back to article Double trouble for Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit as aborted test flight and COVID-19 keep both grounded

Richard Branson might have to wait a little longer to ride in Virgin Galactic's sub-orbital jalopy, SpaceShip Two VSS Unity, after an aborted test flight saw the spacecraft return to Spaceport America in New Mexico. It would have been the first rocket-powered flight from the company's New Mexico base, the window for which …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just one more demo of Calamity before it carries people?

    One failed launch proves that the system is dangerous; one successful launch does not prove that the system is safe.

    Thank goodness the failure didn't happen when there were people on board.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Just one more demo of Calamity before it carries people?

      > Thank goodness the failure didn't happen when there were people on board.

      This is why you do unmanned TEST flights, and why the Shuttle was so terrifying, you couldn't do unmanned test flights... the first flight had crew aboard.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just one more demo of Calamity before it carries people?

        Sure. However:

        1. This wasn't one of the design-cycle tests. It was supposed to be the final demonstrator. The system had been through *all* previous tests and design reviews with everything fully signed off. How did a major problem remain until this late?

        2. Suppose this problem had been something that happens, say, one time in three, or one in ten? The demonstrator flight could have been absolutely fine, and instead the humans would have been caught up in it. That's scary.

        3. To make a safe system, you're reliant on all those design reviews and certifications covering all possibilities. And yet, they clearly missed something very major here. Reminiscent of another notorious Boeing product?

      2. LDS Silver badge

        "why the Shuttle was so terrifying, you couldn't do unmanned test flights..."

        Since it didn't return floating below a parachute where winds brought it. Anyway the Russian copy made an unmanned test flight - but it had some power on descent.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: "why the Shuttle was so terrifying, you couldn't do unmanned test flights..."

          Well that's the difference.

          One side had advanced computer technology, the other had tons of disposable school teachers.

  2. Imhotep Silver badge

    Up And Down

    I just don't see the market. 80 KM is about the height StarShip just hit for a test, isn't it? If that is the target, then you won't really be going in to space, will you? And your view from the ship wouldn't be what we think of as space, would it?

    Seems like they had a window of opportunity that they missed. Now people will be expecting an orbital flight.

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Up And Down

      The Virgin Galactic market is for people who might have $250K in loose change rather than tens of millions. Which although that doesn't include yours truly, certainly opens up a broader demographic.

      From what I understand you would experience weightless for several minutes (much longer than the vomit comet), would clearly see the curvature of the earth (yes, I know Concorde claimed that), and would see the sky turn black. Sure, it's not orbit, but If someone is looking to get me a last minute Christmas pressie, I wouldn't say no :-)

      1. Crypto Monad

        Re: Up And Down

        I was on a commercial flight once which reached 43,000 ft, which is about 12km (apparently they rarely do that any more). Curvature of the horizon was clearly visible.

        It might be worth sending the flat-earthers up on such a flight, although they'd probably say it was distortion caused by the windows.

        1. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo
          Joke

          Re: Up And Down

          Well, we all know how messed up windows can be at times

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Up And Down

        Or wait for SpaceX. Musk say Starship launches will to $2m and one proposed variant can carry 100 people - which is _only_ $20,000 a seat. Dare say costs will be higher, but more likely to be within the savings budget of a lot more people...

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Up And Down

          Remove the engines from a 737max, hook up to a high altitude weather balloon and drop it from 80km up.

          Going to space, Ryan air style

          1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

            Re: Up And Down

            The return flight is the killer.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Up And Down

          True, but that's 100 people strapped into seats, probably not with much room to all get "loose" and have a zero G party. I'ts doable, at much less than Branson charges, and can reach proper orbit to boot, but I'd imagine it's for 20-30 people max and a few staff to keep people safe/clear of floating globules of vomit.

          1. Crypto Monad

            Re: Up And Down

            What do you mean by "and can reach proper orbit to boot" ??

            When something is in orbit, only about 1% of the energy expended is to get to orbital altitude. The rest goes into kinetic energy to reach orbital velocity.

            Having said that, removing the engines from a 737 Max is a good idea regardless.

  3. macjules Silver badge

    Space Shuttle veteran "CJ" Sturckow

    He didn't get to where his is today by not knowing how to fly a space shuttle.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

      Re: Space Shuttle veteran "CJ" Sturckow

      Great!!

      Super!!!

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021