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Space Transportation Science

Construction On Spaceship Factory Set To Begin In the Mojave 147

Posted by timothy
from the want-a-lift? dept.
angry tapir writes "A production facility that would build the world's first fleet of commercial spaceships is set to begin construction on Tuesday at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The facility will be home to The Spaceship Co, or TSC — a joint venture owned by Mojave-based Scaled Composites and British billionaire Richard Branson's space tourism company, Virgin Galactic."
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Construction On Spaceship Factory Set To Begin In the Mojave

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  • by Tei (520358) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @06:23AM (#34184488) Journal

    My suggestion is to have tiny crates all around with scraps metal and drugs.

  • I must be dreaming (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @06:29AM (#34184514)

    Headlines like that give me goosebumps.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Taxman415a (863020)
      Yeah, I think a spaceship factory is kind of cool too, but with a name like Mojave Air and Space Port, I'm really disappointed there's been 30 some comments and no one has made a reference to the "wretched hive of scum and villainy", Mos Eisley. It's even out in the desert southwest where at least one of the far off shots from the film were done.
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        These aren't the space ports you're looking for [waves hand]

        • Mojave Air and Space Port

          Almost an anagram of Mos Eisley. Any mesas nearby to shoot the obligatory vista scene?

          • by Reziac (43301) *

            Actually, yes... well, mountains and high rocks, anyway, and very long views. Not sure if you can see the spaceport, tho, since Mojave is at the edge of where the north fragment of the Antelope Valley gives way to rough country.

            [I live about half an hour away]

        • by Reziac (43301) *

          One is indeed tempted to misdirect would-be spaceport visitors to the nearby aircraft boneyard. ;)

    • No kidding. There's nothing to distinguish this headline from one a character might see in any scifi novel. The concept of a private company building a factory solely to build spaceships (albeit 60km ones) is staggering.

      • No kidding. There's nothing to distinguish this headline from one a character might see in any scifi novel. The concept of a private company building a factory solely to build spaceships (albeit 60km ones) is staggering.

        Last I heard, these are spaceships only in the very most technical sense. About the same way a Roomba is "a robot." You get what, a few minutes of free fall, and that's it. I don't know about you folks, but that's most emphatically not what I've been thinking of when I thought "space sh

        • Methinks more waiting is called for

          If I wait any longer I will run out of time. So what if Robert Heinlein didn't predict the exact future? Lets be thankful for what we get.

    • by Twinbee (767046)

      Welcome to the year 2070! We hope you can adjust quickly to your environment. People are generally happier in this age, so I don't think you'll be lonely for long!

    • They can't be serious. Leading experts agree they must first build a SpaceshipFactoryProvider.

    • by IorDMUX (870522)
      But I dunno about that name... "The Spaceship Co."? Seems a little uninspired.

      I would prefer something like, say... "General Products".
  • by Dexter Herbivore (1322345) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @06:31AM (#34184516) Journal
    saying "We require more Vespene gas"
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      They're clearly doing it all wrong. Factory is for ground units; build a spaceport ffs!
  • long term plans? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Vectormatic (1759674) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @06:36AM (#34184528)

    TFA mentions the factory will produce:
    - three white-knight IIs
    - five SpaceshipTwos

    so, what will happen after these 8 builds? Any plans for spaceshipThree?

    Cool stuff though, if branson can build some type of spaceshipthree which does orbital flight en masse, this might be the beginning of true private spaceflight

    • Re:long term plans? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Seth Kriticos (1227934) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @06:51AM (#34184588)

      Orbital flight is still future talk for them. The WhiteKnight/SpaceShipTwo combos can only do sub-orbital flights (around 100 km, half of orbital flight). But they are also quite cheep at $200k. Maybe in a few years they'll offer leo/geo flights too, or maybe even further.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by damburger (981828)

        100km suborbital is "half" of orbital flight? and this gets modded 'Informative'?

        Presumably 'half' is a purely qualitative guess by someone who doesn't understand newtonian mechanics?

        Hybrid rocket engines cannot give you the mass fraction to get into orbit. Those lightweight hulls cannot withstand the temperatures associated with re-entry from orbit. TSC isn't going to build an orbital spacecraft any time soon, sorry to burst your bubble.

        • by captainpanic (1173915) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @07:42AM (#34184844)

          Altitude is quite irrelevant. It's velocity we need!

          The potential energy of 1 kg at 250 km is 2.5 MJ/kg.
          The kinetic energy of 1 kg at 7000 m/s is 25 MJ (10x as much!).
          The atmosperic drag adds less than 20% to the energy requirements.

