back to article Could 2023 be the year SpaceX's Starship finally reaches orbit?

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said over the weekend that, despite nearly two years since a successful launch, Starship will be flying again this March – with orbital ambitions. "If remaining tests go well, we will attempt a Starship launch next month," Musk said in a tweet, which is backed up by an FCC application SpaceX filed for a …

  1. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Boffin

    ozone holes - NOT from rockets (instead, volcanoes)

    Althouh there is some validity to rocket exhaust affecting ozone, the actual amount would be mininmal.

    * Ozone holes are fund near the poles where cosmic radiation is less effective at creating it from O2 high in the atmosphere

    * In general each ozone hole can be mostly attributed to volcanic activity in which the effluent gasses flow towards the hole

    * The chemicals alleged to cause these holes are MUCH heavier than air,.and although for a short period of time the rocket will pass through the ozone layer, the amount of these chemicals that could interact with the ozone layer will be relatively small (in other words only a fraction can affect the ozone layer)

    On a relate note...

    Until we launch nuclear engines that have NO air pollution, our cell phones, internet, television, and other worldwide communications are going to need *ROCKETS* to get them satellites into orbit, and those rockets are going to affect things... minimally.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ozone holes - NOT from rockets (instead, volcanoes)

      "Until we launch nuclear engines that have NO air pollution, our cell phones, internet, television, and other worldwide communications are going to need *ROCKETS* to get them satellites into orbit, and those rockets are going to affect things... minimally."

      Err, my cell phone doesn't use satellites, neither does my television, nor AFAIK my Internet. The only worldwide communications I do are international telephone calls and they don't use satellites either. Submarine cables, yes.

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: ozone holes - NOT from rockets (instead, volcanoes)

        "Err, my cell phone doesn't use satellites..."

        GPS?

        But I agree with your general point.

        Also, carbon footprint of 650 Australians is pretty small

        1. ian 22

          Present at the creation!

          A new El Reg metric for pollution, the Australian (Au). How many Au = American?

    2. LorenDB
      Trollface

      Re: ozone holes - NOT from rockets (instead, volcanoes)

      > Until we launch nuclear engines that have NO air pollution

      Except for extreme radiation and (in the case of Orion drives, which are the only type of nuclear engine that I'm aware of that actually could get itself from the ground to orbit) extreme nuclear blasts from the ground all the way to space. Sure, that's no air pollution. :D

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: ozone holes - NOT from rockets (instead, volcanoes)

        The Orion concept was developed much furher than one would expect upon first hearing its description.

        However, it was calculated that each launch would result in the premature deaths of ten civilians from radioactive fallout-related deaths. Or was it one hundred? I forget, but the book is an excellent read.

    3. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: ozone holes - NOT from rockets (instead, volcanoes)

      I think this is called a "straw man".

      But well done.

      -A.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: ozone holes - NOT from rockets (instead, volcanoes)

        But it has the forum footprint of 650 Australian straw men.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: ozone holes - NOT from rockets (instead, volcanoes)

          Wickermen*.

          https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/51NhmUdOWOL.jpg

          https://i.etsystatic.com/12141095/r/il/bccc9e/3753541594/il_570xN.3753541594_8xoj.jpg

          *Two-fer as I couldn't make my mind up which image to go for.

    4. that one in the corner Silver badge

      Re: ozone holes - NOT from rockets (instead, volcanoes)

      > nuclear engines that have NO air pollution

      Air-breathing to save lifting reaction mass? Taking in atmosphere, heating it up, spitting it out the backend as NOx...

      IIRC it was Arthur C. Clarke (in one of his non-fiction works) had a description of a nuclear-powered aircraft being used as a first-stage (shades of Virgin Galactic) which you would spot in the sky by its lovely red/brown trail.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: ozone holes - NOT from rockets (instead, volcanoes)

        The US started studies into nuclear powered aircraft in 1946. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear-powered_aircraft

        Some of Arthur C Clarke's non-fiction contribution do predate WW2, but he was also happy to use and champion concepts developed by other engineers and scientists.

