In this PR video, SpaceX shows travelers going from New York to Shanghai in just 39 minutes (not counting the ferry ride.)
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 costs an estimated $62 million per launch. The BFR is heavier (10,500 tons), has a larger diameter (39 ft.) and therefore would cost much more per launch. The BFR in the video would be in ‘reusability mode’ which has a predicted payload capacity of about 300 tons (600,000 pounds) which would allow about 2,600 passengers and their luggage on board at an average one-way ticket price of $23,800 if the Falcon 9 launch costs are used. SpaceX did not immediately return our request for estimated BFR launch costs.
While the video promotes an interesting intercontinental travel option, that is not the vehicle’s primary mission. The BFR, officially the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), was designed to take payloads up to 550 tons to Mars. 50 tons is considered a super-heavy payload by today’s standards as the current heavy-lift champ, the Delta IV Heavy, can only carry about 30 tons into low Earth orbit.
During the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) conference Thursday, Musk narrated a presentation showing the BFR, with its 31 raptor engines, in its intended mission role. Musk discusses the BFR’s capabilities in facilitating the building of a moon base and trips to Mars including the building of a permanent base there. The presentation is set for an engineering audience and does not have the “cool factor” of the previous spaceliner video.