OH BABY BABY! It may be a little wrong to be this happy, but oh well. Watching the news today, it was announced that Richard Branson company Virgin Galatic will be offering public space flight to the tune of $200,000 and can be taken off as early as 2010.
I am so there! Earth? Pssh been there done that. Outerspace? Beem me up scotty! Oh god! What to pack?
I am accepting donations to my space fund. If you would like to donate please contact me.
Taken from http://www.space.com
|Virgin Galactic Unveils Space Liner Mothership
By Leonard David
Special Correspondent, SPACE.com
posted: 28 July 2008
11:06 am ET
This story was updated at 1:46 p.m. EDT.
MOJAVE, Calif. — With all the pageantry of a king’s arrival, the WhiteKnightTwo — a huge flying launch pad to support passenger suborbital space travel — made its public debut here Monday.
The rollout of the colossal composite plane signals the first phase of a critical test program to establish a private spaceliner business — a venture being bankrolled by British entrepreneur and billionaire, Richard Branson and his Virgin Group.
Looking like a giant catamaran for the sky, the twin-boom, two individual fuselages are topped by a large, 140-foot (42-meter) long stretch of wing. The aircraft will straddle and carry to drop altitude (around 48,000 feet) the SpaceShipTwo — a six passenger, two pilot craft that, once released, will rocket pay-per-view passengers to some 65 miles (104 km) above the Earth.
“This is a big airplane,” said Scaled Composites founder, Burt Rutan, and Chief Technology Officer and Chairman Emeritus of the company. “It is not an inappropriate claim to say this is the largest all-composite airplane,” he told SPACE.com.
With a giant screen featuring Virgin Galactic’s logo of an eye lifting upwards, the audience was treated to the dramatic unveiling of WhiteKnightTwo positioned on the outside tarmac — complete with Branson and Rutan waving from separate windows on the carrier craft. SpaceShipTwo, still under construction, was shrouded in a large black tarp just a few feet away during the unveiling of WhiteKnightTwo. The carrier aircraft has been christened “EVE” in honor of Sir Richard’s mother.
Four turbofan jet engines power the WhiteKnightTwo, an aircraft that has more capability than needed for SpaceShipTwo operations, Rutan explained. The mega-plane has undergone extensive computational fluid dynamics (CFD) testing, he said — that’s aerodynamic speak for utilizing electronic wind tunnel evaluations versus wind tunnel testing.
WhiteKnightTwo is the 40th aircraft of varying types to be rolled out by Scaled Composites, Rutan said. “I think that’s more than you’ll find in any other company by a large margin.”
“The beauty of WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo is that they can help change our relationship with space,” Branson said after the rollout. “The other thing that I admire about the system is that it has the architecture that would someday be developed into passenger carrying vehicle able to take people from A to B around the planet, outside of the atmosphere at near orbital speeds.”
Branson said he thought it was very important that Virgin Galactic make a genuine commercial success of this project. “If we do I believe we’ll unlock a wall of private sector money into both space launch systems and space technology,” he said.
Downsize the uncertainty
While today’s show-and-tell festivities marked a major milestone, the true test of the WhiteKnightTwo and its flying attributes are still ahead here at the Mojave Air & Space Port.
Rutan noted that “you can’t have schedule pressure before you fly…because that’s not a safe thing to do. In terms of what the schedule will be to complete, you really don’t know anything until you start flying,” he continued, calling it a downsizing of the uncertainty.
“You don’t know when you’re going to be done until you march through the research flight tests,” Rutan emphasized.
Rutan said that the WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo system is not a Burt Rutan design.
“We’ve got some very talented people…so the credit for thinking and having the courage to try belongs to them,” he said, underscoring the expertise of such people as Bob Morgan, Jim Tighe, Matt Stinemetze, and Pete Siebold…part of a team of some 20 engineers that worked on the endeavor. “Of course, they had to sell me on it,” he added.
The WhiteKnightTwo could be ready to do a space launch with only 40 flights — “if everything works,” Rutan said, “but more than likely we’ll run a few more than that.”
Largely driven by the need to snag market share of the public suborbital space tourism business, Rutan said that the WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo system is designed to yield a top-notch flight experience.
For one, SpaceShipTwo offers a roomy — yes, call it spacious — passenger cabin with great windows to afford a ticketed traveler a stunning sight, Rutan said.
Passengers riding in the WhiteKnightTwo launch aircraft will be provided a spectacular view as well — with SpaceShipTwo peeling away and blasting skyward toward space.
