Multiple Historic Revolutions of SpaceX Superheavy Starship

In 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone and described how it was three breakthrough products in one. It was widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary phone and full featured internet communication device.

The SpaceX Superheavy Starship will embody or enable eight or more human history scale breakthroughs.

* fully rapidly reusable rockets
* Each Starship an ISS space station sized base that is ready to go
* cities in space
* Mass production of rockets at the scale of commercial passenger plane production
* Cost of rockets at twenty times lower cost
* one hour anywhere movement of cargo and people on earth
* creation of super factories for rockets
* Industrialization of space
* Creation of ultra-highbroadband global communication

Nextbigfuture already described how full rocket reusability with a super heavy class rocket will be transform space access similar to how Caravel sailing ships enabled the Age of Exploration in the 1500s possible.

If the SpaceX Superheavy Starship establishes the space industry, sustainable and permanent colonization of near earth, cislunar, moon, asteroids and Mars then it will be historically bigger than the Caravel and DC-3 combined.

A Rocket and Space Stations

However, Superheavy Starship will be even more historic. Each Starship has a larger volume than the International Space Station and could cost only $5 million. I believe SpaceX will create tens of billions of dollars each year in revenue from the Starlink megasatellite constellation. If SpaceX has $200 billion per year of Starship and Superheavy booster production, then this would be 4000 Superheavy boosters and 20,000 Starships every year.

300 SpaceX Starship would only cost about $2.1 billion for the hardware and launches ($5 million each and $2 million to launch). This would be a volume comparable to a cruise ship. 20,000 Starships made in a year would be like 65 cruise ships ever year. Cruise ships can hold 5,000 people. This would be potentially room for 1 million people.

As indicated this would be for orbital bases, moon bases, Mars bases and asteroid bases.

Gigawatts of Power for Space Industry

Tesla will start making terafactories for batteries. This will be a terawatt hour of batteries each year. They will soon have about 500 watts hours per kilogram. 100 tons of batteries would hold 50 megawatt hours of energy. Each Superheavy Starship launch could place 50 megawatt hours of batteries into space.

Tesla is making solar panels for 1000 homes each week. This will scale up by about ten times in 3 years. In 2023, this would be 50 megawatts of solar each week. A similar scale set factories for very light solar for space would be 2.5 gigawatts per year of solar.

The massive power would be for making mines and factories on the moon and asteroids. This would lower costs by tens to hundreds of times by gathering fuel, oxygen and water and then metals and then construction steel, cement and electronics.

Hypersonic Age and One Hour Anywhere

The Starship will enable point to point movement of people and cargo on the earth. It will enable anywhere in an hour. Going from 12-24 hours to get around the planet to 30-60 minutes will be as big as the leap from fast transoceanic sailing and fast steam ships take 4-15 days to cross oceans.

SpaceX will roll-out hourly delivery of packages for years before flying passengers and this will make them tens of billions of dollars each year.

54 thoughts on “Multiple Historic Revolutions of SpaceX Superheavy Starship”

  1. Too expensive. Most people can afford to lose a day here or there but don’t have a couple of thousand to spare.

    By the way while I hope Starship will succeed I am doubtful about its economical viable.

    Colonialism required that the colonies provide a profitable product. Right now I see: moon mining, space manufacturing. astronomy, solar power, communication, and tourism. Maybe entertainment, the first landings would have good ratings. But I don’t know if there is enough there.

  2. He is stuck on Mars. He who starts ISRU cislunar will win. Musk has the right rocket but the wrong idea.

  3. I do appreciate Elon’s brute force approach.
    Robert Zubrin commented that it would take a few football fields of solar panels to power his vision of a Mars base to fuel up Starships.
    Elon was like ‘Ok’

  4. For now. If he builds the necessary infrastructure, it would be very profitable.
    He would also have a monopoly for the foreseeable future.

  5. I think it’s very significant that the first automobiles were called “horseless carriages”.
    That’s what they were. Just like the existing product that everyone knew (the carriage), but without the trouble of the horses.
    So not much of a conceptual leap at all.

  6. A giant chunk of the ISS was just in getting it up there. And with shuttle launches, alone, costing about $1 billion a pop, that is going to be a big factor.

