back to article Richard Branson uses two planes to make 170km round trip

British billionaire Sir Richard “Beardy” Branson on Sunday made a round trip of just over 170 kilometres in around 90 minutes. The entrepreneur used two planes to make the trip. The first, an unusual twin-fuselage, four-engine affair named “VMS Eve” took off at around 10:40AM on Sunday, carrying the second plane, a rocket- …

  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Happy

    Uses two planes...

    Ten out of ten for this article, Vultures!

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Uses two planes...

      And a bicycle.

      The Guardian reports

      Before take off, he arrived at the spaceport on a bicycle and greeted his crewmates with hugs. “It’s a beautiful day to go to space,” he tweeted.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Uses two planes...

        And a fleet of Range Rovers.

        The article states that the Eve plane climbed to over 50,000 feet, in fact 46,000 feet was the separation altitude.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Uses two planes...

          And a rail replacement bus service ?

          1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

            Re: Uses two planes...

            Don't be so negative. This is stunning!

            Being childish and saying it is just silly billionaire stuff is to totally miss the point. Yes, you can make cheap cracks, but he has developed (what we hope is) a safe mechanism to get to 85km. That is extremely high. 85km or 100km? I bet if you experienced both altitudes you would be quite hard pushed to tell the difference without some measuring equipment.

            I remember reading that those on the ISS often sit in its cupola just mesmerised with the view of the Earth. I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if those that use his joyride are all equally impressed. Five minutes of weightlessness it may be, but as a life experience, if you can afford it and it proves to be safe in the longer term, the experience may be overwhelming: ie well worth the money. After all, if you want to get to 85km altitude what other options have you got?

            And in the longer term, with the experience of running this service, who knows what other transportation systems may develop? Until today suborbital space flight was not available. In 2030 or 2040 who knows, there may be no more long haul flights (apart from your luggage), 90 minutes to travel London to New York or Singapore? Who knows?

            Others may take the piss. I've got lots of respect for the Bearded One. Well done!!!

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: Uses two planes...

              No it isn't stunning.

              SpaceX is stunning -landing on legs on a barge to reuse the 1st stage is stunning.

              The NZ company that is trying to use electric motors to run the turbo pumps to simplify the insanely complex engineering in a rocket engine is stunning.

              Doing little more than a 1950s X15 rocket plane just to claim you have "been to space" is not stunning because it doesn't lead anywhere. If you want a highly supersonic trans pacific aeroplane you don't start with a suborbital not-really-spaceflight.

              1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

                Re: Uses two planes...

                "Doing little more than a 1950s X15 rocket plane"

                But safely. Those 1950s flights did not have to take passengers. 17 years it's taken. If you are not impressed at that you have no heart.

                1. Youngone

                  Re: Uses two planes...

                  I'm not impressed by it, because its taken him 17 years, and at 85Km apogee he still hasn't got into space yet.

                2. Caver_Dave Silver badge
                  Boffin

                  Re: Uses two planes...

                  Go fly an English Electric Lightning! In UK service 1959-1988.

                  I believe there is still one taking passengers to see the curvature of the Earth from an airport in South Africa, although it only flies to 70,000 feet.

                  The highest unclassified altitude I've seen for a Lightning was 88,000 feet in 1984, 30% higher than the U2 it was 'intercepting'. (That is Ballistic height rather than sustained which is logged at only 87,000 feet at Mach 2.0!)

                  British aircraft history: Tiger Moth, Hurricane, Spitfire, Vulcan, Lightning, Harrier, Concorde

                  1. lglethal Silver badge
                    Go

                    Re: Uses two planes...

                    You understand the difference between feet and metres right? 88,000 feet is about 26,8km. Impressive, but quite a lot less than 85km...

                  2. Lotaresco

                    Re: Uses two planes...

                    "I believe there is still one taking passengers to see the curvature of the Earth from an airport in South Africa"

                    Not any more, sadly.

            2. HildyJ Silver badge
              Meh

              Re: Uses two planes...85km or 100km?

              I'll agree that the average customer couldn't tell 85km from 100km. But they also couldn't tell 50km from 30km, which is what Space Perspective is offering for half the price, albeit in a capsule attached to a balloon.

              As a billionaire's bucket list item, I'm sure there will be takers and they will be impressed. But I don't see it as a big step to the future.

              I'm much more interested in the mega-billionaires food fight. I've got my popcorn ready.

  2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    That tweet by Blue Origin is delicious. I don't particularly care for either of these clowns but at least the drama should be entertaining.

    1. LDS Silver badge
      Devil

      " For 96% of the world’s population, space begins..."

      I'm sure 99% of the world population doesn't know where space begins, and probably doesn't care either...

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      I'm not sure I'd call it delicious. It is funny though. Mostly because of what it reveals about Blue Origin - and their sense of inferiority. A confident company would have just put out a quick congratulation.

      Although the first flight of a paying passenger into space was surely done by the Russians in a Soyuz...

      But calling Virgin's Spaceship 2 an aeroplane is childish bullshit. It's an innovative piece of technology. And while I agree with the quibbling about where space starts - wasn't it Blue Origin that trumpeted launching and landing one of their test New Shephards just before SpaceX did a launch of a commercial payload to orbit followed by a landing - as if both were equal technical challenges?

      Particularly as Blue Origin have tested a lot, and done lots of good work, but so far haven't really achieved anything.

      1. Oh Matron!

        Curvature of the earth: Check

        Uses rocket to get there: check

        Die very quickly when outside: Check

        Weightlessness: Check

        Can see the blackness of space, where no one can hear you giggle like a child: Check

        That's space. 80KM / 100KM / 167.45 KM: All arbitrary

        "A confident company would have just put out a quick congratulation."

        Indeed

        1. captain veg Silver badge

          You can see the curvature of the earth while standing on it.

          Loads of rockets are fired into the sky every 5th November. None make it to space.

          Die very quickly when outside, also known as drowning, possible at zero altitude.

          Weightlessness is easy. Just put a big aeroplane into freefall.

          I can see the blackness of space every night, weather permitting.

          Now, if it had gone into *orbit*, that would have been a different matter.

          -A.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Now, if it had gone into *orbit*, that would have been a different matter.

            Why? If I don't want to go to the moon, but just to see my aunt in Sydney.

            Weightlessness is easy. Just put a big aeroplane into freefall.

            Or I could take you to the 10th floor and chuck you out the window...

