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Virgin Galactic Shows the Finished WhiteKnight Two 212

Klaus Schmidt writes "Virgin Galactic today unveiled their WhiteKnight Two mothership, called 'EVE.' It is designed to carry the smaller SpaceShip Two into space. The rollout represents another major milestone in Virgin Galactic's quest to launch the world's first private, environmentally benign, space access system for people, payload and science. Christened 'EVE' in honor of Richard Branson's mother — Sir Richard performed the official naming ceremony — WK2 is both visually remarkable and represents ground-breaking aerospace technology. It is the world's largest all carbon composite aircraft and many of its component parts have been built using composite materials for the very first time. At 140 ft, the wing span is the longest single carbon composite aviation component ever manufactured."
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Virgin Galactic Shows the Finished WhiteKnight Two

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  • Impressive (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Calathea ( 557538 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @10:48AM (#24369999)
    Well it certainly looks the part, you do wonder what these privateers could come up with given the budgets NASA work with.
    • Re:Impressive (Score:5, Insightful)

      by michrech ( 468134 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @10:59AM (#24370231)

      Probably the same stuff NASA does. I personally believe budgets *should* be kept small, even if artificially. This *forces* innovation. If they knew they had whatever amount of money they desired, I don't think the science would advance as far, or as fast.

      In short, I think it's the lack of resources that forces people to come up with workable solutions to whatever problems they face with what resources they have at hand.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by camperdave ( 969942 )
        I personally believe budgets *should* be kept small, even if artificially. This *forces* innovation. If they knew they had whatever amount of money they desired, I don't think the science would advance as far, or as fast.
        br. While I agree with the principle, there are some scenarios where knowing you had a larger budget would be better than having a "limited" budget. Take safety equipment for example. You may be able to get seat belts from an auto wreckers for $5 each, but wouldn't you rather have brand n
        • You may be able to get seat belts from an auto wreckers for $5 each, but wouldn't you rather have brand new units even if they cost $800? Are you better off with dollar store flashlights, or Maglites?

          $800 seatbelts are where NASA goes wrong. Every single component on a space craft doesn't need to be "space-age". Somewhere between those $5 used seatbelts and those $800 seatbelts are the $50 seatbelts that will work just fine. Not that I'm saying these decisions should be made randomly - but after an engineering analysis, if the cheaper component fits the specified needs (as well as a reasonable safety margin) then by all means use the cheaper version - the extra funds can be spent on other projects or

          • but after an engineering analysis, if the cheaper component fits the specified needs (as well as a reasonable safety margin) then by all means use the cheaper version.

            Suppose that you and your fellow crew members are sitting on the pad in the shuttle at the cape about to ride 7.5 million pounds of thrust in a massive controlled explosion all the way to orbit 200 miles above the surface of the Earth. Now, would you prefer to have the $800 dollar seat belts along with the best of everything else or would you prefer instead to ride a vehicle with over 2 million moving parts, each supplied by the lowest bidder, knowing full well that there is no reset button in real life and

            • Re:Impressive (Score:4, Interesting)

              by profplump ( 309017 ) <zach-slashjunk@kotlarek.com> on Monday July 28, 2008 @01:57PM (#24373021)

              Thousands of people fly every day, miles above the Earth, propelled by a controlled explosion In a machine with a whole lot of moving parts supplied by the lowest bidder. Most people in that situation get a $5, single-strap safety restraint. Even the pilots and crew don't get an $800 restraint system.

              I'm not saying space travel is easy, but in real life there's usually some reasonable compromise between "the most safety we can provide at any cost" and "the most safety we can provide at a reasonable cost, considering the inherent risk of this situation". But it doesn't surprise me that you've lost sight of that -- many people have these days.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Rakishi ( 759894 )

                Thousands of people fly every day, miles above the Earth, propelled by a controlled explosion In a machine with a whole lot of moving parts supplied by the lowest bidder. Most people in that situation get a $5, single-strap safety restraint. Even the pilots and crew don't get an $800 restraint system.