  7. Better hurry, the Artemis Accords are being developed fast – Wild West-type moon exploitation is about to begin.

  8. Q: Why did people settle “The New World” instead of staying in cozy Europe?
    A: Because they had the ability to settle there and they wanted to.

  9. Yeah I find the point to point travel on earth to be a sketchy proposition. To briefly summarize reasons:

    -G forces are high
    -Rockets are actually inefficient/costly (compared to jets/rail for terrestrial travel)
    -Nuclear armed countries dislike things on ballistic trajectories heading their way
    -Zero g not for everyone
    -Noise at takeoff makes the Concord look tame
    -Landing less reliable than something that can glide (you get one chance?)
    -Long term reliability of methalox rocket engines is unknown but probably less than jet turbines
    -RUD: more common for rockets than planes

  10. I was just thinking about automobiles and comparing/contrasting them to starships (no, seriously).

    The case for autos is actually straightforward- they are an improvement on something that already existed. They were an iterative improvement in transportation. Over a given unit of time your opportunities for things to do is proportional to the square of your travel speed. Freeways make it possible for me to take my family to some new and exciting bakery 40 miles away. Automobiles suddenly meant you could easily visit the next two towns and you didn’t have to feed the car daily/clean out the stalls.

    There are markets for Starship that exist:
    Starlink is a lucrative iteration on cell towers
    Asteroid mining is an iteration on mining
    Vacation in LEO/Moon is an iteration on cruise lines

    There is one market for Starship that hasn’t been around for some time which is providing a new frontier for colonization. Something I think will be quite popular.

  11. LOL what a tool. Bitter much that not everybody kisses the arse of Mr. Pedoguy, your worshipped God and Savior of mankind, Elon Musk ?.

    Elon Musk is doing too much drugs, his bipolar disorder is getting out of hand. As brilliant as he has been he’s now becoming a liability to its own companies, his whole behavior on this Covid-19 crisis has been an utter disgrace. I see him kicked out of Tesla’s CEO position by the board of directors in less than a year.

  12. How TF do you know? The reason so many people are enamoured with Elon is because he keeps on disrupting industry after industry – Try to remember that ULA and Boeing were scoffing, in public, about SpaceX just a few years ago. That VW and Ford were doing exactly the same about Tesla. And not just scoffing either, actively trying to disrupt and delay.

    They are not laughing now, are they? No. They’re trying to catch up, which is an almost hopeless case. The only thing Boeing has left now is the power of their lobbying – which is clearly impressive. Once Starship is up and running, which won’t be long well ISS can kiss its ass goodbye too. Mind you Boeing will still have fleeced the American tax payer for $20 plus Billion WITHOUT a single launch.

    Don’t expect people on this site to care about the view that there is ‘too much Elon’ here. Most of us actually understand his impact. Some, like you either don’t want to or are just dumb. Pick one, neither reflects well.

  13. Elon’s secretary needs to take a letter…

    Dear Greta Thunberg,
    As you know, I am fighting to bring us a green future. Perhaps you could use your great wisdom and influence to have the next Federal Stimulus go to my company SpaceX…we feel all genetic research and all fissile material should be banned to space.

  14. When Elon Musk finds out how stringent the safety rules are on Mars, he’s going to move to Texas.

  15. One way Starship can get close to “1 hour anywhere movement…” would be to have Starship carry modest-sized cargo drones that can be deployed at any point along Starship’s orbit, independently re-enter atmosphere, fall/glide toward a destination within a few hundred miles of the orbital path, then deploy rotors and land literally anywhere – if they’re legally allowed. After dropping off cargo, the drone could fly (with refuel/charge stops) to the nearest Starship launch site.

    This could even be done with a single Starship launch site – though the drones then need to be shipped back. E.g. for one-way fast military equipment deployment. So it’d be a way to bootstrap service.

  16. We might get more response if we ask everyone ELSE who they would like to move to Mars?

    Gofundme project to send someone else to Mars, involuntarily.

  17. I’ve noticed a few days where just about everyone gets a single downvote.
    I assume it’s one bitter individual who just goes about downvoting everyone as their way of striking back at a world that does not appreciate their genius.
    (Do I get a downvote for this comment?)