  3. lglethal Silver badge
    Unhappy

    I find that tweet from Blue Origins more than a little on the nose.

    Surely, a congratulatory tweet (maybe with a slightly snide remark about the Virgin astronauts* if you really must), is what should have been done. Getting to space is hard work, and anyone getting there (or thereabouts) deserves respect.

    Yes, Blue Origin are probably miffed that Beardy stole some of their limelight, but such a condescending tweet feels completely inappropriate. Leaves me with a pretty bad impression of the whole Blue Origin team...

    1. Spherical Cow Silver badge

      Bezos did post a non-snarky, nice even, congratulatory tweet just after Branson's flight.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      @Iglethal

      I think the BO tweet says all you need to know about Bezos and his businesses.

      1. LogicGate

        What is the most telling, is that only by adding a 3rd column for SpaceX would the table show the relevant achievements of the competing teams in a more true light. Space is not that hard.. Orbit is.

        ..And I truly hope that Mr. Musk will not do anything like that. Those that need to know the difference already know.

        And still, congratulations to all 3 teams for getting stagnant space moving again.

        1. Jonathon Green

          To be fair The Bearded One has another operation to do orbits…

          https://virginorbit.com/

          1. LogicGate

            True, but he has yet to strap himself to one of those.

            ..Now that is one event that I would observe while enjoying my Popcorn.

            Especially if he invited Bezos to join him.

          2. MyffyW Silver badge

            My latent dyslexia first read that as virginobit and I was thinking "wow, that's a bit dark"

        2. Vulch

          His Elon-ness was actually at the site watching yesterdays flight apparently.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Although my wife did spot an unusual headline yesterday. Apparently The Sun online headline, at least originally, read something along the lines of "Branson beats Musk to space". It seem the headline writer got Musk and Bezos mixed up.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Judging by their writing, mix ups happen regularly there. Especially with medication..

            2. Geoffrey W

              RE "Branson beats Musk to space"

              Taken literally it's accurate in that Branson beat Musk to space, personally [Caveat - not aware of Musk himself blasting off except with cannabis. If he has then I stand red faced.]

          2. Timbo

            "His Elon-ness was actually at the site watching yesterdays flight apparently."

            And Musk has booked a flight on Virgin Galactic too...while Bezos tries to undermine Branson by offering a free flight on BO on 20th July, to Wally Funk, who had already paid a deposit to Virgin for a ride to space in Unity.

            Just a shame that billionaires can't get along with each other. :-(

          3. MachDiamond Silver badge

            "His Elon-ness was actually at the site watching yesterdays flight apparently."

            I believe he was spotted in court trying to prize himself out of an $8bn hit to his net worth.

    3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Even Elon gave a congratulatory tweet.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        If you even half believe Elon, he is genuinely motivated by commercialising space travel - towards eventual colonisation - rather than purely his own profits. Of course he's happy to profit too.

        Multiple competing companies is surely a benefit to the industry anyway. Increases credibility and so on.

        1. Oh Matron!

          Go Read "How to build a spaceship"

          It's a fascinating look at private spaceflight, and where it came from. NASAs days are numbered (from a [payload perspective)

          1. ravenviz

            Given their extensive knowledge base and ongoing contributions to science, NASA really ought to be heavily involved in unmanned space flight and robotic missions for the foreseeable future.

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            NASA's purpose is to do science in space. They don't provide payload services.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          "Of course he's happy to profit too."

          The big question is where is the profit in sending people to Mars?

    4. goldcd

      Indeed

      Seeing them get all snippy, makes the whole Virgin thing worthwhile.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Indeed

        Especially since their rocket is a similarly pointless project: get to an arbitrary height and fall back and hope the people reading the press release don't realise the difference between getting to space and getting to orbit.

        Musk would have more right to smirk, but understands how to do PR effectively

  4. Andy 73

    Miserable and small minded

    What a shameful article.

    One of the reasons Bezos has had the success he has had, is that America celebrates and supports success of it's citizens - even the ones who (like Bezos) manipulate the tax system to reduce their outgoings to a bare minimum.

    To read an article where there is an apparent need to do anything to 'take the piss' of a hard won achievement is quite frankly unpleasant.

    Grow up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Miserable and small minded

      Branson is an egomaniacal chancer grown fat on Government subsidies.

      Bezos has done well, you're right, and congratulations to him

      However, it's payback time. People that hold that amount of wealth, and spend it on their whimsy, have no place in society.

      It is 'yes' (wo)men like you that tow the line and let their behaviours persist.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Miserable and small minded

        >However, it's payback time. People that hold that amount of wealth, and spend it on their whimsy, have no place in society.

        Arguably it's the best way to spend it.

        The rocket creates well paid jobs in an area that doesn't have exactly a silicon-valley.

        Even if it doesn't attract a local space tech business cluster those engineering jobs support local services.

        Better than him spending it on expensive works of art or the government subsidizing the local coal industry or cattle ranchers

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Miserable and small minded

          Or spending it trying to get a country to leave a highly successful trading block...

          1. bonkers

            Re: Miserable and small minded

            "Towing the line"

            That would be the Karman line presumably?

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Miserable and small minded

        "However, it's payback time.

        His former Mrs is busily dispersing her take from the divorce and Jeff has sent $200 million along to the Smithsonian Air and Space museum which is a fantastic organization. I expect that he'll make plenty of contributions later in life. His kids are certainly well provided for. He'd be daft to unload all of his stock in Amazon and then find he needs a couple of more pallets of cash for BO.

        NASA did a S-ton of research in the 50's and 60's on rocketry but has since relied on the commercial sector, for the most part, to make improvements to launch vehicles. I see that as prudent and proper. The government primes the pump with the pure research and the private sector takes it from there. Blue Origin is doing just that while Virgin Galactic has been constructing a trackless roller coaster for the elite.

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Miserable and small minded

      Branson also makes out he was this poor student dropout who did everything off his own back.

      He just forgets the part he had incredibly wealthy parents.

      To qoute Pulp.

      "But still you'll never get it right

      'Cause when you're laid in bed at night

      Watching 'roaches climb the wall

      If you called your dad he could stop it all."

      1. TheProf Silver badge

        incredibly wealthy parents.

        But just look at all those who have "incredibly wealthy parents" and do nothing of any use to anyone.

        I much rather shake hands with Branson than any of the 'daddy bought me a Maserati for my 16th birthday' crowd.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Miserable and small minded

        Didn't his parents once dump him miles from home and then said 'make your own way home?'

