Age of Steel Spaceliners

Elon Musk says his best ever rocket design decision was switching to 301 stainless steel for the construction of the SpaceX Super Heavy Starship. SpaceX was already the fastest builder of rockets. SpaceX has built the orbital prototype of the Starship to near completion in four months. SpaceX is continuing to develop faster and lighter construction as they iterate on construction and design.


* SpaceX Super Heavy Starship will fly to orbit around March 2020. It could fly astronauts by fourth quarter of 2020
* Full reusability will transform costs to nearly match passenger jet planes
* Age of Steel Spaceliners will be rapid construction and rapid improvement of rockets
* Raptor engine productions are the limiting factor on the number of SpaceX Super Heavy Starships that are built. About 45 Raptor engines are needed for each Super Heavy Starship.
* In 2020, SpaceX should build 300 Raptor Engines. In 2021, SpaceX should be building 500 Raptor engines per year. If there is the market, SpaceX could build more Raptor engine factories.
* Late in the 2020s, if SpaceX can make the Starship much safer then they could fly between cities on Earth. This would directly transform passenger travel on Earth.

World War 2 versus World War 1 Aviation

In his presentation on Starship, Elon Musk observed that the entire current fleet of rockets can put 300 tons into orbit. A fleet of 20 SpaceX Super Heavy Starships would be able to place about 3 million tons into orbit in one year. This would be flying them 3 times per day on every day.

There were 300 tons of bombs dropped in World War 1. This was sometimes with hand dropped bombs or from slightly heavier duty bi-planes, but there were purposely design bombers. The allies in World War 2 dropped 3 million tons of bombs.

About 600 Handley Page bombers were built and they could drop up to 3000 lbs of bombs.

In World War 2, the B-29 could drop 20,000 lbs of bombs.

Growth of Commercial Spaceliners to Approximate the Path of Commercial Aviation

The costs of flying to orbit will drop dramatically with fully reusable rockets. The costs will approach the operating and maintenance cost of the vehicles. Those are the costs of commercial aviation.

The cost of the rocket is dropping dramatically with the age of steel rockets. The cost is $2500 per ton of 301 stainless steel. This is instead $130,000 per ton of carbon fiber. This would mean that the main body of a 120-ton rocket will be $300,000 instead of $15.6 million.

The largest benefits is reduced labor costs and far faster construction. SpaceX should four complete Starships and two complete Super Heavy boosters built by March 2020. SLS has taken nine years to get the full components built for their first rocket. Standard rocket industry construction times are more like 1-2 years.

The Age of Steel Spaceliners will also be the Age of One Hour Anywhere on Earth

Late in the 2020s, if SpaceX Develops Vastly Improved Starship Safety – International Air Travel Will be Disrupted. This will be worth trillions of dollars per year in revenue to SpaceX.

Elon Musk tweeted that he is looking at 1000 passengers for point to point travel. Because it will be a 20-minute flight on a fully reusable then the ticket cost could be $500-1000 per person. It will feel like a roller coaster but you will exit on another continent.

The passengers will be a reclined position like the seating seen in the SpaceX Dragon. This means each floor of seating would only be about 1-meter high. There would be about three levels of stacked seats that exit onto each circular walkway.

Ticket prices in the $500 to 2000 range would be business class or even competitive with international economy airline tickets. However, the flight times would be 20 minutes instead of 8-24 hours.

If SpaceX can reach improved safety then they would be able to replace almost all flights with over 8 hours of flying time for coach, business, first-class, and private jets.

100 million passengers per year would be about $100 billion per year of revenue.
1 billion passengers per year would be about $1 trillion per year of revenue.

SpaceX will be able to start with one hour package or urgent deliveries anywhere in the world. Instead of overnight delivery, it will be one-hour deliveries.

SOURCES – SpaceX, Elon Musk, Analysis by Brian Wang, Wikipedia on WW1 and WW2 information, IATA commercial air statistics
Written By Brian Wang,