          The point I try to make? We need velocity! How fast does that Space Ship go? (No, I didn't RTFA - it may be in there...)

          p.s. 100 km is half orbital only because low earth orbit is at about 200 km.

          • by damburger (981828)
            The spaceship has essentially zero horizontal velocity, it flies directly upwards to gain the required altitude. In order to get to orbit, it would need to do as it does at the moment *in addition to* gaining that huge amount of kinetic energy you correctly calculated. Clearly, these 'SpaceShips' are no where near true orbital craft.
            • by Magada (741361)

              Hmm... how about skip-(power)gliding to gain speed once you get all the way up there? Go suborbital, let gravity slam you back down into thicker air at an angle shallow enough to ensure you're going back out like a pebble on a pond, fire up your scramjet again to skip back up, only a little faster this time... rinse, repeat.

              It's perhaps impractical to do this with humans on board.

              • by damburger (981828)

                I don't have the maths with me, but I am fairly confident that won't work regardless of how many people on board.

                Look at Skylon; a proposed design for an airbreathing rocket. The altitude at which it switches from atmospheric oxygen to on-board liquid oxygen is far lower than the altitude you could perform such a 'skip' maneouver at (which, by the way, decreases your velocity quite a bit. Most of the time, that is exactly why you do it)

                There is a notion that if there is enough of a monetary prize out there,

                • by Magada (741361)

                  Skylon was supposed to have hybrid ramjet/rocket engines, no? As opposed to a scramjet, I mean. A ramjet ceases to be useful around 5 mach or so, whereas a scramjet is supposed to top off at 20-something.

                  • by damburger (981828)

                    Skylon uses an air-breathing rocket engine. It isn't any kind of -jet at all. It doesn't work at as high speeds as a scramjet, but what it can do is switch to an internal oxygen supply at this speed, whereas with a scramjet you need a whole other engine, which is going to punish you quite severely in terms of mass fraction as you also require more plumbing and thrust structure.

                    In both cases, its pretty speculative technology.

                    • Skylon uses an air-breathing rocket engine.

                      And with current technology its easier to carry a tank of LOX.

                    • by dave420 (699308)

                      It's easier, but you can only burn for about 8 minutes before you run out of juice, and all the time you're lifting infrastructure that exists solely for holding oxygen (or oxygenated fuel). Using the atmospheric oxygen lets you burn fuel for, say, 45 minutes (as in Skylon's projections), and if you use a wing alongside, you get lift, too.

                      Trying to fight against air to lift oxygen through where there is plenty of oxygen seems pretty silly.

            • by rwa2 (4391) *

              Maybe for stage 2 we could put a massive orbital platform that could snag the spaceship with a tether and accelerate it the rest of the way? Then when they're ready to return then could use a big slingshot to slow it down for the drop.
              Would need to work out the math for that...
              Ech, low earth orbit doesn't really start until 200km. And even then it'd need to accelerate from roughly 0 to about 8km/s.

              Living in a gravity well sucks

              • by damburger (981828)
                The maths isn't so much of a problem as engineering. Nobody has even attempted something so ambitious, and certainly a private space industry that is struggling sending very simple rockets to suborbital trajectories can't do it.
        • by Speare (84249)

          Given the rapid orbital decay of objects below approximately 200 km, the commonly accepted definition for LEO is between 160 - 2,000 km (100 - 1,240 miles) above the Earth's surface. --Wikipedia

          Yes, speed is the key, but I can see why someone could rationally simplify the statement to "100km is roughly half of a LEO altitude." He wasn't giving a definition, he was simply pointing out that 100km isn't orbital, and giving one way of looking at the difference.

          • by dave420 (699308)
            "100km is roughly half of a typical LEO altitude" would be more accurate, then. 100km would very well be orbital, if you are going fast enough.
        • Hybrid rocket engines cannot give you the mass fraction to get into orbit.

          What makes you say that? There's nothing inherent in the design of a hybrid that precludes it. Obviously, they have a thrust to weight ratio sufficient to push SpaceShipOne to an orbital altitude. Getting to an orbital velocity is simply a matter of clusters and staging.
          • by damburger (981828)
            Once you introduce staging, the costs go up because it works less like a plane and more like a conventional rocket. Also, due to the abysmal performance of hybrids, you would need a fuckton of staging to do it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kingturkey (930819)

      Wikipedia says the plan for SpaceShipThree will be point-to-point sub-orbital flights rather than orbital as previously planned. But obviously that's contingent on their continuing success.

