Science » Technologies and discoveries
Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Elon Musk wants to repeat the mistake that caused the USSR to collapse

Fly a rocket to reach nearly any part of the world in less than one hour for a price of a conventional economic airplane ticket  - this is a new concept that Elon Musk, the head of SpaceX, proposed at the International Congress on Astronautics in Australia.

The world-famous entrepreneur hopes to use all achievements of his company to create a new rocket, tentatively named BFR. In addition, Musk hopes to use the new rocket to replace the current  Falcon 9 and Dragon vehicles. The new rocket is also said to fly to Mars and to the Moon within the scope of colonisation programs that Musk advocates.

Pravda.Ru requested an expert opinion to find out whether it can be possible to fly around the world in less than one hour at a price affordable to all. We asked this question to Natan Eismant, a leading researcher at the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

"This does not look real, although it can be technically possible - we already have such rockets, but they are ballistic rockets. People cannot fly a ballistic rocket now as one would have to ensure many flight safety issues, and this does not look real at all. The price is the most important aspect here, but the price that Musk is talking about right now is unreal either. One launch of Soyuz booster rocket costs about $50 million. Plus, one needs a technology to return back to earth, and this is a very big problem. The Soyuz is originally a ballistic rocket, which took the first-ever artificial satellite into space 70 years ago. The price to launch the rocket today is 50-70 million dollars, and no other price can be real today, this is just a dream."

"But this is what space exploration started with - it started with a dream."

"Indeed, many dreams have come true since the beginning of the era of space exploration, but the price that we had to pay for those dreams was enormous. I would say that the price was the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Soviet economy was overstrained, and the country fell apart, partly because of the space race. Of course, the Americans have more economic opportunities, but the price of their space rocket launch is pretty much the same, and there is no way it can be reduced, not today."

"Elon Musk says that his rockets do not require an airport - a floating platform is enough. Can it be possible?"

"A platform on the water surface can be possible. Moreover, I can tell you that it was the Soviet Union that invented such a platform and used it for a while. The problem was about the territory: the USSR was huge, but there was no site near the equator, from where one could launch a rocket into stationary orbit. The Americans have such a site in Florida, and the Europeans have one too - the Kourou spaceport. The USSR did not have a suitable site, and it was suggested launching rockets from a ship. The system was eventually developed, and the USSR conducted 36 sea-based launches of Zenit rocket."

Interviewed by Lada Korotun

Read article on the Russian version of Pravda.Ru