Single Stage Point to Point Up To 6000 Miles With Mach 20 Starship

Elon Musk says adding two to four Raptor Engines to the Starship will let it go sub-orbital for 6000 miles at mach 20. This would mean trips like San Francisco to Shanghai or New York to Berlin. Many world cities are within 6000 miles of each other.

Boeing extended range 767s can reach 6000 miles and the newer 777 and 787 have longer ranges.

If SpaceX can determines ways to save 30% on Starship point to point efficiency then they could get to 8000-mile ranges. This might be possible by lightening landing gear and heat shields. They could need less heat shields for sub-orbital only vehicles.

Going from two stages to one stage will increase the safety of the Starship. Increasing safety by 1000 times is the major hurdle to transporting passengers.

President and COO Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX could begin offering Earth-to-Earth transport services as early as 2025, if not earlier with Musk’s proposed Starship-only variant. This would start with non-passenger services.

SOURCES- Spacex, Elon Musk Twitter, wikipedia
Written By Brian Wang

60 thoughts on “Single Stage Point to Point Up To 6000 Miles With Mach 20 Starship”

  1. Yes… then there is noise. Ridiculous noise. 
    And margin-of-safety-distance… 
    For noise.

    But also for “if it explodes on take-off, where do pieces go?”

    Thx. GoatGuy

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  2. But for our version the wings do not have to be fixed. The may be able even to have flaps right? I mean even the starship winglets are going to be able to adjust for breaking.

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  3. I was actually thinking of noise levels for the takeoffs; Rockets are a whole new sort of loud compared to airplanes; Airplanes are “deafness inducing at close range” loud. Rockets are “brain homogenizing at considerable range” loud.

    That waterfall trench for rocket launches is at least as much about noise suppression as it is about keeping damage to the pad down.

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  4. The minimum runway length limitation is defined by limits for a worst case runway abort, the distance being defined by the capabilities of the braking system, which is proposed to be water cooled for Skylon. Because of the high takeoff speed (due to stubby wings), the amount of runway length needed for abort is huge, and that’s added to the distance consumed prior to the abort.

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  5. The use of cryogenic fuel and oxidizer is a significant cost factor. Not only the handling, but the storage facilities for such at airports as well. You’re spot on about the handling. Handling of cryo-fluids requires special training. The usual guys you see refueling your plane when sitting at the gate are not going to cut it here.

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  6. I would think the various mechanical and thermal stresses, which would be much greater than those on a conventional sub-sonic, would significantly reduce the operational lifetime of a sub-orbital vehicle.

    I know that Concorde required greater inspection/maintenance per flight hour than conventional airliners.

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  7. I was just reading Robert Zubrin’s new book The Case for Space and noticed a chart that implied the limit was 3000 miles for a vehicle like that. No wonder they were surprised.
    They would need almost as much heat shielding as orbital for most flights because Mach 20 is basically orbital reentry velocity (mach 22, cube root heating notwithstanding). Starship is designed to come back from deep space, which is much hotter, so some shielding could be taken down from that level.
    The spaceports need to be near rich populations and where sonic booms won’t matter so much. They did say they can avoid hoverslam landings with these engines, so maybe they can trim that down a bit. I don’t think we will have more than 10-20 spaceports in the next decade for these. An advanced floating spaceport the size of a cargo ship would be quite interesting, though.

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  8. According to Shotwell, the flights may be cost competitive because they fly so fast they can make ten flights in the time a long-haul airliner makes one. That is cost competitive on a vehicle by vehicle basis, not passenger or destination basis.

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  9. No, not really. My dream is that one day rockets will be wind and solar powered. Long range aircraft too. Last I flew we had a 110kt headwind. Imagine converting that into wind-power. And it’s always sunny above the clouds, especially when you fly west. I think I’m on to something here….

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  10. “Interesting” is the right word, indeed. The acceleration alone would make it an experience hard to forget.

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  11. It’s not ‘obvious’ that there is a way to make some sort of ‘electric rocket’ with the high thrust needed to go from surface to LEO.
    For non-rocket launch see the launch loop & the orbital ring
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Launch_loop
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1MAg0UAAHg
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbital_ring
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMbI6sk-62E
    The launch loop would have dimensions similar to a transcontinental railway, cost more per km, & so need similar traffic levels to pay for itself. The orbital ring would be like the launch loop except for going all around the earth. Neither will be built until there is *much* more activity in space. Which will have to be built up using less capital intensive methods like rockets.

