SpaceX counsel said the rocket company hopes to launch over a million Starship flights per year —these could be Earth-to-Earth destinations!

SpaceX counsel said the rocket company hopes to launch over a million Starship flights per year —these could be Earth-to-Earth destinations!

Image Source: SpaceX

SpaceX is in the process of developing their next-generation spacecraft. Starship will be the world's most powerful rocket-spaceship duo ever built, powered by 41 Raptor engines capable of producing approximately 72 MN (meganewtons) of thrust -surpassing the thrust capabilities of about 35 MN in the Saturn V rocket that took astronauts to the moon during NASA's Apollo missions. Starship will be capable of performing long-voyages to Mars carrying 100 passengers and over 100 tons of cargo.

The ambitious missions planned for Starship range from setting up a base on the lunar surface to building a sustainable Mars colony before the year 2050. One of the most unexpected missions of Starship is that SpaceX, envisions a future where it could transport us at hypersonic speeds to point-to-point destinations around Earth, basically Starship would be use as an alternative to traveling via airplanes. The Earth-to-Earth version of Starship would rival commercial airliners, offering to transport 1,000 passengers from one spaceport to another across the globe at 4.6 miles per second, that is equivalent to about 12 times as fast as a supersonic-jet flight. The flight onboard Starship "would feel similar to Space Mountain in a lot of ways, but you'd exit on another continent," the CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk said in 2018. It would fly up 6,200 miles high through the atmosphere into the exosphere, where air resistance is minimal, travelling at Mach 25 (19,182 miles per hour), and circling the globe in a matter of minutes. Imagine travelling on board a spaceship and arriving anywhere on Earth in under an hour!

Flying from New York to Paris on a commercial airplane typically takes about 7 hours and 20 minutes, well, that same trip on board Starship would only take 30 minutes! Significantly faster!

Starship VS. Airplane Flight Duration

Los Angeles to New York
Airplane: 5 hours 25 minutes
Starship: 25 minutes

Bangkok to Dubai
Airplane: 6 hours 25 minutes
Starship: 27 minutes

Tokyo to Singapore
Airplane: 7 hours 10 minutes
Starship: 28 minutes

London to New York
Airplane: 7 hours 55 minutes
Starship: 29 minutes
New York to Paris
Airplane: 7 hours 20 minutes
Starship: 30 minutes

Sydney to Singapore
Airplane: 8 hours 20 minutes
Starship: 31 minutes

Los Angeles to London
Airplane: 10 hours 30 minutes
Starship: 32 minutes

London to Hong Kong
Airplane: 11 hours 50 minutes
Starship: 34 minutes

During the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) 23rd annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, D.C., Caryn Schenewerk, SpaceX lawyer, senior counsel and senior director of space flight policy, made a comment on Thursday (January 30) during a panel about airspace regulation, stating that, "I hope that we're (SpaceX) at a million launches at some point," Schenewerk said during a panel about airspace regulation focused on how rockets and airplanes could share the skies, "But when we are at that point, it’s going to be because we worked our way up the safety trajectory in a way that allows us to operate that way."

"Today, SpaceX can’t fly from a spaceport in the middle of the country, because we won’t get through the safety approval. We literally will not be licensed by the FAA to operate from that site, because we will then be flying over large populations of people — and we aren’t at that level of reliability and safety in this industry to fly over large populations of people with these kinds of rockets. Could we get there someday? Yeah, we can get there someday when we’ve had a million flights, and a million prove-outs of our capability, when we have such repeatability that we’re in that level," Schenewerk stated. She later added she would like to see 15 million SpaceX launches per year.

The company aims to build 1,000 Starships per year to colonize Mars. The craft is being designed with the plan of launching it for 3 flights per day, that is an average of 1,000 flights per year for one particular Starship. That would total about 1 million launches in a single year, these would launch missions to the moon and Mars, as well as deploy commercial satellites into space. The rest of those 15 million yearly Starship flights Schenewerk mentioned could likely be point-to-point travel destinations on Earth.

During the conference, Schenewerk was sitting next to Steve Jangelis, an airline captain and the aviation-safety chair of the Air Line Pilots Association. He said that if SpaceX actually achieves their goal, commercial airplane flights would implode and aircraft business jobs would be affected, "I'm a steam-locomotive operator right now. You know, I have to be completely honest with you, my business is going away," he told Business Insider reporters after the conference. Jangelis said that even if SpaceX would disrupt the aviation industry, the rocket company still has a lot of work to do before it hits its million launches milestone. He also talked about how launching a rocket from the United States requires a lot of applications, and approvals from the FAA. The FAA handles about 16 million commercial flights per year. "We don't own the airspace. We're happy to share," he said, "The issue is we have to do it safely, and we have to do it on a pattern and learn from our mistakes. Everyone's starting to realize that there's a reason why we're so safe and we need to -we need a model after commercial aviation."

Jangelis was advising to lay the groundwork now for future cooperation and integration between aviation traffic management and rocket launch operators, to which Schenewerk said that the groundwork cannot really be set in stone yet, because currently SpaceX launches less than 30 rocket flights yearly, compared to millions of flights by commercial airlines. So setting up groundwork for regulations would not be good for innovation progress. Though, she acknowledged that in the future, once SpaceX actually has the capacity to launch 1 million flights, there will still a lot of work to be done to coordinate with airlines. "I'm right there with you. Let's think about that big vision, that big day when lots of things are happening. But let's also not yell at our kid about not being able to fly an airplane when they can barely walk," she said. "I think that's where we are right now. We're (SpaceX) still figuring to walk and run in this industry."


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About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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