                Commercial airplanes aren't supposed to experience his acceleration (ie: why you need seatbelts) and when they do experience them people get injured. The space shuttle experiences decent acceleration quite often and it's one of the lower accelerating space vehicles. I'm sure fighter jets use quite expensive safety systems for that very reason.

                The Soyuz vehicles, for example, have more than once experienced enough Gs to cause permanent damage to the occupants despite the safety harnesses in place (during ree

              • You're being a bit sensationalist here.

                Thousands of people fly every day, miles above the Earth, propelled by a controlled explosion

                No, it is produced by a controlled burn. There is a significant difference. In most cases, the burning (not exploding) fuel expands, gets squeezed out a nozzle, and then turns a turbine which in turn (no pun intended) rotates a ducted fan on the forward end of the engine. Very little of the exhaust gasses directly drive the aircraft, thus the name "high-bypass ratio turbofan engine".

                In a machine with a whole lot of moving parts supplied by the lowest bidder.

                ...manufactured to tolerances specified by the designer, and approved by

                • ...manufactured to tolerances specified by the designer, and approved by the FAA, then tested in multiple tests before receiving certification to ensure that the design is sufficiently strong and durable to see service in an airline.

                  Not always. Experimental aviation is alive and well, and in general the only thing the engine needs to do is keep you flying for a 40 hour testing period before you can carry passengers and fly anywhere in the country. Rebuilt Volkswagon engines are quite popular, as are nearly 50 year old Corvair engines, 2 cylinder Rotax's, etc. A limited few people building things like the Pietenpol AirCamper who want to stay "traditional" even use the old Ford Model A engine. There are even some examples of Ultrali

            • Depends. If the cheaper seat belts would do the job, then the $800 seatbelts are unnecessary.

              It kinda goes back to the advice on the $20 motorcycle helmet. Yeah, only buy one if you have a $20 head. But, if it was the difference between my head asploding or not, I'd gladly be willing to shell out the rest of the earnings I'd make during my natural life. Certainly, say, $50,000 would be worth saving my head. That doesn't mean that a $50,000 helmet is NECESSARY though. Between the two extremes IS a compr

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 )

            but after an engineering analysis

            Where do you think the high costs of these things comes from? The design of a product for a given context is an expense that is, for mass-market products, paid for by the volume of sales. The market for space-shuttle seat-belts is probably 6 to 8 units, total.

            The cost of an item includes all the costs of research and analysis. $800 is, maybe, half of someone's workday (once you include the full costs of hiring someone, including benefits and space). I think I would actually

          • NASA needs a Home Depot next to the Vehicle Assembly Building
          • Re:Impressive (Score:4, Insightful)

            by element-o.p. ( 939033 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @02:26PM (#24373441) Homepage

            ...but after an engineering analysis...

            What do you think makes the seat belts so expensive?

      • Re:Impressive (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <fairwater@gRASPmail.com minus berry> on Monday July 28, 2008 @12:16PM (#24371465) Homepage

        The problem is, with tens of millions of dollars in the budget this project isn't lacking resources by any reasonable interpretation of the words. Further, comparing them with NASA is a bit misleading as the White Knight/SpaceShip Two craft operates in what is a fairly benign environment compared to what would be encountered by an orbital craft.

      • I personally believe budgets *should* be kept small, even if artificially. This *forces* innovation ... In short, I think it's the lack of resources that forces people to come up with workable solutions to whatever problems they face with what resources they have at hand.

        Overcoming limitations does force people to come up with creative solutions, but small budgets are just one kind of limitation. Short time line is another. Small size, low weight, extreme temperatures, pressures, vibration, etc. If peopl

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by wigaloo ( 897600 )
        I personally believe budgets *should* be kept small, even if artificially. This *forces* innovation.

