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Space Businesses

European Launch Site For Virgin Galactic 94

Posted by kdawson
from the ooh-shiny dept.
syguy writes "Sir Richard Branson's sub-orbital space tourism venture, Virgin Galactic, is considering a second launch site in Europe. Already committed to Spaceport America near Upham, New Mexico, USA, Virgin Galactic has signed a deal with the Swedish company Spaceport to investigate providing sub-orbital flights from Kiruna airport, Sweden. This is one of the northernmost commercial airports in the world. Branson is attracted by the possibility of offering flights through the Aurora Borealis. Flights could begin in 2011 or 2012." From the article: "The company said last year they would be conducting research into the safety of such a flight. Scientists have little information on how the storms that produce the northern lights affect spacecraft. [The] joint NASA-Canadian Space Agency THEMIS project will launch five satellites into space in February to monitor the northern lights..."
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European Launch Site For Virgin Galactic

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  • by adambha (1048538)
    How long will it take to make something like this available beyond just the super-wealthy?
  • well (Score:4, Funny)

    by macadamia_harold (947445) on Sunday January 28, 2007 @12:32AM (#17787752) Homepage
    European Launch Site For Virgin Galactic

    If the galaxy has to lose its virginity somewhere, it might as well be in Europe.
  • Er... what? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ant P. (974313) on Sunday January 28, 2007 @12:33AM (#17787756) Homepage
    Flying directly through what's essentially a planet-sized cathode ray tube? Isn't that, you know...

    Ah forget it, let Darwin sort things out.
    • Flying directly through what's essentially a planet-sized cathode ray tube? Isn't that, you know...

      You can only really see the northern lights from darkness, so for maximum effect you would have to launch and land in the dark. That wasn't a requirement for SS1. Neither was flying in extreme cold.

      SS2 is sounding like a totally different beast from SS1, rather than just being a bigger version of it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by qbwiz (87077) *
        Doesn't outer space (where SS1 went) count as dark and extreme cold?
        • Re:Er... what? (Score:4, Informative)

          by HUADPE (903765) on Sunday January 28, 2007 @02:08AM (#17788092) Homepage
          Quite the opposite, when a star (namely the Sun) is shining on you, it's really quite hot, and full of EM waves, both light and some less friendly ones. The atmosphere keeps things warm at night and cool in the day. Swinging 300 degrees C when the Sun sets isn't fun.
          • by wikinerd (809585)
            I wonder whether there are better ways at protecting spacecraft from the space environment than stretching the limits of materials science. I wonder whether we could form an artificial atmosphere around a spacecraft, and save on materials, as the artificial atmosphere would be designed to protect the spacecraft in a similar way that our atmosphere protects the planet.
        • Depends, but the stratosphere certainly does (Spaceship one climbs relatively slowly up to about 15km, when the spacecraft is released. After that the flight only takes a couple of minutes)
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        space is always dark if you don't look at the sun.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by UncleTogie (1004853) *
      One of five things could happen: You could get super stretchy, turn invisible, "flame on!", get rocky, or turn to living metal.
      • by aussie_a (778472)
        No-one has ever turned to living metal by going into space. No-one!
        • by ultranova (717540)

          No-one has ever turned to living metal by going into space. No-one!

          True enough. But if it's any consolation, quite a few people have turned into very dead charcoal.

          Okay, bad joke. Move along...

    • Flying directly through what's essentially a planet-sized cathode ray tube? Isn't that, you know...

      The electrons can be more energetic than most crts. Energetic enough to cause x-rays [spasci.com]. What's even worse about Branson's idea is that the stronger x-ray flux will be associated with brighter auroras which is when the passengers will get the most visually impressive experience. So the most visually interesting flights will be when the danger is greatest.

      Ah forget it, let Darwin sort things out.

      Darwin can work in mysterious ways - the passengers may show no obvious ill effects but wait a few years until they have kids.