  2. captain veg Silver badge

    I hadn't realised just how little these chancers have actually achieved so far

    SpaceX is supposed to be a success. And yet 'in early February, Musk said he was "highly confident" Starship would reach orbit last year'.

    You mean they haven't even done that yet?

    Wow.

    "The Karman line, commonly accepted to be the spot where Earth's atmosphere ends and space begins, is around 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, above sea level."

    So not even close.

    'Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and COO, said in 2019 that the company "definitely" wanted to land Starship on the Moon "before 2022,"'

    Successful orbit: about 42 thousand kilometres.

    Distance to the moon: about 400 thousand kilometres.

    SpaceX so far: "a little over six miles".

    -A.

    1. eldakka

      Re: I hadn't realised just how little these chancers have actually achieved so far

      Sure, if you ignore the 204 successful (206 total, 99% success rate) Falcon 9 missions, setting a record of most launches (48) in a calendar year (2022) using the same family (Falcon 9), the 149 successful returns of first stage boosters, 145 re-flights of used first stage boosters, the 5 successfull (100%) Falcon Heavy launches with all returning both the side boosters (3 times the center booster failed recovery - 2 crashed, 1 landed successfully on the drone ship but due to high seas was damaged on the voyage back in, and 2 were planeed expendable center boosters).

      1. eldakka
        Facepalm

        Re: I hadn't realised just how little these chancers have actually achieved so far

        Missed edit window. That should be 169 successful returns of fist stage boosters, not 149.

      2. Zolko Silver badge

        Re: I hadn't realised just how little these chancers have actually achieved so far

        204 successful (206 total, 99% success rate) Falcon 9 missions ...

        ... and 0 (zero) with the Raptor engine. Not even an attempt. Out of curiosity : why don't they try a Falcon with Raptor engines ? Or any small-ish rocket to test it first in real conditions. Going all-in with Starship on the first launch of a Raptor is suicidal.

        1. rg287 Silver badge

          Re: I hadn't realised just how little these chancers have actually achieved so far

          ... and 0 (zero) with the Raptor engine. Not even an attempt. Out of curiosity : why don't they try a Falcon with Raptor engines ? Or any small-ish rocket to test it first in real conditions. Going all-in with Starship on the first launch of a Raptor is suicidal.

          Because the plumbing for a Methalox engine is substantially different to a Keralox system. This isn't like sticking a bigger engine in a petrol car and you couldn't simply stick Raptor on a Falcon. By the time you'd bodged everything that needed bodging, you'd be sticking a raptor on a custom-built test article that - if you squint from a distance - looks a bit like a Falcon.

          So they stuck it on their grain silo instead. This had the advantage that the grain silo had legs on, and you could test it from a concrete pad - not a Falcon launch pad at KSC/CC/Vandenberg, which would then be damaged if it failed, potentially delaying customer launches (or having to build/repair a Falcon pad at Boca Chica just for testing).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I hadn't realised just how little these chancers have actually achieved so far

          "why don't they try a Falcon with Raptor engines"

          Because it would be stupid.

          They have a rocket, the Falcon 9 block 5 which has a perfect launch record and near perfect recovery record. It is their cash cow while they get their next gen launcher working and is churned out on a production line. The next gen launcher is stacked and waiting launch. This is the test article for the whole system, they have already part tested everything. If the test launch goes to plan, they move to the next stage of development. If it doesn't, they will have more data for the next stage of development.

          Why would they spend the time and money retrofitting a different engine to a custom built F9B5 to create a test article that has no bearing on the NG system.

        3. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

          Re: I hadn't realised just how little these chancers have actually achieved so far

          Out of curiosity : why don't they try a Falcon with Raptor engines

          Raptor uses a different fuel to Merlin, with different tankage and plumbing requirements, so they would need to design and build an entirely different version of Falcon as a test-bed. They're already designing and building rockets for Raptor 2.

