What would you say if we told you that soon you could fly from New York to Shanghai in just 39 minutes instead of the usual 15 hours? Amazing? How? Impossible? Well, impossible is not SpaceX…
Last September, Elon Musk presented the SpaceX spaceship to go to Mars. Called the BFR – which stands for Big Falcon Rocket, although some would rather use the F word instead of Falcon – this super rocket is being designed and manufactured to take passengers to space. And the destination doesn’t have to be Mars or the Moon.
In a TED discussion with curator Chris Anderson, the President of SpaceX Gwynne Shotwell talked about the company’s goal to put people into orbit. The BFR might soon replace airplanes. Imaging yourself boarding the giant rocket to travel from Los Angeles to Toronto in 24 minutes or from London to Dubai in 29 minutes. This is happening, people.
The idea is to create in all the biggest cities of the world a series of floating launch pads which will be used for both launching and landing BFRs. The launch pads and rockets will have to be surrounded by water for cooling. In the meantime, it will avoid damaging populated areas during liftoff.
The BFR is twice and a half the size of the Falcon Heavy, the rocket launched in February with Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster as a payload. It will be capable of carrying up to 100 passengers who would have to take a boat to get to the launch pad.
How safe is it?
Safety is, of course, an issue that is being addressed by SpaceX. Shotwell said:
“We’ve been working for years, actually almost a decade on this technology.”
In case of an emergency, safety systems have been engineered to allow instant escape. In 2015, SpaceX demonstrated the launch escape system, which will push the capsule carrying the passengers away from the rocket. It would then safely land on the water surrounding the launch pad using parachutes. “We will be doing a demonstration later this year on if we have an issue with the rocket during flight,” Shotwell continued. That, we can’t wait to see.
Great but crazy expensive, you think. No, quite the opposite actually. Shotwell explained:
“If I can do this trip in a half hour, I can do dozens of these a day. A long-haul aircraft can only do one trip a day.”
Therefore, even if the BFR costs a little bit more than an airplane, “I can run ten times what they’re running in a day and really make the revenue that I need to out of that system.”
Ok, so when is the BFR going to be a reality? According to Shotwell, the first trips will take place within a decade. We can’t wait to book a seat just to be shot into space at 18,000 miles per hour!