“Riding in the launch airplane to watch a launch is going to be a cool thing to do,” Rutan pointed out.
Moreover, WhiteKnightTwo will serve as training ground — albeit in the air — for future space travelers. The mega-plane can provide stints of microgravity for next-in-line SpaceShipTwo flyers, Rutan noted, with the aircraft also able to give clientele six to seven Gs to mimic the forces encountered during a suborbital space jaunt.
Too early to say
“For us, this rollout is a really important event,” said Will Whitehorn, president of Virgin Galactic. “We’re going to be flying in a couple of months…ground testing starts almost immediately after this event is over,” he told SPACE.com.
Whitehorn said that as soon as that ground evaluations are finished and everyone is satisfied “we’ll put it into the air…perhaps in a few weeks or it could be about eight weeks at the maximum.”
Whitehorn added: “When we are all happy…then it will start flying. That could be very soon…but there’s no exact date.” In terms of money spent on the spaceliner system by Branson’s Virgin Group to date, he explained: “We’re at 100 million dollars that has been spent so far.”
As for the readiness of the suborbital SpaceShipTwo, Whitehorn said that the vehicle is now about 70 percent complete.
“Whether or not we fly the spaceship into space next year…it’s too early to say. But the ambition will be to fly it by the end of 2009 or early 2010 into space,” Whitehorn explained.
Spotlighting the scope of what WhiteKnightTwo can provide on its own, Whitehorn offered some suggestions: “I think the market for WhiteKnightTwo will be a lot bigger than we’ve estimated.”
In addition to supporting suborbital space travel, Whitehorn said the WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane can satisfy a range of market needs from satellite launchings to deploying unmanned aerial vehicles, or toting large quantities of water to help squelch raging fires, as well as hauling hefty amounts of cargo from point to point.
“I really think we’re on the threshold of a new era of commercial space transportation,” said George Neld, head of the Federal Aviation Administration’s commercial space transportation office in Washington, D.C. “This just makes it real…because we’ve got some hardware coming together and test flying starting. It’s going to be an exciting next couple of years,” he told SPACE.com.
Stuart Witt, General Manager of the Mojave Air & Space Port, said there’s a significance that might be missed given today’s rollout of WhiteKnightTwo.
“It’s all about results,” Witt told SPACE.com. “That’s why people come to Mojave. The WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo…they are one more example of a result that will yield breakthroughs in aerospace. Here at the Mojave Air and Space Port, we’re all about results.”
Witt said the Air & Space Port is ready to support WhiteKnightTwo and the SpaceShipTwo test program. “I am looking forward for Scaled Composites to get back into the rocket testing business…and on we go!”
|Virgin Galactic to Offer Public Space Flights
By The Associated Pressposted: 27 September 2004
06:51 am ET
The Virgin transport, entertainment and communications group has signed an agreement with pioneering aviation designer Burt Rutan to build an aircraft based on Rutan’s SpaceShipOnevessel, Branson said.
SpaceShipOne cracked the barrier to manned commercial space flight in June by flying 98,547 meters, or about 99 kilometers (328,491 feet, or about 62 miles) above Earth, just a little more than 120 meters (400 feet) above the distance scientists widely consider to be the boundary of space. The flight lasted 90 minutes.
SpaceShipOne’s effort was bankrolled by billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
Virgin said its agreement to license technology from Allen’s company, Mohave Aerospace Ventures, could be worth up to 14 million pounds (US$25 million, €21 million) over the next 15 years, depending on the number of spaceships built by Virgin. The company said it planned to begin construction of the first vessel, VSS Enterprise, next year.
“Virgin has been in talks with Paul Allen and Bert throughout this year and in the early hours of Saturday signed a historical deal to license SpaceShipOne’s technology to build the world’s first private spaceship to go into commercial operating service,” Branson told a news conference.
The new service will be called Virgin Galactic and expects to fly 3,000 new astronauts within five years. Fares will start at 115,000 pounds (US$208,000, €169,000) for a suborbital flight, including three days’ training.
Branson said the business would “allow every country in the world to have their own astronauts rather than the privileged few.”
“Virgin Galactic will be run as a business, but a business with the sole purpose of making space travel more and more affordable,” Branson said.
“Those privileged space pioneers who can afford to take our first flights will not only have the most awesome experience of their lives, but by stepping up to the plate first they will bring the dream of space travel for many millions closer to reality.”