SpaceX on Thursday evening tweeted it has plans to fly private passengers around the moon. The announcement, which confirmed that the rocket company “has signed the world’s first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle,” did not reveal “who is flying and why,” but promised to provide further details on Monday, September 17.
Space X plans to launch two private citizens (still unnamed) on a similar path taken by Apollo 13 astronauts of NASA, around the moon. The persons would make the trip using the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) – currently the world’s most powerful launch system.
The BFR is SpaceX’s forthcoming spaceship system which comprises two segments: a powerful rocket that will escape the Earth’s gravity and a towering spaceship to cruise outside the Earth’s atmosphere. The company also disclosed that the trip would be an important step in providing space traveling to everyday people, though it didn’t reveal the trip terms and the financial involvement.
We may have clues on who could be on the Big Falcon Spaceship (at least one of the passengers), but the reason for the flight can only be available when the company releases more information next week. SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted a Japanese flag emoji when asked who the passenger would be. This strongly suggests that at least one of the passengers would come from Japan, unless Musk was seeing the 1954 Seven Samurai movie at that moment, if we need to dismiss the former clue.
This is not the first that SpaceX is announcing plans to launch a flight around the moon, not actually to land on the Earth’s satellite. In February 2017, the company announced it was launching a fly-around-the-moon mission and it is not clear if the BFR mission is linked with the previous announcement or entirely different.
However, it appears that SpaceX is deviating from the previous plan; the company has proposed to use an unproven spacecraft, BFR for the mission. BFR is still being prototyped and seems to be many years away from its inaugural flight. Musk, who usually issue over ambitious schedules, in March said the company would start testing BFR’s spaceship portion sometime in 2019
In a 2017 presentation, SpaceX CEO described the BFR as a 191-foot-tall rocket with a 157-foot-tall spaceship. It is a 35-story system originally developed to launch the first crewed missions to Mars.
When will this flight take place?
SpaceX’s announcement last year about sending two private persons around the Moon indicated the trip would happen by the end of 2018. That date is obviously unrealistic even though it planned using Falcon Heavy rocket and Dragon spaceship. Musk since dismissed the idea of using Falcon Heavy for the lunar flight in March when he said he would not recommend it. The company is now focused on developing the BFR, which he referred to as the new architecture for the mission. From all indications, we shouldn’t expect this flight earlier than April 2019.