      I'm truly amazed that they're this far along, I've previously written this stuff off as fantasy but it really is happening. There aren't hovercars but we're almost living in the future.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Lillebo (1561251)

        There aren't hovercars but we're almost living in the future.

        We're actually not that far away when it comes to hovercars either: DARPA's flying Humvee [goo.gl]

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by delinear (991444)
          I never really thought about it before, but surely the war on terror has killed the hover car as anything but a plaything for the super rich. Can you honestly imagine our twitch-reaction governments allowing people to fly around in cars? I can't even board a plane that someone else is flying without letting them pat-down search me and look in my shoes.
          • by Thud457 (234763)

            never really thought about it before, but surely the war on terror has killed the hover car as anything but a plaything for the super rich. Can you honestly imagine our twitch-reaction governments allowing people to fly around in cars? I can't even board a plane that someone else is flying without letting them pat-down search me and look in my shoes.

            Honest Q : has the FAA changed commercial flight rules since that lone deranged "lone nut" teabagger flew his $150,000 private plane into the regional IRS headquarters?

            Here comes the troll : oh, that's right, we're only skeered of them foreign, brown terrerists.

            • by ErikZ (55491) *

              Well sure. Why, has there been a bunch of white or black terrorists attacking the US?

              Also, I'm wondering why you haven't differentiated between men and women, or age.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jollyreaper (513215)

        [quote]Wikipedia says the plan for SpaceShipThree will be point-to-point sub-orbital flights rather than orbital as previously planned. But obviously that's contingent on their continuing success.

        I'm truly amazed that they're this far along, I've previously written this stuff off as fantasy but it really is happening. There aren't hovercars but we're almost living in the future.[/quote]

        What's also nice is this approach seems more realistic, each stage of the process intended to generate a positive cashflow,

        • yeah, i figured some kind of sub-orbital long distance travel would also be needed, but somehow i figured SS2 would be suited for that..

          i would love for SSx to go for full orbital serial production

      • I wanted to go all philosophical on you with "Technically, we'll always live in the present...", but I'm afraid that I'd get my a** handed to me if I start with this. :(
        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Technically, we'll always live in the present

          At my age, we live in the future. Today's tech is yesterday's science fiction. I never thought I'd see Star Trek's cell phones, flat screen monitors, self-opening doors, etc. I really never thought I'd see the day I could get my eye's lens replaced with a bionic implant and not have to wear glasses!

          The present was a long time ago.

          To quote a rock band whose name I can't remember, "today is only yesterday's tomorrow".

        • I think you meant to say, "we all live in the past." The present just hasn't reached our consciousness yet. As for the future, well, that's another story.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by drcheap (1897540)

        There aren't hovercars but we're almost living in the future.

        I want to live in the future. Every night I go to sleep thinking, "tomorrow is the future, and so when I wake up I'll be living there!" But then I wake up and damned if it isn't just "today" again, and the future is yet again 1 day away :(

    • Not if Malachi Constant has anything to do with it. In order to prove Winston Niles Rumfoord wrong he will cancel all the space projects so there will be no way he can go into space and fulfill the prophecy Rumfoord laid out....unless something goes terribly wrong.

      Slightly early, but happy birthday Kurt, RIP.
    • so, what will happen after these 8 builds? Any plans for spaceshipThree?

      First hit on Google - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceShipThree [wikipedia.org]

    • I imagine this:

      1. More people pay up because then it's for real.
      2. Price goes down.
      3. Repeat.

      That's all they really need to get an industry jump-started, and get capital flowing in. With six passengers on board, each flight is worth 1.2 million USD. It's not hard to iterate that to get a significant operating budget.

    • by Reziac (43301) *

      All very excellent, but ... what's their destination?? They must have a private planet tucked away somewhere.

    • TFA mentions the factory will produce: - three white-knight IIs - five SpaceshipTwos

      so, what will happen after these 8 builds?

      My first guess is that they will then renegotiate tax breaks and subsidies with the state of California before deciding where to do additional production. California is a pretty hostile place to to production/manufacturing unless you are high profile enough to get a deal and or/waivers from the state.

    • Any plans for spaceshipThree?

      Virgin Galactic have some artists impressions on various web sites. They have a long term concept for a transatlantic semiballistic rocket. Maybe half an hour in transit. That kind of thing.

  • by Dudibob (1556875) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @06:46AM (#34184574)
    They should call this facility REPCONN Aerospace
  • by VMaN (164134) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @07:00AM (#34184634) Homepage

    .. and P.F. Hamilton likes to include timelines, e.g.

