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back to article Branson's SpaceShipTwo succeeds in first rocket-powered flight

Finally. Sir Richard Branson's long-delayed commercial spaceliner, the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, has successfully completed its first rocket-powered test flight. Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo on successful April 29, 2013 test flight Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo during its first rocket-powered test flight (click to …

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Happy

Yay!

Between this and the glo-sheep my day hasn't been completely put off by misery and bad news. Good stuff.

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Meh

Is this really true space flight? Is this true sub-orbital?

At the moment, depending on whose view it is, space can be anywhere from 50 miles high to 100 miles high.

While you may be able to see the black, the curvature of the earth and experience a semblance of weightlessness, no organisation has actually done forward with a space 'standard' height.

Could the claims a of this space flight fall foul of the advertising standards commision?

Just a thought.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yay!

William Shatner stated that he did not want to die a fiery death with vomit hanging over his head.

This was reference to a trip in the SpaceX. If anyone knows the dangers Kirk does.

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Anonymous Coward

PIDDLE STICKS

This is just a piddley theme park ride.

Now Superseded by the possibility of getting on a one way reality trip to Mars for free.

My application is already in for that one.

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Anonymous Coward

Theme park ride is about right

There are no real inherent risks doing this, the Russians use a Foxbat and take people up to the same height for $30,000 a ride, it's just that no one had a passenger aircraft to do it before.

If something were to go wrong, passengers failing to return, or returning by fireball the whole project would be shut down and the owners sued to death.

It is what it is, there is no magic engineering or pushing the boundaries here, they are just adapting what is already available and doing what has already been done.

The only difference is that they are fleecing idiots who believe it is such a cool thing to do.

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Alien

Virgin Suborbital!

"I'm interested in man's march into the unknown but to vomit in space is not my idea of a good time. Neither is a fiery crash with the vomit hovering over me"

"It's engineering Jim, and exactly as we know it!"

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@LarsG

I think that it is generally accepted that "space" starts at 100km. This is about the point where you can't gain enough aerodynamic lift from the atmosphere to fly, but it all depends on the weather, temperatures sun activity, etc.

However, I remember them trying to sell me a ticket, saying that I could ride their plane out of the atmosphere. I said I would be very keen; it would be cool to look down on the ISS which orbits in the atmosphere, but alas no, it doesn't go that high.

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Facepalm

@LarsG: "Is this really true space flight? Is this true sub-orbital?"

Err, no, this was just a test flight of the vehicle and rocket engine, the eventual aim of the project is to get to edge of space/sub-orbital flight at about 60m/100km high.

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Re: Theme park ride is about right

The Russian flights go to 81000 ft, Virgin aim to go to over 300000 ft.

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Alert

Re: Theme park ride is about right

"the Russians use a Foxbat and take people up to the same height" Are you confusing Feet and Meters?

The all time altitude record for a foxbat is 124kft or 37km Space ship 2 will go beyond the Kármán line at 100km (which is 328kft - you might recall Spaceship One's tail number was 328kf for this very reason)

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Re: Yay!

100km??? I am not sure about this it seems a lot of meddling is involved just to get a plane to fly that high. why take the risk, I would have thought 64km was high enough for anyone (ie commercial jets). There are added risks of flying so high such as avoiding satellites, asteroids, etc. It's one thing to fly in the atmosphere where friction slows you down but it's completely another thing to fly in a vacuum. Has anyone played asteroids? the flying controls in a vacuum are far more difficult. Presumably the pilots are trained to avoid crashing into things but it still seems a recipe for disaster. What if they reach space, turn left suddenly and fly into the moon?

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Re: Yay!

I have just got to assume that NomNomNom is taking the piss.

If not, WoeWoeWoe.

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Re: Yay!

" What if they reach space, turn left suddenly and fly into the moon?"

They could do something useful with it and get busy with a dustpan and brush.

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Joke

Re: Yay!

@NomNomNom

64k enough for anyone. . . . . Now were have I heard that before

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Thumb Up

It's been a long time coming, but it's good to see progress at last!

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I'm not all that excited about this one

It's just a joy ride for people with too much money.

They might come up with some useful stuff along the way but that's not the actual plan.

