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Space Transportation

White Knight Two Unveiled 144

Posted by kdawson
from the call-me-EVE dept.
xanthos writes "Sir Richard Branson was at the annual Experimental Aircraft Assoc Fly-in to show off EVE (previously known as White Knight Two), the launch vehicle for Virgin Galactic's commercial space operation. Test flights for the vehicle are slated for next year with the first paying passengers going up in 2011. What surprised me was the following from the article: 'So many people have signed up already, Whitehorn said, that the company has collected $40 million in deposits with orders to build five spaceships to meet the demand.' Will this mean that the $200k price tag may be dropping?"
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White Knight Two Unveiled

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  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:15PM (#28898355) Journal

    Expensive, but I would do it if it were for a couple days in orbit...

    • by maillemaker (924053) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:18PM (#28898403)

      Unless I'm mistaken, I'm pretty sure that the Virgin experience is completely suborbital. Basically it's $200K for a parabolic rocket ride. I don't understand the appeal. OK, so you left Earth's atmosphere for a couple of minutes.

      Where's my 2001 space station?

      • by mcgrew (92797) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:43PM (#28898809) Homepage Journal

        Where's my 2001 space station?

        Did you lose that thing again? It's outside, parked next to my flying car.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:46PM (#28898859)

        "Where's my 2001 space station?"

        They spent the money on Iraq. I'm not trolling it's a fact. They have spent around a trillion dollars with no end in sight. When you add in the continued cost of staying in Iraq and the support costs for all the soldiers it's a lot more. A trillion would buy a big chunk of your 2001 space station if not the whole thing. If we spent half on space what we do on defense it would be a very different world. The problem is people will accept the money being flushed down a rathole in Iraq because of fear but they don't want to see it "wasted" on something like making 2001 a reality. There's another problem that few talk about. There simply aren't enough resources to get large numbers of people into orbit. Dropping the price down to say $10,000 would mean millions, maybe tens or hundreds of millions could potentially aford a trip into space. We're having trouble providing food and water and energy to the world so the resources have to come from some where. You really have to focus on a space infrastructure first then work on making it accessible to large numbers of people. The space elevator was an option but it's hard to say how practical it will be. We almost need to consider space mining and space based power before we think about putting a million people into orbit. I realize it'd be over time but the amount of resources is the same.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by NoahTheDuke (1590009)
          Why do you hate paragraphs so much? What did they ever do to you?! WHYYYYYY???
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mahdi13 (660205)

          What we need is a good old fashioned galactic invasion to kick the space program back in gear. If a military threat was coming from another world you know they would spend a couple trillion on the space program in a heartbeat.

          • I wonder if the nice folks monitoring the Hubble telescope are above adding in a few blotches and claiming they're a probable enemy threat, so everyone can get their space station, and the Hubble folks get a big laser cannon courtesy of Boeing.

        • Wish I'd be around to laugh at all the silly people who thought humans mining space was so insignificant it'll never mess with the mass of the planet... When they alter the orbit of the moon or earth and screw the planet with the same idiocy that has prevented progress on global warming even now when a lot of people realize it is a problem.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by demachina (71715)

          "They have spent around a trillion dollars with no end in sight."

          Actually I think the end is very much in sight in Iraq, 2011 all U.S. combat forces are supposed to be out of Iraq. There is talk they might accelerate the withdrawal by another brigade soon. Iraq mostly wants the U.S. out so they can finish their civil war, the U.S. doesn't want to be in the middle of their looming civil war.

          The war with no end in sight is in Afghanistan. They just added 21,000 more troops added this year and rumors today

        • Wel, this means that we obviously need some fearmongering for aliens from outer space. ;)

          Who's with me? Let's spread some viral stuff. ^^

      • by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:56PM (#28898987)

        Unless I'm mistaken, I'm pretty sure that the Virgin experience is completely suborbital. Basically it's $200K for a parabolic rocket ride. I don't understand the appeal. OK, so you left Earth's atmosphere for a couple of minutes.

        Where's my 2001 space station?

