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Space Transportation

White Knight Two Unveiled 144

xanthos writes "Sir Richard Branson was at the annual Experimental Aircraft Assoc Fly-in to show off EVE (previously known as White Knight Two), the launch vehicle for Virgin Galactic's commercial space operation. Test flights for the vehicle are slated for next year with the first paying passengers going up in 2011. What surprised me was the following from the article: 'So many people have signed up already, Whitehorn said, that the company has collected $40 million in deposits with orders to build five spaceships to meet the demand.' Will this mean that the $200k price tag may be dropping?"
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White Knight Two Unveiled

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  • Not likely... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drakkenmensch ( 1255800 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:16PM (#28898381)

    Will this mean that the $200k price tag may be dropping?

    Because everybody knows that when people are trampling each other at the gates to pay the retail price, it's a sure sign that the store is going to lower it in a hurry.

  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:24PM (#28898517) Journal

    So, instead of optimizing the vehicle to be just a launch system, they are creating additional revenue by adding in a passenger compartment. "Only $1,000 will get you a window seat where you can watch rich people fly into space!"

    Hey, I'd pay to see something that cool up close, especially if they also threw in a few zero-g parabolas.

  • by Deosyne ( 92713 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:35PM (#28898685)

    God, I hope so. The only way that space exploration is going to really take off is after it becomes commercialized. America wasn't discovered out of idle curiosity; those dudes were out looking for ways to make more loot, whether it be the Vikings looking for resources to take or Columbus looking for a better trade route. I'd rather a rich guy drop a quarter million on a company that will produce bigger orbital launch vehicles and facilities than give the same to a real estate developer for yet another useless suite in New York.

  • Re:$40m? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:46PM (#28898845)

    And why the hell would you pay $200k for a suborbital flight for a couple minutes?

    Hey, people paid $10,000 for a Concord flight... why not go suborbital for $200,000? If you gave me the choice of a trip to space or a Ferrari, I'd personally choose the trip to space.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:46PM (#28898859)

    "Where's my 2001 space station?"

    They spent the money on Iraq. I'm not trolling it's a fact. They have spent around a trillion dollars with no end in sight. When you add in the continued cost of staying in Iraq and the support costs for all the soldiers it's a lot more. A trillion would buy a big chunk of your 2001 space station if not the whole thing. If we spent half on space what we do on defense it would be a very different world. The problem is people will accept the money being flushed down a rathole in Iraq because of fear but they don't want to see it "wasted" on something like making 2001 a reality. There's another problem that few talk about. There simply aren't enough resources to get large numbers of people into orbit. Dropping the price down to say $10,000 would mean millions, maybe tens or hundreds of millions could potentially aford a trip into space. We're having trouble providing food and water and energy to the world so the resources have to come from some where. You really have to focus on a space infrastructure first then work on making it accessible to large numbers of people. The space elevator was an option but it's hard to say how practical it will be. We almost need to consider space mining and space based power before we think about putting a million people into orbit. I realize it'd be over time but the amount of resources is the same.

  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:56PM (#28898987)

    Unless I'm mistaken, I'm pretty sure that the Virgin experience is completely suborbital. Basically it's $200K for a parabolic rocket ride. I don't understand the appeal. OK, so you left Earth's atmosphere for a couple of minutes.

    Where's my 2001 space station?

    This is creating a paying way to get there. Of course, there needs to be a use for the 2001-style space station. It's rather useless if it's only an orbital hotel. I'd say the killer app for space tech right now would be the solar power sats followed eventually by space-based mining and manufacture. You move the industry off into space, the surface of Earth can be left for living.

  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @02:31PM (#28899563) Homepage Journal

    It clearly demonstrates that there is a demand for space flight. If someone developed an affordable means to get there, there are plenty of people who would be booking flights to the moon, or to Mars. Given an assurance of supplies to make the stay survivable, plenty of people would be making their flights one way. All the BS about exploring space for science if just fine - but PEOPLE WANT TO GO! Call us kooks, or whatever. There is a drive to explore, in person.

    Screw reality shows, let's get out there and meet reality, eyeball to - whatever reality looks back at us with.

  • Re:Not likely... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by moderatorrater ( 1095745 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @02:44PM (#28899771)

    Because everybody knows that when people are trampling each other at the gates to pay the retail price, it's a sure sign that the store is going to lower it in a hurry.

