Fully Reusable Rockets Will Crush Supersonic Planes

There are many companies working to develop commercial supersonic planes. There is Boom Technology which has raised $241 million and has may pre-orders from potential customers. United Airlines agreed to purchase 15 Boom Overture aircraft with an option to buy 35 more. They are currently scheduled to begin servicing passengers in 2029.

Nextbigfuture has been covering Boom Technology and the other commercial supersonic plane companies for years. In 2016, Boom Technology was planning to get certified to start commercial service in 2023. Five years have passed and the schedule has slipped six years. In 2016, they had full-size mockup of a smaller test plane. They have made a functional version of the one-third scale test plane, XB-1. The test plane is supposed to fly this year.

The test plane uses a version of the General Electric J85 engine. The J85 has been used since the 1950s.

By April 2017, enough financing was secured to build and fly the XB-1. Its preliminary design review was completed by June 2017, with a switch of engine to the military version of the J85 to take advantage of the extra thrust. The XB-1 testing schedule kept slipping.

Boom’s plan is to develop a plane able to go Mach 2 with 65-85 passengers. All travellers would pay about $5000 per ticket. this would be like high end business class or first class.

Aerion Supersonic was also working to develop commercial supersonic planes. Aerion also had many pre-orders. The AS2 was to be a private jet for 8-12 passengers with a speed of Mach 1.4 (1,728 km/h) over a range of 8,400-10,000km. Aerion As3 concept, a Mach 4+ commercial airliner that will be able to carry 50 passengers at a range of 7,000 nautical miles. Aerion worked with General Electric to design a new engine and won backing from Boeing.

NetJets, the world’s largest fractional provider, pre-ordered 20 AS2s and Flexjet said as early as 2015 it would purchase 20 of the supersonic aircraft.The AS2 was priced at $120 million per jet. It would cost Aerion about $4 billion to develop the aircraft, with $1 billion spent on the engine. Aerion was preparing to make a $375 million factory.

In 2020, Aerion was planning a first flight of the AS2 in 2024 and enter service in 2026.

There are several other companies working towards supersonic business planes or supersonic commercial jets. The other companies seem to be further behind Boom in terms of funds raised and prototype status.

The Concord was developed for £1.3 billion. Those were funds raised and used from 1965-1976. The planes were produced from 1965-1979 and was operated until 2003. There were 20 Concords built and 16 were used by airlines.

Venus Aerospace just received $3 million to develop a plane able to achieve mach 12.

Fully Reusable Rockets

SpaceX now has a $74 billion valuation and is making one Raptor engine every two days. The upper stage of the Super Heavy Starship would be a single stage reusable rocket able to fly 6000-8000 miles. A prototype of the Starship has now flown to 10,000 meter altitude and landed safely. Every two weeks, SpaceX can produce enough Raptor engines for a complete production Starship. The SpaceX plan is to speed up production by four times to make 100 Starships every year. A SpaceX staff of 3000 will produce the 100 Starships and their Raptor engines every year. This means the cost of the Starship will be about $20 million and the plan is to bring the price down to $5 million.

This means the SpaceX Starship which can go to mach 20 will start at a cost that is 6 to 25 times less than the price of planned commercial supersonic jets. The price of Starship will get cut another four times as production rate is increased.

Each SpaceX Starship will be 10 to 100 times cheaper than each supersonic commercial jets. The SpaceX Starship will be 2 to 15 times faster than the supersonic jets. The SpaceX Starship has a more advanced testing program. SpaceX Starship can transport heavier payloads.

SpaceX will need to research and improve the safety of the design by 1000 times or more to achieve the needed safety for commercial passengers.

SpaceX will generate revenue and flight experience from space launches, Starlink business and point to point cargo delivery anywhere on Earth.

SOURCES- SpaceX, Business Insider, Wikipedia, Boom Technologies
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

79 thoughts on “Fully Reusable Rockets Will Crush Supersonic Planes”

  1. Very few people will be willing to pay that much more to arrive in 30 minutes at their destination.

    Specially when it involves… 30 minutes in microgravity. Many people in airplanes get sick from a few times when an airplane gets lower gravity "feeling" after falling some meters due to different air pressure masses moving.