        This is creating a paying way to get there. Of course, there needs to be a use for the 2001-style space station. It's rather useless if it's only an orbital hotel. I'd say the killer app for space tech right now would be the solar power sats followed eventually by space-based mining and manufacture. You move the industry off into space, the surface of Earth can be left for living.

        • by Hadlock (143607)

          Are you kidding? $200K for a week in an orbital hotel and an open bar? There's probably one in the works already, they're just trying to figure out how to hose vomit off the walls in zero-G.

        • by moon3 (1530265)
          You move the industry off into space, the surface of Earth can be left for living.

          So true. Also you can use sky-hooks to lift the cargo from sub-orbital to orbital position. Moving things into space at the fraction of the cost we do now.
        • "This is creating a paying way to get there."

          No, not really. The technology in the White Knight / Virgin system is impressive, but they are not really paving the way to orbit, and they're not really trying to do that. They identified a market for sub-orbital trips with a really marvelous view, and they're trying to fill that market need. The Virgin system is a commercial successor to NASA's "Vomit Comet [wikipedia.org].

          The X-33 / VentureStar [wikipedia.org] program was paving the way to cheaper, more reliable, more frequent acces

      • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Friday July 31, 2009 @02:31PM (#28899563) Homepage Journal

        It clearly demonstrates that there is a demand for space flight. If someone developed an affordable means to get there, there are plenty of people who would be booking flights to the moon, or to Mars. Given an assurance of supplies to make the stay survivable, plenty of people would be making their flights one way. All the BS about exploring space for science if just fine - but PEOPLE WANT TO GO! Call us kooks, or whatever. There is a drive to explore, in person.

        Screw reality shows, let's get out there and meet reality, eyeball to - whatever reality looks back at us with.

        • by FCAdcock (531678)

          >All the BS about exploring space for science if just fine - but PEOPLE WANT TO GO!

          Was is scientists who found the americas? Was it a bunch of scientists who opened up the west? Not at all! It was regular people who wanted to get out and explore. That's why we aren't living on the moon already. They only let really "smart" people up there.

      • by peter303 (12292) on Friday July 31, 2009 @02:32PM (#28899583)
        Some people at NASA are talking about deorbiting [washingtonpost.com] the ISS as early as 2016. This report is probably a red-herring to raise mroe funds from Congress. But some people are thinking about dumping it. Russians think it can last until 2020 or 2030. Partners could pick it up if US drops out.
        • by CecilPL (1258010) on Friday July 31, 2009 @03:07PM (#28900125)
          You're right. They're talking about it because Congress hasn't given them the funds to continue supporting the ISS beyond 2016. But they aren't doing it as a threat, they're doing it because there are international treaties that require them to deorbit it after they stop supporting it.

          Nobody at NASA actually wants to destroy it so soon after completing it, but if Congress doesn't fund it they won't have a choice.
          • Nobody at NASA actually wants to destroy it so soon after completing it, but if Congress doesn't fund it they won't have a choice.

            Maybe Rutan will have a new toy that needs a place to park by then :)

          • Actually what happened was that the Bush administration directed NASA to focus on a new mission -- returning to the Moon, and sending Astronauts to Mars (and also directed NASA to retire the shuttle) -- but did not provide NASA with the additional promised funding. NASA, therefore, in order to try to meet those mission goals within the projected funding levels, decided to retire ISS earlier than originally planned. I hope that the new administration fixes this problem. ISS is a marvelous research platfor
      • by MobyDisk (75490) on Friday July 31, 2009 @02:36PM (#28899651) Homepage

        A potential use for such flights [wikipedia.org] is a 1 hour trip between any two points on the globe. Plus, I think you can clearly see the shape of the earth - which to me, would make it feel f'n C.O.O.L.

      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        I don't understand the appeal. OK, so you left Earth's atmosphere for a couple of minutes.

        The appeal is seeing the Earth from space. Going to space, even if for just a couple minutes. Of doing something that people born 50 years ago dreamed of doing but had no chance of happening for all but the tiny handful who became astronauts. Of seeing my home planet from a perspective I otherwise would be unable to. I can't even fathom how that is unappealing.