        (Hint: they did!)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: America celebrates and supports success

      Bezos also controls a lot of the media in the USA. Not quite as bad as 'Dear Rupert M' but his influence is everywhere.

      His bought and paid for politicians will keep the Feds off his back allowing him to make even more money and treat his employees like chicken feed for longer.

      the almighty dollar rules and the US gets the best laws that the most money can buy.

      As Bezos has more $$$ than anyone else, he can afford to pay for the best laws that will allow Amazon to rape the world.

    4. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: Miserable and small minded

      The "take the piss" element comes not from either company's achievement, but from their behaviour. No-one likes a sore loser, and BO taking a pop at Virgin saying "it's not real space!" is pretty bad sportsmanship. BO / Bezos have a bit of a history there, (I'm thinking of the slightly snarky "welcome to the club" tweet when SpaceX first successfully landed and recovered a Falcon 9 first stage from orbit.

      I'm personally not a fan of Branson's abrupt reshuffling of schedules in order for him "to be first", but I can at least understand it.

      You're right in one respect though. Both BO and Virgin Galactic have put in a lot of hard work to get this far. Space, even sub-orbital space, is hard. My congratulations to them, and I hope they take their success even further.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Miserable and small minded

        "I'm personally not a fan of Branson's abrupt reshuffling of schedules in order for him "to be first", but I can at least understand it."

        AIUI, Virgin have been ready for a while and where just waiting for the FAA licence and permits to come through. That happened a weeks or so back and the 11th was the earliest they could go now that the paperwork is all in place. Virgin only appear to have stolen a march on BO because BO have been hyping their first flight for quite some while, whereas Virgin have, unusually for them, been relatively quiet. If anyone caused a Rapid Unscheduled Reshuffle, it was the FAA :-)

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Miserable and small minded

          "AIUI, Virgin have been ready for a while and where just waiting for the FAA licence and permits to come through."

          Not really. Both craft have had serious damage. White Knight has had major structural problems due to its design and age. Unity still has control anomalies to work out. The primary concern of the FAA is risk to the uninvolved public. Working out of Spaceport America in the middle of nowhere means F-all people on the ground.

          Blue Origin has been the tortoise in this race. Slow and steady. They don't delete items on their test card to meet deadlines. It helps that the major investor has very deep pockets and they can take that approach. I've been very impressed with the New Shepard flights. Very smooth and stable. I was there when the first Space Ship Two broke up in the air and crashed killing the co-pilot and injuring the pilot. A person I know was at the test site when 3 other people were killed when a test nitrous tank for SS2 exploded. Rocket engineering is dealing with lots of potential energy and needs a lot of respect.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Miserable and small minded

        I'm personally not a fan of Branson's abrupt reshuffling of schedules in order for him "to be first", but I can at least understand it.

        Sort of like the 60s when it was all about being first to orbit, first to spacewalk, first to the moon etc.

    5. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: Miserable and small minded

      I think the fact Virgin Atlantic was asking the government for a bailout when Branson was pissing his money away on this, is the reason people take the piss.

      The fact Bezo's Amazon are fighting its workers to have a right to be in a union and had posters all over one of their warehouses discouraging its workers from joining a union is why people take the piss.

      The fact Bezo can more than afford to pay his warehouse workers decent wage but doesn't, is another reason to take the piss.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Miserable and small minded

        Different companies and SRB/Virgin are figureheads. Just because it says "Virgin" on the banner, it doesn't mean the same entities are involved. VG was funded for a long time via a Middle East Sovereign wealth fund. At this point, SRB has very little skin in the game, but plays the part of spokesman.

    6. anthonyhegedus

      Re: Miserable and small minded

      You clearly do not understand the British psyche. It is our duty to take the fucking piss wherever and whenever it necessary.

      Both those clowns are worthy of that. Branson has ridiculed himself by asking for government money to help his airline, saying "but my space company is a different company" or some such utter bullshit. He can afford to go into space, but needs a bailout to stop people from losing their jobs! And Bezos runs a company where an AI bot fires its employees and there's no comeback.

      They both have made their money from upsetting people and taking the piss themselves. There's no point to it. Any stupid clown with a load of money can go up in a glorified firework.

    7. idiot taxpayer here again

      Re: Miserable and small minded

      @Andy 73

      I find it, ahem, hard to do anything other than take the piss. Face it, when the rocket strongly resembles a cock with a rather large bell end, what is a person supposed to do?

      1. anthonyhegedus

        Re: Miserable and small minded

        It's those vagina-shaped rockets we need to be careful of. Not exactly aerodynamic*

        *apparently

  5. ravenviz
    Go

    Very well done Sir Mr. Branson, a great achievement indeed!

    I suppose the departure gate for paying passengers is now open!

    1. LogicGate

      A great achievement indeed, congratulations Burt Rutan!

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Burt Rutan retired in 2010 and Virgin Galactic stopped working with Scaled Composites around 2014.

        1. LogicGate

          How time flies!

          Still.. AFAIK the basic concept of the feathering wing was Rutan's brainchild

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Thumb Up

        Surely just congrats to them all is in order.

        Burt Ratan's design was really great. But never forget, "no bucks, no Buck Rogers." Virgin came in to fund the further development of the concept and get non-prototypes built, tested and certified for passengers. No mean feat.

        Remember, it is rocket science.

        1. Killing Time

          Hate to quibble IaS but Virgin came in to 'raise' funds to further the development.

          Rich guys rarely spend their own money on long shots, that's the fastest way to become a poor guy....

          Musk is just a shareholder in Space X, Branson is just a shareholder in Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, even though listed as private has at least 4 separate investors and raises capital via venture capital funding.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          "Virgin came in to fund the further development of the concept and get non-prototypes built, tested and certified for passengers. "

          Burt was already onto Stratolaunch when SS1 was winding up. Virgin/SRB approached Mr. Rutan to get involved and license the technology for a commercial venture. I don't recall plans for Scaled to take it any further on their own. Notice that SS1 was immediately retired after the winning XPrize flight and donated to the Smithsonian where it's displayed today. Mike, Brian and Pete all said SS1 was a handful to fly.

  6. robn

    Not quite as high as a SR-71

    A SR-71 reached 85Km, you would expect a rocket plane to get to a higher altitude than an air-breathing aircraft.

