Elon Musk is nothing if not ambitious. Though known more commercially for PayPal and Tesla cars, Musk is also the brain behind SpaceX. While it can be argued that Tesla is changing the future of travel as we know it, SpaceX is doing even more in the travel sector, mostly in space travel. Let’s look at their projects and how they will affect how we travel.
For a company named SpaceX, we’re starting back on Earth. Space travel, on the whole, is not particularly new. The Hyperloop, on the other hand, is a new take on old technology that could revolutionize the way we think about trains.
Using a series of linear induction motors and compressors, the idea is to send vehicles down a pneumatic tube at incredible speed. Musk’s first proposed Hyperloop would connect Los Angeles and San Francisco. Passengers will be able to make the 350-mile trip in about a half-hour.
This could have a dramatic impact on traveling. While the airplane is the current king of fast travel, the Hyperloop could steal the throne, making long-distance travel much cheaper. The caveat being, of course, that the destination would be limited to within the landmass. The other main main problem is the cost to build the Hyperloop, with the first line estimated at around $6 billion.
The Falcon Heavy
On Feb. 6, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, the strongest operational booster, lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There are two key points here: It’s a commercial rocket, rather than from a government agency like NASA, and it’s reusable, meaning it’s cheaper overall than the non-reusable rockets that have been used until now. While the central booster came down too fast at about 300 mph, missing the landing boat-drone by 100 feet and was destroyed, the side boosters landed, in sync, safely on their targets. Similarly, the nose cone fairing that protects satellites missed the giant net setup on a boat on Feb. 22. It missed by a few hundred feet, but unlike the central core, was still in usable condition.
Originally, the rocket was given a 50/50 chance of working, and not wanting to risk a satellite, Musk opted to instead have the payload replaced with his personal Tesla Roadster.
However, the Falcon Heavy is more exciting when we address how it will change travel, as, by itself, it only serves to transport satellites and other smaller payloads.
The Big Falcon Rocket
The Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR, builds on the Falcon Heavy but adds the Big Falcon Spaceship, or BFS, eight-story-tall payload bay meant to transport people, complete with 40 cabins, a galley, and an entertainment area. The first of its kind is already under construction.
Musk noted that while the Falcon Heavy is meant to launch every few days, the BFR is meant to launch every few hours. While the current goal is to send two paying customers around the moon, Musk and SpaceX’s ultimate goal is to take people to Mars.
The BFR can refuel back on Earth while thrusters on the BFS take it to Mars. The BFR can then take another ship loaded with fuel, and rendezvous with the first BFS, and return to Earth. Testing of this method will begin in 2019, while an orbital launch of the complete system is expected for 2020.
SpaceX is changing how we think of travel. With Elon Musk leading the company, they are attempting to completely revolutionize how we think of train travel, as well as actually opening up space travel to the public. The future of travel they are painting is not only exciting but affordable.
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