SpaceX has confirmed it is comfortable with the idea of launching military weapons into space – so long as the goal is to defend the United States of America.
The space exploration firm’s chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell, 54, suggested its Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) could be used in future military operations.
The spacecraft, jokingly referred to as the Big F***ing Rocket by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, will have the capacity to fly halfway around the world in under 30 minutes, according to the company.
COO Shotwell confirmed SpaceX’s intentions to launch the rocket for the first time in 2020, with missions to the moon and Mars planned for 2022 and 2024 respectively.
SpaceX would launch military weapons into space to help the United States defend itself, according to chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell (file photo)
Speaking this month at the Air Force Association’s annual symposium in Maryland, she answered several questions about SpaceX’s military ties.
The company has already launched top-secret surveillance satellites for the Navy, Air force, CIA and National Security Agency (NSA).
Asked whether SpaceX would consider sending weapons into space, Shotwell, seemingly surprised, said: ‘I’ve never been asked that question.
‘If it’s for the defence of this country, yes, I think we would.’
She added that the company spent ‘a lot of time building our relationship with the Air Force’.
‘We’re now in a good position,’ she added.
‘We’re competing. We’re winning some, and losing some.’
Shotwell, 54, suggested SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket (artist’s impression) could be used in future military operations. The spacecraft will have the capacity to fly halfway around the world in 30 minutes, according to SpaceX
Shotwell, who joined SpaceX in 2002, said the company’s next biggest challenge is its BFR spacecraft.
The powerful launch vehicle will have the capacity to lift 150 tons into space and consist of two stages – both of which are reusable.
Shotwell said: ‘I hope to be doing hot tests next year with the second stage, the spaceship, and make an orbital flight in 2020.
WHAT IS SPACEX’S BFR?
The BFR (Big Falcon Rocket) is SpaceX’s newest rocket, a super powerful launch vehicle with 31 engines and the capacity to lift 150 tons into space.
It has jokingly been called the ‘Big F***ing rocket’ by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
The top part of the BFR rocket has 40 cabins, which could hold up to six passengers.
The rocket would be partially reusable and capable of flight directly from Earth to Mars.
Once built, Musk believes the rocket could be used for travel on Earth – saying that passengers would be able to get anywhere in under an hour.
This image shows the main body tool of SpaceX’s BFR (Big F***ing Rocket) next to a Tesla Model 3 saloon. The tool will be used to build the rocket’s fuselage
The BFR will eventually complete all missions for SpaceX, replacing its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.
Musk said in 2017 he was hopeful that the BFR would be able to launch and land at last two cargo ships on Mars by 2022.
‘I feel fairly confident that we can complete the ship and launch in about five years,’ Musk said.
The billionaire plans a manned mission in 2024 and claims other SpaceX’s products will be ‘cannibalised’ to pay for it.
The enormous rocket has a fuel tank that can hold 1,200 tons of liquid oxygen.
At nearly 348 feet (106 metres) tall, the BFR is a truly gigantic spaceship, towering over the 229-feet-tall (70 metres) Falcon Heavy rocket.
The spaceship will take off and land vertically, powered by 37 ‘raptor’ engines, to produce a liftoff thrust of 5,400 tons, lifting a total mass of 4,400 tons.
‘We would like to put large cargo on the surface of the moon by 2022. And we have our eyes on the prize to send people to Mars in 2024.’
She admitted those plans might ‘sound crazy, but everything we’ve ever done has sounded crazy to people.’
The Illinois native added that the BFR’s speed could make it a potent weapon in future US military operations.
Pictured is SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, the largest commercial rocket in history. The vehicle was launched for the first time in February. SpaceX has now suggested it would consider launching weapons for the US military
The huge second stage spaceship will travel half way around the world in under 30 minutes, she said.
‘Imagine what we could do for the defence of the United States.’
SpaceX launched 18 missions last year using its Falcon 9 rocket, more than any company or country bar Russia, which flew 19 missions.
The company is on track to complete as many as 24 launches by the end of this year having sent 16 into orbit so far, including February’s historic Falcon Heavy flight.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said the BFR could launch and land at last two cargo ships on Mars by 2022 (file photo)
China is attempting to carry out 40 launches in 2018, and has already completed 24.
‘I was hoping to beat the Chinese this year,’ Shotwell said.
‘It does concern me that China is flying 40 times this year. And it’s not for commercial customers. They have very few commercial customers.’
‘So what in the world are they doing?’ she added.
‘The fact that I’m not beating them is a shame. The fact that they’re launching 40 times is something we should all be worried about.’