    So it will always be a niche market. It will be won by the safest and most confortable and easier to reach. And cheapest.

  2. I was also thinking there might be room for sleeper cabins. Customs on the flight never occurred to me. Seems easy to slip by if it is a very large aircraft…unless they tattoo your forehead or something.

  3. Rockets for point to point transportation? That is the epitome of waste. The only thing that needs to be delivered that fast goes *boom* at the destination.

  4. Brian's missing some big points here. These are very different markets.

    1. Land and take off at actual airports with transportation available to nearby popular destinations. Where can SpaceX take off and land from?
    2. G-forces that a typical businessman would be comfortable with.
    3. Loading and undocking times, need for spacesuits, special training?
    4. Have we asked what the long-term prices will be, similar to what SpaceX is promising? The first 10 to 20 planes will be very expensive, if you sell 50 a year for many years, the prices should drop considerably.
  5. SS/SH will start stacking launch numbers as soon as fuel launches become operational. Those will be far more numerous than crewed or cargo ones.

    Every lunar Starship will require 6 or 7 fuel launches, for example, and those will add up to the total launches and flight hours.

    Nevertheless you are right in saying this will still be far from the data of thousands of airplanes flying every day across the globe for decades.

    But they have to start somewhere.

  6. Falcon 9 and Starship/SH are whole different beasts.

    They have got F9 at a nice reliability level by now, and they are reaping the benefits, but the data of F9 hardly applies to SS/SH.

  7. Yeah, I'm not entirely convinced of the P2P rocket business model. I need statistical data to believe they can compete with airplanes without becoming a liability.

    The rockets can turn out to be astounding and still be far from airplanes in terms of reliability.

    I mean, if they blow up every 1000 launches, that's astounding for a rocket but very bad for passenger liners.

    Airplanes are indeed very, very reliable right now.

    But for military applications, a lower than airplane reliability might not be a deal breaker. One of the few usage cases where that is actually the case.

  8. I like ekranoplans. Trans-oceanic flights take long enough already, that they might as well be a little slower, and have reasonably comfortable sleeping accommodations. And then just invite the destination country to do customs on the flight, so that you walk off free to go.

  9. You also have to consider that things change. They haven't for a while. But viable electric cars, and reusable tail landing rockets have not been around long. How long did it take for jets to replace props? Seaplanes were looking like they were going to be the winners, until they weren't. We just don't know how things will progress. But dollars and personalities can make things happen, as long as physics does not stand in the way.
    I'd like to see very large ocean crossing ekranoplans. 1,000-10,000 passengers a flight. They can operate on less than half the fuel…as long as conditions are good. And you actually have some trivial chance of surviving a crash. That pretty much disappears with modern passenger jets after they are around 500 feet in the air. Anything other than a glancing blow with another aircraft is curtains. Ekranoplans don't fly that high, are sturdier, and don't fly as fast. Also great for cargo movement.
    There are many other opportunities that Elon has not grabbed. If I had billions, I would like to try some of the others.

  10. As presented, and sort of demonstrated by other SpaceX launches, it does indeed have most of the negatives you claim. However, consider how many of those vanish or are mitigated by a slower non-ballistic flight: 
    Reduced gravity to 1/3 rather than near zero. 
    Engines are nowhere near their maximum, so should be much more reliable, 
    No massive G loads to the passengers or flight crew, Toilets should still work fine (perhaps modified a little), Barfing should be maybe 3 or 4 times worse than a cruise on a smaller ship rather than gushers, probably need some inflight music to calm nerves and require Dramamine.

    Depressurization lethality already exists.
    Accumulated low radiation DNA damage is a myth.
    They can take-off/land using oil platforms, have all maintenance and fuel there. All can easily be moved by ship. So, easy logistics.

