Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Space Race 2.0 has Begun 96

Posted by Zonk
from the waiting-for-an-elevator dept.
An anonymous reader writes "MSNBC has a story about a second company starting up to compete with Virgin Galactic. Both are planning on operating passenger sub-orbital flights. Will this new Space Race usher in more new technologies into our daily lives, like the previous one? Will the competition to go higher/faster lead to orbital tourism?" From the article: "The company that helped put three millionaires into orbit has teamed up with Russia's Federal Space Agency and the financial backers of the $10 million Ansari X Prize to develop a new breed of suborbital passenger spaceship. Thursday's announcement by Virginia-based Space Adventures herald the entry of new international players in the commercial space race -- a race that is expected to enter a critical phase in the next year or two."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Space Race 2.0 has Begun

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 18, 2006 @04:36AM (#14748317)
    ...the MOON is out there!
  • by Y-Crate (540566) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @04:39AM (#14748325)
    Would it be possible to use suborbital craft such as this as a means to provide rapid transportation between distant terrestrial locations?

    If I recall correctly, ICBMs take suborbital, not orbital trajectories, and they are quite time savers when you want to wipe out a city, so could the same approach be applied to less malevolent projects?

    New York to Tokyo in 30 minutes, anyone?
    • > ICBMs take suborbital, not orbital trajectories,
      Primarily, Intercontinental Ballistic Missles have ballistic trajectories. If you don't mind accelerating in some minutes to several km/s and landing with some km/s, you could be quite fast.

      But if you have first to wind up several thousands of kilometers of height then travel on a part of a circle with increased radius, and finally wind down, then I don't believe you'll be faster.

      The increased height is only an advantage if you can fly a lot faster in th
    • by Soft (266615) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @05:05AM (#14748384)
      Would it be possible to use suborbital craft such as this as a means to provide rapid transportation between distant terrestrial locations?

      Yes and no. It is quite possible, but you'd need quite a lot bigger vehicles, more like current rockets.

      To see this, you have to understand that the biggest obstacle is speed: to just reach 100 km altitude, as these spacecraft do, you need to launch at a speed of about 1 km/s. Orbital speed (low Earth orbit) is 8 km/s. Unfortunately, it's not a question of eight times more fuel, it's exponential; if your propulsion system is such that for each ton of payload you must expend another ton of propellant, total mass 2 tons, then you need 2^8-1=255 tons of propellant to go to orbit.

      Now, an intercontinental journey is easier than going to orbit, but according to calculations I had made some time ago, it's not that easy, maybe 3-4 km/s to cross several thousand kilometers. SpaceShipOne definitely couldn't make it.

      So, yes, this is possible and perhaps interesting--if you don't mind the acceleration, as another poster said--but it is significantly harder than what is currently being done by private spaceflight companies. Which does not mean it's forever impossible, of course, nor that private companies won't make orbit or beyond eventually...

      • Now, an intercontinental journey is easier than going to orbit, but according to calculations I had made some time ago, it's not that easy, maybe 3-4 km/s to cross several thousand kilometers.

        To follow up on my own post, here are the actual results. The required speed v for a minimum-energy ballistic trajectory crossing distance d, with R and g being Earth's radius and surface gravity (6400 km and 9.8 m/s^2), v1 being orbital speed at altitude 0 (v1=sqrt(Rg)=7.9 km/s), and letting x=d/(2R) one has:

        • The required speed v for a minimum-energy ballistic trajectory crossing distance d, with R and g being Earth's radius and surface gravity (6400 km and 9.8 m/s^2), v1 being orbital speed at altitude 0 (v1=sqrt(Rg)=7.9 km/s), and letting x=d/(2R) one has:

          The key word here is ballistic. The ballistic trajectory is one that an unpowered mass (for example, a thrown rock) follows. A spaceship with engines doesn't follow a ballistic trajectory when those engines are functional, or for the parts of the journey

    • If you wanted to go as you said, from NY to Tokyo in 30min, you would have to be on AT LEAST a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scramjet [wikipedia.org]scramjet as the average ICBMs built between the 60s and present would take (my guess) around 2 hours to make that trip.

