How Crazy Is Elon Musk’s Hypersonic Space Rocket Airline?

For whatever reason, some of the world’ s best and most eccentric people tend to be attracted toward airlines. Elon Musk could be the latest, but with a twist— rockets.

Tacked on to a detailed explanation Friday of how SpaceX intends to land cargo upon Mars  five years from now— a farcical schedule that Musk conceded was “ aspirational ” — the space, car, photo voltaic, and battery  entrepreneur segued directly into an audacious proposal to funnel the speed of space-travel for faster earthly flights.

In essence, Musk wants to fly a person even when you’ re going  simply to London, not Mars.

Flying at a maximum rate of 27, 000 km/hr (17, 000 mph), a hypersonic journey from New York to Shanghai within Musk’ s proposed craft might take 39 minutes, down through the current nonstop time of about fifteen hours. Los Angles to Toronto would take just  24 moments. London to Dubai in a mere  29 minutes.   Traveling among any two points on the world would take less than an hour.

“ Price per seat should be about the same since full fare economy in an plane. Forgot to mention that, ” Musk posted on Instagram Friday. During the time of publication, such a ticket  for visible travel from New York to Shanghai in china next month was $2, 908 through China Eastern Airlines.  

Elon Musk talks at the International Astronautical Congress.
Photographer: Tag Brake/Getty Images AsiaPac

For this vision to operate, Musk needs to master an  massive number of technical hurdles, including a lot that aerospace companies have examined for decades. One of them will be cost— heading fast is easy, but going quick with a profitable rocket/airline enterprise is just not. Another challenge  will be to perfect the type of “ supersonic retropulsion ” required for landing the particular rocket, which he refers to as BFR. SpaceX  has landed its Falcon rockets  16 times to date, each on barges and on land close to Cape Canaveral. Launching and recuperating a massive rocket  near densely inhabited cities across the world will likely encounter a lot more than  a few regulatory roadblocks.  

Establishing the  physics aside, Musk’ s i9000 plan faces business challenges too. The New York City-Shanghai example SpaceX illustrated uses a high-speed ferry in order to shuttle passengers to an off-shore burst where the rocket launches. Not every town has the kind of real estate to enable this particular vision. Landing and launch websites can’ t be so far in the city that business travelers will certainly shun it. Cities such as Paris, france, London, and Chicago may find it difficult to find the space to accomodate normal rocket launches and recoveries.

The airline industry is innately conservative and naturally obsessed with security. Hypersonic rocket travel is likely not really particularly appealing to today’ s air travel executives. But if Musk succeeds within producing a reliable hypersonic craft which is profitable to operate with low costs, there’ s little reason to consider such travel would remain a distinct segment market. Rivals would surely suit the service. And would presently there be a luggage allowance? Every oz counts in the financial plans just for escaping gravity’ s pull.  

At least hypothetical long term SpaceX flights won’ t have to in-flight entertainment— there simply won’ t be enough time to watch the mediocre Hollywood film.