    I am not saying this is a slam dunk. There are issues like the cost of fuel, the inconvenience of taking a boat 25 miles to/from oil platforms (I suggest using hydrofoils), limited landing areas, fussing when atmospheric inversion funnels the sound to the cities even though they are 25 miles away…possibly even breaking windows and causing injuries, environmentalists, nationalists, anti-elitists, technophobes, conspiracy nutters…saying everyone was replaced by aliens or whatever, Elon haters, maybe relations with China deteriorate worse, and they obstruct. They have been attacking their own billionaires…how long before they attack the others?

  11. I'm old enough to remember when people 'dressed up' to take a trip aboard an airplane.

    Maybe we're just old. I still get surprised when I see people shopping in the supermarket wearing their pyjamas and dressing gown.

  12. Actually Goat, you've not stated the problem that throttling the engine is designed to solve.

    The problem is that a setup designed to give enough acceleration with full fuel tanks will give you TOO MUCH as the fuel tanks start to empty. Placing too much load on upper structure, payload etc.

  13. Falcon 9 has proven that at least the booster/engines are repeatedly reusable

    Err… the words repeatedly reusable are vague adjectives.

    There is literally multiple orders of magnitude between "we have shown that it can be used several times in a row in a tiny sample size" and "we have several thousand of them all over the world operating daily for over half a century. Here is the reliability data for 10s of thousands of hours of operation including required overhaul times all done to 6 significant figures".

  14. Before the age of cheap mobile smart phones, the previous high cost of a mobile computer never stopped anyone from them around in their pockets, it was simply another manageable cost of being always ready to play a videogame while waiting in a restaurant queue.

    I think you'll find that high costs stop all sorts of people from doing things.

  15. Eh, wait for that other supervillain-in-waiting Sergei Brin (Google cofounder). He's still doing his own thing with dirigibles…

  16. The failure mode for a reusable rocket is worse than for a supersonic plane. The fact is that supersonic planes have been invented much earlier. Like nuclear power, they may not have been truly ready for the market in these earlier iterations, but by now the technology has sufficiently advanced to where they're much safer and more suitable for wider use. I think that hypersonic aircraft in particular will help to close globe-spanning distances that were previously tedious to travel across. I feel that hypersonic flight is much more suited to this killer app of intercontinental travel, and that could even lead it to bridge the gap with flights to LEO, and ultimately into dominating that market as well. Let rockets dominate travel Beyond Earth Orbit, such as to the Moon or Mars.

  17. In my analysis I always give spaceX the best conditions. In this case I did not even consider the fact that you will have rockets landing too. I considered take offs only, So it is likely that you will need to double the infrastructure demands…

  18. Air traffic today accounts for 2.5% of the global CO2 emissions, which (although not perfectly) equates to 2.5% of the global fuel usage. Big planes like airbus consume approx 298kg of fuel per passenger during a flight a spaceX estimate best-case-scenario gives a per passenger consumption of 6070kg (assuming they manage to have the same payload efficiency of an airbus). That means that airtraffic fuel consumption will become 20 times higher with rockets skyrocketing to 50% of global CO2 emissions (assuming the supply does not increase) or to 33.8% (if the supply manages to cover the extra demand).
    Plese note that if you are capable of producing 20 times more methane it is still more convenient to do push for methanol chain elongation and produce jetfuel rather than use methane in rockets, because fuel usage will always be lower with planes.
    Rockets will never be competitive with planes, because rockets consume more fuel. You might have a market share and charge premium with fast travel, but supersonic planes efficient as the Concorde will still likely be cheaper or as cost effective, but they will be more comfortable, more reliable and capable of landing in airports close to the cities and not on barges a hundred miles away.

  19. In my analysis I always gave SpaceX the best possible conditions. I used the numbers they provided. If I had to give a realistic estimate I assume fuel consumption will be higher than their estimates because they will launch will lower accelerations to reduce launch G forces and lower take off noise. The lower the initial acceleration, the longer it takes to reach the desired speed and altitude, the more fuel you have to use just to carry the unburned fuel.

  20. Well, yeah. I agree that the idea you're going to do point to point rocket flights on Earth for anything but maybe military purposes is absurd. (The military largely doesn't care about price, and might actually consider brain homogenizing noise levels on landing a bonus.) Possibly delivery of very high priority civilian emergency supplies, hitch hiking off the military system.

