SpaceX CEO Elon Musk entranced viewers of his speech at the International Astronautical Conference with updated plants to put cargo ships on Mars. But one of the biggest parts of his talk came at the end of his speech. Musk promised the public that he would use the same revolutionary technology to get people to Mars in order to do long-distance travel on Earth.
The BFR rocket would be capable of taking people from city to city anywhere on the globe in under one hour.
"Most of what people consider to be long-distance trips could be completed in less than half-an-hour," Musk told the IAC Adelaide audience and viewers watching around the globe via livestream.
Musk said the cost of such travel would be roughly the same price as an economy airline ticket. The company's new BFR mega rocket would do the heavy lifting. The ships launch from and land on floating landing pads near major cities throughout the world. However, the BFR is theoretical as is the spaceship. Musk said in his speech that he wants to get started building within the next year.
The video shows passengers loading into the BFR similar to how Musk previously showcased people loading up in the rocket to go to Mars. However, the rocket doesn't head outward to space. Rather, it heads from New York City to Shanghai, promising only a 39 minute flight time to cover the 7,000 mile (11,265 km) distance. The ship re-enters the atmosphere and lands on a similar floating pad. SpaceX fans will see the continuity between the proposed BFR landing and current Falcon 9 landings at sea. Musk included routes like Hong Kong to Singapore (1,609 mi / 2,589 km) in 22 minutes, London to Dubai (4,450 miles / 7,163 km) in just 29 minutes, and Los Angeles to Toronto (2,519 miles / 4,055 km) in just 24 minutes.
To reach those times, the ship will travel at a max speed of 18,000 miles per hour. For reference, the Concorde's top speed is 1,354 miles per hour.
The city-to-city travel was the last thing Musk tacked on to his speech, so details were slim. We can only hope that he uses next year's IAC to answer questions the same way he used this year's presentation.
About the BFR
When introducing the BFR, Musk talked through the history of SpaceX's current rocket offerings. He scaled up from the Falcon 1 to Falcon 9 to Dragon programs, comparing the size of each as well as its reusability.
However, when he described the BFR, he said he would like this particular behemoth to make the other rockets "redundant." SpaceX -- as implied throughout Musk's speech -- will be focusing its key resources on developing the BFRs.
"Some of our customers are conservative and they want to see the BFR fly several times before they're comfortable launching [on it]," Musk said. "So what we plan to do is to build ahead and have a stock of Falcon 9 and Dragon vehicles, so that customers can be comfortable if they want to use the old rocket, the old spacecraft - they can do that because we'll have a bunch in stock.
"But all of our resources will then turn to building BFR."
What does the acronym BFR mean? "Big F---ing Rocket," which remains an apt description for the rocket itself. (We were hoping for a children's literature reference with "Big Friendly Rocket," but its current name works.)