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Elon Musk may use his SpaceX rockets for a speedy Earth-based shipping service

You’d think he’d be busy enough working on his stunningly audacious plan to colonize Mars with a million people, but no, SpaceX boss Elon Musk also has an idea for a super-quick Earth-based shipping service using his company’s rocket technology.

The billionaire entrepreneur floated the idea during a presentation at the International Astronautical Congress in the Mexican city of Guadalajara on Tuesday.

“I was thinking, maybe there’s a market for really fast transportation of stuff around the world, provided we can land somewhere where noise isn’t a big deal,” he said, adding, just in case anyone hadn’t realized, “Rockets are very noisy.”

Musk explained that SpaceX rockets were powerful enough to transport freight to anywhere on Earth “in 45 minutes,” though said that most locations would be “within 25 minutes” of a U.S.-based launchpad.

Offering an example, he said that a rocket launching from a floating platform 30 miles off the coast of New York City could reach Tokyo 6,800 miles away in a mere 25 minutes. The quickest available flight today takes 14 hours. He added that a hop across the pond to Europe would take just 10 minutes – a tantalizing prospect if you’ve always found FedEx’s Express service to be a tad on the slow side.

Musk noted that the slowest part of the operation would be getting consignments to and from the rocket launch site, but the same goes for getting goods to and from airports today – that’s always going to be the slowest part of the process.

It’s certainly an intriguing proposition, and one that may give Amazon’s Jeff Bezos one or two ideas, after all, he’s always looking for ways to get packages to customers in super-quick time – and also happens to have a rocket company of his own.

Musk’s shipping idea seemed to simply pop into his head during his time on stage, so there’s no telling whether it’ll actually happen. It’s possible he just threw it out there to gauge interest.

But before either Mars missions or Earth-based delivery operations can become a reality, SpaceX needs to sort out the reliability of its rockets, an issue brought into sharp focus earlier this month when one of its Falcon 9 machines exploded on a launchpad in Cape Canaveral during a fueling operation. Once that’s sorted, who knows what SpaceX will achieve with its technology.