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CO2-neutral around the world: Musk wants a network of launch platforms in the sea for earth flights

With the Starship in 29 minutes from London to New York, in around 50 minutes from Europe to Australia. Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk announced such super-fast terrestrial flight routes for the Mars spaceship back in 2017. After that, things got quieter around the suborbital point-to-point connections. But in July 2020 it became known that SpaceX had acquired two decommissioned oil platforms for a bargain price. In January the two platforms, named “Phobos” and Deimos “after the two Mars moons, anchored in Texas ports and are now being converted into floating take-off and landing platforms. And at the end of February Elon Musk wrote on Twitter that he wanted to anchor floating platforms for Starship all over the world. Such an offshore platform could be used for the first time at the end of this year.

Around the earth at up to 25,000 km / h

Most such spaceports would likely be a few tens of kilometers from the coast or from the ports of large cities. Passengers would be brought to the platform with speedboats, as a SpaceX film already showed. The Starship itself would fly from central SpaceX centers to these platforms, pick up passengers there and take them halfway around the world in record time. 20 times the supersonic speed, around 25,000 km / h, could be achieved in flight.

As with later Mars missions, the fuel methane is to be synthesized for earthly Starship flights. In the long term, this should also happen directly on the Starship platforms, announced Musk on Twitter: In a Sabatier reaction, supported by energy from wind and sun, CO2 and water will be converted to methane and oxygen. This means that the super-fast flights could even be considered climate-neutral.

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Manned flights of this kind for several hundred passengers are still at least a few years away. Starship has not yet landed successfully on larger test flights, as the crash landings of the SN8 and SN9 prototypes show in recent months. The next test of an improved SN10 is expected in the next few days. If Starship works smoothly, the combination with the super heavy booster for the first test flights to the moon and Mars will certainly be SpaceX’s priority. For point-to-point flights on Earth, Starship would not need the booster, but some additional Raptor engines. Freight transportation could be the first application for terrestrial flights as long as reliability for passengers is not nearly guaranteed.

New concepts for hypersonic flights

From a business point of view, there are considerable challenges behind such hypersonic flights, especially after Covid and the changeover of many business travelers to virtual conferences. The only ever really operationally successful supersonic Concorde ultimately failed due to extremely high fuel and maintenance costs and a crash in 2000 that was fatal for all passengers. Of course, its technology was based on the state of the sixties. NASA wants to test the Lockheed Martin X-59 with Mach 1.5 as a test aircraft for future quiet supersonic aircraft from 2022. Other companies, such as the US start-up Boom Supersonic, are also working on possible new supersonic aircraft.

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