How Would We Get Over Forty Thousand SpaceX Starships

The SpaceX Starship will be fully reusable and could be used for point to point transportation of cargo and people on Earth, flights to space and as habitats in space.

There are 25,000 passenger planes for moving people and cargo. There are another 14000 military jets. Passenger travel around the world will triple the demand for vehicles by the 2040s. If Starship can become one thousand times safer then it could replace passenger jets for moving people and cargo for longer distances than 2000 miles. Half of the passenger jets could be replaced. This would be about 35,000 Starships.

Hundreds of Starships could be sent to Mars every two years to colonize and create a city. If a million people were moved over three decades to Mars. Each might take 100 people, this could mean ten thousand Starships if they are used mainly for one way travel and then as habitats or moving around Mars.

Another few thousand could be used for flights to orbit and to the moon.

Another ten thousand could be used for military purposes.

48 thoughts on “How Would We Get Over Forty Thousand SpaceX Starships”

  1. i’m not convinced that it would ever be agreed upon what constitutes sufficiently: “..beautiful and sustainable, reducing pollution and greenhouse effect..”. It seems like a moving target that would keep us from getting started at all. I would argue that the world creates more total creativity, productivity, and advancement from engaging many topics, based on individual backgrounds and passions/ interests than being conscripted into narrow projects, no matter how noble they appear to many.

  2. “If Starship can become one thousand times safer then it could replace passenger jets” – safer than what? Than the test articles they have been pressure testing to find the failure modes? Or than Falcon 9 or heavy? Or safer than passenger jets, and if so, why? People trust them pretty much as is now…

  3. While I would love to colonize Mars, we haven’t even proper colonized Antarctica or the oceans ..and those are more convenient and cheaper. I’d like to be proven wrong, but I don’t see us colonizing Mars until our our economy is vastly improved.

  4. It’s a bit ridiculous to expect Brian to go through the entire history and current state of SpaceX every time he does an article on them.
    Should he have summarized what an airline is too, in case a reader had forgotten that?

  5. Some people might be realizing they don’t need to travel as much. Other people are realizing just how important all that travel was.

    I referred today to someone as “he’s shirking from home” and his manager stopped, looked at me, and started excitedly agreeing. “Yes!” She shouted “Yes! That’s the perfect word for it. They claim they are “more efficient” at home, but that’s because nobody can come and annoy them to get them to do anything.”

  6. The article refers to SpaceX. SpaceX is not limited to merely what this single article explicitly mentions.

  7. I think maybe it’s more because of Bezzos and his presentation about the future he envisions to Blue Origin, the same presentation where he showed the Lunar Landing Module.

    Bezzos is the one betting in O’ Neil habitats. He studied under ONeil and he thinks it’s the future and thinks Blue Origin’s destiny is to serve as a platform to move all of Earth’s industries to ONeil habitats in space.

  8. If it wasn’t for COVID I would travel now, sure I can speak to family and relatives on whatever platform, but is it the same as being in the same room? Sitting around the same table? 
    I can go to far off places and experience them on the screen. But that is the same a watching a movie. 
    If we find a way to live with the virus (better treatment or vaccinations) and the economic shocks have been worked out of the system, at least non business travel will pretty much continue on the same trajectory it had been on.

  9. I agree-forget Mars! ONLY Space Solar esp Criswell Lunar Solar Power has any real chance of doing this, and it opens O’Neill Space to population relief eventually, the long term salvation of Earth, us not here!

  10. Would be kind of trivial to boost production. The way they are building them they could likely create an assembly line more like a 787 if not faster (these seem less complex than airliners to be honest).

  11. I basically agree, but Musk points out that it takes a plane much longer to go the long distances, so that it could not do the long trips several times a day at all.

  12. Launching in Starship is going to be a much less genteel way to travel than passenger flights. There would be significant g-forces and weightlessness. Not everyone (perhaps not most) would be willing to endure that experience for a shorter flight. And the launch sites will be limited in location, if only because they need to be many miles from ANYTHING that doesn’t want their windows blown out. Most likely only offshore, which also limits the utility (might need to take a conventional flight to such a launch site if not living in a large coastal city).

  13. But instead/first we have learned that 0 g is possible to live in, probably. So we can go to and live on Mars. Wrong idea!

  14. Moore’s law is just a bunch of S curves stacked up on top of each other. This is why everyone makes the mistake of declaring Moore’s law dead, because they are only looking at things mid-way in the S-curve that are driving improvement.