    Everything else is too price sensitive and would be killed by the inconvenience and discomfort. And travel to and from the spaceport will be time consuming enough that the total travel time won't be impressively short anyway.

    Didn't dirigibles go through a similar "Everything will be done this way!" stage of hype, too?

  21. In your calculations based on JFK airport numbers, I think you need to take into account that not all of the flights to/from JFK are intercontinental. So I believe you have overestimated the number of Starship flights, gates, etc.

    I am not saying that the adjusted numbers would be practical. I'm only saying that I believe you have overlooked the adjustment.

    I am skeptical that there ever will be any substantial point to point on Earth applications for Starship, whether for transporting cargo or passengers. As far as I have heard, SpaceX designed Starship for establishing a colony on Mars. I imagine trying to use it for anything much different than that would be problematic. Has SpaceX itself ever mentioned using Starship for point to point service on Earth?

    It might be possible to use Starship for such point to point service, but probably would not do well against something designed specifically for that.

  22. Not really
    Anaerobic digestion is taking off globally and with very much increased supply you either burn that to produce electricity or compress it for SpaceX.
    With the fall of solar and wind electricity costs, prices for electricity are not going up.

  23. Excellent
    However, I do think your fuel usage at take off for SpaceX for a single stage hop, not using multi stage into orbit is about 4 times overstated

  24. You will have to check with Musk on this. The details keep changing. But suborbital can be about the same as booster separation to full orbit. So that would be *full* either way. Long and short intercon also.

  25. Yes, there are a lot of engineering problems to overcome. Will reusable rockets capable of delivering humans halfway across the world happen quickly? Define 'quickly'.

    The first airplanes were fragile and dangerous. From the first airplane that carried a human to commercial aviation being viable was a long, multi-decade path. And at first, only a few could afford it. (I'm old enough to remember when people 'dressed up' to take a trip aboard an airplane.)

    It took almost 70 years for 'mass market' air travel to become a reality.

    Maybe some of you are right, it will never happen.

    I think it will.

    It just might take a while…

  26. When I have seen specific mention of the possibility of the orbiter launching itself to orbit, the description has always said that it would then be out of fuel and so not able to land.

    Your point that intercontinental is a bit less than orbit might be enough difference to allow there to be enough fuel left to land. However, I wonder how much extra weight for passengers and/or cargo could be accommodated. Sending an empty orbiter on an intercontinental trip would be interesting, but not very useful.

  27. I think that, enormous technological issues aside, what really makes all this idea absurd is the spaceports.
    -Rockets carry less people and consume 10-20 times more than planes.
    -Big airports have 1 takeoff every 1-2 minutes. since rockets will not be able to carry the same amount of passengers you will need 2-4 times more rockets
    -You will have a rocket launch every 30 sec.
    -To avoid catastrophic cascades of explosions if a single rocket goes boom you cannot have rockets queued on the runaway, but you will need several launch towers veeeery far away from each other so this spaceports will need to be enormous and there is not that much available space near big cities. And since it is not very easy to move rockets filled with fuel and people you will likely end up with a tower for every rocket you launch that day (maybe you can use a tower twice with 12 hours turnaround, but I don't think is going to be much better than this).
     JFK has about 100 gates, and a plane leaves from a gate every 3 hours, totaling 800 flights per day, so a spaceport will need 300-400 gates/launch towers each separated several miles from eachother.
    You want to go from NY to London in 30 min?: travel 200 miles from NY (either inland or in the ocean) navigate an a 100 miles wide terminal (I assume all the security checks will be done while moving) sit in a rocket for 30 min, land 200 miles from London and reach London. Not to mention the noise/pollution at the spaceports. Not very fast

  28. FLIGHT

    • № 1.3 — Safety & Failure tolerance

    Then … badness in mid-flight. You know, a crack in a pipe, giving fire a new path to ruin one's flight. Or something in an engine breaking at just the least opportune time. Or something coming lose, and falling off. Or a computer going 'jinky', and trying to abort ALL engines, and not really having a clue what to do to get the passengers back down to dock.  