  18. “Fortunately” for the nascent aircraft industry, a world war came along at exactly the right time to produce a huge demand for aeroplanes and cost-insensitive customers prepared to
    –pay for building thousands of airfields, hangers, refuelling stations, high octane fuel supplies etc.
    — provide thousands of trained pilots with a non-civilian attitude to risk of injury and death
    — literally set out to destroy each other’s stock level to ensure high and continuing demand
    — demand ever increasing performance levels to drive a technological race

    We hope that spaceX does not get so lucky.

  19. Smart phones are not a good analogy because they rely on two existing sets of infrastructure: the internet and the phone network, which were already well established when the iphone came out.

    (Let’s ignore the various smart phones and similar devices such as Blackberry going back to the Apple Newton, which did NOT succeed.)

    The big objection to the sudden ramp up of demand for things like suborbital flight is that the supporting infrastructure hasn’t been built yet, and would take years to decades to do so.

    This is much more like the first cars starting in the 1880s. It actually took decades before the network of roads, petrol stations, mechanics, laws etc. etc. had grown and adapted to the point where Model T level volumes were feasible.

    To get a sudden ramp up fast enough for this generation of starship to achieve the proposed volumes, would require a self-contained project generating the required demand.

    Yes, space solar power could do it, but we see little sign that SpaceX has such a project lined up (with all the required developments, approvals etc.)
    The USA’s new space force could be such a demand, once again no indication that this is lined up, but it’s more the sort of thing that might be done in secret.

  20. could Elon sell his services to China without having his IP stolen

    Selling his products to China is asking for some serious industrial espionage to occur.

    Selling his services to China does nothing of the sort.

    “I will launch your satellite for $X. Send it to me at this address and I’ll get it into your specified orbit.” How does that invite espionage?

    If anyone is worried it would be the person handing over their satellite to be inspected before it is launched.

  21. Given what we are told about NYC real estate prices, it might still work out cheaper to fly to Thailand every night.

    And everyone unfit for suborbital flight will die off this year anyway…

  22. In 1943 he was right (except, that, as DD observes, it is probably apocryphal).

    That decades later, a completely different product with the same popular name, “computer”, but totally different cost and capabilities, proved to have a much larger market is not really proving anything.

    That’s like pointing to the success of the Teslas as evidence that 1970s lead-acid electric cars should have been successful and must have been suppressed by evil conspiracy.

  23. And there was a lot of interest from his IBM peers, to dispel any such assertion (whether it was uttered or not), given how wrong it was proven to be very soon and what role IBM played on the nascent computer market.

    I guess it will remain as a popular culture legend.

  24. yes, and only for those medically fit, and what about the door-to-door time, and when will the cost be competitive with air travel? What sliver of a percent of the population needs to get to and will be able to afford to and withstand getting from NY to a beach in Thailand in four hours?

  25. Considering the national security aspects of this, could Elon sell his services to China without having his IP stolen? Would the US, who funded a lot of his R&D, allow it?

  26. ”Build it and they will come” works in some cases, fails in others. Segway, anyone? which did lead to e~scooters, but not a helpful comparison for SpaceX. This is similar to the position that AI and robotics will create more jobs than destroy them, because there will be new demand for new stuff.

    To which I ask, what demand exactly? At least I can start to imagine that with AI and Robotics. The Internet and the iPhone had avalanches of latent demand and potential utility ready to be captured. What is the very large valuable utility in space that will be in sufficient demand as to require so many ships?

    Makes me think of all the abandoned passenger jets sitting in the desert.

    Or, do enough people really want go live for the rest of their lives on Mars?
    Which might justify all the rest of it, as some kind of supporting economic and material infrastructure.

  27. Although Watson is well known for his alleged 1943 statement, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers,” there is scant evidence he said it. Author Kevin Maney tried to find the origin of the quote, but has been unable to locate any speeches or documents of Watson’s that contain this, nor are the words present in any contemporary articles about IBM.One of the very first attributions is in the German Magazine Der Spiegel of May 22, 1965, stating that IBM-boss Thomas Watson had not been interested in the new machines initially, and when the first commercial calculation behemoths appeared in the early 1950s, filling whole floors with thousands of heat generating vacuum tubes, he estimated the demand by the US economy at a maximum of five.

  28. Yes, there first must be a demand for 1, then 2, 4, 8, 16 then 32 etc. You don’t go from 0 to 300 in year 1, we’re not exactly talking about making tiddlywinks. The cost of #1 isn’t going to be the same as the cost of #3000, even F9 is still in the mode of “recouping development costs so we cant pass down all the savings right now”.

