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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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  • by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:15PM (#28898355) Journal

    Expensive, but I would do it if it were for a couple days in orbit...

  • by Robaato ( 958471 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:16PM (#28898375)
    Space tourism, yeah. But orbital flights?

    Why SpaceShipOne Never Did, Never Will, And None Of Its Direct Descendants Ever Will, Orbit The Earth []
  • by maillemaker ( 924053 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:18PM (#28898403)

    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?

  • by Ngarrang ( 1023425 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:18PM (#28898409) 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!"

  • Re:Stupid Economics (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:32PM (#28898637)

    How is that bad? It's not like you're going to mess up the moon's ecosystem (it's dead) or that these projects would come to realization if marketing/product placement wasn't funding the initial effort...

    What I'd like to see is even more commercialization of the moon so that the private sector can finally kick NASA's slow ass to mars ;)

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:40PM (#28898751) Homepage Journal

    Iirc it was 1964 when Star Trek came out. The science fiction stuff in it was pure fantasy; magic, impossible: cell phones, flat screen computers, doors that opened themselves, medical readouts in the hospitals, etc. It would be five more years before man walked on the moon; orbital flight was in its infancy.

    Now it looks like another fantasy will come true - the price of space flight may become affordable to an average guy like me! This is simply amazing.

  • WK2 at Oshkosh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nick Driver ( 238034 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @02:18PM (#28899333)

    I just got back home from Oshkosh and saw the WK2 up close and personal there at Aeroshell Square. I didn't know beforehand that only the starboard side fuselage pod has any seats for crew. The left side fuselage has fake painted-on "windows" so that it looks like there are real windows from a distance, but apparently the left fuselage only contains equipment and possibly fuel tanks, there are no seats for any occupants on that side.

    I took several photos of the center wing section where the spacecraft is supposed to attach. I saw no big heavy-duty attachment brackets there at all, but instead there were bundles of exposed wires only, and there were two cut-off loose wire ends just dangling out in the slipstream.

    I did get one good photo of the WK2 in flight as it approached to land, but they did not do any repeated overflights for the crowd to see, I only saw one overflight, then it landed.

  • by Enigma2175 ( 179646 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @02:33PM (#28899587) Homepage Journal

    So if by "rubber" you mean "made from the sap of a rubber tree or a similar hydrocarbon synthetic designed primarily for flexibility and resilience", then no, it doesn't burn rubber. The fuel is designed primarily for high specific impulse, with the rubbery characteristics design in secondarily.

    You are wrong, the engine burns rubber (at least synthetic rubber). From []

    "To cut down on both cost and risk, SpaceShipOne is propelled by a mixture of hydroxy-terminated polybutadiene (tire rubber) and nitrous oxide (laughing gas). The rubber acts as the fuel and the laughing gas as the oxidizer."

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @02:36PM (#28899651) Homepage

    A potential use for such flights [] is a 1 hour trip between any two points on the globe. Plus, I think you can clearly see the shape of the earth - which to me, would make it feel f'n C.O.O.L.

  • by MaskedSlacker ( 911878 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @02:37PM (#28899683)

    Yes. Truth be told, it doesn't matter what you use as the solid fuel in a hybrid rocket. You can use cardboard, salami, your mom, whatever. Some fuels are certainly better than others, but anything that burns with your oxidizer will work. They're probably using polyethylene or something similar (it's what we used in our college rocket club's hybrid rocket).

  • by demachina ( 71715 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @06:51PM (#28903367)

    "They have spent around a trillion dollars with no end in sight."

    Actually I think the end is very much in sight in Iraq, 2011 all U.S. combat forces are supposed to be out of Iraq. There is talk they might accelerate the withdrawal by another brigade soon. Iraq mostly wants the U.S. out so they can finish their civil war, the U.S. doesn't want to be in the middle of their looming civil war.

    The war with no end in sight is in Afghanistan. They just added 21,000 more troops added this year and rumors today McChrystal may request more next year. I think there we will be fighting a forever war because we are trying to prop up a completely corrupt government the Afghan people hate so much they often prefer the Taliban.

    It should be remembered the war in Vietnam played a pretty key role in Nixon killing Apollo and sending NASA on a road to no where (the ISS and Shuttle) since Vietnam was bankrupting the U.S. in parallel with Apollo.

    Considering we spent $100 billion on the ISS, its one of the most expensive science projects in history, and it doesn't do anything useful I'm not really sure building a 2001 class space station would have really been any better even if we hadn't blown the money on wars. Maybe there would be a tourism case but I think its dubious you will get real space tourism anywhere close to a break even point any time soon, other than flying the super rich.

    Before anyone dreams of a 2001 space station we need to get LEO launch cost down, way down, to like $1 a pound instead of $1000-$10000 a pound. Virgin Galactic is talking $200K for a 200 lb person to suborbital for a few minutes. That's $1000 a lb for not much. At present a space elevator is probably the only thing that will make getting out of Earth's gravity well economical and that still faces some enormous hurdles that throwing money at it may or may not solve.

    I think the problem with Apollo, 2001, Star Trek, Star Wars syndrome, especially in the U.S., is they created a lot of dreamers who dwell on how romantic space travel is, when most of the time it wouldn't be anything like that. Space is an empty vacuum, it has all the appeal of a vacuum. It is mostly a nasty place, and working and traveling in space will for a long time to come be tedious, boring, stressful and dangerous. Only things interesting in space are the other rocks in space and most of them are no picnic.

    I predict manned space travel will continue to have a really rocky future until A) we take all the inflated romance out of the idea and B) figure out ways to utilize space that are actually useful and make sense. Some early leaks out of the upcoming Augustine report worry me. There was talk they were going to propose manned space flights to Lagrange points just to prove we could do long duration space flights. They seem to miss the fact that flying to points in space in a tin can and sitting there would leave the world aghast with the stupidity of it all.

    Planting a permanent colony on Mars is the mission most likely to be worth and that would fire the imagination of the whole planet like Apollo 11 did. It is the one place where humans have a fighting chance of making another biosphere and fulfilling the human desire to break new frontiers.

    Tapping solar power in space to solve our energy problem might be worth exploring.

    Working towards asteroid mining to eliminate future shortages of resources on earth, and to use in construction of structures in space might be worth doing.

    Its just an opinion but:

    - returning to the moon isn't very useful and smacks of the ISS all over again, except on the Moon
    - putting men in tin cans in space going no place in particular isn't worth it either
    - Justifying every mission in space with "searching for life" is weak, really weak. Searching for signs of life is a worthwhile secondary goal to primary missions that matter. The odds of finding life elsewhere in our solar system are not great so when that is the be all, end all goal for your space program you ar

Beware of Programmers who carry screwdrivers. -- Leonard Brandwein