        Most of any budget goes toward funding people, either directly or indirectly. Small budgets result in innovators spending most of their time completing tasks that would otherwise be looked after by others, and this distracts from innovation. Artificially small budgets don't force innovation -- they create demoralizing conditions that stifle it.
      • Re:Impressive (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RJBeery ( 956252 ) <rjbeery@nospAM.gmail.com> on Monday July 28, 2008 @02:39PM (#24373665)
        Hence all of the amazing, life-improving innovation coming out of Uganda, for example...snark
    • Right, it looks the part; what could possibly go wrong? [spaceflightnow.com]
  • by Corf ( 145778 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @10:48AM (#24370003) Journal

    is this some sort of record?!

    • Article text (Score:5, Informative)

      by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @10:56AM (#24370169) Homepage Journal

      The text came up fine for me, even most of the images were available after a few refreshes. TFA as follows:

      (Virgin Galactic) - WhiteKnightTwo launch vehicle for SpaceShipTwo heralds a new era in aerospace fuel efficiency, performance and versatility

      http://www.virgingalactic.com/pressftp/content/Presspacks/VMSeveBransonRutan_thumb.jpg [virgingalactic.com]

      Mojave Air and Spaceport, California

      Virgin Founder, Sir Richard Branson and SpaceShipOne designer, Burt Rutan, today pulled back the hangar doors on the new WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft that will ferry SpaceShipTwo and thousands of private astronauts, science packages and payload on the first stage of the Virgin Galactic sub-orbital space experience.

      http://www.virgingalactic.com/pressftp/content/Presspacks/VMS%20Eve%20tow_thumb.jpg [virgingalactic.com]

      The rollout represents another major milestone in Virgin Galactic's quest to launch the world's first private, environmentally benign, space access system for people, payload and science.

      http://www.virgingalactic.com/pressftp/content/Presspacks/In%20Air%20Banking_thumb.jpg [virgingalactic.com]

      Christened "EVE" in honor of Sir Richard's mother, who performed the official naming ceremony, WK2 is both visually remarkable and represents ground-breaking aerospace technology. It is the world's largest all carbon composite aircraft and many of its component parts have been built using composite materials for the very first time. At 140 ft, the wing spar is the longest single carbon composite aviation component ever manufactured.

      http://www.virgingalactic.com/pressftp/content/Presspacks/VMS%20Eve%20rollout_thumb.jpg [virgingalactic.com]

      Driven by a demanding performance specification set by Virgin Galactic, WK2 has a unique heavy lift, high altitude capability and an open architecture driven design which provides for maximum versatility in the weight, mass and volume of its payload potential. It has the power, strength and maneuverability to provide for pre space-flight, positive G force and zero G astronaut training as well as a lift capability which is over 30% greater than that represented by a fully crewed SpaceShipTwo. The vehicle has a maximum altitude over 50,000 ft and its U.S. coast-to-coast range will allow the spaceship to be ferried on long duration flights.

      http://www.virgingalactic.com/pressftp/content/Presspacks/VMS%20Eve%20bow_thumb.jpg [virgingalactic.com]

      An all carbon composite vehicle of this size represents a giant leap for a material technology that has already been identified as a key contributor to the increasingly urgent requirement by the commercial aviation sector for dramatically more fuel efficient aircraft. Powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines, which are amongst the most powerful, economic and efficient available, WK2 is a mold breaker in carbon efficiency and the epitome of 21st century aerospace design and technology.