    1. Red Ted Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Not quite as high as a SR-71

      SR-71 made it up to 85,000feet not kilometres.

      That’s just under 26km.

      1. Julz Silver badge

        Re: Not quite as high as a SR-71

        Officially...

    2. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: Not quite as high as a SR-71

      Don't confuse feet with metres, please.... it's record altitude was 25 929 m (i.e. 85,069 feet)

      1. Def Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Not quite as high as a SR-71

        Don't confuse feet with metres, please....

        That's Lockheed Martin's job.

        1. My-Handle Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: Not quite as high as a SR-71

          Ouch, that was a well-timed and effective burn.

          Unlike...

      2. Spiracle

        Re: Not quite as high as a SR-71

        Or, in Reg standard units about 12923 Osmans

        1. ThatOne Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Not quite as high as a SR-71

          > in Reg standard units about 12923 Osmans

          You'll probably need more since the top ones will be dying pretty quickly...

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Not quite as high as a SR-71

            Reg Units Soviet doesn't specify live or dead Osmans.

            1. ThatOne Silver badge

              Re: Not quite as high as a SR-71

              > Reg Units Soviet doesn't specify live or dead Osmans.

              Might be, but the dead ones will have a hard time to keep standing on the heads of those underneath.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Not quite as high as a SR-71

                Ex-Osmans can be nailed to the one below if freeze dried. It doesn't affect the plumage either!

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Mr Dogshit
    FAIL

    Space Cadets

    Yawn... man takes a short trip in an aircraft that goes slightly higher than most. Hardly Star Trek is it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Space Cadets

      Maybe, if you get your “science” from Star Trek….

      1. steviebuk Silver badge

        Re: Space Cadets

        Star Trek invented the flip phone, the tablet, the voice activated computer. Star Trek IS science

        ;o)

        I do like Star Trek though.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Space Cadets

      Taking humans deep into that environment in normal attire (OK, jumpsuits but nothing special about them, made by Under Armour), in a vehicle carrying its own oxidant because there is insufficient at that altitude is brilliant.

      And the astonishing view. What was out of reach is now starting to come into reach and as a beginning I think it’s an exciting first step, and it’s about where the will lead.

      1. LDS Silver badge
        Facepalm

        "Taking humans deep into that environment"

        "Deep"?? LOL!

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: "Taking humans deep into that environment"

          Yes, deep. What’s the problem? Weird.

          1. LDS Silver badge

            Re: "Taking humans deep into that environment"

            "Deep" barely reaching it? Deep has a very different meaning for me.

            This is a toy for rich people (now that safaris are mostly forbidden...), with some kind of technology attached to it, there are now too many people with too much money who don't know how to spend them, so people have to invent new ways to separate fools from their money. This is not even real "space tourism", it's a Luna Park attraction on steroids.

            Really, sorry, it's not SpaceX self-landing and high-power rockets, and manned capsules going to the Space Station and back. And even they too are still just LEO.

            "Deep space" is a wholly different thing, sorry.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: "Taking humans deep into that environment"

              This is a plane flying beyond the atmosphere, it is not survivable for humans at airliner altitude. This flight was several times higher. My comment was about life supporting or not parts of our planet.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "Taking humans deep into that environment"

              This is a toy for rich people (now that safaris are mostly forbidden...), with some kind of technology attached to it

              That's what I thought originally too, but then I realised that Branson's lot did come up with a delivery mechanism that has the potential to make space travel marginally less painful for the environment as well as for any human payload. It's not all just fun & games, a credible different approach has just been proven to work which is IMHO laudable.

              I have a feeling that the rocket element will be developed further for more beneficial work.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: "Taking humans deep into that environment"

                Same here. It's a working space plane. And the ticket price is about £180,000. That's well within reach of many people. You only need to well off to afford that, not "super rich[*]".

                Yes, still in the top few percent, but that's a LOT or people. Plenty business leaders earn that per year.

                There are about 3.6 million millionaires in the UK alone (although a lot of them are asset rich, cash poor because the house is worth a lot.

                1. cornetman Silver badge

                  Re: "Taking humans deep into that environment"

                  That this surprises people is strange. Pretty much all tech that comes to us plebs starts off way too expensive for us and the rich carry make that development possible. It's not particularly unusual.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Space Cadets

        "Taking humans deep into that environment in normal attire (OK, jumpsuits but nothing special about them, made by Under Armour."

        True, and it is a great achievement. On the other hand, although much lower, Concorde was doing the same many years ago, serving Champagne to passengers while the US military were still putting pilots in spacesuits to fly that high,

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Space Cadets

          Actually, you made me realise there was no champagne in evidence on that flight.

          Shame, I would have liked to see what happened to champagne when gravity vanishes :)

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Space Cadets

            For the knock down low, low, introductory price of only £180,000, you can too can answer that question personally. (Bring your sparkling "wine")

    3. Mooseman Silver badge

      Re: Space Cadets

      *slightly* higher? Your average commercial aircraft flies at between 36000 and 43000 feet. That's 6.8 - 8.1 miles (or 10 - 13.1 km)......

      1. The First Dave

        Re: Space Cadets

        There are numerous definitions of "Space" but for me, the important point is that in order to be useful, a craft needs to be able to reach orbit (not necessarily stay there, but at least reach it) and this wasn't even close.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Space Cadets

          Being in "space" is going beyond the denser parts of the atmosphere. VG did that before falling back.

          Sustaining an orbit is attaining a certain velocity and direction so your falling misses the atmosphere and there is minimal resistance to your movement to drain the energy, which is a function of your initial booster and fuel.

          I'd say they were beyond the atmosphere. Being in space and in orbit are not the same.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Space Cadets

        "*slightly* higher? "

        Yes, considering how much more 'higher' there is.

  8. BOFH in Training
    Happy

    Papa Elon

    Papa Elon must have been watching with amusement at the 2 kids fighting it out.

    On a more serious note, its good that there are more and more options to entering / exploring space.

    1. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: Papa Elon

      When the news first broke of Bezos / Branson's intentions to ride their vehicles to space, I do wonder whether Elon Musk mulled over scheduling another Crew Dragon launch.

      But then again, the Crew Dragon had already shown it could take people to orbit and back again. A human-rated launch costs a lot, takes up space in the launch manifest, and what would it prove to send Musk up there?

