back to article Richard Branson gets nod to strap rocket on SpaceShipTwo

Virgin Galactic has finally got the green light to attempt supersonic rocket-powered SpaceShipTwo flights at the end of the year. The SpaceShipTwo craft takes to the air carried by its WhiteKnightTwo mothership. Credit: Virgin Galactic The SpaceShipTwo craft takes to the air carried by its WhiteKnightTwo mothership The …

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Well, I was going to give it a wide berth, but now that "celebs like Ashton Kutcher and Angelina Jolie" have blessed it with their patronage I can hardly wait.

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Anonymous Coward

A toy for rich people.

Imagine a scenario where astronauts manning the space station ore all celebrities, instead of being the best minds and the most highly trained astronauts conducting experiments of immense importance, you'll get you place if you endorse a particular lipstick, nail varnish or make of pants.

And you think I'm joking!

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Send them all into space, lets just make sure we keep the telephone sanitisers.

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Coat

I take it Dr.Lovelock is no longer concerned by the production of greenhouse gasses due to superfluous activities? Will SS2 be carrying frosty capuchins?

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Lovelock

I heard him recently on radio 4, he believes that it's now probably too late to stop catastrophic anthropogenic climate change. So I suppose he's going to make hay whilst the sun shines.

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Re: Lovelock

and whose to blame so now he creates space craft so he and his rich buddies can escape the crap they done to all of us.

time to rise up and take back our planet

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Stop

Virgin on the silly

Does this day trip round the bay have any practical use - other than adding to the grinning gremlin's bank account?

Thought not.

Elon Musk is at least looking at making a profit AND doing something useful.

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Silver badge

Re: Virgin on the silly

Well the launch method for the bearded one's thrill cruiser is a lot more interesting than simply building yet another V2 clone.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Virgin on the silly

Well, he must get bored with only his own Carribean island to mooch around on.

Of course Mr Musk has actual rockets, Branson only has a high altitude plane. And Musk has a real Bondesque type name.

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Re: Virgin on the silly

But they are doing something useful - namely, launching millionaires on a highly risky and completely experimental spacecraft. If any of them succeed in not coming back, sir Branson is off my personal "eat the rich" list.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Virgin on the silly

There are other benefits to this method. Orbital Sciences already uses a similar system (called Pegasus), but it is only used for LEO-based payloads. Pegasus launches off a modified Lockheed L-1011 (Tristar) in a similar fashion as SS2 does off White Knight.

The only (and perhaps significant) difference is that SS2 now carries 6 passengers. Once that system is proven to work well, I wouldn't be surprised if Virgin Galactic got into the ISS resupply business too. To put less payload into SS2 and then boost it to the 200 mile orbit of ISS is not that much more of a stretch.

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Anonymous Coward

Not much of a stretch?

I thought I had read (possibly even in El Reg) that it takes about 100 times more energy to get into orbit than is used for the parabolic return-to-earth trajectory of SS2?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not much of a stretch?

Is there any point in a roller coaster?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not much of a stretch?

SS2 uses aerodynamics for manoeuvring and attitude control etc... not much good out near the ISS.

It's really just a glorified aeroplane - it can no more fly in space than a stone can float - you may be able to send it skipping once, twice, three times if you're good, but that's not the same thing.

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WTF?

Re: Virgin on the silly

Errr not so sure about your tinking there.

Spaceship 2 is predicted to fly at a maximum of 2500mph and reach 68 miles altitude. To go into orbit, not just space, you need to be able to go about 18,000mph AROUND the Earth not straight up, even at that speed you would come straight back down if you went straight up. To go into orbit is much more difficult than what they are proposing with spaceship 2.

Sure a few of thousand miles an hour straight up will take you into space for a few minutes but you will come straight back down.

Oh and losing 1/2 a tonne of cargo ie the passengers will make not a lot of difference to the max altitude maybe 100 miles up and then straight back down.

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Bronze badge

Re: Virgin on the silly

As launch methods go it's not a lot more sophisticated than launching a V-1 from the back of a Heinkel He-111 while somewhere over the North Sea.

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Re: Virgin on the silly

escape velocity is approximately mach 5 and the further you go the less gravity earth will have and the idea is once in space you can keep accelerating till you reach orbit.

orbit is just a free fall toward the earth at an angle that keeps you form falling TO EARTH

its actually easier then you think its why we was doing it in the 60's , like 50 years back.....and technically low earth orbits (safest as your no where near the van alen radiation belts ) are not really space ...you need to get a bit further ....and actual space travel now thats tricky stuff.

and i'd like to hear anyone say they solved radiation shielding as currently i know of no none way to do it.