          Falcon 9 has nine small Merlin 1D engines and lands on the thrust of a single engine. Even in that configuration, a single M1D at minimum throttle still produces more thrust than the mass of the returning first stage, so it has to perform a perfectly-timed "hoverslam" (aka "suicide burn") to do so, cutting off the engine near enough to the moment of touchdown for the landing legs to absorb the rocket's remaining kinetic energy. Even at minimum throttle, a Raptor 2 produces far more thrust than a M1D at full throttle, so this test-bed Falcon would also very likely be expendable, because the hoverslam manoeuvre would have a far narrower margin of error. They could do it, but it would be an entire test program of its own for no benefit to the project.

          And regardless of all of this, they already know that Raptor 2 works and what its operating limits are. Countless test firings, including many to destruction, have been performed at their ground test facilities.

          1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

            Re: I hadn't realised just how little these chancers have actually achieved so far

            Correction: currently the thrust of a Raptor 2 at minimum throttle is approximately equivalent to a Merlin 1D at full noise, i.e. not "far more than"!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I hadn't realised just how little these chancers have actually achieved so far

      A lot of the delay on Starship has been waiting on the paperwork from the FCC. It almost seems that NASA didn't want Starship to launch before they finally got the SLS off the ground.

      Compare the delays to Starship to the delays on SLS.

      Compare delays on Crew Dragon to delays on Starliner.

      Not to mention all the successful Falcon9/heavy launches and recovered boosters.

      To say that SpaceX isn't a success because their next generation launcher hasn't launched yet is frankly absurd.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I hadn't realised just how little these chancers have actually achieved so far

        Is the Boeing Starliner even a thing still? It's pretty clear there will be an announcement pretty soon either way.

        Given that Boeing are covering all the losses ($1 Billion to date), is it even viable now, there's only so much NASA money on the table per launch, so there comes a point where it will never see a profit, and far better to cut their losses.

      2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: Cause of delays

        There was a large amount of impatience with the FAA doing a thorough job of the PEA with limited resources. It was completed in June 2022 and there has been no credible legal challenge to the result. You can be certain that if any 't' was dotted or a single 'i' crossed Jeff would have litigated delays to the project until after New Glenn makes a profit. The first Starship orbital launch attempt was April 2023. The FAA did not slow the PEA and the PEA was not the pacing item. The longest delay was building and testing all the ground support equipment.

    3. rg287 Silver badge

      Re: I hadn't realised just how little these chancers have actually achieved so far

      SpaceX so far: "a little over six miles".

      Way to miss the point. It's hard to tell whether you're a troll or someone so unimaginative that you couldn't spend three seconds with google.

      Obviously they've run over their deadlines. That's because sociopath Musk always sets ridiculous timescales and always blows them. He did for F9, for Dragon, Crew Dragon and Falcon Heavy (all of which are now highly successful, reliable and mature systems).1

      The test launches of Starship to date have involved boosting the reusable orbiter module up a few km in order to simulate the re-entry procedure and tricky "belly flop" maneuvre. Like all second stages, the orbiter is incapable of going to orbit without a first stage booster, which has not been tested yet - because that's a much simpler straight-up-and-down affair, much like the first stage of Falcon 9. They - quite sensibly - validated the novel aspects of the architecture before they spent time and money on the first stage booster (which is technologically quite straightforward, other than the potential harmonics issues of lighting up that many rocket motors in such close proximity).

      Oh, and StarShip dev is funded through investment and internal profits - not government handouts (cough, ULA, ArianeSpace)

      1. SpaceX is also the only game in town right now because Ariane and ULA cannot sell you a launch any time soon. The final launches on Atlas V and Ariane 5 are all sold out. They'll happily sell you a spot on Vulcan or Ariane 6... but Vulcan hasn't flown yet, Ariane 6 doesn't exist and both have a backlog of bookings which means you can't go to space on them until 2025. By contrast, SpaceX will sell you half a dozen launches this year if you need them. Musk's a sociopath, but all credit to the engineers at SpaceX - they're doing the hardest stuff in space, better than anyone else, with a flexibility and ingenuity that is quite astonishing. Vulcan is a disposable rocket, ArianeSpace keep talking about Ariane 6 being reusable... but there's precious little work being done on making that happen. Their "next gen" rockets are really playing catchup with Falcon 9... which managed its first landing >7 years ago. Meanwhile SpaceX are way ahead on the next big thing. If Starship works, Ariane and ULA will be hopelessly outclassed on every metric. And this is a bad thing. I don't want to see a monopoly provider. But it's where the industry is at. SpaceX are an incredibly productive and successful organisation.

