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2008, The Year of the Spaceship 126

DynaSoar writes "2008 Could be a the year of the Spaceship. Virgin Galactic intends to unveil White Knight 2 as well as Spaceship 2 during the next year, at this point planning for January. Burt Rutan, always reticent to comments on progress of any project, says nothing to support or contradict Virgin Galactic's announcement. However, the report states that Spaceship 2 is 50% complete and White Knight 2 is 60% complete. In addition, Virgin Galactic is considering using White Knight 2, or possible its successor White Knight 3, to put small satellites in orbit for a cost of US$3 million, less than half the current front runner in (projected) low cost orbital launches; SpaceX's Falcon at US$6.7 million. Tourism aside, this could be an extremely lucrative spin off of Virgin Galactic's original plans. If this turns out to be a profitable endeavor, the cost of tourism flights could drop significantly."
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2008, The Year of the Spaceship

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  • Re:Only sub-orbital? (Score:3, Informative)

    by tgd ( 2822 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @10:43AM (#21641595)
    They said White Knight 2 not SpaceShip2.

    Another launch vehicle could be used at high altitude to boost a satellite into orbit.
  • While Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites are certainly the focus of this particular article and thread, they are hardly the only commercial spacecraft corporation that is making some significant progress and will be making headlines in 2008 (assuming that everything is still working the way it should).

    SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies [], the company started by Paypal founder Elon Musk, is scheduled to perform their final test flight for the Falcon 1 in January, 2008. If all goes well, they may even get a flight of their larger Falcon 9 spacecraft before the end of the year. This is particularly significant for manned spaceflight, as their Dragon spacecraft is reliant upon the successful launches of these vehicles. Unlike the Virgin Galactic spacecraft, the Dragon spacecraft is going to have the capabilities of sending as many as six passengers to the ISS.... or anywhere else in Low-earth orbit. In many ways, I think this is going to be far more significant than what Branson is doing with Virgin Galactic.

    In addition, the Lunar Landing Challenge will likely be "won" this time next year with the nearly dozen rocket teams competing for the purse. My heart broke when Armadillo Aerospace crashed and burned this year and failed to win the price objectives, but they certainly learned from their experience and will roll those designs into the next generation of their spacecraft. This particular challenge is certainly breeding many future commercial spaceflight companies that are flying real hardware, and not just some imaginative designs on paper that will never see the light of day.

    I also don't know what Blue Origin is doing, but that is certainly a company to keep a close ear to the ground and at least try to watch for developments over this next year. Unlike several of the spacecraft manufacturers, they are avoiding the appearance of vaporware by simply not really announcing anything other than the fact that they own one heck of a lot of real estate in Texas and that they have had several successful test flights of their rocketry hardware.... and a long term goal of also doing commercial passenger space travel. They also have some investors with some deep pockets that can help get them there without having to "go public".

    I'm just scratching the surface here as well, but there are some amazing groups of individuals who have been devoting resources to commercial spaceflight, and 2008 really could be "the year of the spacecraft", at least in terms of headlines generated by the mainstream press. Virgin Galactic certainly isn't going to be the only one in the headlines here, although they may be the first to send paying passengers into space on something other than a Soyuz capsule.
  • by savuporo ( 658486 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @11:12AM (#21642001)
    I suppose you werent aware of Airlaunch LLC [] ?
    Another possibility, as pointed out in some other posts, if you dont take passengers as payloads on SS2 but do take a payload, which is a third stage, and release it after SS2 motor burns out, you could reach orbit. Admittedly, having a special payload-carrying version of SS2 without a passenger cabin would make third stage separation easier, but there is a reason to suspect that something like that is being considered and built by Scaled. Rutan has hinted about Tier 3 project before.

Recent investments will yield a slight profit.