For Elon Musk's SpaceX, what's next after Falcon Heavy launch?

By Jerry Hume, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, February 08, 2018, 3:11 PM EST

Following Space's successful test launch of the Falcon Heavy from the Kennedy Space Center, the company now sets its sights on its next big projects.

“About a month ago, I said the absolute priority is Crew Dragon,” SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said at a Tuesday night news conference, a few hours after the Falcon Heavy roared into the sky and into the atmosphere, carrying with it Musk's Tesla Roadster bound for Mars orbit.

"Crew Dragon" is SpaceX's next-generation Dragon spacecraft. Falcon 9 rockets currently deliver cargo to the International Space Station with first-gen Dragon capsules, but Musk says the newer version of Dragon will carry people.

Musk hopes to send NASA astronauts to space on its Crew Dragon capsule by the end of this year.

“If they were just launching SpaceX crew, it would be a little different, but NASA has very rigorous standards for launching their crew, and that’s what SpaceX has to do,” said Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University professor Erik Seedhouse, who's working on his third book about SpaceX.

Beyond human missions to the ISS, Musk has his eyes set on Mars.

“SpaceX exists for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to get humans to Mars," Seedhouse said. "That’s something he (Musk) has wanted to do when he was a kid, 10, 11 years old.”

If you thought the Falcon Heavy was big, the company's next rocket, codenamed "BFR," will be much larger. It will be capable of sending 100 people to Mars in one launch.

“Most of our engineering resources will be dedicated to BFR,” said Musk, who plans to phase out the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy in the years ahead to make way for the BFR.

Musk would like to send humans to Mars by 2024, almost a decade before NASA’s plans for astronaut missions to the Red Planet.

Nick Lopac, a student at Embry-Riddle, said he’s on board with SpaceX’s ambitious plans.

“I would work for SpaceX. They’re doing really big things,” Lopac said. “This is a big, historic launch, but they have more historic launches to Mars and beyond, so I want to be a part of that.”

Video time-lapse: Spectrum News site at KSC