back to article Branson's SpaceShipTwo rocketplane gets off ground

Beardy biz kingpin Richard Branson was overjoyed yesterday to announce that his passenger-carrying suborbital "SpaceShipTwo" rocket thrillride craft has left the ground for the first time. However it remained attached to its jet-powered "mothership" for the entire flight: independent operations aren't expected for some time. …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nerd alert

    SpaceShip One was not a single-seater; although it never took any passengers along, to win the X-prize it needed to be *capable* of carrying three people.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    The perfect platform for a evil overlord wanabie

    It is still cheaper than an ICBM if you want to lob just one missile at someone across half of the globe. Sling it under, fly it up and push the launch button. Even something as prehistoric as a Scud can easily hit 2000km+ if launched from that altitude and given a few 100s km/h nudge in the right direction.

    The perfect platform for someone who loves white cats and has only one all-so-precious nuke to threaten the world with. Hm... Did we underestimate Mr Branson...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    <title>

    People often poke fun at the "bearded one", but hats off to him for this.

    Yes, yes - I know he hasn't developed this himself and all the actual work has been carried out by Scaled Composites, but without the entreprenerial skill of Branson how far along would private space travel have come?

    Private industry seems able to achieve more than NASA is capable of and at a fraction of the cost.

    Perhaps NASA should stand for Need Another Space Agency?

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge
      Go

      That's what Obama says, too

      That's what the President is pushing. NASA needs to go back to R&D and the commercial companies should be exploiting the results and providing the actual launch services.

    2. Rob

      @A.N Other

      Completely agree but if you'd meet him you'd still think he was a complete wanker.

  4. Seanmon
    Thumb Up

    Top beardy tech.

    Rubbish name. SpaceShip Two? Come on.....

    1. John 62

      LeVar Burton said

      (on Twitter) it was renamed to VSS Enterprise.

      Now, where's Zephram Cochrane...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    hmmm

    Seems a bit strange to me... Paying 200k to be not actually in orbit....

    Being above the atmosphere seems a bit of a misnomer I mean you can do that in a conventional airliner...

    Technically we're all in space. Determining space to be at a certain height seems to miss some important points in physics.

    So that just leaves weightlessness... Which just seems all relative to me... I mean if your not in orbit it's not much different than going on a fair ground ride that drops suddenly... Which is effectively all the vomet comet is doing in a large fashion....

    "i always wanted to go into spaceman"!

    Get me into orbit damn it! :-)

    1. Mark Dempster
      Thumb Down

      Erm....

      >Being above the atmosphere seems a bit of a misnomer I mean you can do that in a conventional airliner...<

      Really? Wouldn't you need the atmosphere for the engines of any airliner I'm aware of to work....?

    2. James Hughes 1

      Quite a few mistakes in that post,

      But, if you want to, you can pay to go in to orbit. Around £20million. Compared with these suborbital trips at about £200,000. You pay your money....you take your choice.

      Airliners get to about 36,000ft ish. Spaceship 1/2 go to 330,000ft ish. So not quite 10 times as high, but you get the idea. And with I think 8 minutes of weightlessness, compared to 30s in the vomit comet...

  6. Bill Neal

    familiar...

    This reminds me of when Pan-Am was taking reservations to the moon. Who would have known at the time, that those tickets were certainly non-refundable.

  7. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Only need to persuade the customers

    @Seems a bit strange to me... Paying 200k to be not actually in orbit....

    Nasa probably paid more for Shepard to do the same, after Gagarin did real orbits.

    As long as you could fool the people then, that in space and in orbit were the same - you can do it now.

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    NASA denied there was *any* interest in space tourism

    IIRC Branson took 5000 deposits in the first day. which sort of proved them wrong.

    Please note, it *is* space (well above the 67Km mark) but it is not orbital.

    But note that as this is a *completely* reusable system you don't get the hear-in-mouth-OMG-will-it-all-work-when-we-press-the-switch sensation common to *every* expendable.

    Clever idea, this incremental test programme. Some day all launchers will be built to do it this way.

  9. Aldous
    Thumb Up

    who cares...

    ..if its not proper orbit the thing this will do is prove someone can make money off of private space/sub orb flight(ol beardy isn't investing for a laugth). once its proven more will try to cash in and hopefully we can get off this rock.