  29. I think there is a world market for about five computers.

    Thomas J. Watson Jr. of I.B.M. 1943.

  30. I think people are getting hung up on the mass production aspect with an argument like “There is no demand for this!” which isn’t an incorrect point to raise right now.

    It must be stated that truly revolutionary products have a way of creating their own demand because they enable things that previously were not possible and could not be accounted for when tabulating future demand. They are transformational products in that they transform what people want and how people do things.

    A good example of this would be mass consumption of the internet. The internet required a certain number of computers and connected people and then once it was in place it drove the adoption of computing so much so that having a computer in our pockets became a personal necessity.

    Starship is definitely in this category. Once it is in place and the $/kg to LEO drops by a factor of 20 all of a sudden we have viable LEO habitats. We have viable Moon bases. We have viable industrialization of space. We have the possibility of month long vacations on the Moon. We start looking at space based solar power.

  31. Yeah, but this is different.

    It’s more akin to the whole domain of airflight being born at the start of the XXth century, than to any high tech gadget launch.

    Gardgets don’t kill you (usually) if they fail and they don’t have as many geopolitical implications for their use.

  32. Fortunately dislikes do nothing here. In other platforms, dislikes bury or hide your comment and are used as a tool for censorship.

  33. Yeah, I simply can’t see much market for using rockets for PtP travel on Earth. Even if it somehow managed to be marginally cheaper than airplanes, the issues you bring up would be decisive.

    The only PtP travel using rockets I see happening are troops. The Starship would be a good vehicle for mass HALO drops.

  34. I concur. In the sense that it’s too early to predict an explosion of growth and replacement of other well known alternatives, like airplanes for most usage cases mentioned.

    Starship/SH have yet to prove their basics: that they work, that they can do it reliably after ‘n’ number of cycles; that they can be reused with very little refurbishment as airplanes, and that they can be reused quickly.

    This experience they can build without risking a single human life, given this is something cargo and tankers will do.

    After some confidence is gained, then comes the turn of crewed ones to prove themselves (Artemis’ lunar SS will probably be the first). And not only at launch, but after traveling, landing in another planet, returning to Earth and do re-entry. Each one will be a new experience, with slightly different hardware, parameters and results.

    This whole domain of reusable interplanetary spaceships is pending to be discovered!

    In general, sounds like a process of several years or decades (it was for airplanes), which if successful, will give them a reliable and known platform and architecture for their lofty dreams.

    At that moment, the capabilities of the system will be known and could be taken into account for any collateral plans.

  35. I’m sure they WILL be creating those partnerships. But first they have to get the Starship flying, because they’ve basically bet the company on it.

    Once it’s flying, and proven to have reasonable reliability, THEN the other markets open up.

    Possibly absurdly fast, if something like SPS proves to be cost effective with the lower launch costs.

  36. Smartphones is a perfect example. In 2009 a mere ~30 million of smartphones were sold and most were “symbian”, i.e. Nokia. [1]. The sale of smartphones increased to about 400 million in about 6 years (!). In 2009 there were almost no apps and now it’s an industry that in 2018 had a revenue of 365 billion dollars. That’s going from essentially zero to 365 billion dollars per year in 9 years. [2].

    FTLNewsfeed is right. This *could* be the beginning of such a revolution. Or not. But if it does not pan out, it is *not for the reasons that you state*. You basically state that you don’t see the market for it, but that is the point, you don’t see the applications for something before they have been invented.

    At this point, the launch market is worth about 11 billion dollars per year [3]. Who is to say that is not worth ten or a hundred times more in 2030? And who is to say if the whole space based industry could or could not be worth trillions of dollars 2030?




  37. I don’t get who the five people are that disliked your comment. It’s really rare with a few likes and you get *five* dislike…!!! Especially since you have not even stated anything provocative.

  38. Lower launch cost by a factor of a hundred will open up entirely new markets. Nobody really has any idea how much demand there will be at that price, but it makes no sense to estimate it based on current demand for far more expensive launch.

