Elon Musk’s Mars Vision: A One-Size-Fits-All Rocket. A Very Big One.

“Now we think we have a better way to do it,” he said Friday.

The new rocket and spaceship would replace everything that SpaceX is currently launching or plans to launch in the near future. “That’s really fundamental,” Mr. Musk said.

The slimmed-down rocket would be nine meters, or about 30 feet, in diameter instead of the 12-meter behemoth he described last year. It would still be more powerful than the Saturn 5 rocket that took NASA astronauts to the moon. Mr. Musk called it B.F.R. (The “B” stands for “big”; the “R” is for “rocket.”) The B.F.R. would be able to lift 150 metric tons to low-Earth orbit, Mr. Musk said.

For Mars colonists, the rocket would lift a spaceship with 40 cabins, and with two to three people per cabin, it would carry about 100 people per flight. After launching, the B.F.R. booster would return to the launching pad; the spaceship would continue to orbit, where it would refill its tanks of methane and oxygen propellant before embarking on the monthslong journey to Mars.


Elon Musk shared this image on Instagram on Friday with the caption: “Mars City. Opposite of Earth. Dawn and dusk sky are blue on Mars and day sky is red.”

But with the smaller size, the B.F.R. would also be useful much closer to Earth, Mr. Musk said. He said it would be able to take over the launching duties of SpaceX’s current Falcon 9 rocket, taking many satellites to orbit at once, as well as ferry cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station. A variation of the spaceship could be used to collect and dispose of relics of satellite and other debris cluttering low-Earth orbit, he said.

Because all parts of the rocket and the spaceship are to be fully reusable, the cost of operating them would be low.

Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society, a nonprofit organization that advocates human exploration and settlement of the planet, liked the changes that Mr. Musk has made. “This is a much more practical approach than he presented last year,” Dr. Zubrin said. “It means he is serious.”

The same spaceship could also land on the moon. “It’s 2017,” Mr. Musk said. “We should have a lunar base by now.”

Even on Earth, the rockets, traveling at up to 18,000 miles per hour, could make long-distance trips short — New York to Shanghai in 39 minutes, for example. Any two points on Earth would be less than an hour apart, Mr. Musk said.

After the presentation, Mr. Musk took to Instagram to elaborate on the price of those round-the-world rocket flights: “Cost per seat should be about the same as full fare economy in an aircraft. Forgot to mention that.”