        I now have as a goal in my life to see the earth from s

      • by sjames (1099)

        I suppose if you already have a fast car and a yacht that some small navies would envy, you might as well vacation somewhere your friends have never been, even if only a few minutes.

      • Basically it's $200K for a parabolic rocket ride. I don't understand the appeal.

        Don't be so sure. Watch the whole thing, to get the full gist, but here is the crucial point (and assumably this is lower), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cASGhcDHvUU [youtube.com]

        • by JuzzFunky (796384)
          I wonder what would effect it would have on global politics if we sent the political leaders of the world into sub orbital space together. Perhaps it might help give them some perspective...
    • Expensive, but I would do it if it were for a couple days in orbit...

      But when you return it's the same old place.

      • Expensive, but I would do it if it were for a couple days in orbit...

        But when you return it's the same old place.

        The poundin of the drums, the pride and disgrace
        You can bury your dead, but dont leave a trace
        Hate your next-door neighbor but dont forget to say grace

  • by Robaato (958471)
    Space tourism, yeah. But orbital flights?

    Why SpaceShipOne Never Did, Never Will, And None Of Its Direct Descendants Ever Will, Orbit The Earth [daughtersoftiresias.org]
    • by FleaPlus (6935) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:19PM (#28898437) Journal

      Orbital human flights aren't planned for SpaceShipTwo, but they are planning on doing orbital microsatellite launches:

      http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2009/07/30/330347/oshkosh-2009-virgin-galactic-flies-high-at-oshkosh.html [flightglobal.com]

      Virgin Galactic will use the cash injection to develop equipment - including a new pylon between the twin hulls of WhiteKnight Two - able to carry a two-stage launcher and satellite weighing up to 200kg (440lb), with a total payload of 17t- into orbit. The aircraft is designed as the mothership for Virgin Galactic's spaceliner SpaceShip Two.
      Virgin Galactic's chief executive Will Whitehorn says that the company will begin its space cargo business in about three years time, two years after it expects to carry the first paying space tourists into suborbit. "For the first five or six years, 80% of our business will be tourism, but five to nine years after that it will be 50/50 [between passengers and cargo or training and scientific flights]," he says.
      Whitehorn says the company could take the cost of launching a satellite into space using a ground-based launcher from $30 million to "as low as $2 million" using WhiteKnight Two.
      He expects the first satellite launchers to be Virgin's own design, either built at its factory in Mojave, California or contracted out to a specialist manufacturer, but eventually the aircraft will be able to carry third-party boosters.
      Whitehorn says that Virgin Galactic was approached by Aabar because the latter saw the opportunity beyond space tourism for the Scaled Composites-built WhiteKnight Two.
      "This investment now gives us the capital to take us through the commercial launch and build an extra WhiteKnight for the satellite business," he says.

      • by BuR4N (512430)
        "Virgin Galactic will use the cash injection to develop equipment - including a new pylon between the twin hulls of WhiteKnight Two - able to carry a two-stage launcher and satellite weighing up to 200kg (440lb), with a total payload of 17t- into orbit. " Will look something like the Pegasus launch system (but half the payload) I presume

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pegasus_rocket [wikipedia.org]
  • Not likely... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:16PM (#28898381)

    Will this mean that the $200k price tag may be dropping?

    Because everybody knows that when people are trampling each other at the gates to pay the retail price, it's a sure sign that the store is going to lower it in a hurry.

    • by 2short (466733)

      There was no supply whatsoever; and only a very limited supply projected in the future. A significantly larger supply is now forecast.
      Demand may be strong, but unless it gets stonger, the price ought to drop.

      So sayeth Econ 101, which I'm often suspicious of, but pretty much buy here. Assuming the whole thing doesn't fold taking peoples deposits with them, flights will get cheaper to operate the longer they actually own and fly the craft. And I'm dubious they can keep finding customers at 200K for long.
      • I can also experience weightlessness by jumping off my roof for free, but the scenery isn't as cool.

