February 22, 2024

SpaceX chief Elon Musk has repeated his desire to use the world’s most powerful rocket for lightning-fast international passenger flights between major cities.

Speaking recently at a special event at SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch facility in Texas, Musk said there was a “pretty good chance” that the Starship — comprising the first-stage Super Heavy rocket and second stage Starship spacecraft — would one day offer “Earth-to-Earth transport” as well.

Explaining the technology required, he added in his own inimitable way that “the fastest way to get from here to the other side of Earth is an intercontinental ballistic missile, but just make sure you delete the nuke and add the landing part.”

It’s not the first time the SpaceX CEO has spoken of his dream of using the Starship vehicle for a new kind of passenger service. An early mention of the plan came seven years ago when Musk said that the “cost per seat should be about the same as full fare economy in an aircraft.”

SpaceX even released a video (below) showing the envisaged passenger experience and explaining how people would be able to “fly to most places on Earth in under 30 minutes and anywhere in under 60.” Proposed routes included New York to Shanghai in 39 minutes, London to Dubai or New York in 29 minutes, and Los Angeles to Toronto in 24 minutes.

Of course, a passenger service using the Starship — it if ever happens — will be many years away. After all, SpaceX is still working on achieving a successful test flight with the rocket after two failed attempts to reach orbit last year. A third test flight could take place next month.

Ahead of passenger flights, SpaceX plans to use the Starship for transporting crew and cargo to the moon as NASA seeks to establish a permanent human presence there, and also for the first crewed flights to Mars.

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