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posted by martyb on Friday April 13 2018, @08:31AM   Printer-friendly
from the sky-high-valuation dept.

SpaceX has raised $507 million, bringing the company's valuation to about $25 billion. That makes SpaceX the third most valuable venture-backed startup behind Uber and Airbnb, and also raises Elon Musk's worth by $1.4 billion to about $21.3 billion. SpaceX will launch NASA's TESS spacecraft on Monday, and plans to launch Bangabandhu-1 on May 5 using the Block 5 version of Falcon 9.

While SpaceX is planning to launch a record 30 missions in 2018, and possibly 50 missions in upcoming years, SpaceX expects the bulk of its future revenue to come from its upcoming Starlink satellite internet service. Internal documents show an estimate of $30 billion in revenue from Starlink and $5 billion from launches by 2025.

SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell has said that the company's BFR could be used for 100-person city-to-city flights within a decade:

A lot can (and probably will) change in a decade. But the idea is that a very large rocket, capable of carrying about 100 people, could fly like an aircraft and do point-to-point travel on Earth much faster than a plane — halfway across the globe in about 30 to 40 minutes, Shotwell said, landing on a pad five to 10 kilometers outside of a city center. Shotwell estimated the ticket cost would be somewhere between economy and business class on a plane — so, likely in the thousands of dollars for transoceanic travel. "But you do it in an hour."

"I'm personally invested in this one," she said, "because I travel a lot, and I do not love to travel. And I would love to get to see my customers in Riyadh, leave in the morning and be back in time to make dinner."

How could travel by rocket cost so little? Shotwell said the efficiency would come from being fast enough to be able to operate a route a dozen or so times a day, whereas a long-haul airplane often only does one flight per day.

She also said that the company could enable a manned mission to Mars within a decade. Boeing's CEO is also "hopeful" that humans will set foot on Mars within a decade.

Finally, Elon Musk has showed off an image of the main body tool/manufacturing mold for the BFR. BFR has a height of 106 meters and diameter of 9 meters, compared to a height of 70 meters and diameter of 3.7 meters for Falcon 9.


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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Friday April 13 2018, @09:18AM (16 children)

    by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Friday April 13 2018, @09:18AM (#666371) Journal

    So I'm curious... how much fuel does one of a hundred passengers in a BFR use for a transoceanic flight, compared to the same flight in economy class in a conventional large passenger jet? My gut says the rocket will burn a lot more fuel, but there might be more to it than simply comparing the quantities.

    Whereabouts in the atmosphere does the exhaust from the rocket end up? I guess it would be mostly at ground level. I know jet travel is disproportionately bad for the environment because it tends to drop its emissions right up in the atmosphere where it does the most damage. What kind of emissions can we expect at and around the launch site? Would it be bad for human health?

    What about noise pollution? Would a hundred-metre firework taking off 5-10km from the city every hour be a nuisance? From how far away can a launch be heard?

    Also: Even if this could theoretically be as cheap as a business class ticket, expect it to cost a hell of a lot more nonetheless. Prices are not set according to how much a service costs to operate, but according to what the market will bear. We know what people are willing to pay for long haul flights, and you can bet plenty of people would be wiling to pay a lot more to complete the trip in an hour. For businesses it would easily be worth paying extra for their important salespeople and executives to spend more time in meetings and less time in flight.

    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Friday April 13 2018, @09:36AM (7 children)

      by c0lo (156) on Friday April 13 2018, @09:36AM (#666376) Journal

      Prices are not set according to how much a service costs to operate, but according to what the market will bear

      As a landing on Mars is a one-way trip for a human, I wouldn't bet on a high demand for such a trip, unless enough support to establish a colony is available (in advance, if possible)

      Orbit around Mars and back is gonna have some demand.

      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 3, Informative) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Friday April 13 2018, @10:12AM (6 children)

        by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Friday April 13 2018, @10:12AM (#666385) Journal

        What? I wan't talking talking about landing on Mars. From TFS:

        the company's BFR could be used for 100-person city-to-city flights within a decade ... the ticket cost would be somewhere between economy and business class on a plane ... for transoceanic travel. But you do it in an hour.

        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Friday April 13 2018, @10:17AM

          by c0lo (156) on Friday April 13 2018, @10:17AM (#666387) Journal

          Ah, I see. Sorry.

          --
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 13 2018, @11:48AM (4 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 13 2018, @11:48AM (#666419)

          As we have often been instructed, once there are competitors and contracts in place, why then the price will magically come down!

