back to article Virgin Galactic spaceship goes supersonic in second test flight

Virgin Galactic has moved one step closer to actual spaceflight with its second supersonic flight of its passenger carrying SpaceShipTwo. The test flight was a key milestone in the firm's attempt to become the world's first commercial space liner, flying (wealthy) tourists for brief journeys into suborbital space. The …

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  1. JDX Gold badge

    It really does look exactly like something on the cover of a 1970s SciFi magazine!

  2. James Boag

    And the Aircraft / Space ships not bad too

    1. andreas koch
      Alien

      @ James Boag -

      True. I was reminded of Dr. Cornelius . . .

  3. Robert E A Harvey
    Alien

    SPACE!

    Hurrah! Space ships are Awesome.

  4. mmeier

    It's not a spaceship and it will never be one. It is merely a sub-orbital like the late 1950s North American X15. Actually using the same concept to take off.

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      X15

      Tosh. You can see the stars in daylight. And the X15 was Ultra-Awesome in its own right.

      OK, it's not warp drive and distant suns, but it's still Awesome.

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: X15

        Although the X15 is faster, (SS2 2500mph, X15 4,519mph), it does have a slightly higher ceiling (110km vs 108km), and does carry a load of passengers rather than just a highly qualified test pilot.

        So it's not quite the same thing, and has its own set of constraints and design considerations. And since it goes above 100km, it most certainly is a spaceship.

  5. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Pint

    For all the whining about global warming....

    Here's to launching and spraying hydrocarbons into the upper, upper reaches of the atmosphere... But then it's not about science, it's about fun and games for the wealthy, right?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: For all the whining about global warming....

      Well at least the Beardy One and El Reg are doing something to keep interest in British Space pioneering, Though Branson is not quite a garden shed engineer he does wear the right kind of jumpers for it.

      What is amazing is; at €190.000 a pop he has sold 625 tickets so he is keeping the dream of space flight alive.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: For all the whining about global warming....

        "What is amazing is; at €190.000 a pop he has sold 625 tickets so he is keeping the dream of space flight alive."

        Agreed. Also, in the interview with the pilot on the BBC website, he states that the price is comparable to the price of a first class air ticket in the early days of flight. And look how short a time that took to become relatively affordable to the masses.

    2. noominy.noom

      Re: For all the whining about global warming....

      FFS chill out. This will amount to about .0000000000000001 % of the hydrocarbons spewed out. Now, if you want to whine about hydrocarbons, what about all those people driving to go see football (both real and American.) Now there's a tragedy.

      1. Robert E A Harvey
        Big Brother

        Re: all those people driving to go see football

        It is odd, isn't it? I used to play Rugby, Tennis, Badminton or sailing. I have never seen the point of watching someone else do it.

        1. James Hughes 1

          Re: all those people driving to go see football @Robert E A Hasrvvey

          We seem have a very similar sports past (Although I can add motor racing!), but I can certainly see the point of watching rugby or motor racing (albeit on the TV rather than at the match/circuit)

    3. andreas koch
      IT Angle

      @ Mark 85 - Re: For all the whining about global warming....

      You're doing it wrong, I think.

      A more receptive audience might be found at solstice festivals close to leyline crossings, wearing hand-felted throws made from naturally shed badger hair . . .

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: For all the whining about global warming....

      > it's about fun and games for the wealthy, right?

      So what if it was?

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Actually looking like it will happen.

    No this is not an orbital vehicle.

    However it will give quite a few people (if it flies) experience of "near space," and perhaps an interest in going to full orbit.

    BTW A Study by Reaction Engines Ltd indicates that a Skylon could carry 24 passengers. Dropping out a seat for a pilot and flight attendant that leaves 22 seats. They estimate that seats could be charged at $500k-$1m a seat for flights to a location lasting < 10 days.

    So thumbs up for the test flight and moving forward to actually flying on this.

    1. annodomini2

      Re: Actually looking like it will happen.

      1. There is no pilot, it's automatic.

      2. It's 30 passengers:

      http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/space_skylon_tech.html

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        Re: Actually looking like it will happen.

        "1. There is no pilot, it's automatic.

        2. It's 30 passengers:"

        Actually both are design studies. Passenger modules are expected to be handled by 3rd parties. However part of the flight test programme does call for flights to and docking with the ISS.

        My information came from a Q&A with Mark Hempsell on The Space Show 2nd July 2012. No a pilot is not necessary but crew rating seems to prefer having the option for manual control.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Just make sure there's a dog on board

          Don't want the pilot touching the controls...

