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Space United States

Virgin Galactic Signs Historic Lease Agreement 49

RobGoldsmith writes "Governor Bill Richardson today announced that Virgin Galactic has signed a 20-year lease agreement with the State of New Mexico. Virgin Galactic's world headquarters will be established in New Mexico and its operations will be located at New Mexico's Spaceport America, the nation's first purpose-built commercial spaceport. The signing of the lease agreement coincides with the beginning of the test flying program for Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo launch vehicle which got underway this month in Mojave, CA. The WhiteKnightTwo will serve as the mother ship for SpaceShipTwo, the vehicle that will carry commercial astronauts into sub-orbital space from Spaceport America."
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Virgin Galactic Signs Historic Lease Agreement

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  • by geckipede ( 1261408 ) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @11:20AM (#26290815)
    Reusable SSTO isn't going to develop from continued work on suborbital vehicles like this. They're too small and expensive to use for transport, they're too big and heavy to reach space and stay there, and if engine tech changes either of those facts, it will change for more dedicated vehicles too. Space tourism like this will take us nowhere. The only long term benefit that will come from this is more experience entering atmospheres in an aerodynamic vehicle, and even then it won't be much use immediately as these suborbital planes start their reentry low and slow. For a real spaceship to make a similar reentry would need a lot of propellant used in slowing down.
  • by Rick Bentley ( 988595 ) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @03:11PM (#26292261) Homepage

    Might be better to move his operations...

    Yes it would. Equatorial launch saves a lot of energy when it comes to getting into orbit, the centripetal force from the Earth's rotation is not insignificant.

    Remember that the Earth is about 24,000 miles in circumference, making a revolution every 24hrs, that's 1,000mph at the surface -- a nice bit of initial velocity on your way to space. You get this full effect at the equator, you get none of it at the poles. New Mexico is about 32 degrees North of the equator, hardly optimal. There's a reason private companies put payloads into space from the equator.

    VG isn't going orbital, so this isn't as big of a deal for them, but I'll bet they plan/hope to in the future. At that point they'll want to be a the equator for their launches. Also, I'm sure New Mexico kicked in some good stuff (rent free or at least rent deferred on the land, maybe some capital improvements on the land, etc...). So, NM is fine for now but in 20 yrs it may not matter.

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @03:59PM (#26292623)

    Reusable SSTO isn't going to develop from continued work on suborbital vehicles like this. [...] Space tourism like this will take us nowhere.

    I strongly disagree. Two things to remember: 1) the most important problem for space tourism is developing the market. Turning a profit is a far harder problem than developing an SSTO. The market needs to be demonstrated before someone will invest in an SSTO. 2) One doesn't need SSTO. For example a two stage to orbit (TSTO) fully reusable launch vehicle (RLV) would probably be more efficient. It would require considerably less development effort and have a much better mass fraction.

  • Re:For the record... (Score:2, Informative)

    by GooberToo ( 74388 ) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @04:23PM (#26292841)

    Branson is just the Bill Gates of a different industry.

    You mean Branson is also technologically incompetent, earning his money only because he was in the right place at the right time, deserving none of his fame/fortune, while one of the world's largest and most powerful companies in the world made a huge mistake; allowing him to show the world he is one of the scummiest, cut-throat, marketing geniuses ever seen?

    Wow...what are the chances of two of those flukes would happening in my life time.

  • Re:For the record... (Score:4, Informative)

    by cnettel ( 836611 ) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @07:25PM (#26294433)
    Yes, Buffet pledged to donate that sum, or rather stock that at the time of the pledge were worth that sum. Gates initial endowment on the other hand was $94 million, which is also off by your numbers. Bill and Melinda Gates have actually given $28 billion and their donations constitute most of the current endowment to the foundation.

The shortest distance between two points is under construction. -- Noelie Alito