogenous pressurization.
Musk also dispelled fears that ITS will hover over Mars to find a landing spot.
"There wouldn't be any hovering unless it encountered a problem or unexpected wind conditions to save on fuel," Musk said.
He said ITS has been designed with a maximum acceleration of 20 Gs but it would operate around 5 g's and can take peak loads 2 to 3 times higher without breaking up.
First Crewed Mission
Musk said the first crewed mission to Mars would take a dozen people. The near-term goal will be to build the propellant plant and Mars Base Alpha power system.
A change in the name of the Interplanetary Transport System is also under consideration. The change will be towards having something more friendly, Musk added.
"I'm using BFR and BFS for the rocket and spaceship, which is fine internally," the CEO said.
Musk's strategy is rapid colonization of Mars by doubling the number of flights, probably flying every two years until the city grows by itself.
Musk sounded bullish on the Raptor booster whose mass ratio of the stages are relatively lower and density is also not high.
"Net result is that it won't come in quite as hot and fast as Falcon, so Falcon should be a bounding case on the big booster," he said.
Falcon 9 Rockets
Regarding the longevity of Falcon 9 Rockets, Musk said there is no problem with using F9 boosters indefinitely if proper maintenance and timely inspections are followed.
Musk mentioned that the final version in the Falcon 9 Block 5 as supreme with an optimum performance value and reuse potential. It justifies the option of retiring the earlier versions.
Block 5 mass production starts will start by January and the initial flight will be held by the middle of 2017.
Refueling on Mars
On refueling at Mars, Musk said things are at the formative stages of figuring out how this would work.
The current plans include SpaceX sending "dragon scouting missions, initially just to make sure we know how to land without adding a crater and then to figure out the best way to get water for the CH4/O2 Sabatier Reaction."
Following up those scouting missions would be a spaceship, Heart of Gold, loaded with equipment for a fuel plant and a manned mission later to complete the station.
Musk faced many questions as to how people will actually live on Mars after landing there.
"Initially, glass panels with carbon fiber frames to build geodesic domes on the surface," Musk replied.
The habitat system will be backed up by a lot of tunneling droids giving the scope to build vast pressurized space for industrial operations that will leave the glass domes perfect for green living space.