  • by brainspank (515274) on Sunday January 28, 2007 @12:34AM (#17787762)
    Chicken, Fish, or LSD sir?
  • While the price tag is enormous (around +$200,000 USD), it would be one in a lifetime for you to see outer space, and not to mention the "dancing lights" aurora borealis Mr Jazzizle mentioned.
    • by eebra82 (907996)
      "it would be one in a lifetime for you to see outer space"

      Especially if the shuttle crashes and they all die.
      • by therufus (677843)

        "it would be one in a lifetime for you to see outer space"

        Alternatively, one could look in the direction opposite the ground you're standing on. During the night is even more effective. This usually costs nothing at all, although you do have to go outside.
        • and find a remote area with little light pollution. it's not so easy as it used to be to just look up and enjoy the night sky.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by QuickFox (311231)

          although you do have to go outside.
          Come on, try to be realistic! This is Slashdot!
    • Outer space means outside of the solar system, at least.

      This Virgin Galactic thing is a joke, and it is more wishful thinking and an advertisement than something that brings humanity to a new era of space flight.

      And personally, as a Star Trek fan, I find it appauling that the USS Enterprise can travel the solar system in 1 hour, yet in reality all we can do is a few 100s kms above the Earth's surface.
      • by smoker2 (750216)

        Outer space means outside of the solar system, at least.
        Er, no it doesn't.

        Outer space is anywhere outside an atmosphere, or distinct from airspace. Check it out. [wikipedia.org]

        • by master_p (608214)
          That's the formal definition. In every day language, 'outer space' means 'outside of the solar system'.
    • by ultranova (717540)

      While the price tag is enormous (around +$200,000 USD), it would be one in a lifetime for you to see outer space, and not to mention the "dancing lights" aurora borealis Mr Jazzizle mentioned.

      Since I'm not even thirty yet, I'm kinda hoping that I'll be able to buy a trip to to the Moon to celebrate my retirement for $200.

      Does anyone know of any fundrisings for "X-Price 2: Low Earth Orbit" or something similar where I could invest some of my meager income to make this happen ?

  • by Timesprout (579035) on Sunday January 28, 2007 @12:42AM (#17787808)
    Then get excited
  • what the hell? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 28, 2007 @12:51AM (#17787832)
    Branson is attracted by the possibility of offering flights THROUGH the Aurora Borealis.
    >>Auroras are now known to be caused by the collision of charged particles (e.g. electrons), found in the magnetosphere, with atoms in the Earth's upper atmosphere (at altitudes above 80 km). These charged particles are typically energized to levels between 1 thousand and 15 thousand electronvolts and, as they collide with atoms of gases in the atmosphere, the atoms become energized.
    >>As well as visible light, auroras emit infrared (NIR and IR) and ultraviolet (UV) rays as well as X-rays (e.g. as observed by the Polar spacecraft).
    So they are paying 200k+ to get radiated, gj virgin!
    • by Cyberax (705495)
      Beta-rays (essentially, very fast electrons) are easily shielded with a centimeter of wax or polyethylene.

      And auroras actually are not very energetic - they are caused NOT by sun's radiation, but by particles which normally orbit the Earth along force lines of magnetic fields. During sun flares Earth's magnetic field distorts and these stored particles collide with the atmosphere.
      • I wonder what flying a spacecraft through an aurora would do to the aurora?
        I am reasonably certain that flying a spacecraft through an aurora would do something to it. But would it amplify the aurora for those of us on earth, or kill it?
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          Suppose a small weather system had an airliner fly through one of its clouds. Probably as much of an effect as that.
          • by khallow (566160)
            It's not quite that. Relatively speaking, the rocket will probably provide several orders of magnitude more material to that part of the aurora than the airliner would to its part of the weather system. Still may be insignificant.
    • by Aerovoid (590728)
      15,000eV may sound like a lot, but it's not really. There's about 20,000eV of energy hitting your T.V. screen. And I don't think the radiation emitted from the aurora's (IR, UV, X-rays, etc) could be any worse than what we already get directly from the Sun.
  • by romit_icarus (613431) on Sunday January 28, 2007 @12:52AM (#17787844) Journal
    Going by past record, =aAnything that virgin announces has to be tempered with a dose of reality. The fact is that Branson is a master in using PR publicity as marketing. In fact he has been often quoted in interviews saying that a headline and a newsworthy article is worth more than ad dollars (and he's right). Virgin Galactic is a good long term indea. It also makes for great news. Right now he has had "agreements" with launch sites. Let's see how much money he puts on the table, let's see some test flights and then we can judge.
  • Ok, interesting, but how does this space launch site compares to the previously slashdottly discussed Nova Scotia site [slashdot.org]? (yes, already in other comments, but no links provided as far as I could find)

    While we're at it. The Sweden launch site on Google Maps [google.ca].