      Not to mention what the other posts responding to yours say, about how the rapid acceleration would create a high number of G forces

      Even if you lived through the acceleration, a single trip would cost how many millions of dollars???

      • by Anonymous Coward
        the average ICBMs built between the 60s and present would take (my guess) around 2 hours to make that trip

        Your guess sucks.

        ICBMS travel at near-orbital velocities (17,000mph). A complete circuit of the earth in low orbit takes roughly 90 minutes. NY-Tokyo would take an ICBM less than 45 minutes. In the Cold War era, UK citizens would have had roughly FOUR MINUTES [wikipedia.org] warning of Soviet ICBM attack.

    • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @06:06AM (#14748492)
      They go up about 800-1200 km, then come back down on the other side of the planet or within 6,000-plus miles of thier launch site. An ICBM is going approximately 15,000 mph (Mach 23 or 24,000 kph) at burnout.

      http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/systems/lgm-30_3 -specs.htm [globalsecurity.org]

      Since we're on suborbitals, Sprint was a pretty cool system for missile interception. Sprint was a marvel of aeronautics and space technology reaching a speed of Mach 10 in 5 seconds. Built by Martin Marietta, it was designed to operate at hypersonic speeds in the earth's atmosphere; at its top speed, the missile's skin became hotter than the interior of its rocket motor and glowed incandescently. To make the launch as quick as possible, the cover was blown off the silo by explosive charges; Then the missile was ejected by an explosive-driven piston. As the missile cleared the silo, the first stage fired and the missile was tilted toward its target. The first stage was of very short, almost explosive, duration. The second stage fired within 1 - 2 seconds of launch. Interception at an altitude of 1500m to 30000m took at most 15 seconds. The electronic components of the Sprint were designed to withstand accelerations of 100 times gravity. The missile was 27 feet long, consisted of two stages, and used solid fuel. Sprint carried an ER nuclear warhead of a few KT.
    • One thing I've thought of that these things would be useful for would be as "couriers" for important documents that can't be sent electronically. Contracts, etc. Possibly, donor organs. Other small packages that currently get rushed on aircraft, but would be better yet if they arrived with almost the speed of an email.

      That seems like the next step up after there-and-back-again tourist flights.
    • Would it be possible to use suborbital craft such as this as a means to provide rapid transportation between distant terrestrial locations? If I recall correctly, ICBMs take suborbital, not orbital trajectories, and they are quite time savers when you want to wipe out a city, so could the same approach be applied to less malevolent projects?

      Hehehe ... my first thought on seeing the parent post was the image of a slightly squashed person being fired into a suborbital trajectory in a modified ICBM.

      My ne

  • by helioquake (841463) * on Saturday February 18, 2006 @04:40AM (#14748327) Journal
    It's really about time that a suborbital travel in space becomes "engineering challenge" rather than "explorations".

    It's never easy; but it should no longer be impossible for a private entity to venture into a suborbital flight business.
  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Saturday February 18, 2006 @04:44AM (#14748337) Homepage
    I'm surprised that so far all of the buzz has been about passenger transport and ignores other applications. The science fiction writer Michael Flynn's future history starting with Firestar [amazon.com] has FedEx as one of the first industries signing on to the new convenient space flight. Think about how much of an edge on its competition a company would have if it could deliver a package anywhere on Earth in just a couple of hours.
    • Yeah, for an affordable price of $200,000?
    • Actually, when the X-Prize was first announced, various larger courier companies expressed an interest. I believe it was a UPS spokesperson who summed it up nicely:

      "We'd be able to say that if you sent a package from Sydney by 9am, we could deliver to Los Angeles by 5pm the day before"

      (hopefully properly quoted!)

