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SpaceX will not use Falcon 9 for BFR tests

In a series of tweets, Elon Musk revealed yesterday that SpaceX has decided it will no longer use its Falcon 9 to test Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) designs and has instead redesigned the BFR’s upper stage, dubbed the Big Falcon Spaceship (BFS), and will do those tests with that.

I suspect that the company got pushback from NASA and the Air Force about making any big changes to the Falcon 9 upper stage, and decided it was better to leave well enough alone. They have more flexibility making these changes and tests with BFS.

However, the main conclusion that I draw from writing up this post is that SpaceX has got to come up with better names for BFR and BFS. What they have now is boring and unwieldy. I am sure that Musk can think of two more exciting and easier to use names for the new rocket’s reusable first and second stages. And he should do it, now!

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • brightdark

    Eagle and Eaglet

  • mpthompson

    My interpretation of the tweets is somewhat different. I presume there was a team within SpaceX tasked with researching and developing strategies for long-term re-use of the 2nd stage. It sounds like to me that team has been dissolved and they will be moving onto BFR work. I can still see a one-off modified 2nd stage being used to test certain aspects of the BFR concept at a reduced scale as Musk hinted at in the past few weeks. That effort would be separate and have nothing to do with 2nd stage reusability which he clarified in these last few tweets. I don’t see in these tweets an indication that Falcon 9 would not serve some roll in BFR development.

  • The funny thing is watching all the armchair “rocket scientists” across the Internet speculate about the latest tweets. At east a third of them a describing a new, counterintuitive design that’s basically Kistler K -1. But then when you think of it, RTLS + parachutes and airbags could’ve been made to work with a bit more money, and since SpaceX has mastered RTLS + propulsive landing… K-1 scaled up 14x might not be the worst idea! BFS as a blunt cylinder with a variable-geometry aft skirt…?

    Regarding names, I don’t think Musk wants to name BFR, just give it a tail number. BFR-0001 is as good a name as any for a “booster.” And we know he wants to give each BFS a unique name, starting with “Heart of Gold.” Sort of like submarines which have a hull number and a name. BFS-0001 “Heart of Gold.” Maybe, in time, the Navy will buy some and give them traditional names? And the Trekkies will agitate to have the first one named “USS Enterprise.” Maybe this one will even fly! The Solar Guard cruisers from Tom Corbett were names after stars (Tom and his unit mates had “Polaris”) the ones from “Ride the Gray Planet” (a.k.a. “Assignment in Space”) were named after constellations, the book featuring SCN Scorpius, commanded by “Kevin O’Brine” (as an eight year old, I didn’t know enough to snicker at the captain’s name).

  • Lee S

    I think Elon is just continuing his juvenile humour, and gentle dig at NASA’s occasionally extreamly clunky acronyms…
    Who actually cares WTF BFR is called as long as it fly’s and does the job?
    The last thing potential customers will be looking at it the beasts name!

  • Willi

    “resuable first and second stages” should be “reusable first and second stages”

  • Willi: Typo fixed. Thanks.

  • David

    Yeah, I don’t interpret the tweets that way at all. It seems to me that he announcing the end of the previous efforts to recover the F9 2nd stage, and clarifying that the mini-BFS stuff recently announced is aimed at BFS development purely. So an end to the bouncy castle, balute, and catcher ship stuff, but no conflict with the tweets earlier this month talking about using F9 S2 to do BFS dev. And a clarification that this BFS dev on F9 isn’t a new rev of F9 that would be a certification issue for NASA/AF flights. All of which makes plenty of sense.

  • Rick

    Big Frickin Rocket, and Big Frickin Spaceship, sounds good to me.

  • David M. Cook

    To quote Carroll Shelby, upon naming the GT 350: “If it’s a good car, the name won’t matter. If it’s a bad car, the name won’t save it.”
    Personally, I just want to see it launched. Again, and again, and again, and again!

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