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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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  • As more and more people hop on the private space vehicle bandwagon.

    I think this makes up for Governor Schwarzenegger tempting Tesla Motors into abandoning their plans to build their first plant in Albuquerque and staying in California. After all, I can't see rocket launches happening in San Francisco!

    • 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.
      • I agree entirely, but it's not polite to call these things "suborbital". A better word is "retarded".
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by khallow ( 566160 )

        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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by geckipede ( 1261408 )
          Agreed that SSTOs are not the only goal, any form of cheap access to space would be good. I still don't believe that Virgin Galactic's model is going to change anything though. It is forming a new market, but one that is selling expensive experiences to people, on a low profit margin. All the innovation they will be motivated to attempt will be in terms of lowering their costs to allow them to give roughly the same experience as they can offer now to a larger market.
          • by khallow ( 566160 )
            I don't see that. I think we have good evidence that people will pay more for orbital rather than suborbital. That is the incentive. Besides Virgin has already indicated that it's goal is orbital space tourism. So I see that as additional evidence that there is incentive to provide an orbital experience, even if Virgin cannot supply it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by linzeal ( 197905 )
        Yeah, and the Wright Brothers plane and 20-30 years of tinkering it took to build a reliable plane never happened because the first 5-10 years the planes could barely stay aloft and they learned nothing from their failures and sub-stratospheric flight. You might point out we already know how to build a rocket that can go orbital, even to the moon and beyond. Well I will tell you that none of that knowledge exists in any complete form outside of JPL, ESA, NASA, JSA and now the Chinese space agency. Buildi
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by khallow ( 566160 )

        On top of my other points, you can make significant progress towards an orbital launch vehicle from a suborbital one. The difficulties are exaggerated and already have been well explored in a number of historical vehicles (Space Shuttle, Soyuz, Apollo, Volstok, etc). For example, SpaceShipOne generated about a quarter to a third of the delta v needed to reach orbit. More efficient engines, higher mass ratio, and better propellants can get you the rest of the way. Reentry is similarly exaggerated. Sure the v

      • I wonder if we miss the point, when we think of suborbital flight is a thrill ride. The suborbital up and down thing my not be the goal. The goal is a fast trip from UK to US or UK to OZ or the like.

        There my be some people who will spend there money to take a thrill ride, and some that will win contests and prizes for the same. But there is business in people who can justify a time saving trip and have their company pay for the trip. (and get to go to the edge of space).

        Remember lots of people payed to take

        • Look up a company called Reaction Engines Limited, and their Lapcat vehicle project in particular. Real suborbital transport is in the works, although as ever it doesn't seem to be going anywhere very fast. The Lapcat is a derivative project based on an engine originally meant for a full scale horizontal takeoff cargo SSTO. This is how I believe that progress towards true spaceplanes will be made. The designs that Reaction Engines have been producing and refining have been genuinely innovative with the pote
  • This month? (Score:5, Funny)

    by tcdk ( 173945 ) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @11:16AM (#26290787) Homepage Journal
    Wow, somebody had a busy morning...
  • Richard Branson is by far my favorite actually existing Mad Scientist.
    • Re:For the record... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ThrowAwaySociety ( 1351793 ) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @02:04PM (#26291789)

      Burt Rutan is mine.

      Branson is just the Bill Gates of a different industry.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by GooberToo ( 74388 )

        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.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Doesn't it just piss you off that such a scummy person has donated more to charity than you'll ever earn in your life?

          • Well here's an interesting tidbit along those lines. When the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (or whatever it is called) was established Bill Gates was the richest man in the world and endowed it with something like $1 Billion. OTOH Warren Buffet, with less money than Gates, pledged to donate something like $30 Billion - to the Gates Foundation.
            • 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.
              • Ahhh then Buffet's action worked - good to know it prodded Gates into action! As for $94 Million vs $1 Billion - I'm sorry I was overly generous in my recollection of Gates initial endowment.
          • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Branson made his initial fortune illegally. he mis-sold export-only records back within the UK. today this is known as carousel fraud - and costs the EU tens of billions revenue.
            he was oh-so-happy to settle out-of-court and pay backdated taxes once all the legitimate competition had fallen by the wayside.