SpaceX is FAR more interesting with the stuff they are doing.

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Re: I'm not all that excited about this one

Hmmm, I think this is certainly interesting although SpaceX is more interesting. This has lots of future interest once the money starts coming in. It also gets the general public a bit more enthused about Spaceflight - SpaceX is still a minority interest to most, whereas with Virgin behind it, this stuff is always in the news.

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Re: I'm not all that excited about this one

> It's just a joy ride for people with too much money.

You're not wrong. Branson can keep his SpaceShipTwo, I think I'd prefer the Thrill-o-Matic anyhow.

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Childcatcher

Kids should NOT be allowed.

There is no way Branson should allow his kids (or anyone else's kids) to go up in this thing. Rockety stuff is inherently dangerous - just ask the six people involved in the 2007 explosion (although three of those people can't answer, ever). Adults are capable of making a rational decision as to whether or not to risk fiery death (e.g. Branson has chosen Yes, Shatner has chosen No). Children are not capable of making that decision for themselves rationally and therefore they cannot give informed consent - which means they should not be allowed to go up.

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Terminator

Re: Kids should NOT be allowed.

At what age do Humans begin to make 'rational decisions'? When the law says they can? I see plenty of 'adults' making what I view as incredibly irrational decisions everyday and they have the benefit of age and experience. Maybe we should just elect Martin Budden as Supreme Chancellor of Rationality and you can decide what's right for everyone. Alternatively you could elect me & I'll determine what's 'right' for your children.

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Re: Kids should NOT be allowed.

>At what age do Humans begin to make 'rational decisions'?

I can only give you my own experience:

about alchohol - 23

about sex - maybe 25

about tool purchasing - 45

about going into SPACE - I'm 62 & I wanna go NOW! - call it, oh, 106?

it's SPACE!!!

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Re: Kids should NOT be allowed.

I agree.

Kids shouldn't be allowed to travel on planes, trains, or in cars until they are old enough to fully appreciate the risks and make an informed decision about the risk of death for themselves.

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Re: Kids should NOT be allowed.

His daughter is married, so I guess the "kids" can make their own mind up. Old peoples kids get old too!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Kids should NOT be allowed.

> There is no way Branson should allow his kids (or anyone else's kids) to go up in this thing.

Branson's children are both adults.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Kids should NOT be allowed.

Children? You assume they are kids.

Holly and Sam Branson are adults. They might be his children, but they are grown up children who can make (and have made) decisions on their own.

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Re: Kids should NOT be allowed.

You conveniently ignore the fact there are 13/14 year olds who are more rational and competent to make decisions than a lot of El Reg's estemeed commenterati but there are also 20 year olds you would trust with a can opener, especially not in space or on its fringes as the decompression would be a bitch!

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Re: Kids should NOT be allowed.

@Martin Budden.

With regard to the comment on the 3 people killed and 3 injured by the rocket engine test accident, I hardly think an accident on a test bed on the ground with a prototype engine which has since been tested many many times quite safely is a valid point. Especially since I think the accident was unrelated to the actual engine..

"On 26 July 2007, during the early rocket testing phase, an explosion occurred during a propellant flow test at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The test included filling the oxidizer tank with 4,500 kg (10,000 pounds) of nitrous oxide, followed by a 15-second cold flow injector test. Although the tests did not ignite the gas, three employees were killed and three injured, two critically and one seriously, by flying shrapnel.[9]"

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Trollface

Re: Kids should NOT be allowed.

There is a good reason kids make good cannon foddder, I mean soldiers, besides the fact that they are quite a bit faster than the human greyhairs who order them about.

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I'm 62 & I wanna go NOW!

I'm with Bob. Chocks away.

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Facepalm

"... Branson plans to be aboard ... along with his two children, "if my wife allows.""

No sane person would put all his little ducklings and himself on the same experimental aircraft on its first full-scale flight. Even if it doesn't end up wiping out his posterity, the mere fact of doing this will be an indelible comment that he thinks he's a Hollywood movie rather than being in the real world. The biographies would always end with "... and a fool."

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First COMMERCIAL FLIGHT. Not first full scale flight. It will already have been in to Space quite a few times, so its going to be pretty thoroughly tested by the start of the commercial program.