          • (Score: 2, Insightful) by khallow on Friday April 13 2018, @12:58PM (3 children)

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday April 13 2018, @12:58PM (#666439) Journal
            But I sense you don't believe that actually happens despite being immersed in a world where it happens all over the place.
            • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Immerman on Friday April 13 2018, @02:49PM (2 children)

              by Immerman (3985) on Friday April 13 2018, @02:49PM (#666480)

              Especially when there's a limited number of providers. Just look at how prices for internet access and generic medicines have been plummeting lately...

              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 13 2018, @03:36PM (1 child)

                by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 13 2018, @03:36PM (#666499)

                In terms of real wealth, outside of the currency manipulation games, prices have been plummeting for all kinds of good and services. Things have never been so cheap in all of human history. We are overflowing with wealth and living in a luxury that kings could only dream of. And it should be good. But it's not. Why?

                Wages are also plummeting. (There is some sophistry to be had about wages being another price. But let's cut to the quick: when the working class is disorganized, it has no capability to exert control over that price, and it ends up eating its own seed corn and starving next year instead of starving this year.)

                Thus, if you're in the working class, despite the fact that khallow is objectively correct, you will doubt what he says. From your point of view, he's completely out of touch and perhaps even taking out of his ass.

                So, I think it's fairly obvious what we need to do. We need wages to go up. The only way for that to happen is for the working class to organize. We don't need the full-on revolution the Trotskyists are ever hoping for. The working class simply needs to become conscious of how badly it's getting screwed, and it needs to find the power at the negotiating table it's always had in numbers.

                Capitalism works best with a healthy middle class. If hard work can reliably take somebody from rags, perhaps not to riches, but to a stable, middle-class life, capitalism is the best way we know to organize human industry and the advancement of the arts. (Somebody will say that this still happens today. Sure, luck can fill in some gaps, but luck is not enough.) Without a middle class, capitalism is indistinguishable from dictatorship.

                • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday April 14 2018, @12:13AM

                  by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday April 14 2018, @12:13AM (#666674) Journal

                  Wages are also plummeting.

                  Not really. In the US for example, they've outpaced inflation. And with benefits, like company-provided health insurance, they're increasing well above the rate of inflation.

                  Thus, if you're in the working class, despite the fact that khallow is objectively correct, you will doubt what he says. From your point of view, he's completely out of touch and perhaps even taking out of his ass.

                  In the developed world. Even then most countries are continuing to improve. Once you get outside of the developed world, you see massive increases in various measures such as standard of living, wages, etc.

                  Capitalism works best with a healthy middle class. If hard work can reliably take somebody from rags, perhaps not to riches, but to a stable, middle-class life, capitalism is the best way we know to organize human industry and the advancement of the arts. (Somebody will say that this still happens today. Sure, luck can fill in some gaps, but luck is not enough.) Without a middle class, capitalism is indistinguishable from dictatorship.

                  And you get that with healthy employers and healthy labor competition. No country or region really does enough for their employers, but what is done is still good enough for massive middle class creation outside of the developed world with modest shrinking (much of which actually goes in the wealthier direction) of the middle class in the developed world.

    • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Friday April 13 2018, @02:47PM (4 children)

      by Freeman (732) on Friday April 13 2018, @02:47PM (#666478) Journal

      Concord had really fast flights between the US / Europe and they still went out of business. Not sure how lucrative that market segment could be. Unless their operating costs are significantly less than Concord's was.

      --
      Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Friday April 13 2018, @02:52PM (2 children)

        by Immerman (3985) on Friday April 13 2018, @02:52PM (#666482)

        As I recall Concords had a big problem getting regulatory permission to fly more than a small handful of routes - frequent sonic booms tend to create a lot of NIMBY activity.

        Of course, I rather doubt that a BFR launch would generate significantly less objection - even an F9 launch is LOUD.

        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Friday April 13 2018, @03:12PM (1 child)

          by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Friday April 13 2018, @03:12PM (#666490) Journal

          BFR would take off and land vertically from its offshore starting and ending points, and fly higher (suborbital) than Concorde. This could alleviate noise issues.

          These two scraps of info need to be verified and are based off what I remember:

          1. BFR for terrestrial flight could use less thrust at takeoff, so that passengers experience less acceleration and there would be less noise.

          2. You only need to use the "BFS" (Big Falcon Spaceship), aka the upper stage of the full BFR rocket system, for these flights. BFS alone has 12.7 MN of thrust, compared to about 22.8 MN for the Falcon Heavy's [wikipedia.org] first stage + 2 boosters, and ~7.6-8 MN for the Falcon 9 [wikipedia.org] first stage (will increase a few percent for Block 5). BFS would actually be able to get payloads into orbit without its huge accompanying booster.