    1. Pete 2

      Who cares? ... sounds like you do.

      In order to "get off this rock" you need to get into orbit. Or at least up to the speed (and then a bit more) that would let you make LEO. That's very, very hard and needs such a lot more energy than a "simple" up and down flight, that it's a whole different problem.

      All Branson's doing is the headline-catching "woo-hoo it's space, man!" stuff. This is good enough to dupe the scientifically illiterate public who will therefore expect flights to the Moon by the following year. However, leaving aside the publicity, it really doesn't make any progress to getting people off this rock - either permanently into orbit or to another rock.

  10. Stuart Halliday
    Happy

    It's not really a Space ship

    If you look at the international standard of how high is considered 'Space' (62 miles, 100KM) you'll find this craft just makes it.

    Some scientists still claim this height isn't really 'Space' as technically you've not left the Earth's exosphere atmosphere at that height!

    But as the U.S. space agency awards astronaut status to persons who fly above 50 miles altitude I guess that's all the passengers will care about - getting a $10 certificate posted to them for their $200,000 flight!

    Funny old world...

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Troll

      @Stuart Halliday

      "if you look at the international standard of how high is considered 'Space' (62 miles, 100KM) you'll find this craft just makes it."

      The words "International standard" might suggest why this is the target. Spaceship 1 achieved this but IIRC SS2 is meant to go somewhere in the 70-100 mile range. At least one NASA astronaut got his astronaut status while flying the X15, which is not a spacecraft at all.

      Some scientists still claim this height isn't really 'Space' as technically you've not left the Earth's exosphere atmosphere at that height!

      Atmospheric drag remains the largest force on a space vehicle below 1000km. *none* of the Saturn V's in parking orbit while they prepared engine firing for the moon went above IIRC 250Km. Most people would class them as space vehicles. However orbits above c100km are stable for 100s of years despite this drag. 1000km is the start of the inner Van Allan radiation belt.

      "But as the U.S. space agency awards astronaut status to persons who fly above 50 miles altitude I guess that's all the passengers will care about - getting a $10 certificate posted to them for their $200,000 flight!"

      Since you insist on being pedantic you might like to be aware that this is a *commercial* space flight and will be run under FAA rules. The term is "Spaceflight participant" and AFAIK they will *not* be entitled to astronaut wings any more than I would be entitled to call myself a pilot despite having booked a seat on an aircraft.

      Were I wearing a jacket it would have an ebook reader loaded with the NASA SP8000 series on it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Boffin

        Rubbish

        However orbits above c100km are stable for 100s of years despite this drag.

        No they are not! the ISS is at nearly 200Miles and it is no way near stable it is boosted several times a year.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ISS_altitude.gif

        Stable it is not!

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Happy

          AC@13:03

          Good point. Some of those SP8000 volumes are quite old. However the ISS is at least an *order* of magnitude bigger than any previous human built structure in space. And drag is proportional to area (and there is a *lot* of that).

          The fact that anyone taking a walk outside still needs a *full* space suite suggests it's not exactly breathable.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Boffin

            @JohnSmith19 - When in a hole stop digging!

            Drag is proportional to area - however its effect is also proportional to mass! whereby kinetic energy (momentum) needs to be dissapated to slow an object, and as you said "the ISS is at least an *order* of magnitude bigger than any previous human built structure in space."

            I guess we're back to the feather and hammer? (both having the same presented area!)

            the problem with space is that there is no line. Our atmosphere just gets thinner and thinner, If it were my choice, I would have defined space as a pressure rather than an altitude, but its not! (and that is probably for the best!) also you have to consider that the earths atmosphere changes shape considerably, between day and night, due to the moons tide, and also during solar Maximums (high sunspot activity) our atmosphere extends way further and orbital craft expirience even greater drag.

            I could also point out that U2 Pilots also ware 'space suits' but you really would not consider them to fly in space. low pressure, yes, space, no.

      2. TeeCee Gold badge

        Astronaut.

        "...got his astronaut status while flying the X15..."

        By an odd coincidence USAF Major Robert White (for it was he who became the 5th American in space, flying an X15) cropped up in the obituaries recently, having passed away in his sleep at home in Orlando, Florida on the 17th of March.