        • by 2short (466733)

          Yes, but for a small fraction of 200K, you can experience weightlessness for a similar amount of time with similar scenery as what they are selling. The guy taking your money won't call a plane a spaceship, or the part of the atmosphere you reach "space". But other than that, it will be the same thing for a lot less money.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Because everybody knows that when people are trampling each other at the gates to pay the retail price, it's a sure sign that the store is going to lower it in a hurry.

      If they're smart, that's exactly what they'll do. If they can get it working smoothly, then scale up to where their costs are lower, then lowering the expense of the flight is the most profitable route. Right now the only market they're tapping is the market of the very rich and those who are willing to save up multiple annual incomes for one trip. Every time they lower the price they'll increase the size of their market.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Think market share. They have maybe a one year advance on spaceX. It is better to launch 500 tourists a year at 100,000$ than 50 at 200,000$
  • by Ngarrang (1023425) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:18PM (#28898409) Journal

    So, instead of optimizing the vehicle to be just a launch system, they are creating additional revenue by adding in a passenger compartment. "Only $1,000 will get you a window seat where you can watch rich people fly into space!"

    • by FleaPlus (6935) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:24PM (#28898517) Journal

      So, instead of optimizing the vehicle to be just a launch system, they are creating additional revenue by adding in a passenger compartment. "Only $1,000 will get you a window seat where you can watch rich people fly into space!"

      Hey, I'd pay to see something that cool up close, especially if they also threw in a few zero-g parabolas.

    • One of the things about whiteknighttwo is that it is a dual fuselage design (to allow the launch cargo to be carried in the middle between them)

      Furthermore they made the hulls as big as spaceshiptwo so that they could use one of them to train tourists for thier flight in spaceshiptwo.

      So may as well do something profitable with the other hull (making the two hulls different sizes/weights would probablly be very bad for stability)

  • ...are getting a sequel announced this summer: http://ps3.ign.com/articles/100/1008671p1.html [ign.com]

  • [FTFA]

    Will this mean that the $200k price tag may be dropping?

    They have more orders than they can fill with a $200k price tag, so why again would they consider dropping the price?

    • by pluther (647209)

      They wouldn't, as long as they're the only ones doing it, and as long as people are signing up faster than they can get flights up.

      In those circumstances, the price would logically rise fairly quickly.

      However, it's unlikely that both of those conditions will remain true for very long.

      With the (hopefully large) profits they pull in, they will be able to build more systems and launch more frequently. This will allow them to operate more flights. They may be able to then lower the price to attract more custom

  • by bytestorm (1296659) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:30PM (#28898599)
    Virgin's FAQ [virgingalactic.com] says 200000 is only for the first 100 and then scaling down between 100 and 175K for the remainder of the first 1000 and 20k thereafter.
  • $40m @ $200k/each is only 200 people. Do they really need 5 additional ships? (Though, they don't say if a deposit is 100% the cost, so it might be more people) And why the hell would you pay $200k for a suborbital flight for a couple minutes?
    • by TheKidWho (705796)

      Because going to orbit would cost you $20,000,000 or 100x as much, and that price isn't expected to decrease below the $1,000,000 point anytime in the next 20-30 years?

    • And why the hell would you pay $200k for a suborbital flight for a couple minutes?

      Why would someone pay $1million for a diamond ring? $1millon for a car? $50k for a sub woofer?

      Not because they can, but because you can't.

    • Re:$40m? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MightyYar (622222) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:46PM (#28898845)

      And why the hell would you pay $200k for a suborbital flight for a couple minutes?

      Hey, people paid $10,000 for a Concord flight... why not go suborbital for $200,000? If you gave me the choice of a trip to space or a Ferrari, I'd personally choose the trip to space.

    • by mcgrew (92797)

      Why would you pay $10,000 for a suit or $250,000 for a car?

    • Re:$40m? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday July 31, 2009 @03:03PM (#28900041) Homepage

      And why the hell would you pay $200k for a suborbital flight for a couple minutes?

      I don't get why people keep talking about how it's suborbital, like that means it isn't completely fucking awesome. I'm serious, I just don't get it.

