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Elon Musk outlines future plans for SpaceX

Jenny Winder, News Writer
Dec 1, 2012, 8:00 UTC

(Sen) - On November 16th Elon Musk, the CEO, Chief Designer and Founder of SpaceX, was the guest of honour at the Royal Aeronautical Society where he gave a lecture entitled 'SpaceX and the future of space exploration'. He was also presented with the society's Gold Medal. This is the most prestigious award in global aerospace, honouring exceptional contributions and achievements. It was first presented to the Wright Brothers in 1909.

Before the lecture Musk gave a fascinating interview outlining the plans SpaceX has for the future. They hope to increase launches which he calls their 'bread and butter' while pushing forward with new technologies. He called the engine anomaly Falcon 9 experienced during a recent launch as 'Just a scratch' and only 'a flesh wound', explaining that such an eventuality had been allowed for in the flight plans.

The long term plan for SpaceX is to develop rapidly reusable rockets, that can be launched, landed, refuelled and relaunched in a similar timeframe to an airplane, which would bring down the cost substantially. The Grasshopper is currently being tested to help develop vertical landing capability which will hopefully be integrated in the next generation of Falcon 9 rockets.

Next year he hopes to unveil the Falcon Heavy rocket, which will be the most powerful vehicle by a factor of two. Musk explained that satellites are becoming either smaller, with the increased use of naonosatellites, but also that geosynchronous satellites are becoming larger, with fewer mid-range satellites being used.

Musk confirmed the name of the Raptor engine to be announced next year, but teasingly said that the more interesting thing is the spaceship that it is attached to, called MCT. He would not be drawn on whether the M stood for Mars, joking that he'd 'show a little leg, not all of it'.

Asked about his plans for a Mars colony - he has famously said "I would like to die on Mars; just not on impact" - he says that SpaceX will be looking to mount a manned mission in the next ten to fifteen years.

A huge fan of science fiction films and books, he founded SpaceX to make the promises of humans as a spacefaring species a reality. He puts their success so far down to their technical talent, money and sensible design. Though asked about his favourite science fiction spaceship he named the S.S. Heart of Gold from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy powered by the infinite improbability drive.

Watch the full interview with Elon Musk here