    2020 — Cavius base established. Mining of lunar subcrustal resources starts.
    2037 — Beginning of large-scale geneering on humans; improvement to immunology system, eradication of appendix, organ efficiency increased.
    2041 — First deuterium-fuelled fusion stations built; inefficient and expensive.
    2044 — Christian reunification.
    2047 — First asteroid capture mission. beginning of Earth’s O’Neill halo.

    I'd love to see this story as one of those timeline points...

    • A little off topic, but I'm just finishing the Void trilogy and I had a similar thought.
  • How long it took NASA to grow to a level where it could launch big rockets! That is the Government inefficiency baby. Look at private enterprise. They launch rockets, even before they build the factory. http://www.lanewsmonitor.com/news/California-Missile-Mystery--Real-Missile-Launch-Or-Jet-Contrail-1289389883/ [lanewsmonitor.com]
    • by damburger (981828)
      Ah yes, the private sector managing to replicate the X-15 flights of the 1960s, 50 years late! and doing so using demonstrably simpler and less powerful rocket technology (and handholding from NASA when their N20 tanks explode on the ground). Go free market!
      • Whooosh!

        Look up, you see the joke flying a mile over your head, with a contrail too!

        • by geekoid (135745)

          It was a poorly laid out joke.

          Of course, had you tilde'd it, it would have been obvious what you were attempting to do.

      • by c6gunner (950153)

        and doing so using demonstrably simpler and less powerful rocket technology

        Since when is efficiency a bad thing?

        • by damburger (981828)

          Its not efficiency, its dead-end technology. What the USAF (and by extension NASA) developed in the X-15 program directly fed into the development of future US spacecraft. The X-15 used a bipropellant liquid fueled engine, something that can potentially be upgraded to reach orbit. A hybrid rocket, as far as we can tell, can't practically be upgraded beyond what they are doing already (very low energy, sub-orbital millionaire hops).

          Typical for a market fundamentalist, you misunderstand Occam's razor and assu

          • by c6gunner (950153)

            Its not efficiency, its dead-end technology

            Yep, that's why there's a huge waiting list of people who want to go up in these things. Because it's a dead end. Right.

            Typical for a market fundamentalist, you misunderstand Occam's razor and assume the simplest (and thus cheapest) solution is *always* the best.

            I do?

            Look, I understand that you need to grasp at straws in order to justify your mindless dislike of private space industry, but this strawman / ad-hominem bullshit isn't helping your case.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        The first X-15 [wikipedia.org] flight was an unpowered test flight by Scott Crossfield, on 8 June 1959; he also piloted the first powered flight, on 17 September 1959, with his first XLR-99 flight on 15 November 1960. Twelve test pilots flew the X-15; among them were Neil Armstrong (first man to walk on the moon) and Joe Engle (a space shuttle commander). In July and August 1963, pilot Joe Walker crossed the 100 km altitude mark, joining the NASA astronauts and Soviet Cosmonauts as the only humans to have crossed the barri

    • by vbraga (228124)

      How long? NASA was created from NACA in July, 1958. The first manned suborbital flight (from NASA, since Vostok I did made a full orbital flight somewhat earlier) I remember is the Mercury-Redstone 3 in May, 1961. So, it took about three years. A full orbital flight - something Virgin will took many years to make if ever - was in February, 1962.

    • by alen (225700) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @09:33AM (#34185658)

      the government did this first in the days when supercomputers were less powerful than iphones and droids. back then the engineers had to actually do the math by hand and test everything via trial and error

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Your an idiot.

      No private sector on the planet can do what NASA does as effeciently as NASA does it.

      10 years and they can get people 100km up. yeah, real whoop dee do.

      G

  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @07:27AM (#34184732)
    Yawn. Wake me when they start building an orbiting spaceship factory.
  • 16 comments and no one mentioned the obvious Civilisation V reference? I am a sad panda.
    • by cashman73 (855518)
      Well, unfortunately these spacecraft are only going to the edge of space, at 60 miles up, not all the way to Alpha Centauri. We have already built the Apollo Program Wonder, and there really isn't another wonder to build until we make it to the nearest star,. . . So, unless we have some huge breakthrough in the next 40 years, we probably won't win the space race victory by 2050. Perhaps we can still shoot for a Diplomatic Victory in the UN (though Dubya tried for the Military Conquest victory),. . .
      • by bheekling (976077)
        Now you've made me sadder. And destroyed this week's productivity by reminding me that I haven't tried Diplomatic or Cultural victories yet.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      In Civ V we would have won with Apollo.

