Forget Airplanes, What About Rockets?!

Elon Musk shocked the world with the newest idea of transportation: rocket travel between cities!

You heard that right. In 2017, Elon Musk spoke in front of the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia and proposed an idea that would allow for rocket-based travel. This would allow for travel, for example, between London and New York in 29 minutes, New York to Paris in 30 minutes, and New Delhi to San Francisco in 40 minutes. He didn’t go into depth on the logistics of this mighty task, but he got the world wondering: Is this really possible?

Elon Musk presented this video at the International Astronautical Congress!

What Type of Rocket will be Used?

Space X will be launching the BFR (Big Falcon Rocket ), or the more popular name “Starship”. The two major parts of the BFR are the “Starship” , the actual spacecraft (not to be confused with the ship’s nickname), and “Super Heavy”, and the rocket booster/propulsion system. A notable subsystem in the “Starship” is the Payload, or cargo compartment. This payload is the biggest one built right now and has the capabilities to store different equipment depending of the mission. You can fit satellites, telescopes, and other equipment that can be delivered anywhere including to the International Space Station. This rocket is also capable of earthbound travel (from city to city or country to country), but it was prioritized for interplanetary travel.

Starship Space X

Starship:

  • 50 meters tall
  • Fully reusable spacecraft
  • Fully integrated Payload (Cargo)
  • Max Capacity: 100 People

Super Heavy:

  • 70 meters tall
  • Propellants: Sub-cooled liquid Methane and Liquid Oxygen
  • 6 engines producing 4,630 tonnes of liftoff power thrust
  • If the mission is interplanetary, the booster would detach return back to launch site.

Safety Measures?

Yes, their are blatant safety hazards with city to city travel. One of the major concerns brought up by scientists and the media is simple: Starship won’t have an abort system. Yes, this is correct; if the Starship’s mission is interplanetary and the “Super Heavy” is detached from the BFR, there aren’t really any abort options. Just recently, actually, the BFR prototype just passed a pressurization test, one that destroyed three of its predecessors. The test was designed to confirm the ability of the spacecraft to hold cryogenic (Low temperature) propellants at pressure. However, in another test, after testing the Raptor engine (the engine responsible for thrust) with the BFR in a static fire test (NOT the pressurization test), the vehicle exploded during the analysis.

Image Credits: Nasa Space Flight

Landing is not as much of a concern. SpaceX has gotten pretty successful with landing Falcon 9 rockets on both land and sea, with 16 successful landing attempts in a row. Although, landing one with zero passengers might be a little less stressful than landing one with 100 passengers.

Other Problems?

And all of these problems pale in comparison to he passengers’ concerns. How will passengers go through crushing g-forces during takeoff and landing? I mean, the weightless period may be cool, but it’s not exactly suited for business travel. Schedules are vital in order to avoid major accidents with planes. You wouldn’t want to see rockets take out planes the way planes take out birds, would you?

In addition to the safety of the passengers during the flight, how will citizens in busy cities accept this new type of transportation? Imagine living in a city like New York, one of the biggest hubs in the world, and occasionally hearing sonic booms and vibrations that may or may not come from rockets shooting through the sky. What long term and short term effects would cause damage to human beings? What effects would it have on livestock and our environment? Soldiers with PTSD might mistake the sonic boom for a bomb going off, rather than a rocket flying past.

Location is also another serious problem. Right now, launch sites for the proposed aircraft would be located on the water. However, major cities like New Delhi, Denver, Paris, and Berlin are inland and nowhere near any major bodies of water. What would be an alternative to solve this problem? Would this type of transportation even be possible for smaller, less densely-populated cities or locations?

Most Visited Cities by International Travelers (Specifically Inland Cities):

  • Paris, France (6th Worldwide)
  • New Delhi, India (11th Worldwide)
  • Agra, India (26th Worldwide)
  • Vienna, Austria (37th Worldwide)
  • Berlin, Germany (42nd Worldwide)

Takeaways

  • “If people aren’t calling you crazy, you aren’t thinking big enough.” ~ Richard Branson
  • The idea of reusable parts of rockets and different types of transportation is incredible. It has cost reducing effects for SpaceX, ecofriendly effects for our environment, and increasing efficiency to launch rockets faster
  • Safety concerns might be too big of a hurtle to overcome. It’s already hard enough for some people to accept autonomous cars in their communities, but 120 meter-sound-breaking-Lighting-McQueen fast rockets are definitely going to be hard to get people to accept.
  • Right now, this idea is more of a rough blueprint, than a set in stone plausible idea. Their are too many questions and safety concerns for the rocket to even be considered ready for at least 2023. This is a short and brief list of what they would have to achieve before 2023 if they want to make this idea more of a reality: Prototype process, continuous funding for this very expensive process, requests accepted throughout different countries’ governments, laws passed by the UN regarding universal laws, and building launch sites in targeted cities.

Hi, I’m Carlos Bello, an activate from TKS Boston. I’m interested in Advanced Transportation, Alternative Energy, and Cryptocurrencies. If you have an questions regarding the article or anything else email me at carlosebello27@gmail.com. Also, check on my LinkedIn!