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Space Businesses

European Launch Site For Virgin Galactic 94

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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  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 [].
  • 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. [] .

  • by Sterling Christensen ( 694675 ) on Sunday January 28, 2007 @05:26AM (#17788576)
    Suppose a small weather system had an airliner fly through one of its clouds. Probably as much of an effect as that.
  • Kiruna (Score:3, Informative)

    by tengwar ( 600847 ) <slashdot.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.
  • by kylegordon ( 159137 ) on Sunday January 28, 2007 @08:24AM (#17789092) Homepage
    To quote wikipedia...
    Furthermore, they believe that over a five-year period only 5,000 passengers would be needed in order to be profitable. Profits from early flights would be reinvested to make space tourism more affordable.
  • Re:Er... what? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Broken scope ( 973885 ) on Sunday January 28, 2007 @08:47AM (#17789156) Homepage
    Thickness of said atmosphere would need to be very large. Then the issue of keeping said atmosphere near by.

Exceptions prove the rule, and wreck the budget. -- Miller