      I mean, it's almost as if you're saying that if I gave you a free ticket aboard Spaceship Two, you'd begrudgingly take it while muttering "what's the point?", and then once in space you'd be yawning and saying "Sure we're outside the atmosphere but it's not orbital" while the rest of us are shitting our pants at the incredible experience we're having, seeing earth from space.

      Is that the wrong impression? Are you just saying orbital would be cooler, but not actually denying that suborbital, if that's all you could get, would still be fucking sweet? I hope so, because otherwise there's just going to be too big a gap between our thinking to overcome.

      But if so, then the answer to "why the hell would you pay $200k for a suborbital flight for a couple minutes?" is simple: Because that's how much it costs, that's how high it gets you, and that's how long it lasts, to do one of the most incredible things you may ever have the chance to do in your life.

      For people who can afford $200k for a luxury, of which there are quite a few, this must seem like a great deal. If the price gets down to $20k like they suggest, then I'm going to be scrounging up my savings for the day when I will leave the planet's atmosphere, even if briefly. I know I sure as flying fuck won't be complaining that I'm only 100km above the earth's surface, doing something my father and father's father would have given their left nuts to do.

      (Though, they don't say if a deposit is 100% the cost, so it might be more people)

      Oh and yeah, it's pretty much the definition of a deposit that it isn't 100% of the cost. Putting down a "deposit" that is 100% of the cost is called "paying in advance". Combine this with the fact that Branson is out to make money and thus probably isn't building extra vehicles for no reason, and I think it's safe to say that $40m in deposits represents a lot more than 200 people.

      • by cecom (698048)

        I for one don't think its awesome and I am sure I am not the only one. What's so awesome about it?

        First, it is completely pointless. It is not like suborbital flight generates useful science, or launches satellites or anything. It sole purpose is just idiotic entertainment for the rich.

        We were able to make real orbital flights in 1961. In 2009 you can pay a huge amount of money and make a pointless sub-orbital flight? Pfft. It is not my definition of awesome.

        Now, if we could dock with the ISS, that would be

        • Re:$40m? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday July 31, 2009 @05:24PM (#28902439) Homepage

          I for one don't think its awesome and I am sure I am not the only one. What's so awesome about it?

          Seeing earth from space. Leaving the atmosphere. If I have to say more, then there's nothing more I can say because you aren't the kind of kid who looked at the stars and imagined being an astronaut. This is the closest thing you can get. It may be the closest thing we get in our lifetimes.

          First, it is completely pointless. It is not like suborbital flight generates useful science, or launches satellites or anything. It sole purpose is just idiotic entertainment for the rich.

          Gotcha. Nothing done for just fun can be awesome. Nothing you personally experience that isn't useful is by definition not awesome.

          You're kidding me, right? Let me know if you are or not, because it would help me understand if I knew that I was just talking to the most boring person ever.

          We were able to make real orbital flights in 1961

          You sure as fuck couldn't. We're talking about civilians here. The point is not "what is the limit of human capability". We're talking about "What could you, some random non-astronaut, do?" And by that standard, this is an opportunity that has never been seen before. Still exclusive now due to the price, but they're talking relatively short timeframes to reduce that cost by an order of magnitude. Really, you have to completely lack perspective and imagination not to see how this is new.

          Now, if we could dock with the ISS, that would be inbcredible! Not in our life time though.

          What's so incredible about that? We've had space stations since 1971. It's not like you would get to do any useful science or launch a satellite. The sole purpose would be for a stupid joyride stunt and a little guided tour, idiotic entertainment for idiots. *snark snark snark*

          • by cecom (698048)

            You are comparing space flight to climbing Mount Everest. No offense, but that is pretty sad. Climbing Mount Everest is totally useless, but at the same time "awesome" because it is hard, only a few people have been there, and you get to look on the world from up high. While there is some "coolness" factor in that, this is not what humanity aspires to.

