SpaceX’s first BFR passenger is Yusaku Maezawa, owner of Japanese fashion company


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Yusaku Maezawa

Capitalsm in space: SpaceX’s first BFR passenger will be Yusaku Maezawa, the owner of Japanese fashion company, shown on the right.

Maezawa began his statement by echoing John Kennedy with these words, “I choose to go to the Moon.” He purchased the entire first flight, and will invite six to eight artists to join him on the flight and ask them to create art afterward inspired by the flight. They are aiming for a launch in 2023.

BFR

Musk began the presentation tonight with an overview of the status of BFR, noting that they plan unmanned test launches before putting humans on the rocket. The image an the right shows the habitable upper stage.

During the question and answer session after the announcement Musk was asked questions about the present stage of BFR design, and whether it has been finalized. He said they plan “a lot of test flights” and are aiming for first orbital flights in 2 to 3 years, “if things go really well.”

Musk made it clear that Maezawa chose SpaceX for the flight, rather than the other way around. Musk also said that Maezawa was paying them a lot of money for the flight, though they were not going to reveal the amount. Musk did note that the price was not trivial, and that Maezawa has already made a significant deposit. Maezawa had first approached them for a Dragon/Falcon Heavy flight, but because of the limitations of of those spacecraft, they decided it better to go with the bigger rocket.

Musk noted that the first test hops of the upper stage to test its landing capabilities will take place at Boca Chica in Texas. The launch site for the orbital missions is not yet decided.

Musk estimated that the cost for developing BFR is going to probably be around $5 billion, which he also noted rightly is quite small for this kind of project. He also said that right now they are only devoting 5% of SpaceX’s resources to this mission. As they complete the crew Dragon project, they will then begin to shift resources to BFR. He estimated that will happen sometime late next year.

Overall, it strikes me that they really do not have all the details yet worked out, with the rocket or their flight schedule. As Musk openly admitted when asked if they are sure about the schedule, “We are definitely not sure.” This is not necessarily a bad thing, since it is often better to keep an open-mind in planning something this ambitious. At the same time it tells us not to expect any of this to happen, as described.

One final point: Musk at one point said he wants a base on the Moon. “It’s 2018, why don’t we have a base on the Moon?” To me, this was an almost direct dig at NASA’s Gateway/FLOP-G project, which isn’t a base but locks us in lunar orbit. Musk was being very careful to avoid criticizing NASA, his biggest customer, but anyone who knows what is going on will quickly recognize that BFR is in direct competition with SLS/Orion/Gateway.

Based on SpaceX’s history, going from first orbit flight to flying the world’s largest rocket in only ten years, I am very confident that this company could get that first base on the Moon, long before NASA even gets Gateway launched.

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30 comments

  • Alex Andrite

    First Base on the Moon …… very cool.
    Wait ! who is on first ??

    love it, and the high ground is very desirable.

  • Orion314

    Naturally, a fashion mogul.. The least important thing in the universe…
    at least , in this , there is symmetry.
    Zanthru, beast of burden.
    Babylon 5

  • @Orion314: He shoots! He scores!

  • Col Beausabre

    My question is will Musk make it to the moon before Branson makes it to space?

  • m d mill

    Years ago, when this was first proposed, it was stated that a civilian passenger would be (or was proposed) on the FIRST SpaceX lunar launch (no unmanned trials).
    At that time I wrote here that this idea was “lunacy”, the reasons why, and that “wiser heads would prevail”.
    I got nothing but grief from RZ and the loyal opposition here at BTB for saying so.
    I think I have the right to say now…”I told you so”.

  • wodun

    which isn’t a base but locks us in lunar orbit.

    Not really. It is intended to provide access to the lunar surface and those missions will be funded when it is time for them and not before. Also, SLS isn’t the only thing NASA is doing when it comes to the Moon. So regardless of SLS/Orion/Gateway happening, there will be missions to the Moon.

    Will there be manned missions? Not until the site selection process for a base is complete. Will those manned missions take place on SLS? Probably not. Will they happen on a BFR? Maybe but pretty soon there will be the capability to do manned lunar missions thanks to the dual track approach NASA has been taking. It isn’t that BFR and SLS are competitors but that there are two different tracks competing with each other, as there has been since the first COTS program.

    I think prospecting will take a while, so BFR/BFS will be done by then. But who knows? NASA hasn’t been talking about the lunar program.

  • wodun

    He purchased the entire first flight, and will invite six to eight artists to join him

    This part is a little confusing. I didn’t watch Musk’s presentation, did he mention how many people a BFS can carry? I assume there will be some crew, so that there will be more than 8 people. But unless there are 90 other passengers he is bringing, this raises questions about how many people the BFS can transport.

  • m d mill: I think your memory is incorrect. I would never have given you grief for insisting that unmanned missions have to come before the manned flight. Can you cite the comment thread where this happened?

