NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer mission, known to its chums as IBEX, was yesterday successfully projected heavenwards on its mission to "image and map dynamic interactions taking place in the outer solar system". Pegasus rocket being dropped from the L-1011 aircraft. Pic: NASA The spacecraft was carried aloft by a Pegasus …
Shuttleworth was right...
It really is an Intrepid IBEX. And there's the Linux link.
So if this thing can reach a high orbit after being dropped from a plane, what's the big deal about Space Ship One's delivery method? Seems less of a big deal now.
Yup, the Pegasus is the first commercial satellite launch vehicle!
President Bush awarded the team with a medal for developing it.
The FIRST President Bush. When he was President. Around 20 years ago.
The Pegasus is orbital too, while the SSO is sub-orbital only.
Now here's the difference.
SSO was the first privately funded, privately developed, manned, reusable space-craft.
A manned spacecraft is a lot bigger than the Pegasus' payload. The Pegasus can only launch small sats.
SSO _cannot_ attain orbit. It is suborbital.
The NASA X-15 is very similar in concept and predates SSO by many deacdes.
SSO has an excellent turnaround time and is cheap to build, own and operate.
All this means that the upcomming, biggie-sized SSTwo will be able to provide (relatively) cheap, commercial suborbital _joyrides_ to "space", featuring several minutes of weightlessness.
This is not technologically special; we started doing this in the 60s with Mercury which later achieve true orbit.
It also doesn't take you anywhere. It's a $200,000 flight that takes you back to where you started. It is strictly a joyride.
Having said all that, people are excited at the prospect of this business taking off and leading to something bigger, and the idea of opening up space to the public. Their goal is to make a profitable business and bring the price down so more people can do it.
Having said all that, the fact that it drops off a jet is not the most significant thing (though it's probably important to reliable operation in spite of weather.)
Dropping rockets off jets has been done for a LONG time. Even selling seats to the space station has been going on for a while if you have 20 to 30 mil.
Back to the Pegasus for a moment, the Pegasus originally started at about 6 million a flight. It was hailed as opening up sat launch to the masses. It basically came off exactly like the SpaceX Falcon 1.
Then reality hit and the price went up to 30 and now nobody even remembers.
Case in point.
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