  39. You keep comparing the cost of a bare-bones Starship to things like the Space Station. I’m sure the ISS might have cost a few billion less if it was just a hollow tube floating in orbit. How much cost would be added when the thing is fully decked out with all the technology and life support to do an actual mission? Also, when you talk about unit cost, you and Musk generally don’t include sunk cost or infrastructure cost. Please start comparing in terms of real cost so we can see a true comparison.

  40. Safety is yet to be determined but there are also other factors that will hinder this kind of travel from having a (sorry) quick take off.

    • Regulatory issues – there are NO governments ready to handle this
    • Spaceports – the rockets will need new handling facilities built
    • Market – Airlines are failing in this Coronavirus era – will any government support a competitor to their established national companies?
    • Environmental impact – It may be that rockets might have less impact than long range jets, but this will have to be proven.
    • Last (but not least) – I predict a severe *puke factor* that will hinder using this mode of transportation for some time to come.

    That said – the market for space based destinations could build quite quickly as both governmental and private entities both will want to invest in all the new opportunities for development *out there*. I do wonder if Musk will be allowed to sell his services to China?

  41. Changes born out of revolutionary forces apparently abounds, all i can ever see are mundane evolutionary forces.

  42. No, the analogy is not accurate, because there was already a market of billions of phones before the iPhone, Apple knew they would sell millions of them. Yes, it opened new services and incomes, but the phone market was always there.

    Now there is no market for more than a couple of super heavy-lift launches per year. Your “if you build it, they will come” is wishful thinking, nice only for a Hollywood movie. What would that demand be ?, what is SpaceX doing so that demand will be there when the rockets will be delivered ?.

    They should be creating partnerships with orbit solar companies, asteroid mining companies, space manufacturing companies, space hotels and casinos, … they have to kick-start them themselves because who else is going to do it ?, they don’t even look to make much financial sense. Certainly the only uses that Elon Musk has disclosed doesn’t. Starlink won’t support any mass production of Starships, a couple of them will already deploy the entire constellation, Earth passengers transport won’t happen in decades because they need to demonstrate first that they can be safe enough, and even 1-hour cargo delivery would hardly make sense, because the spaceports won’t be allowed anywhere close to the cities, the meager time savings would hardly justify the premium cost.

    Elon Musk is putting the cart before the horse. He wants to build thousands of Starships every year, and yet there is no one lining to buy them.

  43. Mars is barely mentioned, as is correct. The one thing that makes no profit, that does not benefit Earth. Why is this now so obvious, after 40 wasted years ignoring the Moon?

  44. You’re not taking into account how fast a market can open for a product that is able to induce demand for itself. Brian pointed out the iPhone and that’s an apt comparison. A decade and some change later and the world is saturated with smart phones, apps are everywhere and we rely on these devices now more than ever. Now ask someone on January 8 2007 whether there was any demand for an iPhone and they’d point, like you have, to the lack of a market for it to cite that there was no demand for that product. Sure there were mobile phones and people did use them, but it took the iPhone to make them ubiquitous, mandatory and open the market for apps and services that made special use of the iPhone. It’s the same with Starship, once they build it and show that it’s a real product the market for it will open and the demand will come and create markets that we can, as we stand here in May 2020, not know will exist yet.

  45. “12-24 hours to get around the planet to 30-60 minutes”
    Yeah but it will not be anywhere near as safe in the first decade or two to go by rocket than to go by jet airliner.

  46. I wish that, for a change, you toned down the Elon Musk propaganda, it’s becoming ridiculous how you repeat every single BS coming from his mouth.
    Yes, the Starship is going to be revolutionary, but let’s put some things straight:

    • It won’t be mass produced at the scale of passenger planes because there is no demand from that, and there won’t be for many decades. They would do much better creating/promoting an industry that creates that massive demand of orbit access (it won’t be Starlink, as the entire constellation can be deployed by just a couple of reusable Starships).
    • Without very large scale mass production it won’t cost $5M (and even with mass production that price is beyond ludicrous, it’s more than 100x times lower than an airliner).
    • There won’t be 1-hour passenger Earth transport for the Starship, it’s still too dangerous. It’s a goddamn rocket, too many things can go wrong and it can’t even have an escape system. It would take many decades of proven reliability, without accidents, before commercial passenger transport is allowed.

    Don’t get me wrong, the Starship is happening and it will be awesome, but they won’t be building 20,000 of them per year, nor they will cost just $5M.

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