      For both Branson and Bezos though, it's a chance to one-up the other, to show their own confidence in their vehicles (probably more important for Branson) and to show that sub-orbital space tourism is open.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Papa Elon

        Screw logic. I'd do it anyway. Admittedly it costs a lot, but that's what being a billionaire is for.

        On the other hand, he's only had a few launches so far. Crew Dragon is still in the test phase. Even insofar as no space vehicle is ever truly out of testing.

        Kudos to Branson, the Space Ship 2 has been very extensively tested. And so him flying on it makes sense, as the first proper paying passenger flight.

        Bezos is the outlier. New Shepard hasn't flown manned yet. This is still testing. Fine if you want to take the risk - but it's not the well understood craft either SS2 or Crew Dragon are.

        1. Crypto Monad

          Re: Papa Elon

          > New Shepard hasn't flown manned yet. This is still testing

          New Shepard is completely automatic. There is no need for a pilot, and all testing can be completed without any (real) bodies on board.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Papa Elon

            Good point. I'd just assumed they'd have a pilot, to keep people happy. I suppose they'd probably only be there to hit the big red abort button anyway - so why bother?

            Blue Origin have also done more high altitude flights than I first thought. That'll teach me to believe what a supposed "space expert" says on telly, without having checked first myself.

            It's great to see all this stuff happening in space anyway. I'm not really interested in sub-orbital flights though. I want to go to space for a week. But not to have to sell my house to do it.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Papa Elon

          "On the other hand, he's only had a few launches so far. Crew Dragon is still in the test phase. Even insofar as no space vehicle is ever truly out of testing."

          And the first one came ever so close to breaching the heat shield on reentry.

        3. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Papa Elon

          "Bezos is the outlier. New Shepard hasn't flown manned yet. This is still testing. Fine if you want to take the risk - but it's not the well understood craft either SS2 or Crew Dragon are."

          SS2 has been constantly changed to figure out control issues so SRB's flight wasn't exactly on a well understood craft. SpaceX nearly lost the first crewed version of Dragon due to heat shield deficiencies. New Shepard has made 15 successful flights. I'm sure they are making incremental changes each time. I expect that the reason Jeff is willing to go is those changes are down to very minor issues at this point.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All that way and all that money

    Just to watch a Tesla Roadster floating way above you….*

    * Not an electric Jesus fan boy

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: All that way and all that money

      You might get to see that Roadster in 2091 but it’s way out of the way on heliocentric travels for now.

  10. tip pc Silver badge

    Green?

    Congratulations to the bearded one for his epic achievement.

    How many virtu signalling green boasting celebs will be celebrating this achievement and have signed up for their own turn?

    Jetting around the globe to tell us not to and then paying to directly pollute the upper atmosphere.

    1. Def Silver badge

      Re: Green?

      They claim to have signed up over 600 customers. Which at $250,000 per equals a total revenue of $150m - or around 1/13th that of SpaceX (2018).

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Green?

        If they manage a flight a month, that's 48 customers per year. That's not a good revenue and more than 10 years waiting for some of those 600.

    2. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: Green?

      Much like Emma Thompson did when she "jetted over from America" to be in the global warming demonstration :) ironic. I think they'd rather she give some funding (maybe she does) than create more pollution with her air travel.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Green?

      "Jetting around the globe to tell us not to"

      Really, if the plebs stayed away from the good things the rich & influential could enjoy them much better.

  11. TVC

    Bring back Concorde - much more impressive.

    Not really as much of an achievement as Concorde was 46 years ago.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Bring back Concorde - much more impressive.

      The combined throwaway budgets of two nations against the entrepreneurial endeavour of an individual? Not really a valid comparison.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Bring back Concorde - much more impressive.

        "The combined throwaway budgets of two nations against the entrepreneurial endeavour of an individual? Not really a valid comparison."

        Yeah, but imagine an alternative history where Concorde wasn't banned from many places and/or solved the sonic boom "issue", where it might be now with continual development.

      2. TVC

        Re: Bring back Concorde - much more impressive.

        Two Nations but hardly any computing power and able to take 100+ passengers.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Bring back Concorde - much more impressive.

      My thought as well, Branson could have invested in R&D for a new supersonic passenger jet and would probably make a lot more out of it than space 'tourism'.

      1. nintendoeats Bronze badge

        Re: Bring back Concorde - much more impressive.

        Given the reasons that Concorde was ultimately shut down, I don't think this is true, unless they can bring down the operating cost significantly. I don't think many airlines want to buy a high-price plane that you can only fly over water.

        1. Annihilator Silver badge

          Re: Bring back Concorde - much more impressive.

          I don't think many airlines want any kind of plane at the moment...

          1. TVC

            Ryanair have just bought a load of 737Maxes and are hiring 2000 desperate pilots.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Bring back Concorde - much more impressive.

          "I don't think many airlines want to buy a high-price plane that you can only fly over water."

          Concorde would have been more useful if it could do LA to Tokyo or Australia to South Africa or any Aussie route. It's was great for very long flights, but it didn't have the legs to do many of them. If stopping is required for fuel, the advantage of super sonic flight drops off very quickly.

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Bring back Concorde - much more impressive.

        Branson tried to buy them

      3. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Bring back Concorde - much more impressive.

        My thought as well, Branson could have invested in R&D for a new supersonic passenger jet and would probably make a lot more out of it than space 'tourism'.

        Branson has invested in R&D for a new supersonic passengar aircraft

      4. EnviableOne Silver badge

        Re: Bring back Concorde - much more impressive.

        Virgin are well invested in BOOM!

  12. thondwe
    Coat

    Blue Origin "Design"

    And if only someone had tapped the Blue Origin Engineers on the shoulder - "You do know we're gonna get ribbed for the look of this thing?"

    1. The Onymous Coward

      Re: Blue Origin "Design"

      Ribbed for passengers' pleasure?

    2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Re: Blue Origin "Design"

      Not a fan of Bezos or indeed Blue Origin but I do like the look of New Shepard even if I have a sneaking suspicion it was designed for a remake of Flesh Gordon.

  13. shawn.grinter

    Awaiting FlatTards....

    I can wait to see what the Flat Earthers make of this one.... even the pictures out the window show the curvature...

    Still Reality was never their strong point (or Science for that matter)

    Having said that Branson is so obviously one of the Lizard People that they will find it easy to debunk.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Awaiting FlatTards....

      even the pictures out the window show the curvature...

      Obviously an artifact of the curved window glass...