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FAIL

Re: Virgin on the silly

LEO is 17,500mph or Mach 25 at the Earth's surface.

Earth orbit escape velocity is ~25,000mph.

However, you can escape Earth's gravity at 1mph, you just need something to keep pushing you at 1mph away from the Earth.

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Re: Virgin on the silly

According to Newton F=(GM1M2)/r2.

r is the distance between centres of mass of the two objects in this case SS2 and the centre of the Earth so about 6000km or 6 million metres when the SS2 is on the ground.

So on the ground r2=36000000000000 at 200km ie r= 6200km then r2=38440000000000 so the effect of gravity 200km up would be a about 5% per cent less 200km up than it is here.

Not a lot of difference there, you would need to go a lot higher than a few hundred miles to have appreciably less effect of gravity.

"orbit is just a free fall toward the earth at an angle that keeps you form falling TO EARTH"

No it is a free fall towards earth at an ANGULAR velocity that ensure that you keep missing ;-)

As to escape velocity being mach 5 if you can do that I bet NASA would like to talk to you as they thought that they needed to make the Saturn V go at 27000mph or about mach 38 in order to reach escape velocity.

TBH I think it is harder than you think and I take my at off to the pioneers in the 50's and 60's for making it happen.

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Boffin

Re: Virgin on the silly

But the SS2 couldn't possibly re-enter the atmosphere from LEO and survive, nor could it possibly carry enough fuel to reach orbital velocity, it's simply not designed with that in mind.

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Thumb Up

Re: Virgin on the silly

Yeah, see "The Mouse on the Moon"

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Re: Virgin on the silly

Actually, Musk has plans to "drop launch" his Falcon 1 from a high flying aircraft, which increases ifs lift capacity by an order of magnitude.

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FAIL

Re: Virgin on the silly

"Actually, Musk has plans to "drop launch" his Falcon 1 from a high flying aircraft, which increases ifs lift capacity by an order of magnitude."

Nope its a new rocket derived from the Falcon 9, with 4 engines instead of 9.

And it's Paul Allen, not Musk that wants to do it.

Called Stratolaunch Systems.

The payload is also intended to be lower 6.1t vs 16t for the Falcon 9 (v1.1).

Take off mass is intended to be around 220t (plane + rocket + payload), payload fraction is 2.77% vs 3.33% for the Falcon 9 v1.1.

Although effectively stage 0 is reusable.

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Linux

Re: Virgin on the silly

The only (and perhaps significant) difference is that SS2 now carries 6 passengers. Once that system is proven to work well, I wouldn't be surprised if Virgin Galactic got into the ISS resupply business too. To put less payload into SS2 and then boost it to the 200 mile orbit of ISS is not that much more of a stretch.

SS2 is a sub-orbital platform. It is not capable of high re-entry speeds without burning up. Getting it into orbit will require a lot more than it's got.

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Re: Virgin on the silly

The problem is energy, going from 2500mph to 17500 mph is a big leap. Hence big rocket!

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Facepalm

Lovelock a scientist?

Since when GAIA is science?! To combine Lovelock and Hawking on the same phrase is an offence to science.

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It's Science Jim,

But not as we know it.

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Flame

Re: Lovelock a scientist?

"To combine Lovelock and Hawking on the same phrase is an offence to science."

I completely agree, and am ashamed to see such an affilliation in the Reg, without even a hint of sarcasm or a mention of the frivolous use of the earth's resources. This almost looks like copy-and-paste from a press release! Shame on both the "author" and the editorial staff (if such even exist anymore, which I have my doubts over considerring the number of mistakes I have seen over the last few months)!

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Not quite SpaceX is it?

I'm surprised Mr Branson didn't just buy SpaceX and slap a Virgin Galactic sticker on it.

What? It's what Virgin Media did with Telewest, NTL, etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not quite SpaceX is it?

Incorrect. NTL bought Telewest. Then NTL merged with Virgin Mobile, and as part of the deal rebranded to Virgin Media.

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reason

the owner of space x won't sell that is why. It also uses parts and equipment that are in competition to virgin.

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Not sure I would personally risk the Virgin flight

It sure is an odd looking beast! Who designed it...Klunk?

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Meh

Re: Not sure I would personally risk the Virgin flight

The SS2 / White Knight combination was designed by a team directed by a guy called Burt Rutan.

It was IIRC his last job before retirement.

He's quit well known as an aircraft design. I guess you've never heard of him.

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Bronze badge
Joke

Branson to use strap-on

Frankly, i'm disappointed in your headline. I know you can do better.

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