      The twin fuselage and central payload area configuration allow for easy access to WK2 and to the spaceship for passengers and crew; the design also aids operational efficiencies and turnaround times. WK2 will be able to support up to four daily space flights, is able to carry out both day and night time operations and is equipped with a package of highly advanced avionics.

      http://www.virgingalactic.com/pressftp/content/Presspacks/Galactic%20Girl_thumb.jpg [virgingalactic.com]

      Large numbers of VIP's, media and more than 100 fully signed-up future Virgin Galactic astronauts flew into Mo

      • Re:Article text (Score:5, Insightful)

        by nasor ( 690345 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @11:37AM (#24370835)
        I think the most interesting thing about this whole enterprise is that there are over 200 people who have already put down $20k deposits for tickets, with a final ticket price of $200k each - for a ride on in a vehicle of dubious safety (compared to a modern airline, anyway) that hasn't even been built yet! This seems to indicate that there is vast money to be made in the space tourism industry. Just imagine how many people will likely want to do it once it has an established safety record. And this is merely suborbital - presumably people would be willing to pay much much more for an orbital ride, if anyone ever gets around to building a low-cost, reusable orbital vehicle. I don't know how much all this cost to develop, but I wouldn't be surprised suspect that the pre-sold tickets have probably already more than paid for it.
        • "I think the most interesting thing about this whole enterprise is that there are over 200 people who have already put down $20k deposits for tickets, with a final ticket price of $200k each - for a ride on in a vehicle of dubious safety (compared to a modern airline, anyway) that hasn't even been built yet! This seems to indicate that there is vast money to be made in the space tourism industry."

          I make things for a niche industry, and there is always a big rush for the product, and then when the small mark

        • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

          That's not enough information to decide how much money there is available in space tourism.

          The new condo down the street hasn't even broken ground and it's sold hundreds of $300k-$400k units. The costs for building a condo are MUCH less than for developing, building, maintaining and operating a spacecraft.

        • by Fweeky ( 41046 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @05:09PM (#24376081) Homepage

          Knowing how Virgin Media handles billing and service, 20 of those can look forward to not being charged, another 50 can look forward to being charged $300k, and 80% of them will spend 3 hours on the phone either on hold, or with John, an Indian who speaks about 12 words of English (none of which include "supervisor").

          Also, about 10% of them will be considered too fat to go all the way into suborbit, and will instead find their $200k going towards a short Cessna flight.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by inviolet ( 797804 )

        Christened "EVE" in honor of Sir Richard's mother, who performed the official naming ceremony, WK2 is both visually remarkable and represents ground-breaking aerospace technology. It is the world's largest all carbon composite aircraft and many of its component parts have been built using composite materials for the very first time. At 140 ft, the wing spar is the longest single carbon composite aviation component ever manufactured.

        "Eve"?! Not only is that a boring name, but it overlooks some important avi [wikipedia.org]

    • by demachina ( 71715 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @11:05AM (#24370331)

      A couple of the pictures are on the Scaled composite web site [scaled.com].

    • by hansraj ( 458504 ) *

      No. Just that the story caught the fancy of not just your usual slashdotter but our intergalactic overlords too.

      (And they are probably pissed because rumor has it that google is thinking of a partnership with virgin galactic and mount a camera on top of the galactic bus. And sure as hell they will ignore all those galactic "no trespassing" signs.)

  • Efforts such as these give the impression the advances in spaceflight will gravitate towards commercial companies catering to consumers, rather than expensive government projects.

    • Re:Pretty impressive (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Monday July 28, 2008 @10:57AM (#24370179) Homepage

      Efforts such as these give the impression the advances in spaceflight will gravitate towards commercial companies catering to consumers

      In his novel Firestar [amazon.com] , the first volume of a future history attempting to be a realistic vision of the rise of human spaceflight, Michael Flynn had FedEx as one a major sponsor of private launches. Being able to deliver a package anywhere on Earth in 90 minutes, Flynn thought, would be an incredible advantage to a courier firm. With the rise of the Internet, however, there are ever fewer physical packages to be transported, and maybe no company would be willing to pay thousands extra for just a few hours less of delivery time. Now, except for space tourism, I'm hard-pressed to find any commercial use for mere orbital flights (as opposed to getting out there and mining).