      Pretty exciting stuff. I understand it's possible to get anywhere in the world in around 45 minutes via space. Of course, the journey may not be all that pleasant (high-G, lots of discomfort on re-e
      • Pretty exciting stuff. I understand it's possible to get anywhere in the world in around 45 minutes via space. Of course, the journey may not be all that pleasant (high-G, lots of discomfort on re-entry etc), but freight really doesn't mind that sort of thing. Given enough years at it, private enterprise would solve those problems, making space journeys the same as taking a plane now.

        Suprised no one has designed/built inertial dampners, etc yet ... that'd help with the comfort levels. Although the idea h

    • It is quite arguable that the current airline industry is based on mail delivery. I have seen in more than one history that fixed costs were in fact paid for by the US government through the USPS and airmail, while people transportation covered only fractional amounts.

      Given this history, and the assertion that it was probably true of the railroad as well, I wonder if a commercial space service can grow and thrive without significant direct or indirect government assistance.

      There are possibility besides

  • by Darth Liberus (874275) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @04:48AM (#14748344)
    ...is can you make it safe, fast, and cost-effective? Blasting off into space is cool, but will 2 hours + a lot of money + a good chance of blowing up outweigh a 12 hour, reasonbly priced and safe trip?

    Don't get me wrong, this is cool. But suborbital travel will need to deal with these issues lest they go the way of the Concorde.
    • Blasting off into space is cool, but will 2 hours + a lot of money + a good chance of blowing up outweigh a 12 hour, reasonbly priced and safe trip?

      As somebody who's recently entered the scene of the "upper middle-class", certain aspects of economics start to make more sense.

      For example, the company plane. Sounds like a waste, huh?

      An executive earning $100,000/year has a market net worth of about $50/hour. To make baseline 6 figures, he/she represents a compensation (and thus, net worth to society) of about
      • You're confusing worth with pay- to claim that as really a loss, you have to posit that they would all be creating at least that value doing something else with 100% efficiency. From what I've seen of most executives, their true value is probably in the negative 3 digits per hour range.

        Also, having worked for a company that wasted money on several private jets- I *wish* we only paid 75K for them. THey were both high 6 to low 7 figures. Not including maintenance and crew.
    • You mean the same way that Airlines have a two hour wait, chance of getting bumped due to intentional overbooking, chance of being used as a hostage or missile, chance of blowing up, chance of crashing, and so on and so forth for a few hours trip when a reasonably priced train ride will get you there in perhaps twice as long?

      Don't get me wrong, strapping into a seat and firing off massive rocket-like engines to blast into the air is cool. But heavier than air travel will need to deal with these issues lest
      • I'm not sure about the per mile figures, but the rule of thumb for rocket travel is that your launch vehical will fail (often catestrophically) ~2% of the time. Do you total your car ~2% of the time you drive?
  • At least, the first two paragraphs. Then the wonderful MSN formatting puts all the text BEHIND the links panel... Is it only me that this happnes? And it happens on EVERY MSN Article!
    • probly has something to do with MS way of writing shitty code, most of which you can bet was meant to be IE exclusive Visual Basic
    • Maybe you should upgrade your copy of Firefox.

      Works ok here except for the picture of the author being half hidden by the frame of some blocked flash thing which I assume is an ad.

      Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686 (x86_64); rv:1.8.0.1) Gecko/20060124 Firefox/1.5.0.1
    • By reading articles on MSNBC, you're supporting a company that hurts the IT industry anyway. So the formatting issues are just another reason to find the same story on another news site.
  • Suborbital flights strike me just like the space ride at the carnival. Lots of flash and a souvenir pin, but they don't actually push the envelope in technology. There is a huge difference between going up and coming down again compared to true orbital flight where you go up and dont come down.

        Maybe this will even delay humanity's push into space by deluding people into thinking they have contributed in some way to that goal.
    • I gotta agree with rufus up there. Wake me up when they have red-eyes to the moon.
    • Suborbital flights strike me just like the space ride at the carnival.

      Scaling this up to significant numbers of passengers is not trivial. Perhaps it won't be rocket science, but it sure will be rocket engineering.

