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back to article Branson 'spaceship' successfully falls off mothership

Virgin Galactic, the nascent suborbital joyride company backed by bearded biz-lord Richard Branson, has announced a further milestone on its road to dominance in the exoatmospheric-excursion market. In a test yesterday, one of the firm's passenger rocketplanes was successfully dropped from a jet "mothership" at 45,000 feet to …

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WTF?

45000 feet...

... and the landing gear is still down?

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Re : 45000 feet

Obviously going to refuel at Cloudbase, (an airborne headquarters hovering at a height of 40,000 feet from Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons)

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Black Helicopters

Re: 45000 feet...

Landing gear? You saw nothing!

*clatter clatter clatter clatter*

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It is a space ship..

>>>It's stretching reality to call this a "commercial spaceship"

No, not really. Just because it doesn't reach orbit doesn't mean its not a spaceship. It exceeds 100km altitude, so therefor makes it in to space, and it does it (will do it) with paying passengers.

Seems that commercial spaceship is entirely appropriate.

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Unhappy

Ignore Him

Just ignore him - he's bitter that Branson did it before PARIS got a chance. No-one remembers the second man on the moon, after all.

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Headmaster

OK pedant...

It's a commercial spaceship becuase it can go into space...then what? Fall back out out of it again?? So yes, if you insist, it's a commercial spaceship, just a bloody pointless one at the moment.

Call me when it can dock with the ISS or perform an otherwise useful task

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"No-one remembers the second man on the moon"

Actually, with a name like "Buzz" you're fairly likely to remember the second man. Now the name of the third......

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Happy

an otherwise useful task

Hmm, how about relieving a lot of £/$/€ from those with more of that than sense? That sounds pretty useful to me.

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FAIL

"bloody pointless?"

Nope, it performs the vital function of separating rich people from their money, which is the part that makes it a "commercial" spaceship.

Just because it's for entertainment doesn't mean it's pointless.

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$50 million

In deposits. Doesn't sound that pointless to me.

And, the tech developed is bound to have other uses - may even lead to orbital capability in the long run (but with a very different design).

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@ andy gibson

'Actually, with a name like "Buzz" you're fairly likely to remember the second man. Now the name of the third......'

Pete Conrad - do I win a prize?

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Flame

Well, it has recouped its investment so far

Every single media outlet in the world slapped this picture and/or accompanying footage with the Virgin logo bang in the middle of the screen/web/paper at prime time/space (hello el reg, did you realise what you are doing by putting this as a "prime story".

That is bound to cost something. In fact I cannot think of the amount of money this could have possibly cost.

Sir Richard has always been an expert in doing this. He has done it many times with his baloon escapades, the car across the La Manche and countless other "adventures". And he continues to do it. Anyway, you got to give him credit. The great master of marketing wins again.

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Coat

@Mike Richards

Yes, you win the Moon. All you have to do is turn up to collect it in person.

Mine's the one with the bubble helmet.

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The smiley face is a nice touch

I just hope for the passengers sake it is followed by a safe flight. Seeing a smiley face just prior to screaming fiery death might make your final moments all the more terrifying.

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Joke

Questions

1. If you successfully pleasure your other half (or willing passenger/host(ess)) in the bogs during flight, will it be the 70-mile high club?

2. What films will be shown?

3. Will the in-flight meals be dished out in those plastic bags with straws like astronauts have?

Inquiring minds would like to know.

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More questions

and more importantly, no matter how the in-flight meal is served, will it taste as bad as virgin atlantic food does??

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FAIL

Dont worry

It will taste much worse once its come back out again

Zero G has a habit of making one barf their expensive cookies... just ask a NASA guy on an ISS mission 2 yrs ago when they 'delayed' a space walk because he 'was not feeling well'

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Paris Hilton

Virgin space ship?

Will it stop being a virgin space ship when it gets into space?

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Non-space

No way is it a 'space' ship. I know what I mean by 'space' (and the formal definition is frankly rubbish, must be French), and you simply can't be anywhere there without doing escape velocity first. It's a glider launched from the thinnest of atmospheres, and maybe quite fun as a fairground ride for our epoch.

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Anonymous Coward

You have to do escape velocity first?

So the International Space Station isn't in space?

I'll stick with the "100 km above mean sea level" definition, thanks.

I wonder if the offer to pay $1m to film a porno in zero gravity will now be increased. I hope so, and I hope it's accepted. It would be good to get some proper entertainment out of all this investment.

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Paris Hilton

Arguably not

Good point, so that's an exaggeration too. But the ISS has the option to be just a tiny fraction faster and then they really would be in space. Actually, we're all in 'space' when we jump, it's just that our orbits intersect with the earth's quite soon. Also, kms are French too - told you so. And Paris is in France.

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Boffin

@Steve 114

"and you simply can't be anywhere there without doing escape velocity first. "

I think you mean *orbital* velocity, c 7950ms

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Boffin

Suborbital transport

So just how far can this thing go? And how fast? What I mean is, would $200K get me to Australia in an hour? Or (preferably) away from it?

