A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket disappears into clouds after it lifted off on a supply mission to the International Space Station from historic launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 19, 2017

Why Elon Musk’s Mars rocket had to get shorter

106 meters

The rocket that Elon Musk’s SpaceX is planning to launch to Mars got shorter, from 122 meters in a design publicized last year, to 106 meters last week.

Published   |  Photo by Reuters/Joe Skipper
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket disappears into clouds after it lifted off on a supply mission to the International Space Station from historic launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 19, 2017
106 meters

The BFR—Big Falcon Rocket or Big F**ing Rocket, depending who you ask—also got slimmer and lighter, with fewer engines. Those changes make the aircraft cheaper and more versatile.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket disappears into clouds after it lifted off on a supply mission to the International Space Station from historic launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 19, 2017
106 meters

The new design makes it easier for the rocket to be used for different purposes. It could fly from the Earth to Mars or the Moon, or even between two Earthbound cities.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket disappears into clouds after it lifted off on a supply mission to the International Space Station from historic launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 19, 2017
106 meters

A hypothetical flight between New York and Shanghai in SpaceX’s new rocket, which can carry 100 people, would take only 40 minutes.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket disappears into clouds after it lifted off on a supply mission to the International Space Station from historic launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 19, 2017
106 meters

The idea behind the project is to make SpaceX more focused: Instead of dividing its attention between three different rockets, it would focus on one large project that could be used for different things.

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