    And if you wrote that, and I and others missed it, kudos to you. No manned flight to the Moon should ever happen without unmanned test flights, unless of course you are NASA and are building SLS/Orion. :)

  • wodun: I think you are being very naive about NASA’s ability to build and launch Gateway. Long before they get it built and launched and manned, I think the Chinese will be on the surface of the Moon. And I also think Musk will be as well. Based on NASA’s track record for the past two decades, it will be no earlier than 2030 before they have Gateway in place around the Moon, ready to aid lunar landing missions.

  • wodun: For a circumlunar mission, BFS will be able to carry a lot of people. By limiting it to about a dozen, as implied during the Q&A, they will have room for lots of other emergency payload. This will also give them a lot of flexibility about the exact circumlunar mission they will fly.

    Musk made it clear that, in certain configurations, BFR could send 100 tons to Mars.

  • pzatchok

    The Flop-G will never be launched.

    First it offers nothing a large orbiter could do. An orbiter that flies with the lander just like the Apollos did.

    Second by making a permanent lunar orbiter it will have to be manned and supplied from Earth. Extra flights and extra expense.

    How long will it be manned? Long periods will be dangerous to the personnel. Will it be manned in between lunar missions?

    By the time NASA is ready to fly the Flop-G the Big Friendly Rocket will be ready to land directly on the Moon. Even if the BFR does not land it can be converted to carry a small lander. Thus doing everything NASA plans to do with the Flop-G and the SLS/Orion.

    NASA is like an old man who can’t change or speed up and is just working towards retirement and eventual death.
    NASA needs to concentrate on deep space missions with more remote probes/craft. They seem to get those right.
    Give up orbital research to private companies.
    Improve their orbital and launch traffic control.
    And if they want to feel special they can keep and improve their Astronaut training school.

  • Richard M

    Wodun,

    “It is intended to provide access to the lunar surface and those missions will be funded when it is time for them and not before.”

    No, it is intended to provide jobs at legacy aerospace contractors and NASA facilities.

    Just like SLS.

  • m d mill

    RZ:
    I cannot find it.
    If you can search for the word “lunacy” in the comments sections for the last couple of years you would probably find it.
    I cannot do that from my side of the website, unfortunately.
    Maybe you were not involved in that conversation…I would be interested to see if my memory is that faulty!

  • m d mill: I found it: https://behindtheblack.com/behind-the-black/points-of-information/heading-home/

    Your memory is mostly right, though the objections by me were not on the issue of whether such a thing was safe but rather that I am in support of allowing people the right and freedom to make dumb decisions. With freedom that is required. I also expected that Falcon Heavy would have flown a number of times prior to such a lunar flight.

    Much of the conversation clearly missed your main point, that it would be foolish to do this without unmanned test flights. Your point was not to ban it, but to advocate wisdom in how it was done.

  • m d mill

    Many thanks for the follow up!

  • wayne

    full presentation can be found at: (among others)
    https://dearmoon.earth/
    scroll to the bottom of the page, “Video’s.”

    I’d advise hearing all this straight from Musk, rather than reading what other-people-say-he-said.

    LocalFluff—
    Musk pays homage to TinTin.

    watch starting around:
    [https://youtu.be/zu7WJD8vpAQ?t=4012]

  • Localfluff

    @wayen
    And I haven’t even posted in this thread yet.
    Hergé in the 1950s landing a rocket on the Moon and re-launching it fully reused. And Tintin astronaut finding water on the Moon. All of that was laughed at for decades.
    Well, now it is happening! It is happening!

    And how the screw lost in the cupboard did Leslie Nielsen foresee that Trump would become president? It is a scary movie. And it is happening!!!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GP7F7Uw6yP4

  • wayne

    Can’t readily find it, but did anyone catch Musk saying, “…we might launch from a floating platform…”

    pivoting….

    Fireball XL5 –
    Start & Theme Song
    https://youtu.be/6ifS2nP53Zs
    2:29

  • wayne

    Passengers
    Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt
    trailer 2017
    https://youtu.be/SPs_zbQO2Cg
    3:32

  • Richard M

    “Can’t readily find it, but did anyone catch Musk saying, “…we might launch from a floating platform…””

    I have to wonder how much it would cost to build and operate a floating launch platform from scratch.

    But I’m sure they’ve been crunching numbers.

  • Localfluff

    @wayne
    I never click on any of your links. I never have!
    I suppose I did it once to make sure. And today I did it again, which confirmed my policy of never clicking on anything that you link to, Mr. Wayne. Sorry but that’s how it is. It’s just too… It’s beyond… Whatever, it doesn’t work! I’m not a Hollywood guy. I’m a European. You know, a crock who’s smoking a cigarette in the shadows.

  • wayne

    Richard M–
    It’s during the Q&A. I think it’s in response to a NYT’s reporter question, but I’ve only watched it straight through 1x.

  • Localfluff: You are suspended for a week. Your previous comment, now deleted, included blatant obscenities.