      And unlike the carnival ride, this will give you spectacular photo opportunities.

    • Re:Suborbital? (Score:3, Informative)

      by jonwil (467024)
      Whats cool about all this is not that its new (fights like this were first carried out by the North American Aviation X-15 rocket plane launched from a B-52 Bomber) but that its been done by a private company in a way thats easily reproducable and promises to get cheaper over time.
    • Sub-Orbital as it is being presented, is a near total waste of time and money and is exactly like the above described carnival ride. Maybe they should even call the joke "spaceport" it's launched from "Cape Carnival" When this non-space amusement ride kills people it will hurt the real space programs far more than any popular "boost" there may have been from this publicity gimmick. It's a get rich quick scheme that will either die on the vine, leaving investors in pain, or become the stuff of horror/sci-fi
  • Just saw the "2.0" and assumed AJAX is somehow involved.
  • Private/corporate space travel of any kind is pretty gosh darn unlikely any time in the next 30 years. Space travel is so capital intensive that any sort of return on investment far beyond the types of horizons that motivate companies. Consider that most companies view 5 years as a "long term" investment. I don't understand why they are offering a $10 million prize for the design when if they were serious they would have a paid engineering staff design one. I think this is more proof these companies are
    • Here's a good reason for offering a prize rather than hiring some engineers to design it for you: If you hire some engineers then you have one team working on the project. If you offer a prize than suddenly teams of engineers from all over the world will begin working on the project for you. And you won't have to worry about any of the buisness aspects of getting it done, you just hold up the money and sit back while everybody else scrambles to solve all the problems.

      Then there's the publicity aspect of i

  • by evilviper (135110) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @05:41AM (#14748443) Journal
    Will this new Space Race usher in more new technologies into our daily lives,

    YES!

    For instance, hardened ceramic roofs, bomb shelters, "incoming meteor" early warning systems, and the like.

    Pretty much all the technologies that make it possible to survive the fledgling space-ships disintegrating in the outer atmosphere, left and right. Pretty much all the same things you'd want if "flying cars" or "jet packs" for the average person became a reality.
  • Will this new Space Race usher in more new technologies into our daily lives, like the previous one?

    No. The last space race performed a wide array of scientific research while in space. This race will be focused on getting passengers up as cheaply as possible.

    I'm not saying that there won't be breakthroughs, but nothing near the number of breakthroughs in industries as varied as what NASA affected.
  • Screw that,I'm going for MARS, dude.
    Who in his right mind would spend millions of green guys for a half-hour ride around the globe to get a glimpse of china. I've already SEEN china, you twats. Buy an Atlas.
  • Does this new version fix bugs like the cockpit randomly catching fire?

    Yes I know it was politically incorrect and potentially unfunny because of it.
  • by PietjeJantje (917584) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @06:32AM (#14748541)
    OK, it's news for nerds, but this is even too nerdy for me. The pain! The agony! Please stop giving version numbers to real life stuff. Real life is not CVS, thank you. I don't call my second wife Wife 2.0 either, neither do I refer to McDonald's latest offering as 0.9 beta. Snap out of it!
  • cold war 2.0????
  • by SirBruce (679714) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @06:59AM (#14748594) Homepage
    Space Adventures isn't a "new" start-up to compete with Virgin Galactic. Space Adventures has been around since 1998, and was one of the first companies (in the modern era, anyway; not talking about old space sweepstakes from decades ago) to actually plan on sending tourists into space. It is Virgin Galactic that is the "new" start-up, competeing with the likes of Space Adventures.

    That having been said, right now Space Adventures is little more than a middle man. They've been working with various other private companies (like Scaled Composites, SpaceX, Armadillo, etc.) to essentially use whatever suborbital rocket THEY build, to ferry passangers who reserve flights now with Space Adventures. Right now there are a few hundred people who've plunked down $100,000 or so for a reservation; I assume Space Adventures is just making money off of investments while waiting for a private company to finally actually produce a sub-orbital ship.