      1. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: Way to miss the point

        I try not to spend any time at all with Google. Because I have an imagination.

        Let me remind you that back in the 1960s, rather more than 50 years ago, two completely separate organisations sent manned rockets around the moon and back, using essentially 1940s technology. One of them actually set humans down on the lunar surface. And then brought them safely back again.

        You would think, wouldn't you, that a half a century on the state of play would have progressed somewhat. But no. We are now supposed to applaud the fact that some bored billionaires managed to achieve weightlessness for a few seconds. Reality check: weather balloons go up to 40km.

        Back in the 1940s some state players managed to get enough thermionic valves to work together for long enough to do some useful computation. Today your average thermostat has much more computing power. A smartphone many magnitudes more. Isn't private enterprise wonderful?

        Back in the 1940s some state players were able to put rockets over 50 miles above earth. Today we're supposed to be impressed with 6 miles up. Allow me to be infra-whelmed.

        -A.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Way to miss the point

          "Reality check: weather balloons go up to 40km"

          Reality check: A Falcon 9 can launch 5.5t to 40,000km and then land again.

          If you need to go further, it can put 4t into a Heliocentric orbit, but it won't be coming back after that.

          If you need to lift more payload, you can use Falcon Heavy.

        2. rg287 Silver badge

          Re: Way to miss the point

          Let me remind you that back in the 1960s, rather more than 50 years ago, two completely separate organisations sent manned rockets around the moon and back, using essentially 1940s technology. One of them actually set humans down on the lunar surface. And then brought them safely back again.

          They did indeed. As state-backed projects with effectively unlimited budgets.

          And then brought them safely back again.

          Yes, mostly. Aside from NASA killing the Apollo 1 Prime Crew and almost killing the Apollo 13 crew. The Soviets of course killed Vladimir Komarov, the Soyuz 11 crew and lots and lots of ground crew in the Nedelin and Plesetsk disasters of 1960 and 1980.

          You would think, wouldn't you, that a half a century on the state of play would have progressed somewhat. But no.

          Indeed. Write to your MP/Senator/Congressman/Party Official. Of course they probably don't concern themselves with trolls too much.

          We are now supposed to applaud the fact that some bored billionaires managed to achieve weightlessness for a few seconds.

          What does Blue Origin's sub-orbital fairground ride have to do with StarShip, Falcon or indeed any part of SpaceX?

          Reality check: weather balloons go up to 40km.

          And? Falcon 9 goes to 40,000km. As will StarShip when it exits the testing phase and they actually attempt an orbital launch.

    4. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: I hadn't realised just how little these chancers have actually achieved so far

      well, he didn't say he secured the funding, so you can't take that tweet at face value at all...

  3. TDog

    Gies a job

    'Nuff said.

  4. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Orbit

    How far is that orbit? 65 miles? That was exactly my morning commute a while back and press didn't write about me. Maybe because thousands of people are doing this every single day without a medal.

    So what's stopping them? Gravity? I get that Gravity is seen as cruel and unforgiving, constantly pulling everything back to the Earth's surface and keeping Space X from reaching their full potential.

    But maybe Gravity has a point, no? After all it protects us from the dangers of floating away into space.

    That's why I commute close to the Earth's surface, keeping Gravity happy and not falling off into the abyss.

    Space X is playing with the void.

    1. el_oscuro

      Re: Orbit

      There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to defying gravity. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.

    2. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

      Re: Orbit

      Orbit is less about altitude and more about speed. As Douglas Adams pointed out (and quoted by el_oscuro) you have to throw yourself so hard that you miss the ground.

