Brash, and this afternoon, not easily heard SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, announced a solution to the Qantas quest for non-stop flights between Sydney or Melbourne and London.
Well, he actually announced that as the incredibly successful maker of the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon cargo ship, which have already flown validation supply missions to the International Space Station for NASA, SpaceX could fly a new BFR spaceliner between any two points on Earth in less than one hour, as well as take between 80-120 people to bases on the Moon or Mars.
Mr Musk quoted times of 29 minutes for flights from a barge near Manhattan to a barge near London, or similarly 39 minutes to Shanghai, but as Sydney-London is on Earth too, it also means Qantas CEO Alan Joyce should be leaping up from his desk shouting something like ‘Eureka, who needs Boeing or Airbus.’
It was as delegates are being reported are saying, the most self-styled ‘aspirational’ presentation the man who has already totally disrupted the rocket launching business, has ever given, even if apparently heavily jet lagged during its delivery.
This report in the Washington Post canvasses for lay readers the numerous remarkable features of the update Mr Musk gave the International Astronautical Congress on its final day in Adelaide.
He said the proposed BFR acronym didn’t mean anything, however the US tech media who follow Mr Musk wherever he goes, said it stands for Big F*cking Rocket, which wouldn’t surprise anyone across the do it, and do it for less, and really well culture that permeates SpaceX.
This is an uncouth, totally iconoclastic but enormously success rocket and spaceship company, associated through Mr Musk with the Tesla electric auto maker and latest technology heavy duty industrial and residential battery storage technology. The rockets, the cars, and the batteries, have turned industries like poles, wires, and coal dependent power generation businesses into threatened species.
The Washington Post, and various technical aerospace journals like TechCrunch have described the process by which Mr Musk plans to combine the elements of the existing Falcon 9 lifters and Dragon deliverers into a BFR that has more pressurised internal payload room than an Airbus A380.
As Brad Tucker, a delegate and astronomer at the Australian National University said amid the post presentation euphoria that followed the aspirational update, Musk is talking about using the BFR for Earth to Earth services that would make it as safe as Qantas.
The update overwrites SpaceX’s previous indifference to becoming involved in a Moon Base, although it now has an even shorter timetable for flying cargo and then passenger carrying spaceships to Mars by 2022-2024.
Unknown at this hour is whether or not SpaceX sees itself as flying Mars colonists on one way or return missions. The update did not discuss the lethal risks solar flares could pose to passengers on the long flight to Mars.
What SpaceX has in mind should, on its achievements so far, not be mocked. The story has only been aspirationalised and summarised. Its fuller description and the road map that was described this afternoon has not yet been posted by SpaceX as a document, something everyone would be very keen to study. Including no doubt Airbus, Boeing, …. and Qantas.