      • This is an avenue which has gotten some attention, but you must be realistic about the numbers. First, assume about an hour of time on either side to account for multiple pickups and traffic. This assumes that spaceports exist at major cities. Then consider the economics of on-demand launches. Rockets will he held until there are enough packages. Throw in business hours and, in many cases, overnight with 9:00 AM delivery will be identical in practice.

        Rockets offer two potential advantages. First, they

        • by ashitaka ( 27544 )

          Fedex uses a major hub approach to distribution anyway. See the animation of their plane flights to see the grand dance in and out of Memphis.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by ashitaka ( 27544 )

          Geez. One misplaced single quote.

          Fedex uses a major hub approach to distribution anyway. See the animation [youtube.com] of their plane flights to see the grand dance in and out of Memphis.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheSync ( 5291 ) *

        With the rise of the Internet, however, there are ever fewer physical packages to be transported, and maybe no company would be willing to pay thousands extra for just a few hours less of delivery time.

        Even physical "critical parts" can be produced locally rapidly by emailing a file and using a 3D computer controlled machining device.

        To pay for a rocket, it would have to be a very rare material. Like plutonium - of course, we already have rockets ready to deliver those in 90 minutes or less!

        • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @12:50PM (#24371989)

          To pay for a rocket, it would have to be a very rare material. Like plutonium - of course, we already have rockets ready to deliver those in 90 minutes or less!

          Or the next one's free?

        • by Shotgun ( 30919 )

          Rockets are expensive now, because they're not mass produce; but they could eventually be cheaper for transport.

          Consider a Fedex flight from Tokyo to New York. You have a fat airplane pushing it's way through a thick atmosphere for 14 hours. Most of the fuel used is consumed pushing through the air. Then you have 3 or 4 decently-paid pilots along for the ride on a mostly automated ride, trying to best not to die of boredom.

          The rocket ride last 90 minutes. A big push up into very-thin to non-existant at

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        We'll be taking trips out of LEO to go mining just as soon as Earth runs out of rocks, and someone figures out how to launch 10,000 tons of smelter. Oh, wait, that's never going to happen is it. DUH.
  • Cool, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @10:50AM (#24370045) Journal
    1. When does the next SpaceX Falcon fly?
    2. When will Rutan pursue a true LEO space vehicle?

    We can use all of these.

    • by Cormacus ( 976625 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @10:56AM (#24370151) Homepage
      Well, just think of all of the structural engineering problems with producing a true LEGO space vehicle.

      Do we really need modularization on that level?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        He already has said that SpaceShip 3 will be orbital, although nothing else about such a vehicle. The tone of the annoucement was that it would happen if Galactic is succesful, but otherwise it really was just the intent. (http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2005/08/23/201097/spaceshipthree-poised-to-follow-if-ss2-succeeds.html) Dragon on the other hand is supposedly coming along nicely (not that they've shown anything publically). Supposedly that means Falcon 9 flies a demo flight early next
    • Re:Cool, but... (Score:4, Informative)

      by savuporo ( 658486 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @11:37AM (#24370839)
      SpaceX Falcon launch is tenatively scheduled for this and next week with launch window closing on august 9th, some are saying its further delayed until end of August already. most up to date news here prolly [nasaspaceflight.com]
    • The next Falcon? They've not had a single real-life launch yet. I'm the first to admit they've got an impressive looking vehicle, though, and they're actually some really smart people over there. Who knows, maybe they'll get a 100% success record (or will be able to cope with two or three lost vehicles early in the program.)

      Incidentally you'll notice they've built a traditional rocket in order to get to 27000mph, rather than a plastic aeroplane to reach Mach 2.5 going straight up and straight back down.

      • They have launched 2x. The first was a TOTAL failure ( spectacularly ). The 2'nd was an almost that need not achieve final speed needed due to engine cut-out.
        For Falcon costs. [wikipedia.org]
        The souyez is all over the baord, but consider that Russia is saying that they will charge America 50 Mill to launch a single astronaut, while spacex is saying 7 for less than 100 million.
  • Eve? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @10:54AM (#24370121) Homepage Journal

    No thanks, I'll wait for the Wall-E model.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2008 @10:55AM (#24370135)

    Have you seen Wayne Tech's new Dark Knight? Really impressive.