    2. Mooseman Silver badge

      Re: Awaiting FlatTards....

      Oh they will come up with the usual excuse, it's clearly a fish-eye lens......

    3. Geoff Campbell
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Awaiting FlatTards....

      We should start a GoFundMe to send six of the most prominent flat-Earthers on the next flight. Put me down for £50...

      GJC

    4. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: Awaiting FlatTards....

      I understand that the Flat Earthers have already been made are of these effects and have answers that are mind-bogglingly convoluted but technically sort of work, if you are prepared to ignore Occam's razor arguments. You just need to observe the angles at which stars (including the sun) rise and set at various latitudes to deduce the the Earth is round. But Flat Earthers have an explanation for pretty much everything. Just don't encourage them too much, OK?

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Awaiting FlatTards....

        Ancient Greeks had already calculated the circumference of Earth (rather accurately too!) by measuring the angle of the sun at different places, so yes, you don't need space travel or even computers to know Earth must be a sphere. Just simple geometry like you (should) learn in school.

        But then again we need to keep in mind the goal of flat-earthers isn't scientific correctness but just the denial of science.

        1. tiggity Silver badge

          Re: Awaiting FlatTards....

          I'm sure there's plenty of people involved in flat earth stuff as important "influencers" (or whatever) just as an easy way to make a living, in the same way that many church leaders seem to be in it for the foldable green stuff rather than New Testament (rather socialist so a lot of them don't like that) ideals.

          1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

            Re: Awaiting FlatTards....

            Eric Dubay who started the modern flat earth movement is a bullshitter of the first order but most of the others I suspect are genuine dupes.

        2. Annihilator Silver badge

          Re: Awaiting FlatTards....

          To be fair, that's an easy one for them, as it only proves the circumference of a spherical Earth, it doesn't prove a spherical Earth. The Flat Earthers don't believe in the spherical earth, so the same experiment will "prove" (to them at least) the type of path the sun follows above a flat disk.

          1. ThatOne Silver badge

            Re: Awaiting FlatTards....

            > it only proves the circumference of a spherical Earth, it doesn't prove a spherical Earth

            Er, no. Unless you had made the measurements standing on the edge of the disk, but then you would be falling off, wouldn't you...

            Their measurements showed that at a given (same) instant the sun's height over the horizon is different at two distant locations (let's say, SF and NY). There is no (obvious) way you can explain this if the earth was a flat surface.

            1. Annihilator Silver badge

              Re: Awaiting FlatTards....

              Trust me, they have all sorts of complex reasons how it works (I buy not a single one of them to be absolutely clear), but if you imagine a flat earth, imagine a sun directly over SF (say 1000 miles above it, I forget what sort of number they talk about), then from NY, 2000 miles away, the sun would appear to be 26.6 degrees above the horizon.

              For clarity, it's complete bollox what I'm saying.

              1. ThatOne Silver badge
                Facepalm

                Re: Awaiting FlatTards....

                Indeed, if they place the sun on Low Earth orbit... See icon...

          2. MJI Silver badge

            Re: Awaiting FlatTards....

            What about the elephants and turtle?

      2. Mooseman Silver badge

        Re: Awaiting FlatTards....

        Anybody who lived near the coast or sailed anywhere knew thousands of years ago that the Earth wasn't flat - just watch a ship appear or disappear over the horizon. It all seems to stem from a rather literal reading of biblical text involving corners of the earth. But yes, the convoluted logic they come up with to justify any inconvenient facts that counter the flat earth theory is hilarious, even when their own attempts to prove the flatness actually proves the curvature.

    5. The First Dave

      Re: Awaiting FlatTards....

      That's easy - the earth is a flat, round disc, so of course the edge looks circular - that is because it is!

    6. Phones Sheridan

      Re: Awaiting FlatTards....

      Take a picture from one side of a plate, even tho the plate is flat, the image will appear curved.

      Actually strike that, I don’t want to give lunatics even more “proof”

    7. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: Awaiting FlatTards....

      RIP Mad Mike Hughes

    8. TVC

      Re: Awaiting FlatTards....

      All done in Pinewood Studios.

  14. DrXym Silver badge

    Is that it?

    I realise the technological achievement and the long road the project has traveled to get to this point. But all that just to lob someone just barely into space hardly seems worth it. And the same applies whether we're talking Richard Branson or Jeff Bezos.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Is that it?

      Well, to be fair to Bezos, There's a New Glenn (orbital) - as well as a New Shepard. So what Blue Origin are doing is setting increasingly harder goals, while they do their engineering work.

      And if he wants to spend some of his billions on a quick trip to the edge of space, good luck to him. I probably would.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Is that it?

      "But all that just to lob someone just barely into space hardly seems worth it."

      That could have been said about Yuri Gagarins first flight, or that of Alan Shepherd. Or even more appropriately, the Wright Brothers first manned, controlled flight.

      A lot depends on whether Unity leads to a dead end or if it, or at least the design concept, leads to something more useful.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Is that it?

        >That could have been said about Yuri Gagarins first flight, or that of Alan Shepherd.

        You can definitely say that about Shepherd's.

        The Rooskies have put a man into orbit - can we do that?

        No Mr President, but we can shoot a man up and come back down - that's much easier

        Do the voters understand the difference?

        No Mr President, we made sure our public education really sucks - that's the problem with building our own rockets

  15. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    At workers' expense

    If a company has so much money to "burn", it means they could have spend it on salaries, but they didn't.

    He rose to space on the shoulders (and expense) of workers, but they didn't even got the credit. It was his "dream" to not pay people properly in order to get to space.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: At workers' expense

      The bearded one is a mere amateur when compared to old baldy at treating workers badly.

      1. DrXym Silver badge

        Re: At workers' expense

        Did any Virgin branded company treat their workers badly? Branson has some questionable tax arrangements and other questions to answer but his companies look run of the mill compared to their peers for good or ill.

        The same could not be said of Bezos where complaints about micro management, backstabbing, minimum wages, unfair dismissals, firing by computer are endemic and clearly part of the culture.

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: At workers' expense

          Classic deflection. Just because other people and companies are on the tax fiddle and don't pay right, it does not justify anyone else doing that.

          Those people wouldn't be billionaires if they shared the value workers produced.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: At workers' expense

            Those people wouldn't be billionaires if they shared the value workers produced.

            Those workers don't produce all the value. That's one of the many things Marx got wrong.

