Rocket Travel
How It Works|Issue 113

Come aboard and find out why rocket are set to replace commercial aircraft

James Horton
Anywhere in the world, in less than an hour.” Elon Musk and his company SpaceX may have already revolutionised the way we utilise rocketry, but now they seek to use their technology to take us to Mars, the Moon, and even from city to city. And, quite amazingly, the price of enjoying this last application could cost the same as an economy airline ticket.

Known as the ‘Big Falcon Rocket’, or more simply as the BFR, SpaceX’s upcoming spacecraft is set to satisfy all of our space-faring needs in one neat package. It will build upon the staggering success of their previous two rocket designs: the Falcon 9, which at the time of writing has successfully completed nine launches in 2018, and the Falcon Heavy, which first took to the skies in February of this year. These rockets have demonstrated for the first time in our history that not only can you land the first stage of a rocket booster on the ground safely, but you can reuse it. It is from this milestone that the BFR’s goal to not only take people off-world, but also shuttle them around it, becomes viable and immensely promising.

Standing at a mammoth 106 metres in total, the BFR will be composed of two major stages: a 58-metre-tall booster used to lift the vehicle into orbit, and a ship mounted atop the booster. This front portion will be equipped with 1,100 tons of additional fuel and boast a large, pressurised cabin for its city-to-city launches. This will give the BFR everything it will need to send its customers into sub-orbit and speeding around the globe. Here, passengers will be treated to not only arriving at their destination ludicrously quickly, but also to the majestic views of our planet that so far only a few lucky individuals have seen. Surely those sights alone will justify the cost of the ticket, with the fast arrival time becoming a rather big cherry on top.

It should be noted that SpaceX is not alone in its lofty ambitions. Not so far away another private company, Virgin Galactic, are creeping ever closer to their own sub-orbital flights. They plan for these to initially be sold for recreation and research, but also harbour long-term goals of trans-continental transport. Unlike the BFR, their two-component system involves a jet-powered carrier aircraft and an attached rocket-powered ship, which releases from the carrier craft and launches towards space once at altitude. Across the Atlantic, UK company Reaction Engines also dream of a vehicle that can soar from the runway to space as one whole unit. Their pioneering air-breathing SABRE engine aims to be an alternative to pure rocket power or jet engine/rocket hybrids like that of Virgin Galactic. Although this technology isn’t currently as tangible as SpaceX’s, it would almost certainly have incredible transport applications if it were to come to fruition.

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