    Endless possibilities, really.  

    Sure, conventional planes can have their engines blow up. It happens every few years, to much media jaw-dropping, horro and terror.  

    Thing is, many (and of late mostly 'all') of these events seems to have become recoverable failures.  

    I'm just not as convinced about things going stupid on a giant Roman Candle full of 500+ people, their precious luggage and all that.  

    ONE ANSWER → might be to have the people-pod fueled up to wholely jettison, if need be.  Whizz away, light up the retro rockets, and get out of the ballistic path as quickly as is reasonable.  Deploy a bunch of parachutes, and 'land' whereever-the-Hêll is reasonable to land.  

    That though (to me) seems to require a whole bunch of PARASITIC MASS. More engines, more fuel and oxidizer, more cryogenic insulation, more space ship body.  Doohickeys to detach the thing, regular testing to make sure they work, certifications, mumbulations, and long faces if they don't.  

    Just saying, safety … on a rocket … is quite a challenge to engineer. 

    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  29. This sounds absurd to me. Picture in your mind the legions of elderly, the infirm, the morbidly obese, the toddlers, the screaming babies, and the overall dregs of humanity you encounter on an average flight. Are those people willing and able to go on a wild bone rattling roller coaster ride from hell in order to get from A to B? How are rockets ever going to be a common mode of transportation? Maybe you can create a giant ramp to slowly get up to 18,000 MPH or whatever that necessary speed is, and you can overcome that terrifying aspect of rocket travel. I don't know the physics of it but my understanding is that the ride up is less than pleasant with the G forces involved. Then there's the zero G orbit phase(unpleasant) and then re-entry. Then during re-entry the starship will do its acrobatic flip act to reorient itself mid-air, which I have to guess will also be somewhat unpleasant for passengers. Is this commercial aviation, or is it just a very elegant and innovative system for astronauts?

  30. FLIGHT

    • № 1.2 — G-Forces

    Well, the thing about a rocket is this. If you don't want to waste fuel, you need to 'beat gravity' pretty soundly. 

    As an example. Say we have a magic rocket ship, which has some sort of engine that doesn't burn fuel.  Constant weight rocket!  

    Someone makes a mistake, and overloads the thing.  The engines only have enough to push the rocket away at an acceleration of 1 m/s². ¹⁄₁₀ G. Because (d = ½at²), after 5 minutes (300 seconds), the 'd' is (½ × 1 m/s² × 300² → 45,000 m or 45 km.)  The velocity is (v = at = 1 × 300 = 300 m/s or about 600 miles per hour)

    Not a terribly convincing rocket.  

    However, if the same rocket has 5 minutes of zero-mass fuel, and is LESS loaded, scorching a path at maybe 1.5 Gs or 15 m/s² then…

    (d = ½at² = ½ × 15 m/s² × 300² sec) → 675 km, and a velocity of 4,500 m/s or about 9,500 miles per hour. 

    WAY better.  

    REAL ROCKETS don't stay the same weight, of course. They lose all that rocket fuel and oxidizer, making them much lighter as they go.  Still … to overcome dumb gravity, the actual acceleration need be quite a bit more than 1 G.

    So, that's kind of a problem. 

    SOLUTION — throttle the engines as mass loss happens!

    Still … to get that nice parabolic ballistic flight curve, a whole lot of velocity needs to be developed.  

    Methinks this is one of the more important Achilles Heels.

    ⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  31. FLIGHT

    • № 1.1 — Noise

    Rockets, without any doubt, are not only incredibly loud, but 'un-muffle-able'. I remember in the early 1960s when PanAm populated its fleet with pretty turbojets; Dad would take us to the Oakland Airport, where one could walk up to the various viewing lounges and kiosks to ask questions of the pretty stewardesses; Dad liked to go out on the above-tarmak observation area, and watch the jets take off and land.  

    They were ridiculously loud. High bypass turbofan engines had yet to be invented, so the propulsive force of the engine was concentrated in a deep supersonic exhaust stream.  Naked to the surrounding air, the ripping turbulence of that supersonic stream generated a profound fingers-in-the-ears level of noise.  