      What's stopping them is that prudent engineers proceed in small steps.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Orbit

      If your 65 mile daily commute was straight up instead along the ground, the press might take more note of it. Let us know when that happens :-)

      Your later comment in the same post make you sound like a flat-earther.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Orbit

        Well the Flat Earth Society, does have members all around the globe.

    4. GBE

      Re: Orbit

      How far is that orbit? 65 miles?

      Orbit isn't up. Orbit is sideways (East is the easiest).

      Orbit isn't a distance, it's a speed.

      The easiest way to get to orbit is to start near the equator and head East at something like 30,000 km/h.

      Technically, you only have to get high enough to avoid hitting mountains. Hitting mountains tends to slow you down and ruin your spacecraft.

      Practically, you've got to get high enough to avoid hitting significant amounts of air. Hitting even moderate amounts of air at 30,000 km/h tends to slow you down and ruin your spacecraft.

    5. ian 22

      Re: Orbit

      I disagree, but I enjoyed your exposition. 'Ave an upvote.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    650 Aussies?

    How many kiwis? It is New Zealand scientists posting the research.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 650 Aussies?

      this is why they are speaking of their neighboors

  6. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Karman line is not orbital flight

    >The Karman line, commonly accepted to be the spot where Earth's atmosphere ends and space begins, is around 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, above sea level.

    Which is irrelevant to the rest of the article.

    SpaceX don't try for the Karman line, they go for orbit. Orders of difference in terms of the energy required. To reach orbit you not only need to be high enough, but also moving so fast tangentially that the curve of your fall matches the earth's radius.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Karman line is not orbital flight

      That and an orbit at the Kármán line isn't even stable because there's still significant atmospheric drag at that altitude.

  7. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Space, the misunderstood frontier.

    Most people use satellites every single day and don't even realise it. The route that your Internet data takes is not in your control and can just as often be via satellite as via submarine cables. Television uses satellites a lot for sending their programming to your local UHF broadcast tower, and many of us have satellite TV receivers. International phone calls can be routed via Low Earth Orbit satellites with low latency, low enough that you would never know the difference between that and a call via cable.

    Now I'm no fan of Musktwat, but concerning SpaceX's Starship they are doing pretty well considering what they are trying to achieve. They are way ahead of their competition. The pollution caused by Methane rockets vs RP-1 (petroleum) rockets will be about the same given the nature of both fuels (mostly carbon & hydrogen), once they manage to get it into space.

    As for nuclear rockets, they could be ideal for space only travel but we REALLY do not want to be launching large quantities of radioactive material through our atmosphere as one little mistake and you have the worlds largest dirty bomb spreading radioactive material far and wide. We have already launched many small nuclear power plants (mostly RTGs) into space on various missions starting back in 1965 and most recently in Curiosity, Cassini & Galileo but to power a nuclear drive you need a BIG power plant. Those drives will become viable once we master Fusion, but probably not before then.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Space, the misunderstood frontier.

      I would imagine, with the lifting capacity of most larger rockets, especially Starship, and the location of the payload, it should be relatively simply to launch nuclear fuel in a way that the properly designed container is extremely unlikely to be compromised in a launch vehicle explosion or the impact on crashing into the sea.

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Space, the misunderstood frontier.

      The pollution caused by Methane rockets vs RP-1 (petroleum) rockets will be about the same given the nature of both fuels

      All other things being equal, methane will be less polluting because it contains a lower molar mass of carbon and produces a greater specific impulse.

  8. John Robson Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Ah yes - all the chlorine

    and aluminium products in the exhaust of a methalox engine made of copper and inconel.

    Let's be clear what products are from SRBs and what is from liquid fueled engines, and what is common to both.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Ah yes - all the chlorine

      It's special pleading in exchange for funding-

      because they use a newer form of rocket fuel that mixes methane and liquid oxygen, instead of refined petroleum rocket fuel and liquid oxygen. Because the methane-LOX fuel design is relatively new, its emissions "are poorly understood and not experimentally quantified."

