SpaceX founder and CEO, Elon Musk has revealed plans to build an upgraded Falcon 9 second stage to test hardware for BFR.
Musk revealed the launch provider’s plans on Twitter stating that there would be a “Mod to [the] SpaceX tech tree build.” The “SpaceX tech tree” Musk is referring to is likely the path of planned upgrades to Falcon 9 hardware the provider has scheduled for the future. It may also refer to a schedule of technological checkpoints the company has outlined for the development of the BFR. The modifications to the “SpaceX tech tree” will take the form of an upgraded Falcon 9 second stage that musk described as a “mini-BFR Ship”.
Mod to SpaceX tech tree build: Falcon 9 second stage will be upgraded to be like a mini-BFR Ship
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 7, 2018
It is still unclear what form the “mini-BFR” Falcon 9 upper stage will take. However, answering a question on the initial post, Musk revealed that they would not attempt propulsive landings. “Won’t land propulsively,” wrote Musk. “Ultra light heat shield & high Mach control surfaces are what we can’t test well without orbital entry. I think we have a handle on propulsive landings.”
As a result, the design will likely integrate the three large “fin” control surfaces of the BFR. Musk did not reveal if it would integrate the multi-engine design of the BFR upper stage or, retain the single-engine design of the current Falcon 9 upper stage.
We will, however not have to wait long for its maiden launch. Musk revealed that SpaceX would be aiming to launch an orbital flight with the upgraded Falcon 9 upper stage as early as June next year. This timeline may, however, be, like many SpaceX timelines before it, unrealistic.