    Turbofans (because of metallurgical advances, not from lack of invention!) came along, jetting thru the engines WAY more air, but also far lower velocity. Moreover, the outer velocity was lower than the inner core, and thus most of the noise could be mitigated. Not all, but most.  

    The obvious answer is 'rocket away from barges, quite a bit out at sea. 10 to 20 miles, say. OK, but that sure adds a cost-and-operations element to taking a flight a quarter-the-way around the world.  And don't forget… you need to land on them too. Hope the 'X' is big enough!

    ⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  32. Not yet. That is the purpose of Starbase. Those tents and highbays are temporary. They will be building a Boeing-sized Gigafactory for Starships. The estimated cost of Raptors currently is about $250k. So it will cost about $1.5 million per *Starship* in the engines and maybe a million for the fuselage/hull. I think a Starship will be around $30 million, or about the cost of a jet airliner, when it's all said and done.
    And obviously getting to the level of reliability of a jet airliner will take a while but Falcon 9 has proven that at least the booster/engines are repeatedly reusable.

  33. Thanks! The only reason I didn't mention them is that I forgot the name and was too lazy to look for. They will reign eventually, if they wouldn't mature before scram jets, then after.

  34. I think their cost so is about $250k / Raptor. So every Starship will need 6 of those ($1.5 million) plus the booster which is about 30(subject to change). So that is about $9 million, though the riskiest part is in the SS.
    I estimated that a whole SS/SH will cost about $30 million or so to make, or at least in the ballpark of most jet airliners.
    I think the cool dynamic for the P2P aspects will be military. I wonder if the SS could deorbit, drop to ~1000mph at very high altitude*, deploy troops midair and boost out to a nearby landing site(say a few hundred miles away. Like for missions that warrant that, time wise. Otherwise, land in deep friendly territory.
    The point of the above is that SS/SH opens up some interesting military applications.

    *Though obviously that hull is going to be one hot tamale so might need to work on the details

  35. Sigh… every year or so, “Musk's SpaceX will take over The World”.  

    Please people… remind yourself of the obvious gotchas:

    • № 1.1 — Noise
    • № 1.2 — G-Forces
    • № 1.3 — Safety & Failure tolerance

    • № 2.1 — Ubiquitous space ports
    • № 2.2 — liquified methane + oxygen plants, delivery
    • № 2.3 — Unique refurbishing req'ts 

    • № 3.1 — Stratospheric pollution, ozone depletion
    • № 3.2 — Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Exosphere

    • № 4.0 — G stresses
    • № 4.1 — 0G barfing ("vomiting" or emesis)
    • № 4.2 — bathrooms at ZERO G
    • № 4.3 — depressurization lethality
    • № 4.4 — emergency medical … heart attacks, seizures, strokes
    • № 4.5 — psychological / anxiety attacks 

    • № 5.1 — Liability Insurance
    • № 5.2 — sunk investment, real costs
    • № 5.3 — Infrastructure operations
    • № 5.4 — Certiication risk

    • № 6.1 — Radiation exposure
    • № 6.2 — 0-G long term issues
    • № 6.3 — overstaffing ("the fix") costs

    I'm not in the position today to write up the specific issues of each of these, but I am pretty sure all y'all are quite capable of filling each bullet, right?

    ⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-

  36. In terms of the cost estimates you are comparing Apples and Oranges.

    Planes are mass produced, reliable, man-rated, safe, comfortable, and have a proven track record. We're talking a 99.99999% success rate on a day to day basis.

    Starship isn't any of these things. Starship may well become safe and reliable but it is going to incur significant cost.

  37. Please note that my analysis does not consider the obvious and inevitable price increase in methane once you have a rocket sector consuming a significant percentage of the world production. It does not even consider the fact that there is no spaceport infrastructure and does not consider the fact that the concord was usually running at half occupancy (so if you cannot find 100 passengers per flight every other day it is difficult you will find 500 every day).