Although I wouldn't put all my eggs in one basket. Some people even split their family between aircraft when flying abroad.

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Unhappy

Or perhaps he feels that having complete a detailed test flight programme (like normal aircraft do and which ELV's by their nature cannot ever) before paying passengers get on board the risk is as low as reasonably possible.

As always with Virgin and Branson, read the small print.

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Coat

"Some people even split their family between aircraft when flying abroad."

Yeah, but not always to protect their family line... Seriously, have you even met the kids in some bigger families? Not to mention the overseas trips where the mother-in-law wants to come too ;)

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Childcatcher

Sending kids?

First, well done Virgin Galactic for this step. I'm not a fan but still, kudos.

Second, taking kids on a flight? The first flight? Er, no, don't do that. If the other arguements put forward here don't move you on that then think of it like this.

100,000 dollars per kid? That's just wasteful. Buy them a happy meal, take 'em to a cinema and let 'em ride a pony home afterwards. It's safer, cheaper and they'll appreciate it more, and have a memory they'll treasure until the next X-Box game comes out or something.

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Happy

Re: Sending kids?

I concede your financial argument is right and good. Kids don't deserve something that nice.

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Re: Sending kids?

Branson is the 4th richest guy in the UK with a net worth of over $4B. I hardly think he's worried about the waste. And what do you get your children as a gift when they are in their late 20's? I don't think a happy meal is going to cover it, and I'm pretty sure they already have enough ponies.

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Thumb Down

Re: Sending kids?

There's more danger to kids in the 'Happy' Meal...

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Stop

Re: Sending kids?

Stop posting, Bloomberg, you're drunk. On power.

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FAIL

Re: Sending kids?

I believe their "kids" are 27 and 31 - perhaps a happy meal may not be seen as a suitable replacement for a free trip to space!

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Re: Sending kids?

reminds me of that brasseye episode in which a kid was accidentally sent into space...

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Unhappy

Kiiiiids in Spaaaaace!

Harrumph!

Colour me jealous.

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Branson's Children

Since they are in their late 20's early 30's I guess they can probably make the decision for themselves... was finding out their ages too much effort for the commentards above?

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FAIL

Re: Branson's Children

I agree, but then why does Branson say that his wife needs to give permission for his kids to fly?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Branson's Children

" why does Branson say that his wife needs to give permission for his kids to fly?"

Plainly you have never had a wife.

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Trollface

Mach 1.2?

Why not just build another Concord?

All the design is done.

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Re: Mach 1.2?

Problem with building a new Concord is that the design may be complete but it is rather dated. In addition, my Dad was involved in the Wind Tunnel/Ditch Tank tests and some of the stories about how the French adjusted parameters to ensure they 'passed' some of the tests, well.........

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Re: Mach 1.2?

Good safety record all the same, bar the one hiccup that killed it off. Concord was cool, please don't diss it.

There has never been a cooler plane, not even the military has a cooler one.

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Re: Mach 1.2?

SR-71 ?

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Unhappy

Re: Mach 1.2?

XB-70 Valkyrie?

http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/usa/bomber/xb70-1_300-2.jpg

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Boffin

Re: Mach 1.2?

"Why not just build another Concord?"

Wrong flight profile. WK2/SS2 will hit M3 (for a couple of minutes) and give you (IIRC) about 15 mins weightlessness.

All jigs and fittings destroyed decades ago

About 1/3 the size of vehicles projected to be economic to run at this speed. Concorde made money for BA and Air France because they more or less got them for free. They met the running costs which were more than covered by the seat prices. That's fine if you own both the mfg and the airline but IRL you have to also sell them at a reasonable price as well.

Note As I've learned more of Concorde I've realised what a huge body of work was done to make it happen. It really was on a par with the Apollo programme and had to tackle quiet a few problems the SR71 had but side stepped with a near unlimited black budget. Both the airframe and the engine mfg had a lot of additional plans they wanted to incorporate starting with the 17th Concorde, but as they never got above 15 most were never tried (breaking the sound barrier and M2 cruise without after burner would have knocked down the fuel bill for a start).

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