An artist duo has published an impressive, unofficial look at the true size of SpaceX’s reusable rockets, using a brilliant combination of 3D modeling and animation to really compare Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, and BFR with recognizable landmarks and cityscapes, lending an incredible sense of scale to the extraordinary feats of engineering that SpaceX routinely launches, lands, and relaunches every month.
In the video, posted on the Corridor YouTube channel on June 19, VFX artist Wren Weichman — known on social media as “sirwrender” — acts as the host of a brief clip where he tours viewers around an office and several cityscapes populated with scale-model 3D renders of all of SpaceX’s various rockets, both those currently operational and those under development. His point is undeniably true: human brains simply are not accustomed to or easily able to build accurate mental pictures of vast real-world objects. The reality almost invariably comes as a visceral shock to onlookers, even those that know better than to trust their perceptual instincts. Be it grand natural wonders or human constructs, humans are quite simply bad at estimating scale until they do so in person.
With the case of rockets and their launches, this is doubly true and further exaggerated by the fact that launch webcasts, videos, and photos often feature unfamiliar backgrounds of industrial equipment or a perfectly featureless skies, all while almost invariably excluding (for good reasons…) familiarly scaled features like people, cars, animals, or everyday buildings. In many cases, preparations for rocket launches are often the absolute best times available for photos that truly give a sense of scale, as it’s actually reasonably safe to be and work in close proximity to an unfueled rocket.
With the help of models of Falcon 9, Heavy, and BFR created by 3D design Reese Wilson (@AstroReeseW), Wren (@sirwrender) takes those scale shortcomings to task and does his best to create examples with the very cues that average fans and viewers rarely get to see alongside real-life rockets.
The video really needs to be watched to be fully appreciated – my favorite segment is near the start, where Wren notes that viewers likely expect some of the seemingly insignificant components, projecting a layperson size-estimate of a Falcon 9 landing leg inside his workplace before expanding it all the way to full-scale, at which point the leg literally does not fit inside the office. Visualizations of BFR further show that the crewed Mars rocket will effortlessly dwarf the already massive Falcon 9 and Heavy.
Regardless of whether you were or were not intimately familiar with the actual scale of SpaceX’s many rockets, Wren and Reese make for a seriously entertaining (and educational) combination. Here’s to hoping the duo ventures into more spaceflight and SpaceX videos in the future! Enjoy the video below.