            There is a cost of capital as well. And that capital can be used to vastly increase the productivity of labour. And if it doesn't make a return (a profit) then it gets invested elsewhere, where it can.

            There's also a value to ideas, organisation and leadership. Sure we've all met shit managers, who reduce the overall productivity of the workers unfortunate enough to have to deal with them. But that isn't all management. Sometimes individuals can drive companies forward almost entirely down to their skill, knowledge and drive - and you can tell that although they need staff - most of that success is down to the person at the top. Although that effect tends to fall off as companies get bigger, and become more bureaucratic and lumbering.

            But I've known several entrepeneur types who've built companies almost entirely on their own abilities. And would have succeeded almost whatever staff they'd had. So long as they hired people who could read and write and didn't steal the silver. If they're then able to attract brilliant people and build a successful team and culture that business can then jump to the next level and keep on growing, so I'm not saying that labour isn't important. But it's far from the only thing.

            1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

              Re: At workers' expense

              Such a nonsense. If workers don't produce value, then why are they there? So that the owners don't feel alone?

              Unless you think that the idea the entrepreneur has is what produces value. In that case they don't have the right to value either as the value is its own entity.

              However you dress it, people who make disproportionate money to their workers are simply stealing from them.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: At workers' expense

                "If workers don't produce value, then why are they there? "

                He's talking about how those workers produce value and how much value they produce. Look at the UK, especially through the 60's to the 80's with powerful unions refusing to accept change and investment and the huge slump in productivity against value, being undercut by the most of the rest of the world. Or the USSR. Nationalised industries with no internal competition become lacklustre and left behind. Unregulated capitalism is just as bad. You end up with monopolies resulting in the same downward spiral when there's no one to compete against.

                Imagine if Heinz were so big, they were buying the entire worlds supply of beans for baked beans. They'd have no reason to improve the quality or supply. They'd have every reason to make them as cheaply as possible and even cause artificial scarcity to increase the prices.

              2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

                Re: At workers' expense

                Such a nonsense. If workers don't produce value, then why are they there? So that the owners don't feel alone?

                elsergiovolador,

                Well that's sad. You start with a strawman argument. I didn't say workers don't produce value. I said they don't produce all of it. Different busineses will differ as to what's important.

                I currently work for a company that's effectively a one-man band. It actually employs 6 people, but without the boss it wouldn't exist. The company is basically support for what they do. And that's all in knowledge and relationships and netwrorks built with the customers over 30 years. Now without that support it also couldn't work. So without workers, it wouldn't exist. But the point is that only one of the members of staff is irreplaceable. Everybody else could be replaced - some of us have more skills than others - and so it would be harder to do so.

                Equally the most skilled machinist in the world, who can make amazing things to astonishing levels of accuracy - is totally unable to do any of that without expensive machines. Those machines in turn are made by many people's labour - using other expensive machines. So while their labour has value, and they're much harder to replace because they took so long to acquire their skills, if they take all the profit - then there will be no machines for them to use, because who would give them the money to buy them?

                Unless you think that the idea the entrepreneur has is what produces value. In that case they don't have the right to value either as the value is its own entity.

                There's a logical flaw in your argument here. The first statement does not logically lead to the second. My Aunt and Uncle are a physicists who programme. They started a company thirty years ago to design radio and radar antennae. That company almost purely exists inside their heads and in the software that they have generated. It's employed a few people as secretaries and admin - but all of those were totally replaceable as almost anyone could have done their job.

                The reason that their knowledge and computer program had value, is because they put the work in to create it, test it and sell the use of it. And they could do that because other people needed to build mobile phone networks or put radars on their ships or aircraft. Their staff weren't entitled to an equal split of the value of the company because they weren't doing the important stuff, they weren't irreplaceable. Also they weren't taking the same risk, because they were getting paid a salary.

                Or as another example of stuff just being in people's heads. I know a guy who's brought in to save failing pharmaceuticals companies. He has a background in medical research and has built up expertise in getting drugs approved, made and sold - while cutting costs or raising sufficient money to keep the company going. Other people could do his job, but not many. If it was easy, the companies wouldn't be in trouble in the first place. All he has is experience and a good contacts book. As a vote of confidence, when the UK government needed some vaccines really quickly, he was one of the people they called in to help.

                Not every job is equal. Not every member of staff is equal. Salaries aren't even the largest cost of a lot of companies. Some jobs can't be done without expensive machines. In short, life is complicated.

              3. Mooseman Silver badge

                Re: At workers' expense

                "However you dress it, people who make disproportionate money to their workers are simply stealing from them."

                You might want to put down Das Kapital and think what stealing actually is.

                Do you also believe taxation is theft?

                You are seriously saying that all staff should be paid the same no matter what their role?

        2. Rob Daglish

          Re: At workers' expense

          Did any Virgin branded company treat their workers badly? Well, the stagecoach/Virgin trains pension spat resulting in VT not being allowedb to bid for any rail franchises certainly suggests that someone thinks so....

    2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: At workers' expense

      Not sure anyone is forced to work for ol' Beardy. Yeah he should've given credit where it's due, but had VG spent their "money to burn" on salaries, surely they'd not have a product to build (setting aside whether or not said product is a worthwhile endeavour or simply a "because I can" vanity piece). No product = no reason to employ anyone.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: At workers' expense

        This is more like decades of appropriation of value generated by workers then then turned into investment money.

        How many workers' dreams he crushed so that he could have his dream come true?

        1. Mooseman Silver badge

          Re: At workers' expense

          "How many workers' dreams he crushed so that he could have his dream come true?"

          Or, how many people has he created jobs for? You sound like a student agitator, all property is theft...

  16. Elledan Silver badge
    Happy

    Was waiting for this in 2004

    When Scaled Composites flew the first-generation version of this craft in 2004 with SpaceShipOne, it was a pretty big achievement that had the world talking about space tourism and Space Shuttle-like access to orbit, but for the common man. Now, 17 years later (do you feel old yet?), it feels like things have changed dramatically.

    Yes, after watching the livestream yesterday of Branson et al. skirting right below the Karman line I can see how this could be a fun joyride for anyone with the ~250,000 Yankee bucks that it'd cost per seat. As pointed out by Tim Dodd (Mr. Everyday Astronaut), the hybrid rocket engine they're using isn't particularly clean, so hopefully that can be improved some.

