back to article Another week, another issue: Virgin Galactic mulls test flight restart as VSS Unity fixed – but VMS Eve might be borked

Virgin Galactic reckons it has dealt with an electromagnetic interference (EMI) problem that aborted a recent test flight just as another technical gremlin rears its head. The news came during a Q1 investor call following the announcement of a $130m loss, down from the $377m loss for the same time last year. Mike Moses, …

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    Sending the wealthy to space

    Hmmm, sounds like a plan.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Sending the wealthy to space

      Yes, but do we have to bring them back?

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Sending the wealthy to space

        They can (space)walk back.

      2. Gary Stewart

        Re: Sending the wealthy to space

        I think when we are confronted with moral dilemmas like this we should always remember the wisdom of the late great Douglas Adams:

        "Well not, not, not so much land in fact, I think as far as I can remember we're programmed to, er crash on it."

        Well played sir, well played.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Devil

      Re: Sending the wealthy to space

      I picture Herman Judd's dead body orbiting around his luxury spaceship, Avenue 5, as it is broken down in space.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not unexpected

    After all, Richard Branson has a past history of dealing with EMI!

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "he expected demand to be so great"

    Sorry Richard, there may be quite a few millionnaires on this planet, but even so, I'd wager there are also quite a few that prefer to continue benefitting from their status and not risk getting presented before the Pearly Gates ahead of time.

    1. Boothy Silver badge

      Re: "he expected demand to be so great"

      This time last year, apparently around 8,000 people had put down deposits for a VG flight, and in recent articles, a figure of 600 has been quoted of people who've actually bought tickets so far.

      The new VSS Imagine ship (the first SpaceShip III class ship), seats 6 passengers, VG plans to build a 2nd one of these (no dates yet as far as I know).

      They have stated they plan do about 400 flights per year (eventually), although I assume they at least need the 2nd ship for this, and will likely start much slower.

      So you're probably looking at at least a year or two to clear those initial 600 ticket holders, then an additional 3+ years for the ~8000 deposit holders, assuming they manage to ramp up to the proposed 400 flights of course. (and that all 8,000 actually go through with it of course).

      And that's with static numbers, presumably ticket sales will kick off again once flights are going. I also suspect many people who are interested in a flight, likely want to wait a while for the tech to prove itself, so won't have put down a deposit yet.

      Assuming they achieve and stick to 400 flights a year, and the 6 seat configuration, that's 2,400 people each year buying a ticket to sustain those flight numbers. The US alone produces over 600k new millionaires per year, so there's no shortage of people who are going to be able to afford it.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "he expected demand to be so great"

        "I assume they at least need the 2nd ship for this"

        With a large B painted on the side.

      2. Youngone Silver badge

        Re: "he expected demand to be so great"

        Virgin Galactic was founded in 2004 and has not managed even one flight into orbit yet.

        They're not doing 400 per year anytime soon.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: "he expected demand to be so great"

          They aren't planning on going to orbit at all with these flights. They'd need a whole new carrier aircraft and launch vehicle for that. They only promise to get you above 100KM for a few minutes so you can call yourself an astronaut.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: "he expected demand to be so great"

        "The US alone produces over 600k new millionaires per year, so there's no shortage of people who are going to be able to afford it."

        I think you need to be a bit more than a mere millionaire if you want to spunk possibly half your net worth on a single short trip. Then again, plenty of people used to pay for those "experience" flights on Concord, even it was much more affordable.

        1. Boothy Silver badge

          Re: "he expected demand to be so great"

          Quote: "The three-day Virgin Galactic Experience costs US$250,000 per astronaut and includes all training, required clothing, accommodation, food and beverages. International and domestic flights within the US and transfers are extra."

          So 'only' 25% of their net worth, unless the price goes up of course :-)

          Also, just a guess, but I'd assume that whilst some new millionaires have got there over many years by putting money aside, investing etc. A lot of them are going to be high earners, running their own companies etc.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: "he expected demand to be so great"

            Ah, thanks, my mistake. I was sure I'd read 500K somewhere.

  4. Anomalous Cowturd
    Mushroom

    unintended feedback... generated EMI.

    So they fitted a diode, and wrapped it in tinfoil?

    Can someone remind me when this thing was originally planned to fly?

    Rocket science is pretty much all done, rocket engineering, not so much.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: originally planned to fly

      Test flights (of SpaceShipOne) were planned and carried out earlier (2003) but the earliest date I can find that involves passengers going to over 80km altitude in a SpaceShipTwo is when Branson hoped (no hint of a promise) he would fly before the end of 2009.

      1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

        Re: originally planned to fly

        But he's trying. And he clearly makes far more money than he needs for this project.

        I for one wish him well.

  5. imanidiot Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Really?

    As in, Holy friggin hell! REALLY?? They didn't expect inductive feedback from actuators? Who are the clowns designing this? That's mechatronics 101. EVERY actuator has some form of feedback. If your control system can't handle it, it'll shit the bed (as demonstrated). This certainly doesn't inspire confidence in the design and testing process as VG. Have they even heard of DFMEA? CDRs? 4-eyes principles?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If only

    we (including myself) had not bought Tubular Bells". We would not have had so much to laugh at. Is this thing ever going to do anything other than not work properly?

  7. steelpillow Silver badge
    Boffin

    90% lower

    That's one order of magnitude or, if I recall correctly, around 10 dB. In EMC terms that kind of margin is more of a just-squeak-through than anything to boast about. Hope they keep an eye on it, as anything as simple as the cable harness sagging under high gee could potentially bring the problem back.

    1. adam 40 Silver badge

      Re: 90% lower

      20dB, but that's splitting hairs.

      You're quite right, it's not enough, probably, for a good safety margin.

  8. steamnut

    EMI?

    I'm surprised that a major failure was deemed to be caused by an EMI failure. After such a long time in development, the electronics should be bulletproof. At this time it is the software that should be under close scrutiny.

    The fact that this fault happened at all would put me off from booking a place as I would question what other areas have been overlooked and did they cut corners?

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: EMI?

      Full-system EMC tests on a rig like this are a horrendous exercise. Having gone through all that for the initial build, nobody wanted to do it all again. They probably just ran it through a standard EMC test into a dummy load, and then slapped it in the spaceplane.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: EMI?

      > I'm surprised that a major failure was deemed to be caused by an EMI failure. After such a long time in development, the electronics should be bulletproof. At this time it is the software that should be under close scrutiny.

      AFAIC tell from the article there was no "major failure" - the software correctly detected that the hardware was giving odd feedback and aborted the launch. This is no different to a traditional vertical launch rocket having its countdown aborted because something unusual is detected.

  9. s. pam
    Pint

    Another Beardie epic fail??

    you gotta hand it to Beardie and his fundraising ability to have loads of projects that fail.

    Brunel would be amazed the wind direction of suckage around after his demise...

  10. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Double trouble

    > dealt with an electromagnetic interference (EMI) problem that aborted a recent test flight just as another technical gremlin rears its head.

    I suppose they could always ask Boing for some advice?

  11. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Meanwhile Voyager just keeps on going, using 1970s technology.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Go

      Faster and farther than Branson's crafts will ever go.

  12. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Joke

    I'm a Millionaire, Get Me Back To Earth!

    New reality TV show

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