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  12. I think the limitation is the tiny stubby wings.. By necessity they need to be stubby (just 87 feet wing span) for hypersonic flight to minimize drag, which means they won’t generate much lift at take off, which means a really long runway, especially for a plane that weighs in at 717,000lbs at takeoff.

    Boeing 747-8 is 987,000lbs at takeoff but it has a wingspan of 224.7 feet and 5960 sq. feet of wing area.

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  13. I’m aware of that, but I’m not responsible for what the software here picks as an image when I provide a link. The link was to the particular part of the Wikipedia article relating to the right sort of tether.

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  14. I remember that during the Apollo era, people were saying that there was bad weather in the southeatern US where I lived, lots of storms, after every launch of the Saturn 5. Maybe there was something to it.

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  15. This diagram is of a electrodynamic tether, not the sort you would use to pick up a suborbital load, but one you would use to raise an orbit once in orbit.

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  16. Burning kerosene is much more carbon intensive per joule than methane. Besides, if it becomes an issue, there’s always hydrogen, liberated from H2O by solar electricity, just as green as a watermelon!

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  17. I predict that other than “space tourists” Starship’s first paying customer for passenger service will be the US military. Mach 20, now that is rapid response!!!

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  18. LOL. “In the event of a loss of cabin pressure yellow masks will not be deployed because you will die”. “In the unlikely event of an emergency landing, do not assume the brace position, because you will die”. “Lifevests are not located under your seat because there will be nothing left of you that floats”. Don’t forget to turn off your mobile phone and all communication devices and enjoy your flight.

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  19. The obvious solution is to use an electric motor and batteries instead. It’s much better for the environment and is emission-free. I don’t get it – Musk is all about electric cars and should have the know-how to build electric rockets. Preferably autonomous-driven ones.

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  20. IF there are enough flights for this to become a real concern (many thousands of flights, IIRC my previous calculation; though that was for the CO2 part), add a nucleation additive to the fuel. Or disperse it from a separate tank. Similar to what they use for cloud seeding.

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  21. Exactly! The next generation of super sonic and hypersonic jet planes will be the future of intercontinental air travel. The Starship will be lucky if it can take off within a few hours or a few days or even a few weeks of its scheduled launch:-)

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  22. God point, but Will a suborbital plane require such a long runway? Maybe there is a way to create a design for a shorter runway?

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  23. I don’t find predictions beyond horizon useful. In this field the predictability horizon is right around there. 10 to 20 years; where there’s long enough time for at least one game changer to happen.

    What was SpaceX’s credibility 15 years ago? What specific current and imminent SpaceX things have materialized that weren’t predicted then? Right now (unfortunately) Skylon is just starting to come out of powerpoint. Test articles and proofs of concepts. Admittedly SpaceX P2P is also there, but SpaceX have a track record to judge from. Skylon? Decades of powerpoint.

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  24. Small payloads. No sign yet of bending metal on the actual flight articles which means they’re basically 10 years behind whatever SpaceX would offer as competition. Idem larger Skylon/whatever payloads larger than current, from a revised design.

    No contest.

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  25. Keep in mind Falcon 9 is pushing the limits of fineness ratio, so it is susceptible to wind shear, which is why Falcon 9 has a lot of weather scrubs.

    Starship is positively squat and fat compared to Falcon 9 and will not be susceptible to wind shear. It will have less weather scrubs, especially if it flies single stage suborbital.

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  26. A winged suborbital spaceplane based on the SABRE engine that can land in airports will eventually have the upper hand here. The thing is that it is going to arrive later.

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  27. Why it sounds like you are describing some kind of military bomber.

    Hmm come to think of it there is probably a market for a mach 20 bomber. 3,000 miles in to your flight you could unload one hundred glide bombs at 90 miles of altitude…

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  28. Engines do explode but do not always result in loss of all engines or loss of the airplane.

    Redundancy, gliding and nearby runways.

    …Things that rockets on ballistic trajectories do not have.

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  29. → → A spectacular high risk / high gain tradeoff would be an advantage to a part of the population. 

    WHAT part? 

    If you’re exquisitely rich, no… death defying odds aren’t really in your charter-of-life. 
    If you’re a daredevil, well … that is a TINY market. About the same as Everest climbers, say.
    If you’re a high demand exec, again no. Corprations to run. 
    IF you’re a crazy retiree with bags of cash, maybe. The joy is there. 

    → → The technical problems are mostly cost issues. 

    Yep. That list. The costs are not insubstantial, to be sure. 

