Elon Musk shows off a new tooling for the BFR spaceship

“SpaceX main body tool for the BFR interplanetary spaceship.” (credit: Elon Musk/Instagram)

Elon Musk has been talking about SpaceX’s large BFR rocket for a few years, but so far we’ve seen precious little hardware. In 2016, Musk showed off a large, composite fuel tank that will contain pressurized liquid oxygen. The company has also shared limited video of the rocket’s Raptor engines.

Now, as SpaceX moves forward with a facility to manufacture the rocket in Long Beach, Calif., we probably will see more hardware associated with the BFR—known as the Big Falcon Rocket in polite circles. To that end, on Sunday night, Musk shared a photo of a tooling that will be used to make carbon-fiber composites for the rocket’s upper stage, the spaceship. This appears to be a mandrel, or mold, around which carbon fiber is wound for the main body of the spaceship, or BFS.

Carbon fibers, which are generally woven into a fabric, possess desirable qualities such as high tensile strength, low mass, high temperature tolerance, and low thermal expansion. Using carbon-fiber composites instead of aluminum to manufacture tanks for a rocket booster allows a manufacturer to save tons of mass, and in a rocket as large as the BFR, that will translate into many fewer tons.

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Elon Musk shows off a new tooling for the BFR spaceship