  15. If the price were affordable – I could see taking a Starship halfway around the world, explore the area where we landed (like Australia) and then take another transport mode back. (Say, a trans-Pacific cruise…)

    (‘Affordable’ being pretty darned arbitrary. But I’ve wanted to go to space for over 50 years now, so this might be my chance…)

  16. I don’t like the implications when people say all of us *MUST* do something, because it sounds as if they are in favor of -maybe actually scheming- to forbid some things and coerce us to do the important thing.

    We can have both a better environment and a space civilization without forcing people to do anything.

    Just let people follow their space dreams and ensure industry and people comply with emission regulations everywhere, and let technological development (which tends to reduce pollution) run its course.

  17. Yes, the first rotating habs won’t be kilometers long and wide, just a few hundreds of meters in diameter and probably be Bolo-like or gradually adding radial spokes, to save mass and start using them ASAP.

    They will have to deal with problems like violent tumbling and other issues caused by masses moving inside them (people walking).

    And they will need to be built with known tools and resources, not 22th century magic.

    There is is a whole technology of building rotating habs to develop yet.

  18. Solar flares are fast but most of it is still much slower than light speed. There is not much we can do for gamma rays or other EM radiation which travel at light speed, only adding some passive shielding (like the rocket mass between people and the Sun) to the habs.

    But for the most energetic massive particles, it takes them 2 minutes or so more than EM radiation to reach Earth, or any point between Earth’s and Mars’ orbit. The rest of the particles with mass can take 4-5 days to arrive to Earth, more if you are farther out.

    Solar observation satellites can give the warning a couple minutes before the first wave of high energy solar storm particles hit. This gives enough time for people to look for refuge within the rocket.

    Any place surrounded by cargo (water is optimal) would do. And the slower waves of a CME would take days to arrive, so there’s plenty of time to prepare for those.

  19. I love SciFi and i’m a space nerd, but the narrative about Mars and “hundreds” of Starships is francly ridicolous.. I think the primary effort for humans *MUST* be make the Earth beautiful and sustainable, reducing pollution and greenhouse effect.. The Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” is a beautiful anthem, we all have to remember this..

  20. Long time fan of Isaac Arthur(his followers were in the thousands when I found him)! He goes for the far extreme usually, rather than the more practical. My major attempt is to get people to understand the *basic* idea of O’Neill, which I regard as the ideas of ISRU and the various advantages of 0 g and abundant energy and resources. I regard his designs as Physics examples rather than actual proposals, for instance. The biggie is just getting people to not automatically think of the need for an existing place to do stuff, rather than building our own. O’Neill’s plan works at all scales, not just the far distant future huge settlements. It works for lunar ISRU, even if Mars is the main goal, over launch, from the earliest beginning. Al Globus ELEO plans are to me the next thing, not Mars at all. And then, just enuf to get Space Solar going, or something to make cash flow, the source of all real growth. People tending robots, not just hanging out and having fun, until the infrastructure make Space affordable real estate.

  21. I’ve seen a revival of interest on O’Neill’s habitats in social networks, probably due to the attention SpaceX’s achievements have brought and other people’s promotion of “New Space”.

    There is a YouTube channel that has half a million followers and millions of views, describing how life on such habitats might be. It provides some updated perspectives on how we might build and live on O’Neill habitats in the 21th century.


  22. I suppose if he licensed the tech, was allowed to export/ share internationally, created some huge launch infrastructure, trained platoons of crew, collaborated with the Big Aerospace on ‘in-between’ tech such as controllers/ sensors/ orbit-infra/ lunar-infra, facilitated some gov’t passengers/ cargo/ missions there could be a functional/ inter-linked fleet thing. If he wants to make a difference, however, he should fit-out his fleet with asteroid capturing/ mining/ processing, and just haul back crucial compounds, fuels, minerals, and oxys from the NEOs. He could challenge the tiny and automated asteroid exploiters. Now that would be a thing. First to cature/ exploit asteroid and then be the main supplier of off-Earth raw materials. C’mon Elon, be ambitious for once (sic)

  23. The S-curve of microprocessor and computing improvements is over and with it the free lunch it brought.

    Soon computer scientists and engineers will have to make some effort to build more efficient and better software again, now with new and better algorithms, and without hoping for Moore’s law to save us all.

    But space is always there, mostly unexploited and ready for another S-curve. A really big one this time, given it’s the size of the Solar System (in terms of what we can reach now).

    This S-curve can keep us busy for some centuries, and potentially allow us to outlive even our Sun, growing from timid attempts at settlements and orbital facilities, up to a full blown self-replicating industry and space civilization with whole cities and nations up there, thus multiplying the sphere of human influence many times over.

    And all without humans becoming irrelevant by our AI overlords. And I admit I have no problem at all with this outcome.

    In a sense, it can be another historical “Singularity”, as some might call the accelerated growth phase of the S-curve, after which we could barely recognize the world.