    → → If cost can be brought down to some magic threshold, there will be a market. 

    IF cost can be brought down.
    I didn’t mention “the infrastructure”. 

    Since one really won’t be able to TAKE OFF (or land for that matter) at any of Earth’s extant commercial airports, you either got to build them (wow… costs), or use existing rocket-ports. The later is not a bad propostion, but if the coöperating pair are say 3–4 hours (each end) from where you WANT to go, well … time savings lost. 

    → → The question is how long before the excitement of the novelty wears off. 

    I predict it’ll wear off before the first commercial flight. 

    → → A Sabre powered system seems to make more sense.

    On THAT we both agree, as is the pitch I’ve made elsewhere. 

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

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  30. A spectacular high risk / high gain tradeoff would be considered an advantage to a part of the population.
    The technical problems are mostly cost issues. If cost can be brought down to some magic threshold, there will be a market.
    The question is how long before the excitement of the novelty wears off.

    A Sabre powered system seems to make more sense.

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  31. Would you trade that for the odds of one of the rocket motors going postal? 

    Line up the last 100 in-flight airplane failures, and how many of them are “engine explodes”?

    Not many.

    I remember a small handful over the course of my life. 
    50+ years at least of memories.  

    My thought is that “the winner here” would be an air-breathing hypersonic airliner that can fly into the stratosphere at Mach 5 or so. Higher is definitely not better from a materials / heat / shear / stress perspective. M5 is high enough. You’d get to Santiago in around 2.5 hours. Good enough?

    Yah, I thought so. 

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

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  32. I’ve heard the BIGGER downside is the H₂O emissions to the stratosphere and ionosphere.  The problem is that H₂O is a very strong IR absorber, and when injected presents a substantial greenhouse gas load to the upper rarefied atmosphere. Being initially so hot, it also doesn’t condense to clouds; the exit-atmosphere mechanism is very slow. No snow, no rain.  Just have to wonder. Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

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  33. … and has to have liquid oxygen
    … and liquid methane, “special grade” 
    … and a full-service cryo crew
    … and an extensive post-landing pre-flight re-certification
    … and crazy-different baggage handling
    … and wicked life-insurance risk costs
    … and no possibility of surviving a depressurization event
    … and stultifying oops-odds if fuel is slightly miscalculated
    … and almost no course adjustment whilst ballistic
    … and heart-stopping G-forces (ordinary mortals…)
    … and no out-of-seat wandering in cabin
    … … potty breaks? I doubt it. 
    … … refreshment service? I doubt it.
    … … gotta barf, how’s that in ZERO G?

    Get 100 to 200 people of unknowable providence aboard, chuck ’em suborbital, land an hour later, and you’re going to have ⅓ to ½ of them exiting the thing with the jitterbugs, covered in barf, shaken to the core.  

    Great photoöps, no?
    A marketing fiasco. 

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

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  34. How many times was their last launch scrubbed because of weather? Weather that was perfectly acceptable for aircraft.

    “We’ll get anywhere in the world in an hour, but we can’t confirm which day.”

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  35. I’m dubious, too. Especially since it probably couldn’t land at regular airports, and certainly couldn’t take off from them.

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  36. I do the trip Madrid-Santiago de Chile three to four times a year and to change 12 hour for less than 1 hour would be very interesting.

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  37. Now if they could spend some time getting a second-stage space tug designed they could think about asteroid mining. Drag some rocks back closer to the sun and just refine them on approach back to earth.

    Without an atmosphere concentrated solar can be effective at refining rock to metal.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0_nuvPKIi8

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  38. My primary concern would be that a rather small slice of the population could tolerate the g forces on takeoff.

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  39. I doubt this would become very popular for passenger travel. People do prioritize time, but not at all costs. And once you add the time it would take to go to a remote launch site and get yourself loaded in a rocket (would you have to wear a flight suit?) and undergo potentially pretty uncomfortable acceleration. Seems like a bit of a pipe dream.

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  40. A downside of this is the CO2 emissions of it. Rockets use significantly more fuel than airplanes, albeit the calculation should take into account that airplanes use O2 from the atmosphere while rockets carry it with them.

    One non obvious benefit of this scheme coming to fruition, is the enormous gain in information about rocket engine’s reliability and behavior in the long term. The stresses at launch would be practically the same as for space launches.

    If they pull it out and it doesn’t end up being disastrous (e.g. by killing people in a few re-launches), they could raise rocketry to airflight levels of reliability and thus, cost per pound to LEO.

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