      Ah, climate scientists. They don't understand chemistry. CH4+2O2 --> CO2+2H2O. There ya go. Funding secured? No idea where they get the other elements from, unless there are fuel additives nobody mentioned. The amount of CO2 emitted is 2/10ths of feck all compared to natural CO2 fluxes, and 'research' into this will do 2/10ths of feck all to quantify the huge uncertainty numbers around those fluxes, which are in the gigatonne range. Plus-

      That's the yearly carbon footprint of 650 Australian citizens, Cosmos pointed out

      Why are Kiwis blaming the Aussies for this? I could point out that 650 citizens are far fewer than the number of citizens who jetted across the world to attend the COP and WEF jollies every year. Plus rocket launches do useful, productive things, like launch satellites and instruments into orbits so we can quantify stuff like CO2, eg orbital carbon observatories or other remote sensing systems.

      But it's all just classic projection-

      ...the quintessential "charismatic technology," by which she means "the promise of what the technology can enable drives deep emotional investment – extending far beyond what the technology also affects."

      Or can deliver. Basically 97% of climate 'science' in a nutshell. Many people, including those who otherwise should be rational scientists certainly have developed a deep emotional investment in the climate 'crisis', leading to billions being wasted on 'renewable' technology and the consequential energy crisis.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Ah yes - all the chlorine

        That's the direct emissions - it's the reactions around the plume during ascent which aren't (yet) well characterised - though I can't imagine why they wouldn't be easily simulated/calculated/tested.

        Rockets are a trivial drop in the damage we are doing to the climate - but that's alot of damage and it's not unreasonable to look at what affect they have.

        Ignoring different chemistries is distinctly unhelpful though.

  9. jollyboyspecial

    Starship?

    I realise Mush is well known for his hyperbole.

    Self driving Teslas that are no such thing are a good example. But STARship FFS? I think anybody reasonable would assume that a starship was something that could cover the distance between stars. Obviously that's not happening so why call it Starship? Was Mush smoking something particularly fine on the day they named it?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Starship?

      Boing STARliner[*]? Virgin Galactic[**]? They're all it, driving by marketing departments and the coloured pencil brigade.

      * It's a souped up Apollo capsule, no more, no less, barely passed the stage of the Wright Flyer, not an air or ocean liner by any stretch of the imagination.

      ** Give me a break! They don't even go to orbit!! (VG is the space tourism bit, not to be confused with Virgin Orbit which can actually, you know, get to orbit. Sometimes)

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Starship?

      Starship used to be called the ITS - Interplanetary Transport System - and then as BFR - Big F'ing Rocket. Both of which are fairly accurate.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Starship?

        And very early on Big Falcon Rocket (not that anyone used the Falcon designation)...

  10. Christoph
    Flame

    Burning Methane

    I knew Musk tends to be very school-boyish, but if Starship burns methane with oxygen that means that he's getting to orbit by lighting farts.

  11. that one in the corner Silver badge

    Gwynne Shotwell

    Appears to be the one making SpaceX a success, reining in silly ideas from from whats-his-name. But she is still the person who talked openly about using Starship as a vehicle for terrestrial commuters - has she recanted on that?

    1. rg287 Silver badge

      Re: Gwynne Shotwell

      Appears to be the one making SpaceX a success, reining in silly ideas from from whats-his-name.

      Best hire he ever made, alongside Tom Mueller (CTO and largely responsible for the Merlin engine programme, which is the hard part - the rocket is mostly just plumbing. Engines are difficult).

      But she is still the person who talked openly about using Starship as a vehicle for terrestrial commuters - has she recanted on that?

      Did they ever talk about commuting as such? Starship has been touted for long-distance travel - Europe to Australia in an hour. Which could indeed mean inter-continental commuting.

      There's no engineering reason why that can't be done, nor reason to recant. The political/regulatory hurdles are likely to be the sticking point (noise near populated areas, passenger safety, etc).

      1. Roj Blake Silver badge

        Re: Europe to Australia in an hour.