          So if only the BFS is used, and it is throttled down to an extent, then it might not be so bad, especially given that it would be several kilometers offshore. That might be one of the more challenging aspects of the project: sure you have a fast 20-40 minute travel time for just about any two cities, but you have to travel offshore and back onshore using a boat, train... or Hyperloop. Throw in the usual TSA nonsense and your amazing 30 minute trip could be looking like a 3 hour trip instead. If it can compete with international flights on price, which seems optimistic, maybe it will be worth it.

          If BFR doesn't make the cut for international flights, there is still hope for improvement with NASA's quiet supersonic X-plane design [soylentnews.org].

          --
          [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
          • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Saturday April 14 2018, @04:37PM

            by Immerman (3985) on Saturday April 14 2018, @04:37PM (#666962)

            1) Possibly, but reduced thrust equals reduced efficiency as you depart from the optimal flight path, and thus reduced payload. And humans actually make for a fairly dense payload. And even a throttled back launch would likely be louder than a current F9 launch, which is horrendously loud, even from miles away. Offshore launch pads certainly help with that, but limits you to cities along the coast (admittedly that probably covers a majority of the most desirable endpoints)

            2) All the SpaceX videos I've seen show the suborbital flights still using the booster, so I question your assertion that it wouldn't be needed. Also, the last claims I saw of the BFR Spaceship making it to orbit on it's own were from last... July I think, when they were still discussing the original design - the scaled-down version wasn't announced until around November. Even if the claims still hold, you'd be talking a drastically reduced payload. After all it's not just the thrust that matters, there's also all the extra mass of the larger ship in the face of the tyranny of the rocket equation.

      • (Score: 2) by NewNic on Friday April 13 2018, @09:44PM

        by NewNic (6420) on Friday April 13 2018, @09:44PM (#666637) Journal

        The route they built Concorde for was London to LA. They never got permission for supersonic flight over the USA.

        --
        lib·er·tar·i·an·ism ˌlibərˈterēənizəm/ noun: Magical thinking that useful idiots mistake for serious political theory
    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Friday April 13 2018, @03:25PM

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Friday April 13 2018, @03:25PM (#666495) Journal
      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Friday April 13 2018, @06:03PM (1 child)

      by bob_super (1357) on Friday April 13 2018, @06:03PM (#666553)

      Slightly bigger effect than planes:
      http://fortune.com/2018/03/26/elon-musk-spacex-falcon-9-ionosphere-hole/ [fortune.com]

      And .. the whole thing is BS. The math doesn't work for a launch of 100 people at business class prices. (a few k$ each). Even at first-class prices ($10k to $20k).
      The consumables and the logistics, plus amortizing the price of the rocket, the range, the safety ... Doesn't work.
      It's a PR dream stunt.

      As others have pointed out, going from a city to a safe launch area, and back after landing, will negate the time benefits, leaving only thrill seekers who want to one-up Virgin Galactic, and can afford a good 6 figures.

      • (Score: 2, Disagree) by Immerman on Saturday April 14 2018, @05:00PM

        by Immerman (3985) on Saturday April 14 2018, @05:00PM (#666970)

        The BFR is being designed to be fly 100s, eventually many thousands of flights, with only occasional maintenance, amortizing to very little per flight.
        - Fuel is something like $1-200,000 to get a full payload to orbit, so probably only a fraction of that for suborbital (so well under $1000/seat)
        - Even today logistics is only a small fraction of launch costs - and as they become more routine that will fall considerably - there's unlikely to be a need for even as much ground support as your average airline flight.
        - Safety is unlikely to be an issue by the time consumer passenger lines are seriously considered. Besides which the BFR is designed with far more redundancy than the F9 - the BFS will be capable of landing with only one atmospheric engine working, and quite possibly limping in on only the vacuum engines in the unlikely event that both atmospheric engines malfunction.
        - I don't know what your issue with range might be - once you go suborbital pretty much the entire planet is in range, so???

        I'm dubious that they'll be able to reach economy flight prices any time soon, but could easily see them being competitive with first class tickets, especially on flights halfway around the world, where an airplane would generally have to land, refuel, and pay other airport service fees at least once. And even at twice that price there's probably plenty of customers to whom it's still pocket change who would be quite happy to pay the premium for the convenience and novelty. Doesn't even need to be as safe as a typical airliner really, just so long as it's as safe as driving to the launch site.

  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 13 2018, @06:42PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 13 2018, @06:42PM (#666583)

    SpaceX is planning to launch a record 30 missions in 2018

    Most of those being multi-billion-dollar spy satellites spying on the innocent and helpless in order to enslave them more, all under khazar jewish directions. And still more satellites to control and harm them with radiations.

    No wonder mil industry makes so much money, while people starve in a world of plenty.

    Eliminating poverty has the inconvenient side-effect of making people free. Therefore the system under khazar jewish direction makes them poorer. This is not fair. Filthy Khazars and their phallus-worshiping religion.

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