          • Did he donate the tax deductions he received too? Did he fail to claim them as charitable donations? I did not think so. If he was really the great guy you want to believe, we would have never known he made those donations. The guy has more money than God. Of course he needs huge tax breaks. And of course we all need to hear about it.

  • Only 20 years? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by yogibaer ( 757010 )
    That does not seem like a lot of time. The spacecraft are still in testing stage and at best a couple of years away from small scale tourist business and some decades (a century?) away from Weyland-Yutani style mining operations even within the limits of our solar system. So if you a serious about long-term commitment and you find a good spot for your own spaceport, a 99year lease would have made more sense...
    • by fantomas ( 94850 ) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @11:52AM (#26290975)

      "So if you a serious about long-term commitment and you find a good spot for your own spaceport, a 99year lease would have made more sense."

      He's a businessman. 20 years seems like a long enough commitment, who knows what the economic world will look like in 2030? Might be better to move his operations out to somewhere else in the USA, off to India, China, etc. What's so special about the current site that somewhere else couldn't match in a few years time and give him a better price?

      Croydon Airport [] only lasted as the main international London airport for less than 30 years, would a space port stay in the lead for longer than that? (Croydon Airport started operations in 1920 but was overtaken in the 40s by a small military airport in the west of London built over a hamlet called Heath Row).

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        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

        • by khallow ( 566160 )

          At that point they'll want to be a the equator for their launches.

          Not necessarily. They'll want a high inclination orbit for tourism (so tourists see more of the Earth). There will be some value to having launch facilities near the customers. So, for example, European and North American launch facilities make sense because that is where the customers are.

    • by khallow ( 566160 )
      Are you kidding? Do you make a 99 year lease on your car or your house? This spaceport is in the middle of nowhere. And there's a good chance that neither the spaceport nor the business will exist in twenty years. A century long time frame is crazy given an unproven market where little is known.
  • by pongo000 ( 97357 ) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @12:37PM (#26291265)

    Technically, every business deal is an "historic" moment from the perspective of that exact deal probably never being consummated before. But I'm at a loss to figure out how a business lease qualifies as "historic."

    • by flaming error ( 1041742 ) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @01:47PM (#26291695) Journal

      Obviously it qualifies as historic because it is "the nation's first purpose-built commercial spaceport".

      Other upcoming historic moments include "the first purpose-built commercial Twinkie served at a spaceport," "the first spilled soda on the tarmac of a purpose-built commercial New Mexico spaceport" and "the first Rabbi, Pastor, and Bishop with too few parachutes on a SpaceShip".

  • Historic? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GravityStar ( 1209738 ) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @12:46PM (#26291325)
    Signing a 20 year lease for a space port is historic? I'll bet history will have something to say about that. Or rather, it won't.
  • Oddly enough, my wife and I are taking a drive to Las Cruces, NM today - it's the closest Jack in the Box to Albuquerque - and our first "sight-seeing" stop on the way home will be the land where the Spaceport is being built!
  • I really hope they build better launch facilities than websites ( [] ).
  • I tried to see where they were going to build this "Southern New Mexicoâ(TM)s Spaceport America," which puts it near Alamogordo or Las Cruces. While I'm happy for New Mexico, I just hope for the sake of all the people who will be working there at the great new headquarters of "Southern New Mexicoâ(TM)s Spaceport America" that they manage to be there in southern New Mexico... perhaps the advent of this new space center will bring Stuff To Do to southern New Mexico. (They can always visit the Owl Ba

  • So, let me see if I've got this straight: A:
    * fraudulent gov'nor of a
    * fraudulent (unconstitutional) 'state' called NM
    * fraudulently leasing out Republic of Texas' soil to Virgin (nasty! nasty!) Galactic tours?
    FIND: []

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.