  38. Let's run some numbers starting from a subsonic plane, moving to the concord and then checking if what stated by SpaceX is feasible at least in theory:
    Airbus A380:
    -Payload: 150 metric tonnes or 850 passengers
    -Fuel at take-off: 253.9 tonnes
    -Service Life: 350 flights/yr x 30yrs= 10500 flights
    -jetFuel price (pre covid)/tonnes=650$
    -total fuel cost in lifetime= 1.73 Bn$
    -aircraft cost i= 445 M$
    -operation cost lifetime= 2.17 Bn$
    -total passengers carried in lifetime= 8.9M
    -cost per passenger =244$

    -Payload: 100 passengers
    -Tonnes of fuel at take-off: 95.6
    -Service Life: 130 flights/yr x 30yrs= 3900 flights
    -jetFuel price actualized (pre covid)/tonnes=650$
    -total fuel cost in lifetime= 242 M$
    -aircraft cost actualized = 172 M$
    -operation cost lifetime= 414 M$
    -total passengers carried in lifetime= 390K
    -cost per passenger =1062$

    -Payload: 100 metric Tonnes or 560 passengers (assuming life support, seats, insulation weight… comparable to Airbus)
    -Fuel at take-off: 3400 tonnes
    -Service Life: 10500 flights (assuming same as airbus)
    -methane fuel price per tonnes= 135$
    -total fuel cost in lifetime= 4.8 Bn$
    -aircraft cost = ASSUMING ZERO
    -total operation cost lifetime= 4.8 Bn$
    -total passengers carried in lifetime= 5.8 (Assuming life as Airbus)
    -cost per passenger =819 USD

    SpaceX is competitive only if ships COST NOTHING and survive 10500 flights, if they cost 20M$ and survive 1000 flights they will not be competitive with 70s tech.

  39. They definitely did. Cheap rocket launch costs can make many business plans economically viable: like for example large-constellation LEO satellite Internet. No one can put 4500 satellites in orbit at Ariane 5 prices and offer internet service at prices anyone but Warren Buffet is able to pay.

    If you're setting up a constellation of 6 or so satellites up in GEO, then you can probably use Arianes or Delta IVs to deliver your cargo. Much more than that dies on the vine.

  40. The booster is required to get to mach 25 (AKA orbital velocity). If you just want mach 5 or thereabouts, just the Starship has got you covered.

  41. Before the age of cheap rocket launch costs, the previous high cost of rocket launches never stopped anything from happening, it was simply another manageable cost of doing business. 100% perfect, 100% free & 100% reusable rockets is not a panacea for anything, not terrestrial passenger travel nor space development.

  42. Where is 5000 US$ "high end business or first class"??
    That's a low-end business ticket for most of my intercontinental flights.

  43. Bezos designs are crew ready from the start, with "airport open" launch criteria. So planes would be down too. A key part of his plans.

  44. Musk will leave the competition in the Mars dust, then look back and find nobody following. Gold rush in Space!

  45. We don't know if the cheap of steel is worth the obvious disadvantages. Airplanes are going from metal to composite, and NASA has true nanotube macro fiber, the proverbial 100x stronger than the current composite. We'll be able to see, as Bezos has the same basic tools for booster, more engine variety but composite. Did you see the beam on the bridge?

  46. The article implies that the Starship alone (without the 28 Raptor booster) can travel at Mach speeds. Is this true? Pretty cool, if so. I hadn't seen this talked about elsewhere. Thanks for your optimism.

  47. Transcontinental travel requires predictable departure times— which no rocket would be capable of doing. The Starship would be routinely subject to delays lasting hours, days, and even weeks.

    So it’s totally unacceptable for routine intercontinental travel.

  48. Of course they will crash Supersonic Planes, not considering that about half the potential passengers will not be able to take the G forces and that you can only connect between sea side destinations. Of course it will be the scram passenger jets that will crash everything, having both all the advantages planes, the speeds, longer range and the gravitation cancelling savings of rockets and additional savings of breathing rockets.

  49. There might be a market for fast cargo transport of high value items. Maybe some military cargo to war zones.

  50. Brian Wong: "SpaceX will need to research and improve the safety of the design by 1000 times"

    Swambo: Yep. Maybe in 30 years.

