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How Crazy Is Elon Musks Hypersonic Space Rocket Airline?

For whatever reason, some of the planet’s men and women and smartest are normally attracted toward airlines. Elon Musk is the newest, but with a twist—rockets.

Tacked on a comprehensive explanation Friday of the way SpaceX plans to land cargo on Mars five years from today—a farcical schedule that Musk conceded was “aspirational”—the space, car, solar, and battery entrepreneur segued into an audacious proposal to exploit the rate of space-travel for faster earthly flights.

Basically, Musk wishes to fly you even if you’re moving only to London, not Mars.

Flying in a maximum rate of 27,000 km/hr (17,000 mph), a hypersonic trip from New York to Shanghai in Musk’s proposed craft would require 39 minutes, down from the present nonstop period of about 15 hours. Los Angles into Toronto would take only 24 minutes. London to Dubai in a mere 29 minutes.  Traveling between any 2 points on the globe would require less than one hour.

“Cost per chair ought to be about the same as total fare economy in an aircraft. Forgot to mention #x 201D, & that. In the time of publication, this type of ticket for one-way travel from New York to Shanghai next month has been $2,908 from China Eastern Airlines.  

Elon Musk speaks at the International Astronautical Congress.
Photographer: Mark Brake/Getty Images AsiaPac

With this vision to work, Musk needs to master a&#xA0 number of technical challenges, including plenty that aerospace companies have studied for a long time. One of them is going to be cost—going quickly with a profitable rocket/airline venture is not, although moving quickly is simple. Another challenge is to perfect the sort of “supersonic retropulsion” demanded landing the rocket, which he refers to as BFR. SpaceX has landed its Falcon rockets 16 occasions up to now, both on barges and on property near Cape Canaveral. Launching and recovering a massive rocket near densely populated cities throughout the planet will likely encounter more thansimply  a few regulatory roadblocks.  

Setting the mathematics aside, Musk’s plan faces business challenges Too. A ferry is used by even the New York City-Shanghai example SpaceX illustrated to shuttle passengers into an barge where the rocket launches. Not every town has the sort of real estate to enable this vision. Launching and landing sites can & #x 2019;t be so far in town that business travelers will shun it. Cities like Paris, London, and Chicago may struggle to find the space to accomodate rocket launches and recoveries.

The airline industry is innately conservative and naturally obsessed with safety. Rocket travel is not appealing to #x 2019 & today. However, if Musk succeeds in creating a reliable hypersonic craft that’s profitable to operate with there low prices’s little reason would remain a niche market. Rivals would match the service. And would there be a bag allowance? Every ounce counts for escaping #x 2019 & gravity in the plans.  

At least hypothetical future SpaceX flights won’t have to worry about in-flight amusement—there simply won’t be enough time to see a mediocre Hollywood film.

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