Elon Musk’s grand idea of transporting people from New York to Shanghai in under 40 minutes using a SpaceX rocket will be put into practice by the U.S. military to transport weapons. This week, the space exploration company signed a contract with the Pentagon to jointly develop a rocket that can deliver up to 80 tons of cargo and weaponry anywhere in the world in just one hour, Business Insider first reported.
The rocket will be able to fly at an ultrasonic speed of up to 7,500 miles per hour. That’s 15 times faster the most advanced military aircraft currently available, such as the U.S. C-17 Globemaster, which can reach a maximum speed of 590 mph and costs $218 million.
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“Think about moving the equivalent of a C-17 payload anywhere on the globe in less than an hour,” General Stephen Lyons, head of U.S. Transportation Command said at a virtual conference on Wednesday. “I can tell you SpaceX is moving very, very rapidly in this area. I’m really excited about the team that’s working with SpaceX.”
Under the agreement, SpaceX will assess the technological requirements and costs of building the rocket, with initial tests expected to begin as early as next year.
Musk first floated the idea of using space rockets for high-speed transportation on Earth three years ago. He proposed that SpaceX’s moon-landing and Mars-colonizing rocket, Starship, could replace commercial aircraft in long-haul international travel.
“Most of what people consider to be long-distance trips would be completed in less than half an hour,” he said at the International Astronautical Congress in Australia in September 2017.
According to Musk’s design, the Starship rocket can transport passengers from New York to Shanghai in 40 minutes, Los Angeles to Honolulu in 25 minutes and London to Dubai in exact 29 minutes.
But three years have gone by, and the Starship is still work in progress. SpaceX has flown several prototypes in low-altitude tests. Its latest prototype, the Starship SN8, is expected to take to the sky this month.