  51. Do you enjoy bone rattling turbulence? Has race car driving or skydiving lost its luster? Well then, climb inside Elon's Wild Ride to the Terrordome. First, be prepared to be shook like a baby in the arms of an angry alcoholic as the craft you are in groans, creaks and stains like it is ripping itself apart around you. Then experience abrupt weightlessness and deathly silence only to be broken by the sound of dozens of your fellow passengers regurgitating. Your view of the heavens will be broken by floating stewardesses darting about with barf bags while trying to gather hundreds of chunks of somebody's breakfast bar buffet.
    Many people on commercial airlines grab the armrest for dear life every time the planes landing gear retracts. Others start literally crying when the plane sufferers any period of turbulence. I think the experience of Starship rocket-travel will be so unpleasant, that it will remain a niche form of transportation for soldiers, dare-devils, and the truly desperate, for at least the next 20 years.

  52. I understand all the points you mentioned. However, the text I quoted said "complete Starship", which, to me, would indicate booster + orbiter. Maybe that is just due to my tendency to take what is written very literally, but I think you'll admit that that wording is misleading if only the orbiter is meant.

    How sure are you that the Starship orbiter, by itself, fully outfitted to carry people, or at least cargo, could launch itself on an intercontinental trip (and land, too)? If it could do that, why would SpaceX plan that upcoming first "orbital" test to be booster + orbiter rather than just the orbiter? Maybe there is a good reason I just don't know, but it makes me think that the booster would be required for any long trip.

  53. The oblique detonation engine could greatly improve the performance of airbreathing engines. I don't know if there could be an oblique detonation rocket engine.

  54. It may be a bit confusing but Starship is both the name of the Spaceship/Second Stage AND the assembly of the Superheavy + Starship.

    SpaceX would never need to build more than a fraction as many Superheavy boosters as Starships because Superheavy always just flies back to the launch site and is back 15 minutes after launch.

    In the context of this article it’s even clearer that a Starship is not the stack with SH. It’s about hypersonic point to point travel using just Starship NOT Superheavy. It can’t make it to orbit without SH but it can fly a ballistic arc over an ocean in 30 minutes by itself. That might take 7-8 raptor engines.

  55. Indeed. Perfecting rockets will take a lot of iterations.

    Airplanes themselves were cantankerous contraptions once that failed a bit too often and were for the bold and daring.

    With successive designs, iterations and discoveries they debugged the defects and removed the killing bugs bringing them down from time to time, up to the point airplanes became as safe as they are.

    But this whole process is new for rockets, with almost everything pending to be discovered.

  56. The article says: "Every two weeks, SpaceX can produce enough Raptor engines for a complete production Starship."

    Did you mean to write "every two MONTHS" ?

    In two weeks, producing one Raptor every 48 hours yields 7 Raptors.

    A complete Starship needs something like 28 + 6 Raptors, if by complete you mean the booster and orbiter. Two months of production would yield 30 Raptors. Allowing for a small increase in production rate, SpaceX probably could get to 34 Raptors in two months pretty soon.

    If you meant to refer only to building a Starship orbiter every two weeks, then the production numbers you list seem consistent with that, but saying "complete Starship" seems not consistent.

  57. It is good that they are finally moving forward with supersonic commercial airliners.
    It will probably be a couple more decades before rocket travel is able to be mainstreamed. A lot needs to happen before then.

  58. pretty much sums up my thoughts as well, though I'm a little more optimistic, but failure is always an option and starship is much harder to make than falcon 9.

  59. If they get the price per Starship as low as they plan, and if they make them as reliable as they expect, then they'll crush supersonic airplanes.

    But those are big IFS.

    There is room for a lot of different outcomes, with different cost and reliability levels.

    In a few of those, you're spot on and we get to live in sci/fi land with reusable rockets and common space travel.

    In others (where neither the price nor the reusability end up as planned), we get a nice new space launcher, leaving competition in the dust and giving us a lot new capabilities… but no replacement of airplanes.

    Nevertheless SpaceX has the habit of surprising and delivering the unthinkable, with a few caveats, and at their own pace.

    So I wouldn't bet against them.


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