    If they're smart, that's exactly what they'll do. If they can get it working smoothly, then scale up to where their costs are lower, then lowering the expense of the flight is the most profitable route. Right now the only market they're tapping is the market of the very rich and those who are willing to save up multiple annual incomes for one trip. Every time they lower the price they'll increase the size of their market.

  • Re:$40m? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @03:03PM (#28900041) Homepage

    And why the hell would you pay $200k for a suborbital flight for a couple minutes?

    I don't get why people keep talking about how it's suborbital, like that means it isn't completely fucking awesome. I'm serious, I just don't get it.

    I mean, it's almost as if you're saying that if I gave you a free ticket aboard Spaceship Two, you'd begrudgingly take it while muttering "what's the point?", and then once in space you'd be yawning and saying "Sure we're outside the atmosphere but it's not orbital" while the rest of us are shitting our pants at the incredible experience we're having, seeing earth from space.

    Is that the wrong impression? Are you just saying orbital would be cooler, but not actually denying that suborbital, if that's all you could get, would still be fucking sweet? I hope so, because otherwise there's just going to be too big a gap between our thinking to overcome.

    But if so, then the answer to "why the hell would you pay $200k for a suborbital flight for a couple minutes?" is simple: Because that's how much it costs, that's how high it gets you, and that's how long it lasts, to do one of the most incredible things you may ever have the chance to do in your life.

    For people who can afford $200k for a luxury, of which there are quite a few, this must seem like a great deal. If the price gets down to $20k like they suggest, then I'm going to be scrounging up my savings for the day when I will leave the planet's atmosphere, even if briefly. I know I sure as flying fuck won't be complaining that I'm only 100km above the earth's surface, doing something my father and father's father would have given their left nuts to do.

    (Though, they don't say if a deposit is 100% the cost, so it might be more people)

    Oh and yeah, it's pretty much the definition of a deposit that it isn't 100% of the cost. Putting down a "deposit" that is 100% of the cost is called "paying in advance". Combine this with the fact that Branson is out to make money and thus probably isn't building extra vehicles for no reason, and I think it's safe to say that $40m in deposits represents a lot more than 200 people.

  • Re:$40m? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @03:14PM (#28900217)

    I'm already married :)

    Besides, anyone using a car to find women - well, let's just say those girls are not low-maintenance and you have been warned.

  • by mahdi13 ( 660205 ) <icarus.lnx@gmail.com> on Friday July 31, 2009 @03:41PM (#28900719) Journal

    What we need is a good old fashioned galactic invasion to kick the space program back in gear. If a military threat was coming from another world you know they would spend a couple trillion on the space program in a heartbeat.

  • Re:$40m? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @05:24PM (#28902439) Homepage

    I for one don't think its awesome and I am sure I am not the only one. What's so awesome about it?

    Seeing earth from space. Leaving the atmosphere. If I have to say more, then there's nothing more I can say because you aren't the kind of kid who looked at the stars and imagined being an astronaut. This is the closest thing you can get. It may be the closest thing we get in our lifetimes.

    First, it is completely pointless. It is not like suborbital flight generates useful science, or launches satellites or anything. It sole purpose is just idiotic entertainment for the rich.

    Gotcha. Nothing done for just fun can be awesome. Nothing you personally experience that isn't useful is by definition not awesome.

    You're kidding me, right? Let me know if you are or not, because it would help me understand if I knew that I was just talking to the most boring person ever.

    We were able to make real orbital flights in 1961

    You sure as fuck couldn't. We're talking about civilians here. The point is not "what is the limit of human capability". We're talking about "What could you, some random non-astronaut, do?" And by that standard, this is an opportunity that has never been seen before. Still exclusive now due to the price, but they're talking relatively short timeframes to reduce that cost by an order of magnitude. Really, you have to completely lack perspective and imagination not to see how this is new.

    Now, if we could dock with the ISS, that would be inbcredible! Not in our life time though.

    What's so incredible about that? We've had space stations since 1971. It's not like you would get to do any useful science or launch a satellite. The sole purpose would be for a stupid joyride stunt and a little guided tour, idiotic entertainment for idiots. *snark snark snark*

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