What’s SpaceX Up To?


Dragon landing on Mars. Credit: SpaceX

As if manned space capsules and reusable boosters weren’t enough…but what is “MCT”? Some tantalizing bits from Flight Global:

Musk said the new rocket, which he calls MCT, will be “several times” as powerful as the 1 Merlin series, and won’t use Merlin’s RP-1 fuel. Beyond adding that it will have “a very big core size”, he declined to elaborate, promising more details in “between one and three years”.

Musk declined to say what ‘MCT’ stands for, and declined to answer further questions on the project.

During an April interview, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell discussed a project with similar characteristics, describing engines with “more than 1.5 million pounds” of thrust.

That would be equivalent to the behemoth F-1. With multiple engines arranged in a booster core 21 meters in diameter, that’s a bigger vehicle than the Saturn V.

Now for the really important part:

Shotwell said a possible payload range of the new rocket is 150-200t to low Earth orbit (LEO). A vehicle of that size would easily eclipse NASA‘s proposed Space Launch System, which will eventually be capable of launching 130t to LEO, making SpaceX’s potential vehicle the most capable ever built by a wide margin.

Note the low side of that estimate is 150 metric tons to LEO, compared to the Saturn’s throw weight of a shade less than 130mt. I’m excluding SLS because it will probably never evolve beyond vaporware.

Ho-lee crap. So, connecting the dots, SpaceX is developing a heavy booster that will be bigger and more capable than a Saturn V. Given their track record so far, I’ve no reason to doubt their success. Mr. Musk has hinted at this in the past, noting that Falcon 9-Heavy would not be the end of the line for them. Considering his oft-stated long term goals, I’ll risk future embarrassment and take a guess at what “MCT” might stand for:

Mars Crew Transport.

You heard it here first.

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3 Replies to “What’s SpaceX Up To?”

    1. I’m really hopeful that by the time I retire it wouldn’t be out of reach to buy a ticket, orbital or otherwise. I’d be happy for a ride on XCOR’s Lynx. I’d be even happier to get type-rated in one and fly it myself!

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