    "This provides us with Europe's first obvious place for suborbital space flights," said Susan Newsam, spokeswoman at Virgin Galactic, who adds that "flying into the aurora borealis has never been done before."
    Ok, I don't get it. What's the point? I thought
    • yes and no (Score:5, Informative)

      by ArcSecond (534786) on Sunday January 28, 2007 @01:38AM (#17788002)
      Closer to the equator minimizes the amount of energy you have to put in to get something into orbit, since the earth's rotational velocity at the equator is maximal, and the distance from the center of gravity is greater (planets bulge at their equators).

      But keep in mind, we are not talking about rockets and putting stuff into orbit. These craft are still more aero than space and the aren't being boosted into high orbit. Also, convenience for the target audience (rich people) is at a premium, not fuel.
    • Just going up and down. The difference in gravity-centripetal acceleration between the poles and equator is small.
    • Closer to the equator is better for getting spacecraft into space. It is, however, far worse for flying into the aurora borealis.
    • by G3ckoG33k (647276)
      "Ok, I don't get it. What's the point? I thought the closer to the equator the better".


      No, not necessarily so. From wikipedia:

      Spaceport [wikipedia.org]: Typically preferred are launches from near the equator in an easterly direction. This allows maximum use of the Earth's rotational speed, and a good orientation for arriving at a geostationary orbit. The rotational boost increases the amount of mass that can be lifted to a given orbit with a given amount of fuel. For polar or Molniya orbits, these aspects do not app
      • These "aspects" do not apply to Molniya orbits because you typically want your satellite in some exact position over the Earth. Thus, you don't get to pick the orbit to minimize delta-v. The info you've given doesn't apply to polar orbits.
    • Here is a link to an aerial photograph of the launch site, which is not inside the city of Kiruna, but close by. http://tinyurl.com/2d6qna [tinyurl.com]
  • by StefanJ (88986) on Sunday January 28, 2007 @01:37AM (#17787996) Homepage Journal
    " . . . flights THROUGH the Aurora Borealis."

    I hope Branson screens his passengers carefully, because everything I know about Science and Comics says they're going to come back with super powers.

    Is the world ready for Team Virgin and assorted super-villains?
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Is the world ready for Team Virgin

      They've already been around for years, although they've been going by the less memorable moniker of "Slashdotters".

  • I happened to read the autobiography of Richard Branson titled "Losing my virginity" which makes a fascinating read. And this book provides a peep into the kind of turbulent life he led in his younger days. So I find it really funny that he had to name his company "Virgin".

    But I admire him for his active participation in adventure sports - such as his endeavor to circumvent the globe in a hot air balloon. And how he made his billions through his slew of virgin companies including a music store chain (Virgin
    • by kestasjk (933987) *
      Okay Richard you can get back to editing your Wikipedia article now..
    • by D-Cypell (446534)

      I happened to read the autobiography of Richard Branson titled "Losing my virginity"

      I've read this too. Highly recommended. Branson isn't a 'geek' in the strictest sense, but is certainly a bit of an 'odd ball'.

      I had to laugh when watching his 'The Apprentice' clone (which was vastly superior IMO), and the contestents were taken to the huge annual party that he throws on his estate for all his staff. It was just like a huge circus, with all kinds of performers. One of the contestents was quoted as saying..

  • Esrange attraction (Score:4, Informative)

    by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Sunday January 28, 2007 @02:49AM (#17788196)
    I doubt it was Kiruna's commercial airport that attracted. While little known outside Sweden, and definitely unheard of in USA, Franse, and Russia, Sweden has launched space rockets since 1966 in a station called Esrange. They apparently hope to sky rocket their already impressive launch list [wikipedia.org].
    • by oPless (63249)
      > ... and definitely unheard of in USA, Franse, and Russia, Sweden has launched space rockets since 1966

      It's spelled FRANCE by the way :o)
  • Hmmm... flying through high energy plasma caught in bounce motion in the magnetosphere. Doesn't sound like fun to me.