        Apparently the achieved altitude of 59 miles qualified him as a "Winged Astronaut"

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/7516296/First-pilot-to-fly-plane-into-space-dies.html

        http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5i7wea0Fy2XMAvw066fobL1EXIOpQD9EL49VO0

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    White Knight has other uses as well

    Like drop testing the prototype of the X38. The combination of a reasonable payload with substantial altitude capability makes it a pretty good candidate for the first stage of various launcher concepts.

    I suspect Scaled Composites will be more than happy to run off a few more of these vehicles.

    Actual trouble is that as a known part of a launch system it will come under the deeply paranoid ITAR regime. No major problem for US companies (as long as they are not owned or funded by foreigners, Iranians, Iraq's, Britons or indeed any other nationality). Just the US Senates way of being friendly.

  12. Neil Paterson

    Private Eye

    (Thats a UK investigative/satirical magazine for you over the pond..)

    Quick analogy for those old enough to remember:

    Years of reporting about how Robert Maxwell was a major business fraud, followed by his untimely death falling from his luxury yacht.

    Years of reporting about how Richard Branson's business accounts are a little obscure to follow at times (ahem!). Next step?

    That is some way to go, Beardie!

  13. Lotaresco Silver badge
    Big Brother

    The perfect platform for a evil overlord ...

    Oh come off it "Anonymous Coward", you can't really be suggesting that Richard Branson is some sort of evil overlord, can you? I mean for that to work Branson would have to have a secret base in the Caribbean, a secret Desert Base with rocket ships and be a megalomaniac with a world-spanning empire blazoned with his logo...

    Oh, hang on...

  14. Sceptical Bastard
    FAIL

    If he wants to impress us ...

    ... the egregious hirsute money-grubbing bastard could try sorting out his appalling over-priced Virgin Trains. The man's a hateful robber baron, a self-aggrandising publicity junkie and a first class shit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sceptical Bastard

      Living up to your username!

    2. Neil 23

      I travel on Virgin Trains quite often

      I reckon around £50 for a first class London - Birmingham return is pretty good and they often arrive ahead of schedule (apart from one 8 hour journey from hell but that was when they were bedding in the new Pendelinos & the computer controlling the train suffered the equivalent of a BSOD).

      The TV / Internet service is another matter though...

  15. gimbal
    Go

    So maybe it's something to keep the door wedged open on visionary enterprise

    Yay for Scaled! Yay for Virgin! Yay for manned spaceflight! I mean, seriously.

  16. TeeCee Gold badge
    Joke

    Crap pictures.

    I mean it doesn't even *look* like Playmobil.

    4/10 please try harder.

  17. BeachBoy
    Happy

    Fly the flag

    Come on wave a flag for poor old Blighty, if we had a few more the Bearded one and Sur (lord) Alun, then we might not be in the hole that we are.

    It could have been yanks funding this (Microsoft, Delta, Google ....) but no, it was a plucky Brit who had the vision, and the balls to put his money where his mouth is. The wright brothers may not have flown any great distance but everyone remembers them as being first. now the history books will remember the virgin VSS Enterprise.

    Now all we have to do is get rid of the scotish numpty and his cronnies and return to climate where taking risks is cool .....

    1. James Hughes 1

      Interestingly

      Spaceship One was funded by Paul Allen of Microsoft fame....

  18. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Joke

    OMG UK finally sets up Space Agency

    As opposed to buying club for various research councils.

    Guess they had to do *something* with the takings from the them park in Leicester. *

    *Although I *do* find this funny it is *true*. Possibly the second useful thing Labour have managed to do in 13 years in office.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    its illustrious single-seat predecessor

    Was actually a three seater....

    the xprize required two person (or equivilent.)

    the actual flights were one man and an equivilent mass for the second passanger.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Non core business

    He should have stuck to the pickle factory...

  21. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Joke

    Will Bransons flight

    Make him the first beardy in space?

    I think historically there has been some problem with face fur causing trouble with the breathing masks, but I'd not swear to it.

  22. David McMahon
    Alien

    Customer Servce...

    Does this mean that you will speak to Martians for Virgin customer service? Heaven forbid they spend some money on call centres!

    Oh and don't forget to access the internet to submit ticket when your internet goes down

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