    This is the second time I’ve suspended you. I know I said I would ban someone for a second offense, but you post such good stuff normally. Why you can’t follow this simple rule of no obscenities baffles me.

  • wodun

    wodun: I think you are being very naive about NASA’s ability to build and launch Gateway.

    Oh, I have always thought that SLS/Orion would collapse under their own weight eventually but they might get a limited number of launches off to save face. They might have enough engines to do that Europa mission and launch a couple Gateway modules.

    I was just pointing out that the Gateway literally does not lock us in orbit. As a stickler for details, I am surprised you keep getting this one wrong ;-)

    Since we are powerless to affect the outcome, I choose not to dwell on what can’t be changed and to look at the positives. Anthony Colangolo, from the MECO podcast, has a good POV on how SLS/Orion/Gateway are a mixed bag but that some good might come from them.

    Even though its a non-sequitor, China could be the next ones to land humans on the Moon and SpaceX could possibly beat them, or follow them closely, but when SpaceX does land humans on the Moon, you can rest assured that NASA will be taking part. We can’t forget the role NASA played in enabling SpaceX and other companies and that their COTS/CCDev programs are being emulated going forward and are part of a dual track approach that NASA has been following since the Bush years. So if NASA’s commercial partners demonstrate the ability to do lunar missions, NASA and congress will jump at the opportunity.

    From what I have read, the lunar robotic missions will not use SLS or the Gateway and they will be the precursor for developing infrastructure like landers that will eventually be used for landing humans and building a base(s). This too might be too slow and be outpaced by BFR/BFS, which if successful, will be a big paradigm shift. It really all depends on things we can’t predict about the future but I am comforted that their are multiple paths being taken rather than being locked into just one thing.

    Who knows maybe BO or some other company will rise up before BFS is ready for lunar landings?

  • Richard M

    Wayne,

    “It’s during the Q&A. I think it’s in response to a NYT’s reporter question, but I’ve only watched it straight through 1x.”

    Yes, I heard it live – the NYT asked him directly if they had decided where they would launch. Elon confirmed past statements that the “hop” tests of just the BFS would be off the coast of Texas, on a floating platform; but that they hadn’t decided on a launch location once they move to full-up launches. I was honestly surprised to hear him say they were considering a floating platform, given how complex and expensive that could get.

    My gut says they’ll initially launch from LC-39A, unless NASA puts the kibosh on it – whatever modification LC-39A needs, it surely has to be less involved than building a floating launch platform (along with all the infrastructure to transport the world’s largest rocket to it) from scratch. In the long run, I still suspect they will go with Boca Chica.

  • wodun: As to whether Gateway locks us in lunar orbit we will have to agree to disagree. From my perspective, committing so much money to such a project will only suck the life out of anything else, preventing any lunar landings for decades while Gateway drags on.

    My only hope, which I have always had, is that private enterprise will decide to bypass the government and do it itself. The announcement yesterday indicates this remains a good possibility.

  • Richard M

    Wodun,

    “I was just pointing out that the Gateway literally does not lock us in orbit.”

    It doesn’t “lock us in orbit” per se, but Zubrin is correct that it acts as a toll booth, actually making it *harder* to reach the lunar surface by insisting on making the LOP-G part of any such endeavor – harder in terms of energy budgets, and also harder in terms of the opportunity cost in money and time of building it. Meanwhile, the station itself serves virtually no scientific purpose.

    There may not be a lot we can do to stop it, but there’s at least a small chance while it remains so inchoate and unfunded.

  • Andrew_W

    If Musk can pull this off there will be people willing to pay the extra to land on the Moon, if that happens Gateway should be dead.

  • Max

    “Meanwhile, the station itself serves virtually no scientific purpose.”

    I’ve been racking my brain over “why” they would build this Gate way station. Is it to control people coming and going from the lunar surface? Monitor activity on the moon? To be a emergency station?

    There’s only one scenario, that I can think of, in which we can justify the cost and expense of building such a station.
    If someone is going to build a manufacturing complex for the construction of large megastructures, ships, orbital platform/retirement centers… where is the most likely location near raw materials?
    I am guessing that this will be an engineer/construction worker station. Not for science studies at all. Not a gateway to the moon but rather a gateway to the solar system.
    If mishaps were to occur (and they will accur) the safest place would be in lunar orbit. With considerable less effort, the structures after construction, can be moved to earth orbit and beyond.

    What I am saying is that the lunar surface isn’t the only territory up for grabs, apparently there has been a deal done with the Chinese that if they mine the materials…

    It reminds me of the story of firefly. Just science fiction of course, but it would be prudent to know what space is valuable for the future. Establish “first right” so you can legally hold your ground, but don’t get so greedy that you have to fight others to maintain your right. I believe there is more to this than meets the eye…

  • LocalFluff: As I promised, you have been unsuspended, though I doubt by your emails you will return. I am sorry for this, but at the same time I have certain standards of language that I have made very clear. It seems you find these too difficult to follow.

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