    Furthermore, if you're launching from a high inclination you need a lot more fuel to get up to orbiting velocity. Why do you think everyone else launches their rockets from the equator?
    • by danhuby (759002)
      Orbital velocity? They are suborbital flights only.
    • They're not going to orbit or orbital velocity. They're doing 30-minute trips, not putting satellites in stable orbits. They just need to be near a lot of rich potential passengers, and Western Europe has quite a few.
  • by Billy the Mountain (225541) on Sunday January 28, 2007 @03:24AM (#17788292) Journal
    I wonder why they said in the article "Scientists have little information on how the storms that produce the northern lights affect spacecraft." Scientific research on the Aurora Borealis has been ongoing at the Poker Flat Research Range, located 30 miles north of Fairbanks Alaska, for almost 40 years where they have been routinely launching sounding rockets into the Aurora Borealis to study it's characteristics. http://www.pfrr.alaska.edu/ [alaska.edu] .

    BTM
  • They'll get stuck in the past and the Langoliers will eat them up!
  • Kiruna (Score:3, Informative)

    by tengwar (600847) <<slashdot> <at> <vetinari.org>> on Sunday January 28, 2007 @06:02AM (#17788672)
    I've been through Kiruna a few times to go walking. It's a big, sparsely populated mining and forestry town in the Saami (Lapp) area of the north of Sweden. The air connection has to be subsidised by the government, and it's a long flight from Stockholm Arlanda in a very small plane. The air crew come round to ask who would like a taxi called for them at the airport. When you arrive, there's a single small luggage carousel and a large stuffed bear in Arrivals.
  • Relocating the town (Score:3, Interesting)

    by QuickFox (311231) on Sunday January 28, 2007 @07:38AM (#17788952)
    The people of Kiruna are not only space exploration experts, they are also good at moving houses [thelocal.se].
  • He said he was giving the profits from the next few years (~$3 billion) into ecological research/technology I think.

    So I guess sending up people on the most wasteful use of natural resources is a good idea? Currently in the UK there's a lot of argument around the tax exemption airlines get on fuel, which is playing a large part in CO2 emmissions. This sounds like it's going to undo a lot of hardwork if the flights become popular (say 5+ per week). If someone does the maths I'm sure it will work out as many
    • 5000 spaceplane launches a year seem like a lot, but it's really not that bad. The regular air-travel industry and the marine shipping industry are far, far worse offenders. A few space plane flights means virtually nothing. And there's nothing to say that the fuel (the cheapest part of a spaceplane ride) can't be made from non-petroleum derived hydrocarbons. Kerosene is normally derived from crude, but it's very similar to, oh, let's say ... whale oil (I kid, I kid). Seriously, there are almost certai
  • "Scientists have little information on how the storms that produce the northern lights affect spacecraft." - I'd like some consideration of how spacecraft will affect the Aurora Borealis. It would be terrible if this wonderful display was disrupted or ruined for everyone.
    • by Arcturax (454188)
      I doubt it will do much. Unmanned test rockets have gone there before and nothing bad happened.

      I'd worry more about the people one board. Sounds like a good way to go up and come back sterile and ripe for having cancer later in life.

      Normally the Earth's magnetic field protects us from the sun's charged particles and particles from space. Even the ISS and the shuttle still fly inside the field. The moon is outside it and Apollo astronauts did notice some radiation effects, such as seeing flashes of light
      • The Virgin Galactic passengers will be flying up there specifically to see that radiation close up. That is what auroras are made of, right?
  • I noticed that yahoo has picked up this story with their own article [yahoo.com].
  • "European launch site for virgins"
  • Langaliers. That is all.
  • It's now almost 3 years since a private company got a human into space. These are the guys who said NASA didn't have the right stuff and private startups were the future. Where are those private startups now?
    • Smaller and smaller governments are managing to put things in orbit. More and more private citizens are buying trips into space, albeit aboard government equipment. There have actually BEEN private launches.

      Patience man, patience. We're advancing at a fantastic rate, when you get right down to it. Space is an incredibly challenging place to travel to; if private companies are putting satellites into LEO within ten years and manned craft into LEO in twenty, that will be a FANTASTIC accomplishment.

  • "The company said last year they would be conducting research into the safety of such a flight. Scientists have little information on how the storms that produce the northern lights affect spacecraft. [The] joint NASA-Canadian Space Agency THEMIS project will launch five satellites into space in February to monitor the northern lights..."


    Sounds like this ride could be the perfect culmination of a Fantastic Four experience fantasy camp.



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