  7. Sam 15

    “We couldn’t be more delighted to have another major supersonic milestone under our belts as we move toward a 2014 start of commercial service,”

    Should he be be putting milestones under his belt - supersonic or even stationary ones?

    Glad to see he's moving forward towards 2014 though.

    1. Martin Budden Silver badge
      Coat

      The easiest way to put a milestone under your belt is to simply sit on it. Some of them look like they'd make a good seat, actually.

  8. msg

    wow, this is really happening!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is that thing SAFE?

    Looks like flying a hang-glider and lighting your own farts.

    The words of Ming the Merciless come to mind :

    "Pathetic earthlings. Hurling your bodies out into the void, without the slightest inkling of who or what is out here. If you had known anything about the true nature of the universe, anything at all, you would've hidden from it in terror."

    Gotta hand it to Ming, he de man.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Meh

        Re: Is that thing SAFE?

        "OK, as it turned out, the "escape tower" wouldn't have actually saved anybody in a launch failure."

        Tell that to the Russians. It saved one Soyuz crews lives during a pad fire. They could not believe anyone would design a launch system without one.

        "Arianespace wanted to get there. They opted out in the early 2000s because of the extra cost. "

        No. Ariane 5 was designed to carry the Hermes human carrying spaceplane. It was but with all the upgrades I'm not sure it retained it.

        "Human rating" is a process to get the reliability of ICBM hardware from 70% to about 99%. Large parts of it are done by simply a) Increasing the design safety factors from 1.25 (satellite launchs) to 1.4 (humans) and adding redundant hydraulics on the engines.

        The Space Shuttle, by today's standards, does not make Human Rating.

        Actually the lake of a launch escape system (among other things) meant that the Shuttle never met the human rated standard except when waivers to the standard were issued.

        " I am not considering the Chinese space agency here because I have doubts about their commitment to crew safety."

        Look up what the Gemini astronauts were flying on.

        1. Vociferous

          Re: Is that thing SAFE?

          The space shuttle was always underperforming and unsafe. It was a ridiculous expensive vanity project designed to do one thing and one thing only: haul cargo to another vanity project, the equally ridiculously expensive and useless ISS. The prohibitive cost and limitation to stay in LEO of the shuttle and the ISS are the reason no human have walked on another celestial body since the 70's.

          1. ridley

            Re: Is that thing SAFE?

            Whilst in many ways I agree with your I cannot help but point out that the ISS was proposed long after the SS was designed and built.

            1. Vociferous

              Re: Is that thing SAFE?

              True, but the concepts of a LEO space station and a reusable LEO cargo truck were always linked at the hip. The shuttle was originally supposed to service Skylab, but due to delays came too late, and the shuttle became a cargo truck looking for a space station to haul cargo to. Enter ISS, the most expensive PR stunt in human history.

              The US manned space program could perhaps have weathered one of these two white elephant projects, but combined the result was that manned space flight for five decades would be restricted to low earth orbit.

              1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
                FAIL

                Re: Is that thing SAFE?

                "The shuttle was originally supposed to service Skylab, but due to delays came too late, "

                Wrong. It was hoped (by some in NASA) that it could.

                and the shuttle became a cargo truck looking for a space station to haul cargo to.

                Wrong. that's why it has space for five people in addition to it's operators. It was expected to serve as a space station.

                The true history of both STS and what is now called the ISS has been covered all over the Web.

                The fact you have no idea of it suggests you should re-identify from "Vociferous" to "Ignorant."

    2. Vociferous

      Re: Is that thing SAFE?

      I think pretty much those exact words every time I see some new harebrained scheme to beam messages to other stars.

      Our radio transmissions are not detectable more than a few lightyears from Earth, I'm pretty sure that's something we should be very thankful of.

  10. DJO Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Virgin penetrates void

    As irritating as I find Beardy and acknowledging that this is only sub-orbital and not really space, bloody well done, a very encouraging first step.

    1. ZankerH

      Re: Virgin penetrates void

      Whether a flight makes orbit or not has no bearing on whether or not it's in space. Once you're above 100km above sea level, you're in space. You do realise you can make a flight as far out as the Moon on a suborbital trajectory, right?

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Virgin penetrates void

        Yes, but out at the moon doing a urine dump or two can put you into a stable orbit from sub-orbital.

        The point is that it doesn't have the delta-v for an orbit, which makes it considerably simpler.

        For starters, no need to decelerate or aerobrake to get home safe. Just stay oriented and there you go...

        1. bristolmoose
          Coat

          Re: Virgin penetrates void

          Agreed, It's not rocket scien...oh.

  11. Daniel B.
    Happy

    Awesome!

    At least that's something I might actually fly in my lifetime ... assuming I win the lottery.

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