A new type of rocket being built for space travel by Elon Musk's SpaceX could also be used to travel anywhere on Earth in in under an hour, Musk said in a recent presentation at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, Australia.
The overarching theme of the talk was how to make humanity a multi-planet species, with Musk detailing his plans for the travel to, and colonization of, Mars. The presentation focused on a new rocket design, simply nicknamed BFR, which will stand 100 meters tall and will use 31 engines to deliver its massive payload.
The rocket's importance is in its reusability, which Musk said could help lower long-term costs and make the other SpaceX rockets redundant. One of the most important points, Musk said, is that he believes the rocket can be funded by money that SpaceX already receives for launching satellites.
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In addition to their use in space travel and exploration, Musk explained how he believes the rockets can be used to change travel on Earth as well. Through a process referred to as "Earth to Earth" travel, the rocket would launch from a given platform into space and land back on another platform on Earth in an hour or less.
A demonstration video presented during Musk's talk showed the travelers being ferried to a platform on the water where the rocket was waiting for them to board. From there, they traveled to receiving platform on the other side of the world in under an hour.
The rocket accomplishes this by traveling at a speed of 18,000 mph, Musk said. And, given the reusability of the rocket, the cost for this form of travel could eventually be the same as an economy ticket on a major airline. While almost all flights can be accomplished in under an hour, many flights will take less than 30 minutes. For example, a flight from London to New York could take only 29 minutes.
The implications for consumers are exciting, but business travelers and executives of global corporations could stand to benefit heavily from this technology. If successful, a Shanghai-based CEO could travel to the US via the BFR for a meeting, and travel back home in the same day. By reducing the friction associated with long-distance flights (missed connections, etc.), even infrequent business travelers could see a much lower stress level when heading to a client's overseas headquarters.
The proposed economics of the BFR are also interesting. If Musk is able to achieve the ticket prices he mentioned, then businesses of all sizes are likely to travel internationally much more frequently. It could even lower the barriers for some firms to set up a satellite office in another country and potentially change the face of global trade and logistics as well.
Musk made travel headlines a few years back when he proposed his Hyperloop system in a 2013 paper. The system, which uses magnetic levitation or air pressure to allow a train-like vehicle to travel at extremely high speeds through a tube, could also revolutionize ground travel in the US and around the world. If his endeavors come to pass, Musk could very well be seen at his generation's equivalent of the Wright brothers in regard to his impact on transportation.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- A new rocket being developed by SpaceX could further the firm's mission to Mars and enable travel anywhere on Earth in less than one hour, according to CEO Elon Musk.
- The rocket would travel 18,000 mph and could make most trips, like London to New York, in under half an hour, for the same price as an economy airline ticket.
- The new rocket could lower the barrier for international business travel, improve logistics for global trade, and potentially change how business is done around the world.
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Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.