Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, is obsessed with flying to Mars. We know this, because he’s said his company will start testing space travel as early as next year.
While Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s COO, is driving that mission, she’s also setting her sights a little closer to home. At TED 2018 in Vancouver, Shotwell announced that SpaceX will, in the next decade, launch rockets for international travel. A trip from London to Shanghai, for instance, would take as little as a half an hour, and cost somewhere around what a business-class trip the same distance would. “It’s space travel for earthlings,” she says.
SpaceX’s BFR, which Shotwell says stands for “Big … Falcon Rocket,” will be the vehicle to make these trips. The company began building the first prototypes of the rockets this March. And while they’re expensive to build, Shotwell argues that the sheer volume of trips the BFRs could make would generate enough revenue to balance the costs. “If we can run trips that last a half hour or an hour, we can run dozens of them a day,” she says. “A long-haul aircraft can only do one.”
The rockets will be able to hold around 100 people, and for doubters, Shotwell has these words: “It’s definitely going to happen.”