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Is SpaceX About to Open a Entire Solar System to Human Exploration?

The spaceship that SpaceX is building to inhabit Mars could also take people out to Jupiter’s ocean-harboring moon Europa and beyond, association owner and CEO Elon Musk said.

On Tuesday (Sept. 27), Musk denounced SpaceX’s designed Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), a rocket-spaceship combo that a billionaire businessman hopes will concede amiability to settle a permanent, self-sustaining, million-person allotment on a Red Planet.

Mars is a initial designed stop for ITS, though it might not be a last. [SpaceX’s Massive New Spaceship Could Go Beyond Mars (Video)]

“This complement unequivocally gives we leisure to go anywhere we wish in a larger solar system,” Musk pronounced Tuesday during a International Astronautical Congress assembly in Guadalajara, Mexico.

SpaceX's Interplanetary Transport System could potentially lift astronauts to a aspect of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus, as seen in this artist's judgment image.
Credit: SpaceX

With a assist of strategically placed refueling depots, “you could indeed ride out to a Kuiper Belt [and] a Oort Cloud,” Musk added. The Kuiper Belt is Pluto’s neck of a woods, while a Oort Cloud, a area of comets, is even some-more distant; it starts about 2,000 astronomical units (AU) from a sun. (1 AU is a Earth-sun stretch — about 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers).

The ITS upholder will be a many absolute rocket ever built, able of lofting 300 tons to low-Earth circuit (LEO) in a reusable chronicle and 550 tons in a unessential variant, Musk said. This rocket will blast a spaceship, that will lift during slightest 100 people, to LEO, where serve launches will fuel a smaller vehicle.

A SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System spaceship explores a rings of Saturn in this artist's judgment of a vehicle's intensity to send astronauts over Mars.
Credit: SpaceX

When a time is right — Earth and Mars align agreeably for interplanetary missions only once each 26 months — a swift of these spaceships will skip from LEO, nearing during a Red Planet in as small as 80 days, Musk said.

The ITS — both a rocket and spaceship — will be powered by SpaceX’s Raptor engines, that run on a mixed of methane and oxygen. Both of these mixture can be made on Mars and other places in a solar system, Musk said, definition that a spaceship can and will be refueled distant from Earth. (The vehicles will go behind and onward between Earth and a Red Planet mixed times, for example.)

Artist's judgment of SpaceX's Interplanetary Transport System spaceship on Jupiter's ocean-harboring moon Europa.
Credit: SpaceX

The ITS spaceship could therefore go unequivocally distant afield, supposing it could entrance refueling stations along a way.

“By substantiating a diesel repository in a asteroid belt or one of a moons of Jupiter, we can make flights from Mars to Jupiter no problem,” Musk said.

“It’d be unequivocally good to do a goal to Europa, particularly,” he added, referring to a ocean-harboring Jovian moon, that many astrobiologists courtesy as one of a solar system’s best bets to horde visitor life.

Building additional depots over from a object — perhaps on Saturn’s moon Titan and Pluto, for instance — could theoretically extend a ITS spaceship’s strech all a approach out to a Oort Cloud, Musk said.

“This simple system, supposing we have stuffing stations along a way, means full entrance to a whole larger solar system,” he said.

But ITS substantially won’t work for interstellar flight, that would need even larger velocities, Musk said. (He combined that he views antimatter drives as a best approach for amiability to ride among a stars.)

A SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System spaceship sails nearby Jupiter in this artist's judgment of a deep-space crewed spacecraft.
Credit: SpaceX

There are some probable Earthly applications for a ITS as well, Musk said: The complement could feasible concede superfast load ride from indicate to indicate around a globe.

“You could go from New York to Tokyo in, we don’t know, 25 minutes, cranky a Atlantic in 10 minutes,” he said. “There are some intriguing possibilities there, nonetheless we’re not counting on that.”

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com.

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