        An hour, plus the time to get to the spaceport, plus the time to get through security, plus the time to get through passport control and then to where you need to be at the other end.

        So a lot more than an hour.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Gwynne Shotwell

        Well, and the unpleasantness of ballistic travel. Not everyone wants a seat on the vomit comet with a bunch of strangers.

        I think I'd rather spend 22 hours on a conventional flight from, say, London to Sydney (not that I'm in either place, but Europe-Australia was your example) than do it with an hour-long carnival ride and lose my lunch in the process. But tastes vary.

        1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Gwynne Shotwell

          Bananas for lunch then

          According to a RAF Tornado pilot they taste the same going down as they do coming up.....

          Oh and spacex have done the full wet dress rehersal (filling the full stack with fuel, pressurising the tanks and then aborting the launch) with star ship.... next next is lighting 33 raptors , and then ramping them upto full power for 3 seconds(I've seen the vids of the 14 raptor test fire.... and its LOUD! ) and shutting them off..... then put the full stack together and wheeeeeeeee... my money is on a RUD on re-entry.....

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            IT Angle

            Re: Gwynne Shotwell

            Is that you Werewoof?

          2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

            Re: Gwynne Shotwell

            When they finally light that candle for real I think we're going be able to hear it from Eastern Australia

          3. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: Gwynne Shotwell

            "my money is on a RUD on re-entry....."

            So long as any RUD is far enough away from the ground that stage zero isn't damaged by a RUD (it will likely need some work after the launch anyway) then we can all be happy.

            They'll get useful data - I'm at this point assuming that their telemetry will be good up to failure as well.

        2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

          Re: Gwynne Shotwell

          I'd love to travel this way, but then I enjoy turbulence and rough landings in airliners because it breaks up the monotony, so I'm perhaps not the best judge of these things.

          1. Down not across

            Re: Gwynne Shotwell

            Reminds me of Suckling Airways' AMS-CBG flights with their Dorniers. More often than not the landing on CBG was sideways due to crosswind.

      3. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Gwynne Shotwell

        There are some feasibility limits. Finding places to operate the rockets without annoying everyone would pose some challenges. Likely they would have to operate them from rural locations far from where their travelers want to start, and having to drive for an hour to get to the launch facility and another hour from the landing facility to your destination would make it pretty bad at routine commuting. At this point, it'd just be a faster trip. Getting people to pay a significantly higher bill for a faster trip has been tried before, and it didn't prove profitable. That faster trip wasn't as unpleasant as this would be, either.

        I wouldn't take the suggestion seriously and I think they're aware that it's potentially possible in the same way that building an orbital station for tourists is possible. We could reproduce the ISS's facilities and launch people to it, but few people would be able to afford the stay, few of those would be willing to pay even though they could, and if someone went, they wouldn't enjoy the experience as a vacation. I'm sure you could get a few rich people to voluntarily sign up for it, but not enough of them to justify building the station. Possible, but not a great business idea. This might change eventually if we improve the technology for keeping people alive and healthy in orbit, but not in the next couple years.

  12. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    launch window between March and September

    That sounds like a very long launch window for a hoped for March launch. I don't seen anything obvious in the linked application that might cover multiple launch tests. I'm guessing the engineers are less confident in the timeline than the marketing and publicity people.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: launch window between March and September

      I think you're reading too much into an artifact of the bureaucracy.

    2. grndkntrl

      Re: launch window between March and September

      Note that the FCC (Federal COMMUNICATIONS Commission) licence linked to in the article is a rolling renewal of one that SpaceX have applied for every six months, for the last couple of years, and is just for the RF communications coverage used for a launch.

      This has nothing to do with an actual launch licence from the FAA (Federal AVIATION Authority) which will likely only be applied for & then issued a few weeks before SpaceX is actually ready to perform an orbital launch attempt.

      This confusion resurfaces every time the rolling renewal of the FCC RF Comms licence comes around.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: launch window between March and September

        Ah, thanks for the clarification :-)

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