SpaceX might have its sights firmly set on space, but some of its technology could have serious applications right here on earth.
Musk demonstrated a revolutionary long-distance travel system today in Australia, claiming that it will allow passengers to take “most long distance trips” in just 30 minutes, and go “anywhere on Earth in under an hour”. The kicker? Musk says his system will cost around the same as an economy airline ticket.
SpaceX will use its mega rocket called BFR (which, poetically, stands for Big Fucking Rocket) to lift a massive spaceship into orbit around the earth. The rocket will leave the earth’s atmosphere, and travel at 18,000 miles per hour at its peak. But instead of heading off to Mars, the rocket will reenter the earth’s atmosphere and land gently on a floating pod at its destination. SpaceX says the rocket will be able to travel from Hong Kong to Singapore in 22 minutes, and from Dubai to New York in 29 minutes.
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These speeds, of course, are previously unheard of, and if SpaceX can pull this off, it’ll cut down travel time between cities by a whole order of magnitude. This has the potential to completely disrupt the airline industry, which has been relatively stagnant for decades — planes still fly at about the same speeds as they did 50 years ago.
But challenges will remain. SpaceX has pulled off several successful pod landings over the last couple of years, but its many failed attempts are still fresh in people’s minds, which means they might need to convince the general population that their revolutionary new system will be safe. SpaceX, too, will need to tweak its designs to make sure the rockets are follow human-grade safety procedures. And the actual implementation of the plan might be some way away — SpaceX says construction of the rocket will begin in six to nine months.
The plan, though, in true Muskian fashion, is ambitious. Air travel is an industry that seemed ripe for disruption — even though airfares have fallen considerably in the last few decades, the underlying technology is pretty much unchanged. Musk will hope that SpaceX’s inter city travel system will catapult the industry into its next, much faster, phase.