  • by Silverlancer ( 786390 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @10:56AM (#24370153)
    Better make sure they have sufficient dreadnought and battleship support with that thing, or it might get ganked.
  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @11:01AM (#24370263)

    I will never understand this insistence that everything be "environmentally benign".

    The philosophy should be "progressive mitigation" of environmental impact rather than the insistence that everything we do have no impact what soever.

    Think long-term. The priority should be cheaper first, environmentally friendly second or even third in this type of project, because, in the long term, the faster we get viable colonies off this rock, the less impact we'll have as a species on our home planet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      ... in the long term, the faster we get viable colonies off this rock, the less impact we'll have as a species on our home planet.

      That's seriously long-term. The only ways I can see space exploration resulting in less use of earth-based resources is if:

      A. We develop a way to ship off significant amounts of people to colonies. Considering how fast humans reproduce, this is not likely any time soon at all. Colonies will not be a solution to population growth.

      OR

      B. Space-based resources (minerals, energy would be the primary candidates, I guess) become cheaper than terrestrial ones. Again, I don't see this happening any time soon. Dep

      • I am currently reading Blue Mars. In this book, Earth has numerous space elevators and is shipping a million people off to Mars every year. The population of Earth at the moment is around six billion. To put that in perspective, it is about 1.3% of the current annual population growth rate. We don't have any space elevators yet, but even if we had several, ran them at full capacity, and had somewhere to send people once they got to the top, we still wouldn't dent the population growth rate, let alone th
        • by samkass ( 174571 )

          Indeed. The average yearly population increase for the last 5 years was about 77M people a year. I would be surprised if humanity ever manages to ship that many people per year offworld into a colony. And if they decided to colonize, they'd probably start with the ocean rather than space.

        • by Rakishi ( 759894 )

          *sigh* The world population growth rate is slowing down due to the increasing number of nations becoming developed. Current estimates indicate we'll stabilize at around 13 billion people or so. Birth control is pointless when people want to and in some cases need to have many kids.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by R2.0 ( 532027 )

        "We develop a way to ship off significant amounts of people to colonies. Considering how fast humans reproduce, this is not likely any time soon at all. Colonies will not be a solution to population growth."

        Colonies don't relieve population pressure by removing people from the populace; colonies remove people from the FUTURE populace by selectively attracting those more likely to reproduce - risk takers and the lower classes, looking for a better life. I would contend that that is why Europe's birth rate i

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by KGIII ( 973947 )
      I don't think the other planets really want us either. I can envision there being life on Mars but just hiding every time we go there kind of like not answering the door when the annoying neighbor knocks on it.
    • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardprice AT gmail DOT com> on Monday July 28, 2008 @11:23AM (#24370615)
      Problem is, if 'cheaper' is your first goal, then your second goal which costs money for no operational benefit simply won't get started on.
    • I will give them this, there is no reason to be polluting when you don't have to be. The technology for rockets and jet planes is pretty well known so it should be obvious as to what NOT to do. Plus it sells. If you advertised your rocket as being seal/dolphin/baby friendly that would go a lot further than saying "only a few puppies got the axe during production".

      I don't agree with the cheaper first idea, meaning who is going to pay to clean up after cheaper? Doesn't it come back to bite us in the butt

      • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @11:45AM (#24370973)

        Don't try to paint my post as some kind of invitation to go all gilded age and turn the entire planet's atmosphere into Beijing's.

        In the past 15 years or so the opposite extreme has been creeping in and is now hindering our capacity to ween ourselves off imported oil.

