Space

SpaceX pursues ocean spaceports for hypersonic Earth-to-Earth travel

SpaceX pursues ocean spaceport...
Render of SpaceX's Starship in flight
Render of SpaceX's Starship in flight
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Render of SpaceX's Starship in flight
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Render of SpaceX's Starship in flight

SpaceX’s plans for deep-space travel get a lot of the headlines, but amid all the reusable rocketry and plans for Mars colonization, the company harbors ambitions that are a little closer to the home. After first floating the idea of using a massive spaceship to transport people around Earth at hypersonic speeds a few years ago, the company is now recruiting engineers to develop the floating off-shore spaceports to launch these super heavy-class vehicles, and possibly act as a springboard to Mars.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk first revealed plans of hypersonic travel around Earth in a 2017 presentation detailing his strategy for Mars colonization. The company’s BFR booster and Transport vehicle, as the Starship system was known at the time, could launch vertically with passengers onboard from New York, and land on an off-shore barge in Shanghai 30 minutes later, for example. Musk insisted at the time that this was more than just a concept, and has now signaled the company will indeed be moving ahead with the facilities to start testing out such transport technologies.

The CEO responded on Twitter to a job listing for a position as an “Offshore operations engineer” in Brownsville, Texas. The role would require the candidate to “work as part of a team of engineers and technicians to design and build an operational offshore rocket launch facility.”

Elaborating further, Musk said these facilities would “pretty much” be refurbished off-shore oil rigs and hinted at the possibility of Hyperloop transport back and forth. And with characteristic optimism, he said that test flights for Earth-to-Earth travel could kick off sooner rather than later, potentially coming in the next two or three years.

While launching rockets from the ocean would be new territory for SpaceX, the company has been landing them on floating platforms at sea since 2016. Musk has also previously entertained the idea of using ocean barges to launch the booster stage of the Starship, confirming earlier this year that the company is pursuing this capability, along with more traditional launches from land-based facilities. Still, the job posting is a significant sign that the company is moving full steam ahead with these ambitions.

Source: Twitter (Elon Musk), SpaceX

12 comments
WB
Love Elon Musk. Love tracking the progress at Tesla and SpaceX. So inspiring and fun to follow!
Brian M
Well that's going to greatly improve the way can transmit new pandemic infections, can be done in 30 minutes rather than hours. Did I miss the bit were we had solved global warming - must pay more attention!
michael_dowling
"Did I miss the bit were we had solved global warming - must pay more attention!" Yes,Starship is fueled with liquid oxygen and methane.
kwalispecial
@Brian: I think this is his solution to global warming - he's going to shuttle the rich to a space colony.
paul314
This reminds me of the late, unlamented Fedex Spacetran: when it absolutely, positively has to be there in 90 minutes. Even assuming the safety/reliability and discomfort issues are solvable, launches currently still cost $50M a pop. Is there really a sustainable market for people who want to pay $100K or more to get somewhere a little bit faster instead of just using Skype or Zoom?
jerryd
Because of lower fuel, time costs this could cost less than a 14 hr plane flight to do. And with bio or syn methane far lower GHG effects.
And get far more for it as a poor man's way to go to space.
Bob Stuart
Elon is counting on there being enough billionaires to buy his tickets that the Earth won't stand a chance of avoiding population crashes.
christopher
30 minute flight-time. 14 days quarantine. Perhaps Elon hasn't noticed there's a pandemic, or doesn't understand that evolution guarantees this is never going to end.
History Nut
Good for Musk to push the boundaries. Reading some of the comments, I am disappointed that one little pandemic has crushed so many peoples' spirits. Pandemics come and go as this one will. They are part of human history since day one. Every step and/or leap in transportation technology begins with levels only for the rich but that allows further refinement to bring it a level of access for everyone. Ships(the ocean going kind), planes, trains and automobiles all have followed this pattern. When the human race stops, out of fear, to push the boundaries of life then it is doomed. "Global Warming/Climate Change" will be dealt with not by cowering in our caves but by embracing the new and daring mighty things. To quote a famous visionary: "For the human race to survive, then but for a brief period of its history the term "ship" must refer to space ships". AD ASTRA
Nelson Hyde Chick
The planet is burning, and Elon wants to stroke the fires with technology that hasten the burn.