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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!

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • 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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