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Boffin

@Anonymous Bastard

Probably from Mojave spaceport to New Mexico spaceport.

Actually the whole system *could* lob its (rocket assisted) payload a *very* long way (If you think about a low earth orbit as c90mins if this thing *could* do that you'd be 45 mins to *anywhere*). AFAIK the launch planes takeoff needs are not *very* unusual. I think all countries in the developed world have at least 1 (and likely several) that could accommodate it.

Who'd pay that kind of cost is a more interesting problem. Obviously someone with *very* high value cargo to move. Spare parts was the classic example used in "Halfway to anywhere", where if a big enough system breaks down *almost* any cost can be justified due to the huge loss of production.

Human organs are a candidate (although storage tech seems to be getting better) and of course VIP transport for high level face to face discussions.

Or making the Cannes Film Festival commutable from California (not *quite* as extravagant as you might think. There is a reason why people hire $20m yachts as sleeping accommodation apart from showing people just how rich they are).

The big stumbling block to this brave new world.

It's American.

ITAR rules (described by one aerospace insider as "The nearest thing to a protection racket I've ever seen") would pretty much forbid export (including flying to) a foreign country. You might try finding out an exact figure for the Isp for the rocket engine for example.

However *like* the film business if it proves successful *everyone* will want to be the 2nd company to do it.

Note that through the 1930's 2 stage plane designs were proposed to cross the Atlantic (mostly for the high value cargo of mail), *despite* Lindbergh's non stop US to Paris flight in 1927.

You don't hear much about them today.

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Alien

I for one apart from the food

Look forward to the green skinned hotty hostess!

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Anonymous Coward

...LuMan@09:21 GMT

1. No. The highest you can go is 68, once the ship hits 69 you will both be eating it. Therefor it will then be called the 69 club.

2. Apollo 13.

3. Flight will be to short for meals, however no one will care while they are screaming due to the engine going out.

My question is, will the VSS Enterprise actually make it to space or will it sit like the NASA Enterprise?

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Last time Virgin went to high altitude

Anyone remember what happened to all his balloons?

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At least one was a success

Although it was also very nearly a spectacular failure

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/force-of-nature/episode-guide/series-1/episode-2

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I wonder...

...if their release mechanism featured low-temperature lubricants and an old bit of oxygen hose?

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Paris Hilton

New Mexico? I don't think so

According to Mojave Spaceport, they're not in New Mexico, but in California:

www.mojaveairport.com/contact.htm

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Mojave ... New Mexico?

Not sure how seriously to take an article that can't figure out the difference between Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico and the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California.

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Don't See that being worth much to Humanity.

Beardy Crusty sets up Theme Park Ride in Space. Rich mates invited to Ride. Middle fingers to consumers but thanks for the money, here... have more shit service and cruft.

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Boffin

@steve114

"..No way is it a 'space' ship. I know what I mean by 'space', and you simply can't be anywhere there without doing escape velocity first..."

I get the impression that you do not know what 'escape velocity' is. Why don't you have a look at the Wiki, where you will find out that escape velocity can be any figure down to 0, depending on your height.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escape_velocity

(And no, you do not have to achieve 'escape velocity' to get into space. You could happily go to the Moon by climbing up a ladder if you had enough energy and time...)

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Boffin

Given that the Moon's orbital period doesn't correspond with the Period of the Earth's rotation

Climbing a ladder to the Moon would be rather difficult, even if you could find a long enough ladder that wouldn't collapse under its own weight.

Now, climbing up an orbital tether made of superstong nanotube type materials might just be possible, and to me such 'space elevators' seem a much more worthwhile endeavour than tourist trips on ballistic trajectories.

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Joke

Easy

Just wait at the top of the ladder until the moon next passes by!

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How Significant?

People have built working gliders before. But obviously if you're building a passenger version of the X-15, you do want to prove it can land safely, and doing that before the first powered test flight is only reasonable. So this is a milestone, even if it looks overhyped.

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Spaceships, orbital and sub orbital

This is just a re-run of the old confusion about Alan Shepard being the first American in space (in a 15 min sub orbital hop very similar to Virgin's plans) and John Glenn being the first American in orbit (what people today think of as being in 'Space'). Sub-orbital was also all that was needed to secure the Ansari X-Prize

Its a smart plan - book up the sub-orbital schedule with early adopters and get your foot in the door, make a shed load of money and then use it presumably to develop orbital capability and charge all the early adopters again. Meanwhile the now well tested and streamlined sub orbital model can be punted to the well off rather than the super rich. Just like DVD and Blu-Ray!

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Boffin

Note it's biggest benefit.

Incremental testing.

When the first *paying* passenger gets on board this *exact* vehicle will probably have been tested 10s, if not *100s* of times using *exactly* the same hardware in a design in which *every* engine can be safely shut down if there is a problem.

You may disagree with the launch and say it's not orbital (it's not by a *very* long way. That does not absolutely rule out the idea it could *become* orbital) but this pattern (an incrementally testable architecture with abort across the *whole* range) is the way *all* future human carrying space launch systems *should* be developed.

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