        Now every proposed solution must not only be "cleaner" than the technology it replaces, it must be completely and utterly non-polluting

        Let's take the greenhouse issue with coal power plants in the US. Nuclear removes the atmospheric and climate issues, and replaces them with a much smaller scale radioactivity issue for which we already have numerous viable reprocessing protocols, but no.. it still pollutes a little! omg we must stifle this!

        • Let's take the greenhouse issue with coal power plants in the US. Nuclear removes the atmospheric and climate issues, and replaces them with a much smaller scale radioactivity issue for which we already have numerous viable reprocessing protocols, but no.. it still pollutes a little! omg we must stifle this!

          Actually, that's turning around.

          The whole "carbon dioxide will cook us oh noes!" thing has gotten a number of major names in the environmental movement to rethink their opposition to nuclear power.

          More r

        • Now every proposed solution must not only be "cleaner" than the technology it replaces, it must be completely and utterly non-polluting

          [ Citation needed [xkcd.com] ]

    • ...because, in the long term, the faster we get viable colonies off this rock, the less impact we'll have as a species on our home planet.

      I'm sorry, perhaps I'm being dense. How will having a viable offworld colony have any impact whatsoever on the environment here? Are you planning on shipping all of the polluters offworld?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gnuman99 ( 746007 )

      You've got your head backwards,

      1. Environmentally friendly first
      2. Cheap

      Then there is #0 that trumps it all,

      0. Significant scientific understanding is gained for the purposes of #1 (most advances fall here)

      Why is your thinking backwards? Because *we*, the people, *depend* on the environment, NOT the other way around. It is not about "saving the planet", it is about "saving ourselves". The shit we dump is the shit we eat. Therefore something cheap but end up fsking everyone over is not cheap at all.

      The Earth

  • by apodyopsis ( 1048476 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @11:06AM (#24370349)
    The plane may be state of the art, but I do not think their server is. Oh dear.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by StonedRat ( 837378 )

      They hot-linked to Virgin's "pressftp". I'm thinking Virgin wasn't expecting that to be hit with so much traffic.

  • by pulse2600 ( 625694 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @11:07AM (#24370367)
    Because I certainly can't get to it from Earth....
  • Painted Windows??? (Score:3, Informative)

    by kidgenius ( 704962 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @11:08AM (#24370385)
    Ok, one of the fuselages has real glass, the other has just black paint for windows. Why do this? Is it just a "looks" thing?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by turtledawn ( 149719 )

      Of course. It's a flat beautiful plane, why screw up the symmetry when a little bit of paint will keep it sleek looking?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2008 @11:25AM (#24370641)

    From the silhouettes, I see that WK2 has already shot down a Wright Flier, Bell X-1, and Boeing 747, and NASA Lunar Lander.

  • by martinmarv ( 920771 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @11:37AM (#24370851) Homepage
  • by kiehlster ( 844523 ) on Monday July 28, 2008 @12:39PM (#24371833) Homepage

    At 140 ft, the wing spar is the longest single carbon composite aviation component ever manufactured.

    Wing sparring? At 140ft!? Dude, where do I sign up for this? "If you're gonna fight, take it up 140ft in the air, but there will be no fighting on my property."

  • his very own invention...!

  • Sort of disappointing after all the progress in building the 777 on 2 large engines, they went back to 4 small engines.

  • Why not two bigger ones? Four engines seems like an awful lot of unnecessary redundancy for the circumstances, and excess weight. I could only guess it might be to spread the weight across the wingspan more, but I can't imagine this setup would be lighter than two bigger engines and a slightly stronger wing.

    • Does seem strange, a couple of possibilities I can think of for it:

      1. Clearance - having 1 larger engine on each side might not have given them the ground clearance they wanted?

      2. Possible efficiency? - Use all four engines for take-off, climb to altitude, then switch two of them off for the descent. Seems like throttling back two larger engines would work better, though.

      3. Save development costs of new engine type - they might not have been able to find an existing engine that would provide the thrust rang

Waste not, get your budget cut next year.

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