SpaceX founder and CEO, Elon Musk hinted on Twitter that the company had again redesigned the much-anticipated BFR vehicle. At the same time, Musk retracted a previous announcement regarding a redesigned Falcon 9 upper stage.
In between posts about Tesla Model 3 features and availability, Musk posted a Tweet on Saturday stating, “Btw [by the way], SpaceX is no longer planning to upgrade Falcon 9 second stage for reusability. Accelerating BFR instead. New design is very exciting! Delightfully counter-intuitive.“
Btw, SpaceX is no longer planning to upgrade Falcon 9 second stage for reusability. Accelerating BFR instead. New design is very exciting! Delightfully counter-intuitive.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 17, 2018
The first section of the Tweet relates to another Musk posted on November 7. “…Falcon 9 second stage will be upgraded to be like a mini-BFR Ship.” he wrote. In response to a question about whether or not the “mini-BFR” concept would be scrapped, Musk responded stating, “Yes, no upgrades planned for F9. Minor tweaks to improve reliability only, provided NASA & USAF are supportive.”
Musk’s response may give a clue as to why the “mini-BFR” upgrade was scrapped. Both NASA and the USAF have recently given the Falcon 9 their highest certifications. This enables SpaceX to bid on the respective agencies’ most classified and expensive missions. A significant upgrade to the rocket’s upper stage may have negated those certifications, a move likely to have cost SpaceX several hundred million dollars.
The second part of Musk’s November 17 Tweet (“Accelerating BFR instead. New design is very exciting! Delightfully counter-intuitive.”) hints at a revised BFR design. Indeed, in response to a question from another user, “@FrameshiftShark”, Musk confirmed that the new design is a “Radical change”.
The last revised BFR design was released with the announcement of the vehicle’s first commercial passenger, Japanese businessman Yusaku Maezawa in September. The design featured 3 large control surfaces on the vehicle’s upper stage (the BFS) that would double as landing legs. Musk has not yet confirmed when the public is likely to get its first glimpse of the new design.