    I should also point out the Space Adventures has been "anticipating" this first flight to take place as early as 2000, and have delayed it every year since then. Who knows if any spacecraft maker will ever actually complete a project such that Space Adventures reservations get filled. Virgin Galactic, on the other hand, has already locked up a deal with Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites, so it would seem unlikely that SpaceShipTwo would be available to take Space Adventures' reservations, unless Virgin Galactic buys out the contracts. And since Burt Rutan is currently the only guy who has demosntrated any success in this field so far, things don't look good for SA.

    But that's just my opinion.

    Bruce

    PS - SA has managed to get a "finder's fee" for hooking up three private space tourists for trips to the ISS via the Russians, for $20M a pop. Frankly, I don't know HOW they managed that; seems to me I can phone up Rosaviacosmos directly. But maybe Russia prefers dealing exclusively through SA for potential private clients.
    • Frankly, I don't know HOW they managed that; seems to me I can phone up Rosaviacosmos directly.

      Unless you have their phone number, probably not. And if they pick up the phone, you'd better speak Russian.

      I suspect somebody at SA knows somebody at Rosaviacosmos, and the Russians have basically outsourced their trip planning to them. That lets them focus on rockets while SA focuses on collecting clients and making them happy. Which is probably a real pain in the ass when it comes to people with $20 million to
  • The Space Race 1.0 gave us a few famous spinoffs, but they're now old hat and need updating...

    Teflon 2.0- Now so slippery that only iron-rich foods can be cooked in Teflon frying pans, held in place by the magnetic base.

    Write Upside Down Ballpoint Pens 2.0- Now write Inside Out as well!

    Tang 2.0- Now tastes sort of like real fruitjuice (mostly if you haven't ever actually tasted real juice...)

    • Teflon was invented by Dupont Chemical *way* before the space race. It's one of those never-dying myths that it was a byproduct of the space race.

      Tell you something: spinach is *not* a good iron supplier. (The other unkillable myth...)

  • I'm in IT, and when I look at the IT these space wonders use, I have to hold back a laugh. Is it any different in other fields ?

    I keep hearing about all those technologies that trickled down from NASA to us regular guys. Since this couldn't possibly come from the NASA spin machine, would anyone care to enlighten me about which technologies are alluded to here ?
  • This sort of thing is going to have as much impact and relevance to society at large as the Americas Cup does. Pretty toys, a few specialist firms involved in one-off designs, and technology not really germane to anything beyond its own sandbox of reality.

    There ain't no breakthroughs to be had! Space flight with rockets is fabu $$$, period. Schmancy IRBMs with inflight entertainment isn't ... significant. It's just symptomatic of a point in industrilized society where we have a buttload of disposable in
  • What's the point? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pair-a-noyd (594371) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @08:42AM (#14748814)
    Why would a civilian go to space?
    The ultimate thrill ride?
    Certainly not for "tourist" reasons, there's nothing to tour up there.
    Kubrick's wheel is not up there and the ISS doesn't have the room or time
    to put up with camera wielding geeks.

    There's no moon motels or other stop overs up there.

    There's just simply no where to go except up, around and back down.
    And how long will these "tourists" stay strapped in a chair for their $250,000 ride? 20 minutes? 1 hour? 3 days? Really now.. Think about it.
    What's it take to orbit the earth, 90 minutes I think, CMIIW. So maybe you get
    to make one orbit and back home. All for a cool quarter mil. Nice..
    Will you be allowed to take your own photos or will you be required to leave your
    cameras on earth and buy your photos from the gift shop at the launch/landing site?

    And lastly, who will plot the course of these ships, through the millions of tons of space debris? NASA? I think NORAD keeps track of ALL space debris and coordinates data with NASA to plot flight paths.

    Is NORAD going to allow these private enterprises access to this same data or are they going to "use the force Luke" to navigate the debris fields??

