Space Markets--Earth Transport

For military applications of Earth Transport, see the Military page.

Fast Package Delivery

CSTS, section section 3.5.3, page 165 says the following. The market for aircraft-based express delivery services continues to grow. In addition to the obvious (e.g. delivering an expensive part to a distant factory) this is also done for more mundane reasons (paying extra money for air freight to save on warehouse space, e.g. footwear and shirts are significant customers). Some possible markets for fast package delivery include precious stones and human organs (but the latter has sticky issues of ethics and disease; see CSTS, section, page 168-169). There are various regulatory issues (customs, liability, air traffic control, etc.). At a cost of $20,000/kg the CSTS (section, page 174) isn't sure whether there is any demand; at a cost of $2000/kg they predict about 100,000-300,000 kg of business per year; at a cost of $200/kg they predict roughly 2 to 20 million kg of business per year. This analysis does not consider competition from supersonic (Mach 2-3) aircraft like the Concorde. The service could be charter flights (currently 10% of aircraft-based express delivery) or scheduled service (based on the express delivery experience this seems to require a critical mass of routes served). High schedule reliability (on the order of 99.999% according to the CSTS, section, page 176) is required, and implies reliable vehicles, spare vehicles, ability to quickly move a payload to a spare vehicle, etc. Noise at airports and along flight paths a big issue. More information about noise.

Ultra High Speed Civil Transport

That is, taking passengers between points on earth. The main issues: (1) reliability, (2) noise, (3) competition from ordinary supersonic aircraft (Mach 2-4) keeping in mind the time spent getting to the airport, boarding, etc., (4) Acceleration. To improve travel times much, a faster transport would need higher accelerations than existing aircraft (about 0.5g or more for minutes at a time; data from CSTS, section 3.5.7, pages 230-235). For reference, roller coaster and simulator rides routinely go over 3 g's, and at times go from +3g's to -2g's in a matter of seconds (source: usenet post by Chuck Lauer). I haven't seen any serious attempt to figure out how acceleration would affect customer interest (for example, based on how many people might consider riding a roller coaster, or whatever might be relevant).
This page is part of Jim Kingdon's space markets page.