  • by benwiggy (1262536) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @07:42AM (#34184842)
    You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.
  • It is a spaceship factory, if a few tens of Km over the surface of the Earth can be considered "space". But, let me not spoil it for the future "space tourists".

    • "It is a spaceship factory, if a few tens of Km over the surface of the Earth can be considered "space". But, let me not spoil it for the future "space tourists"."

      Transatlantic air tourism across the Pacific Ocean in Boeing 747s began with retired WW1 pilots charging passengers to sit in the back seat of shaky 2 seater military planes for bumpy flights a few metres off the sea over the English Channel in the early 1920s.... Let's see where this goes before sneering too quickly.

      • haha, correcting myself! well if I am going to talk about "transatlantic" of course I should be referring to the Atlantic Ocean not the Pacific! doh! but you get what I mean about small steps leading to larger ones, I am sure...

        • I noticed the error, but regardless, the main point came across already.

          I am only venting frustration for the slow pace of development, in the face of "we were on the moon in the 60's, for chrissakes!".

    • by geekoid (135745)

      The factory that built the Apollo didn't start be building things that go to the moon.

      So the initial craft are really just 'super high altitude' trips. If successful they will move on to the next step.

      But you go ahead and rag on technology if that's how you get your dick hard.

    • by Twinbee (767046)
      Your sig is pretty funny when you know the background behind it: http://www.gearfuse.com/the-japanese-agriculture-ministry-is-not-in-charge-of-gundam/ [gearfuse.com]
      • Thanks. I would think the story behind it is relatively well known. What I love the most about it, is the dual nature of the Japanese soul: on one hand, so solidly conservative (and patriarchal). On the other, quite nutty.

  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @08:25AM (#34185164)

    Why not call it Mos Eisley?

  • Am I the only one this page is all messed up for? Things are out of position and there is a big black area where the text matches the background and I have to highlight it to read it. I'm using Firefox.
  • Stop complaining (Score:2, Insightful)

    by yodleboy (982200)
    Hey, can we stop complaining already? NASA and the rest of the space "industry" has had 50 years to make the geek dream of going into space possible for the (more or less) common man. Sub-orbital still counts as space, although it would seem it's not "enough" space for some.

    NASA's manned program hasn't done much more than allow a select few to pedal circles around the planet since the end of Apollo. Sure, there were some amazing developments and innovations from that, but the act of getting to orbit? W
    • by geekoid (135745)

      It's cool, bit it's not space. I'm excited buy this, it's great.

      For the Record, NASA never had the mission of finding out how to ferry tourists into space. It's a different goal. A goal that wouldn't even be possible without NASA.

      Your statement about 'automated labs' is a clear indicator of how clueless you are on the real challenges of getting things into space.

      I can tell you what it would have produced: 10-15 year of no space travel.

      It's not the shuttles fault. Once built it is going to be use. It's congr

  • Northrop (Score:3, Informative)

    by Cobalt Jacket (611660) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @10:08AM (#34186052)
    It should be noted that Scaled Composites has been a unit of Northrop Grumman for a couple of years now. With Burt Rutan retiring, it will become more under NGC control. However, NGC does not have a regular rocket launch unit as Boeing and Lockheed does, so there's no reason that NGC will not continue allowing Scaled Composites to prosper.
  • Shouldn't it be called 'shipyard' instead of 'factory'?
  • I don't want to go straight up and come right back down again. Can't they sub-orbit my ass to Sydney or something useful?
  • Hey America (and the rest of the world), if you really want to pull your ass out of a recession fast, then projects like this are imperative. This spaceport isn't simply another, "Oh wow!" factor for the rich and famous. Straight from TFA:

    TSC expects to employ up to 170 people when production is in full swing. It has begun posting job openings on its website for engineers and technicians.

    See that? 170 engineering and technician positions (that's folks that assemble and build things, no college degree required) necessary to operate a production line for three spacecraft. Give this company some money, cross your fingers for success, and next thing you know

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)

      we could also spend 50 billion fixing the Katrina disaster, which would create 10's of thousands of jobs. It would have the side benefit of having that area look like cit's in a civilized country.

      Of course, in a country where that part of the country complains the feds aren't helping, and ALSO complains the government is 'too big'* so they vote republican**. Maybe they deserve to live in squalor.

      *what the hell does that even mean?

      **which makes no sense because for 50 years spending has alway gone up signifi

      •   we could also spend 50 billion fixing the Katrina disaster

          I haven't seen any recent figures, but I do know that federal funding for the cleanup has already cost at least four times that. Heck, here are some figures from 2006 [usatoday.com].

        SB

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