    Man, this whole thing about space tourism is just silly. We're a good 50-100 years from any realistic scenario, if at all. Until Kubrick's wheel goes up and until we have civilian Moon motels and civilian Mars motels up there, there's just no good reason for civilians to be in space.

    I'll just save my money and stay on the ground, where I belong, thanks very much.
    And BTW, I'm a strong supporter of NASA and science and space exploration.
    I believe it in 101% all the way. But this civilian stuff is just silly.
    After a few civilians get killed this half baked idea will go away very quickly.
    You would think that common sense would rule here, what after seeing two shuttles blow up and how many Russians killed in their own problems.
    Space travel is extremely dangerous. It's best left to the experts.
    We still have a very long way to go before it's perfected.

    • I suppose those living in rural India / China / $INSERT POOR STATE HERE$, could ask the same value questions of Disneyworld - they would have to spend several years of income just to travel to the Magic Castle, and do what? Experience a roller coaster? It's not as if they would have time on their trip to get a work permit and set up an entrepenurial venture that sends wads of cash home to their village, and what would they do with western currency, anyway?

      This type of tourism is just the start, it's no

    • In the early days of aviation, there was a phenomenon that we might call today, "air tourism." People would pay pilots money -- a fair amount of money, in fact, by the standards of the time, though not as much as the space-tourism outfits are talking about charging, even adjusted for inflation -- just to get in a plane and ride around for a very short while. Those planes were rickety, dangerous contraptions, and tourists could and did get killed. No doubt most people who observed this were saying, as you
    • Why would a civilian go to space? The ultimate thrill ride?

      Yeah, that's part of it, but not most of it. Most of it is wanting to fulfill a lifelong dream and wanting to help advance human spaceflight, even if it means taking a risk. Every NASA astronaut is fulfilling a lifelong dream, advancing spaceflight, and taking a risk, too. I don't see a whole lot of difference except that they are admittedly doing it for science and we're doing it partly for entertainment. I doubt you'll find a NASA astronau
    • >The ultimate thrill ride?

      That's the reason of course, even though I don't quite understand why people would pay such high price for those suborbital flights instead of using 'vomit comet' planes to experiment weightlessness or skydiving (ok freefalling isn't weightlessness expect for the first few second and only when you jump from a slow moving aircraft or helicopter).

      I wonder why some are trying to sell suborbital fly and (almost) noone is selling 'vomit comet' rides to the normal guys: this should be
      • I wonder why some are trying to sell suborbital fly and (almost) noone is selling 'vomit comet' rides to the normal guys: this should be a lot more affordable!

        Peter Diamandis, the organizer of the X-Prize, recently started a company called ZERO-G [nogravity.com] which sells "vomit comet" rides for $3,750 each. Flights leave from Fort Lauderdale, Florida every month or so, with 15 low-gravity or zero-gravity flight parabolas. A number of notable folks have already flown on it, such as Buzz Aldrin, Burt Rutan, and id Softwar
  • by pharwell (854602)
    It's always 2.0 now.... it was cute the first 0x088 times, but now.... it's just -1, Redundant. How about

    Space Race II: This Time It's Personal!
  • Space Adventures has been shopping this craft around for something like five years - routinely announcing a new set of partners and that a first flight is expected 'soon'. Pretty much like anyone else associated with the Russian space program, their main business seems to be not flying - but generating press releases and power points about thier Brave New Future.

  • Space Adventures has been around years before Xprize was awarded. They are the forefront leaders in suborbital flights. Sorry people but this is truely old news.
  • So that's the future of space travel. The legacy of Apollo. The future of mankind.

    We should have launched an Orion, at least once.

  • Will this new Space Race usher in more new technologies into our daily lives, like the previous one?

    By all means, as long as DebtMart can charge 28% revolving interest to unemployed customers on them.
  • 2.0 is the best the space industry could manage after all these decades and billions of dollars?

    Heck, Gillette and Schick managed to take us all into 4.0 just by themselves ;-)

If a listener nods his head when you're explaining your program, wake him up.

Working...