            We like space flight for other reasons - science, discovery, planetary colonization and so on. Paying $200K for a pointless suborbital flight makes a mockery

            • because it is hard,
              It's still hard but afaict it's a lot less hard than it used to be at least if you go up the normal route since there are now staging camps and ladders and ropes accross the hardest sections which are set up by the sherpass and left there for the whole season.

              only a few people have been there,
              Afaict a lot more people have been up everest than have made suborbital flights.

              and you get to look on the world from up high.
              True but you can see it from a similar height from an aircraft with much

  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:34PM (#28898667) Journal

    There's some pretty cool video of White Knight Two flying at Oshkosh here:

    http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/hyperbola/2009/08/video-all-the-virgin-galactic.html [flightglobal.com]

    There's also some notes from a panel discussion [parabolicarc.com] on the craft. Some highlights:

    * Production run for the program is set up for 12 WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft and 50 SpaceShipTwo crafts;
    * This is the first all-composites aircraft, something that the aviation industry needs to embrace more;
    * WhiteKnightTwo is not just an aircraft, it is a spacecraft delivery system that is capable of delivering cargo into space cheaply; [orbital microsatellite launch]
    * Scaled and Virgin are confident they can build a WhiteKnightThree that will allow they to launch even larger payloads into space;
    * Rutan said WhiteKnightTwo is very manueverable, and he expected to put the vehicle through aerobatic manuevers at the Oshkosh show next year;
    * Whitehorn didnâ(TM)t seem to like this idea very much, vigorously shaking his head and trying to dissuade the designer from such an idea.

    • WK2 at Oshkosh (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nick Driver (238034)

      I just got back home from Oshkosh and saw the WK2 up close and personal there at Aeroshell Square. I didn't know beforehand that only the starboard side fuselage pod has any seats for crew. The left side fuselage has fake painted-on "windows" so that it looks like there are real windows from a distance, but apparently the left fuselage only contains equipment and possibly fuel tanks, there are no seats for any occupants on that side.

      I took several photos of the center wing section where the spacecraft is su

      • by yabos (719499)
        I was just going to post asking where the pilots sit. It's a weird looking design, like 2 planes stuck together.
        • I was just going to post asking where the pilots sit.

          They sit inside the starboard fuselage. Even the seating capacity of that side looks extremely limited. From what I could see from the ground while I was standing on the ground under the plane, there were only two seats visibly installed for pilot and co-pilot. I could not see if there were any more seats installed behind the two front seats in the starboard fuselage pod. The plane sits pretty high up off the ground and they had it roped off so you could

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tekfactory (937086)

      I know this was from the website so I don't refute you, but.

      * Rutan said WhiteKnightTwo is very manueverable, and he expected to put the vehicle through aerobatic manuevers at the Oshkosh show next year;
      * Whitehorn didnâ(TM)t seem to like this idea very much, vigorously shaking his head and trying to dissuade the designer from such an idea.

      Burt Rutan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burt_Rutan [wikipedia.org]
      has a brother Richard "Dick" Rutan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Rutan [wikipedia.org]
      Burt designs aircraft, and Dick flies them.

      Richard had been a fighter pilot, and asked Burt for years to build him an Aerobatic plane, Burt wouldn't do it because the liability insurance on such a design would be too expensive.

      Instead Burt built an airplane called Voyager to fly around the world, and Richard flew it around the

  • by mcgrew (92797) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:40PM (#28898751) Homepage Journal

    Iirc it was 1964 when Star Trek came out. The science fiction stuff in it was pure fantasy; magic, impossible: cell phones, flat screen computers, doors that opened themselves, medical readouts in the hospitals, etc. It would be five more years before man walked on the moon; orbital flight was in its infancy.

    Now it looks like another fantasy will come true - the price of space flight may become affordable to an average guy like me! This is simply amazing.

    • by caseih (160668)

      Except that this isn't "space flight." It's merely going up really high (to the edge of space) and then falling back down for a short time. Basically a more expensive version of the vomit comet, or a safer way to sky dive. It does nothing to address and overcome the real problems of space travel. On the other hand, it does contribute to the development of suborbital transglobal travel. So maybe the fantasy in "Rocketship Galileo" of a world where passengers can travel anywhere in just a couple of hours

    • Iirc it was 1964 when Star Trek came out.

