SpaceX promises global travel in less than an hour using its future rocket

29 Sep 2017

Still from ‘BFR | Earth to Earth’. Image: SpaceX/YouTube

As part of a bumper update to its vision for the future, SpaceX envisions global travel using rockets with an average flight time of 30 minutes.

Elon Musk took to the stage at the International Aeronautical Congress to reveal SpaceX’s grand plans for colonising Mars, which he has been foretelling for years. However, his closing statement may have surprised much of the audience.

In his speech, Musk said that SpaceX plans to use the same rockets that will send humans into space on a global city-to-city transport system.

While scant on the details, the promotional video released for the announcement claimed that most global long-distance trips could be completed in an average of just 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, the longest trips – such as from the UK to Australia – would take no more than an hour.

The plan would be to blast SpaceX’s planned magnum opus, the ‘Big Fucking Rocket’ (BFR), into Earth’s orbit, and it would then land on the outskirts of major cities.

In the example shown in the video, passengers in New York would hop aboard a ferry that would take them to the launch pad further out into the Atlantic Ocean. They would then board the BFR and take off into orbit, where it would take 39 minutes to travel to the other side of the world – in this case, Shanghai.

During this time, the rocket would have travelled a distance of 11,000km at a speed of 27,000kph – a feat that would put the historic Concorde to shame.

Other suggested routes would take a person from London to Dubai in 29 minutes, but shorter distances (such as from Singapore to Hong Kong) would still take 22 minutes.

Very hypothetical at this stage

It is estimated that the rocket could carry up to around 200 people at a time, but these figures remain hypothetical at this stage.

Musk didn’t delve into the details of what the passenger experience would be like or how much he thinks it would cost.

SpaceX is now focused on getting its BFR built in the coming year. Once it is up and running, it will eventually replace all of its existing rockets – including the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon spacecraft – making them obsolete.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic