Elon Musk Wants To Replace Airplanes With Rockets

Can Musk make a sooner, cheaper, extra eco-friendly different to the aeroplane?

Elon Musk Wants To Replace Airplanes With Rockets

Elon Musk tends to revolutionise industries; simply take a look at PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX. Is he poised to do the identical factor with the aviation trade? And are his plans to ship us to Mars only a advertising and marketing trick to kick begin this Earthbound take over?

In 2019 the worldwide Aviation trade produced 915 million tonnes of carbon dioxide which accounts for roughly 2% of the worldwide human carbon emissions. It is a huge portion of our collective footprint. To make issues worse, jet expertise is struggling to adapt to inexperienced alternate options. The scene is ready for a brand new expertise to dominate.

Enter Elon Musk! He has already kick-started the electrical revolution in vehicles. May he do the identical to aeroplanes? Sadly, you gained’t be seeing a Tesla aircraft any time quickly, the batteries are nonetheless method too heavy! However Elon has a trick up his sleeve. The truth is, he has two tips, they usually gained’t revolutionise aviation, they are going to completely crush it as a substitute. That is Elon Musk’s plan to make polluting, gradual and tedious aeroplanes ineffective.

His first trick? Rockets! Large ones.

Starship is the craft that may take us to Mars, and that’s what the hype is all about. With a load capability to Mars of 100+ tonnes, you’ll solely want a number of of them to get a small Mars base operational. However, how is Musk going to afford the event of such a craft?

Through the use of it to out-compete lengthy haul flights and, in doing so, make a killing off the intercontinental journey trade on Earth! Let me clarify.

Any rocket value its gasoline has to get its payload into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Now LEO is simply exterior of the environment, and to keep up such a decent orbit, it is advisable to be going quick! The ISS is in LEO, and it travels at round 7.66 km/s or 17,135 mph! You may journey from New York to Sydney (9,929 mi) in beneath 40 minutes at that pace. As compared, it takes an aeroplane round a day with a cease off to make the identical journey.

So if Starship can land persistently in any climate with out exploding (this is hoping that occurs quickly!), then in principle, it might take off from New York, enter LEO for some time, then re-enter over Australia inside the hour! So no inflight film on Starship, possibly only one sitcom episode. Oh, and that horrible flight meals? It’s now floating away from you in microgravity!

So, Starship can outrun any aircraft on the planet! However what about being eco-friendly? And wouldn’t this service price an arm and a leg?

Nicely, regardless that a Starship launch burns as much as 4,600 tonnes of propellant on launch, it may be surprisingly environment friendly and eco-friendly. It’s because Starship and its booster rocket (Tremendous-Heavy) run on methane. That is proper, Musks delight and pleasure is a huge fart rocket…

However imagine it or not, methane burns exceptionally cleanly, producing minimal byproducts. Let’s examine it to NASA’s SLS rocket, a hydrogen and strong rocket booster design with a considerably decrease payload at lower than 70% that of Starship.

One SLS launch produces roughly 538 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 5.1 tonnes of soot, 8.5 tonnes of NOx, 302 tonnes of inorganic chlorine (mainly tear gasoline) and423 tonnes of alumina (the identical factor that makes antiperspirants work, it additionally destroys Ozone and hangs about for as much as 4 years within the stratosphere). It is a lot of various chemical substances, all fairly nasty to the environment.

As compared, Starship produces 2683 tonnes of carbon dioxide and 1.7 tonnes of NOx, and other than some water vapour, that’s it, no poisonous tear gasoline or something! Starship does produce 60% extra carbon per kilo of payload than SLS, however this isn’t a shock.

When rockets get greater, their gasoline utilization tends to skyrocket (pun supposed). It’s because they want extra thrust to shift the heavier weight, which suggests extra gasoline to energy greater engines, which suggests it weighs extra, which suggests it wants extra thrust, extra gasoline, and so forth. So the truth that Starship is carrying over 42% extra and solely produces 60% extra carbon per kilo is unimaginable! The surprisingly low quantity of NOx (a gaggle of gases that deplete Ozone) is as a result of methane burns at a comparatively low temperature. All in all, Starship is among the cleanest burning rockets on the market!

However to present some perspective, my 2009 VW Golf S 1.4 has performed 80,000 miles and has solely produced 102 tonnes of carbon dioxide over that distance (not less than in keeping with VW…). Meaning a Starship flight produces as a lot carbon dioxide as me driving for two,104,313.7 miles. So calling the Starship ‘eco-friendly’ looks as if a stretch. However that is dependent upon the place you get that methane from.

If Elon desires to make Starship carbon-neutral, it’s really very easy! Methane is abundantly produced by organisms on Earth (not simply people who’ve had too many baked beans). Most anaerobic micro organism sucks up carbon dioxide and makes use of it for his or her chemical reactions, and in doing so, produce methane, this is named methanogenesis. That is the place your fart methane comes from, the anaerobic micro organism in your intestine! However, as a result of the carbon dioxide utilized by these organisms is pulled out of the environment, it signifies that the methane gathered from these organic sources is carbon impartial!

What makes methane such a good selection for carbon-neutral gasoline, is that you just don’t want an enormous and complicated bio/artificial gasoline manufacturing unit (such as you do to make bio jet-fuel), simply syphon the gasoline popping out of the sewers, cow slurry or food-waste processing vegetation, and you’ve got rocket gasoline! Much less infrastructure, much less air pollution and extra accessible and simple to provide carbon-neutral rocket gasoline.