  24. Considering the speed of a solar flare, how are we supposed to know it is coming before it hits? That also doesn’t solve the problem of galactic cosmic ray exposure risk. We would need to be very careful how we place that cargo to block radiation on all sides and areas, it only takes one chink to create a big problem. Maybe water tanks in the outer skin? Still take a lot of water.

  25. The general plan is to send people and cargo together, with the cargo surrounding the living space to provide extra shielding. And a “storm shelter” for dealing with solar flares.

  26. In support of your point I have to wonder about the safety of a thin skinned rocket over long trips to Mars, let alone the gas giants. Seems to me that they will either need to build a safer (i.e. better shielding for radiation and micrometeorites) ship on the moon using the new economics provided by Starship, or the materials launched into orbit to add to the Starship making the trip. Not going to be too much demand if you are exposed to 100 millisieverts during the journey.

  27. As I said before, I’m skeptic about point-to-point. I don’t believe rockets can be made as safe and frequently reusable as airplanes, that is with a reuse rate of several times per day, even if they can be made much, much safer than they are now and also fully reusable.

    In economic terms, it’s very different a rocket that can be reused once per week with minimal refurbishing , and an airplane that flies several times a day with only basic checkups. Even if the first one is a legit game changer for space access and could turn us into a multiplanetary species.

    But I won’t join those throwing the first stone. And happily, if this comes to be or not isn’t dependent on my or anyone’s opinion.

    It fully depends on Musk resolve, SpaceX and their engineers capability to prove it.

  28. not every single day. But I think it will happen and be transformative. It is a far more realistic and near term scenario than the Singularity. What do you think is some big game changer technology scenario? SpaceX will make a crap ton of money with Starlink starting in months. the Starship will start flying to orbit soon. Flying point to point is easier. SpaceX is devoting money and planning for Superheavy class space ports around the earth. Virgin Galactic flew two pilots and one passenger to 56 miles but has deposits and is worth $3 billion and hit $7 billion briefly. SpaceX flew two NASA astronauts to orbit. Sub-orbital flight will be easier and single stage. Halving rapid package delivery times is worth tens of billions of dollars.

  29. Tourism and traveling were in an upwards trend before the covid-19 mess.

    People attitudes and mass trends are whimsy. The current seclusion and fear can give way to a period of travel frenzy, after we have a vaccine or some effective antiviral.

    I won’t discount the need of long distance travel for long.

  30. All this changes if you start lunar ISRU and live in O’Neill Space. Which things are as much easier now with these rockets as everything else suddenly appears.

  31. Long before you get up to those sorts of numbers, the Starship will end up being replaced or supplemented with something else. Mass drivers lofting tough cargo. Rotovators to reduce the necessary delta V for routine trips. Cyclers for the trip to and from Mars.

    The Starship boosts the traffic to space, the increased traffic makes other options economically feasible.

    The Starship will still be around, in some iteration, because these options require high traffic numbers to justify, and substantial loads to the destination before they work there, and there will be places to go that don’t have the infrastructure yet, or the traffic to justify it.

    BUT, once you’re seriously trying to colonize Mars, you’ll take a rotovator to orbit, one or two more to launch you on the transfer trajectory where you might match up with a cycler, then another one to drop you over the Martian surface at a modest altitude, and the actual rocketry delta V involved won’t be that bad.

  32. As I understand it, the plan is to use end of life rockets for the Mars trips. The Martian starships don’t have to be single use, given fuel production at Mars, it just makes more economic sense to do it that way.

  33. Initially, Starship will be more a moon rocket than a Mars rocket. Lunar round trips = 11 days. Mars launch window every 26 months. 26 months / 11 days = 70 X. Plus, the Lunar Starship will be fully reusable whereas the Martian Starship will be single use (for Mars) so a lot more expensive.

  34. At present production rates spacex is lucky if they can produce 52 starships per year… the Means every two years you can launch a “battle star Galatia fleet” of 104 starships to mars…

  35. I can see military use and, of course, access to orbit. But replace half of all passenger jets with 35,000 Starships that launch with a roar nearly as loud or louder than a Saturn V? I don’t see it.

  36. I disagree, to an extent. Sure Starship has not been proven yet, and it remains to be seen if it will leave the ground. But to say that “it explodes relatively often” as an argument is not relevant as it is “supposed” to explode during the development stage.

  37. You think passenger demand is going to go up? People are realising they don’t need to travel anywhere near as much, thanks to the coronavirus. Demand might recover, but I doubt it’ll increase.

  38. And if pigs could fly … … …

    Do we have to read every single day about this fantasy of point to point Starship commercial passenger transport ?.

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