      Nooooooo it wasn't http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060028/ [imdb.com]
      "Star Trek" TV series 1966-1969

  • by zooblethorpe (686757) on Friday July 31, 2009 @02:03PM (#28899101)

    Can anyone more familiar with the rocket design explain this perplexing quote?

    This is how it works: The launch vehicle takes off like a plane, carrying the spaceship between twin booms; once it gets to a certain height, the spaceship drops from the launch vehicle, firing its hybrid nitrous oxide and rubber rocket engine to climb vertically at almost four times the speed of sound; once it reaches 62 miles - the edge of space - it floats back down and uses its wings like a badminton shuttlecock to re-enter the atmosphere and land like a plane.

    So, does this thing literally burn rubber? :D

    Cheers,

    • by radtea (464814) on Friday July 31, 2009 @02:16PM (#28899309)

      So, does this thing literally burn rubber?

      Solid fuel compositions tend to be rubbery. This makes them insensitive to vibrations and thermal stresses which could lead to cracking in stiffer compositions. Cracking is a Very Bad Thing as it tends to produce sudden trust variations.

      So if by "rubber" you mean "made from the sap of a rubber tree or a similar hydrocarbon synthetic designed primarily for flexibility and resilience", then no, it doesn't burn rubber. The fuel is designed primarily for high specific impulse, with the rubbery characteristics design in secondarily.

      The use of a hybrid solid-fuel/fluid-oxidizer design allows the engine to be throttled, and yet is considerably cheaper than a comparably powerful liquid rocket design.

      Aside: has anyone noticed that /. is even more borken than usual today, failing to recognize the text entry area for comments past about a 64 column limit?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes and no, it burns hydroxy-terminated polybutadiene (tire rubber) according to this article [howstuffworks.com]

    • by MaskedSlacker (911878) on Friday July 31, 2009 @02:37PM (#28899683)

      Yes. Truth be told, it doesn't matter what you use as the solid fuel in a hybrid rocket. You can use cardboard, salami, your mom, whatever. Some fuels are certainly better than others, but anything that burns with your oxidizer will work. They're probably using polyethylene or something similar (it's what we used in our college rocket club's hybrid rocket).

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by smellsofbikes (890263)
      If you look up "hybrid rocket" what you'll see is a lot of similar systems. Traditionally, rockets were either liquid fuel, where you mixed two liquids (oxygen and kerosine, oxygen and hydrogen, for example) or one block of solid fuel like the Thiokol system on the Space Shuttle boosters -- which is, itself, commonly referred to as rubber. A hybrid system uses a solid fuel and a liquid or gaseous oxidizer. Nitrous oxide works well. One interesting thing about it is that you can use just about anything t
    • Can anyone more familiar with the rocket design explain this perplexing quote?

      This is how it works: The launch vehicle takes off like a plane, carrying the spaceship between twin booms; once it gets to a certain height, the spaceship drops from the launch vehicle, firing its hybrid nitrous oxide and rubber rocket engine to climb vertically at almost four times the speed of sound; once it reaches 62 miles - the edge of space - it floats back down and uses its wings like a badminton shuttlecock to re-enter the atmosphere and land like a plane.

      So, does this thing literally burn rubber? :D

      Cheers,

      Yes. Watch some more Mythbusters, they built one that burns salami :)
      Ok, it was a sucky thing made in a few days with plumbing supplies, but that's mythbuster style, baybay.

  • Bet he gets podded his first time out.

  • Branson has said he's naming it EVE. Until he takes possession of it, the name remains WhiteKnight Two.

    WhiteKnight Two was "unveiled" (called a roll-out) on July 28, 2008. It has been seen flying at Mojave several times since. It's first outside public appearance was at the groundbreaking ceremony for Spaceport America June 18, 2009.

    The EAA function is called AirVenture. The name was changed in 1998.

    WhiteKight Two has been undergoing flight testing since its first flight on December 21, 2008 (this ironicall

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