So subsequent time you fart, you possibly can loudly proclaim that you’re producing rocket gasoline that may take us to Mars! Having mentioned that, I ought to do an article on what number of farts it could take to get us to Mars…

So, Starship’s carbon dioxide may be neutralised method simpler than any jet or propeller aircraft. You may even go one step additional as current advances make NOx seize viable, and as every launch produces such a small quantity, you possibly can simply offset this air pollution too. It’s nearly as if Musk designed Starship as an ecologically impartial rocket…

Now, what about value? Such a colossal rocket should price an terrible lot, proper? Nicely, SpaceX hasn’t mentioned how a lot a ticket would price, however we will get an inexpensive estimate with a few of their launched figures and a few tough analogues.

Musk has mentioned that he desires every launch to price $2 million. So our ticket value for each passenger has to come back to that determine. He has additionally acknowledged that the payload shall be method over 100 tonnes for Low Earth Orbit, however we all know that it might take not less than 100 tonnes so let’s use that determine. From this, we get a value per kilo of $20. Remarkably cheaper than any rocket at the moment (SLS prices >$6,000 per kilo).

Now, we will’t simply shove 100 tonnes value of individuals onboard and name it a day. So let’s use a Boeing 747 as an analogue for the security and luxury bits wanted. A 747 has a passenger capability of 366 and a payload weight of 112.7 tonnes. This implies every passenger takes up round 308 kg for them, their seat, their baggage and inflight comforts.

Utilizing the 747 as a tough information, we will guess that Starship can take not less than 325 passengers at the price of $2 million, or, $6,153 per passenger. That is akin to at the moment‘s center of the highway long-haul flights. Solely it should take 40 minutes, not a complete day. For instance, on the time of writing, a one-way journey from New York to Sydney on Singapore Airways prices $10,969.89 and takes over 34 hours!

Now, these aren’t the most affordable tickets, and aircraft tickets are nonetheless costly attributable to Covid19. However, it wasn’t exceptional for 1st class tickets on the identical journey costing upwards of $20,000 earlier than Covid. SpaceX can give you a journey time 30 instances shorter, and expertise zero gravity, for lower than half the worth of 1st class and akin to a excessive priced economic system.

It’s straightforward to see Musk charging method over $50,000 per ticket and nonetheless promoting out common flights worldwide. You do go into area in any case! At that value, he would make over $14,250,275 per launch! That is how Elon can develop a rocket that may take us to Mars, as a result of it might additionally make a tonne of cash again on Earth.

I haven’t even acquired onto how Elon will use outdated oil rigs as moveable touchdown and takeoff platforms for Starship both. That’s for an additional day.

So, Starship is cheaper, sooner and far more eco-friendly than anybody at the moment within the aviation enterprise. Lengthy-haul planes might quickly be a factor of the previous. However, what about short-haul?

Nicely, relatively than reaching for the celebs, this time, he’s trying beneath our ft. You might have already guessed that that is the place Hyperloop and The Boring Firm come into play.

Virgin Hyperloop idea — WikiCC

Not like SpaceX, we don’t have any costs or payloads but, so I can’t do any enjoyable evaluation. However if you take a look at the engineering of the Hyperloop the telltale indicators that it is going to be sooner, cheaper and extra eco pleasant are there too.

Hyperloop is successfully only a actually fancy prepare operating by way of a vacuum tube. The thought is you bore a tunnel between your chosen locations (say LA and San Fransisco) after which suck all of the air out of it. Then you definately ship a pressurised prepare (you need the occupants to have the ability to breath) down the tube with little to no air resistance, making it not simply quick however very environment friendly.

In principle, a system like this might go as much as 760 mph (190 mph sooner than a Boeing 747) and be absolutely powered by renewables. Even higher, Musk has instructed he can do a car-carry system the place you drive your EV into the prepare, zip to your vacation spot after which drive out on the different finish.

LA to San Fransisco is the proposed first Hyperloop route. A journey of round 375 miles. By way of aeroplane, this takes roughly one and a half hours, with hyperloop it ought to solely take about half an hour!

Now, Hyperloop is nowhere close to as developed as Starship. However Musk has teamed up together with his billionaire pal Richard Branson to develop it right into a practical prototype after which a industrial operation. Attention-grabbing how Branson, a person who has a substantial stake within the aviation trade and is a large part for making it extra ecological (he can’t see the irony), has teamed up with Musk on this venture. It’s nearly as if he predicts that Hyperloops with substitute aeroplane journey within the subsequent few years, and desires to be a part of that revolution.

After all with all of this, I’m speculating. I don’t know the internal workings of Elon Musk’s thoughts (I don’t even assume he does generally), however all I can say is that Musk is making some critical energy strikes to dominate any and all transport industries, not simply on Earth, but in addition in House. What’s worrying is it seems no-one is in his method.

So, regardless of the place you need to go, whether or not it’s a drive to the outlets, a visit to a close-by nation, fly midway internationally and even land on the floor of one other planet, Musk has a craft for you. Prepare for some significantly superb journeys within the subsequent few many years.

Updated: September 13, 2022 — 11:09 am