    And yet, it feels like something that would have been more relevant a decade ago. When we're seeing SpaceX working towards launching paying crew towards the ISS and also on a sight-seeing trip in LEO in a Dragon capsule (multi-day excursion), then the main feeling I'm left with is one of being underwhelmed.

    It's probably a good thing that I feel this way, as it shows just how much and how quickly SpaceX has upset the status quo, with their rapid development strategy which has left all their competitors choking in the dust. Ultimately it will be us 'common man' who will benefit from this rapid progress, and Branson got his joyride.

    Win-win, basically :)

    (Anyone tuning in for Jeff "Who?" Bezos' ride?)

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Was waiting for this in 2004

      This stuff takes time. Making it work, and hopefully safe enough for paying passengers. So, as you say, it looks a lot less impressive now - when compared to SpaceX. But then you don't embark on these things knowing exactly how long they'll take, or what other people will achieve in the meantime.

      It's a similar timescale to the Eurofighter. Ordered in something like 1983 - when the Cold War had taken a much colder and more dangerous turn. Designed to defend the skies above Germany from the Warsaw Pact.

      Ten years later, no more Warsaw Pact. No Soviet Union even. Still no Eurofighters. Of course the program was delayed (as these things always are), but the planned date in-service was the mid 90s. Conclusion, these things take time.

      1. Ken G
        Angel

        Re: Was waiting for this in 2004

        I was actually impresssed by how unimpressive it looked.

        No hard shell suit, no pre-breathing oxygen, a pensioner on board and at no point was there any nail biting terror. It goes up, it comes down. Look at old X-15 footage for comparison.

        I think with another 10 years development it will be reliably sub-orbital for passenger transfer to orbital shuttles or satellite launch and recovery.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Was waiting for this in 2004

          it will be reliably sub-orbital for passenger transfer to orbital shuttles or satellite launch and recovery.

          That would be a laugh, the speed difference between orbital and sub-orbital spaceflight should make for some very interesting rendezvous, or impacts as the case may be.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Was waiting for this in 2004

      "And yet, it feels like something that would have been more relevant a decade ago."

      That first one wasn't suitable for more than what it did. Developing something for commercial use by the paying public, takes a looooong time. Testing and certification alone takes years. Just look at the Boeing 737 Max. the whole point of that was to get to market faster by grandfathering certification because starting with a new airframe would take at least a decade.

  17. Wilco

    Mealy-mouthed snark

    Do you not want to go into space then?

    Yes, Beardy didn't go very far into space. But he spent his own money doing it, and in a few years Virgin and Blue Origin and especially SpaceX will be going a lot further, and at a lot more affordable prices.

    I want my science fiction future, and these three are the ones who are going to give it to me.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Mealy-mouthed snark

      But he spent his own money doing it

      That's debatable. If you pay your workers less and pocket that money, then is it really your own money?

      For some reason it has become socially acceptable that those people can get away without paying the right amount of money to the workers.

      Someone becoming a billionaire, while his or her workers cannot even afford a flat is a strange anomaly that became a norm.

      1. Mooseman Silver badge

        Re: Mealy-mouthed snark

        "For some reason it has become socially acceptable that those people can get away without paying the right amount of money to the workers."

        What is the "right" amount of money?

  18. Ken G
    Thumb Up

    85km isn't bad

    That's higher than most of the early X-15 missions. I assume there will be the option in later missions to crank the engine up to 11.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: 85km isn't bad

      IIRC, unless they switch out the engine and fuel system it can't go much higher. The type of fuel used means it runs rough and bumpy if you try to burn it all so they have to shut it off before they run "dry".

      It's a good start, but they need to go back to the drawing board if they want to go much higher. It *might* just be a case of scaling up, but then this current craft is "just" a scaled up version of the original Scaled Composite craft and the engineering to scale up up has taken them 17 years. Not to mention that going much higher likely will require batter heat shielding, adding more weight.

  19. Neurons for Kryton

    The X-15 - a proper space plane...

    Don't forget what Branson achieved has to be put into perspective with the X-15 - flight 91 flown by Joe Walker achieving an altitude of 67 miles in August 1963 - 58 years ago !

    NASA X-15 aniversary celebration - https://history.nasa.gov/x15conf/log.html

    Also have a good read of one of NASA's excellent collection of e-books - http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/601242main_X15ExtendingFrontiersFlight-ebook.pdf

  20. Howard Sway

    For 96% of the world’s population, space begins 100 km up

    Actually, for 100% of the world’s population, space is where we all live. We don't exist outside the universe.

    Looking forward to the pathetic "Well, when I climbed Everest there were a few more centimetres of snow on top so actually I was the first to climb the world's highest mountain" brag by Bezos next week..

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: For 96% of the world’s population, space begins 100 km up

      In fact the summit of Chimborazo the volcano is further from the centre of the Earth than the summit of Everest due to the fact that the Earth is an oblate spheroid with a polar radius 21km less than equatorial radius. Altitude achievements become an interesting argument about altitude above mean sea level (AMSL) and the thinness of the atmosphere.

      As for where space begins, as the atmosphere is fluid and has waves (which is why stars twinkle due to refraction) the altitude at which space begins, if determined by the density of the atmosphere, depends on the conditions on the day.

      Isn't science wonderful?

      (Even the summit of Kilimanjaro (5895m AMSL) beats Everest (8848m AMSL) for distance from the centre of the Earth.)

      1. ThatOne Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: For 96% of the world’s population, space begins 100 km up

        > is further from the centre of the Earth

        That's why normal (and mountain-climbing!) people calculate mountain heights (and the related achievements) using AMSL. Because it is definitely more difficult to climb Mt Everest than Mt Kilimanjaro...

  21. Primus Secundus Tertius

    Exaggerated hype

    Someone has reached an altitude of 17 miles.

    This is a long way short of orbital space flight. You need at least 100 miles for a successful orbit, and 200 miles for a long-lasting orbit.

    1. Crypto Monad

      Re: Exaggerated hype

      As it happens, they got to 53 miles, not 17 miles.

      However, the height is almost irrelevant. Only about 1% of the energy required to get into orbit is to get up to the right height; the other 99% is in the kinetic energy required to travel laterally.

      Increasing their rocket power to get to 100 miles or 200 miles would not get them into orbit; it would just increase the time slightly before falling back to earth. That's why what SpaceX is doing is a *much* bigger deal.

      1. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Bronze badge

        Re: Exaggerated hype

        "However, the height is almost irrelevant. Only about 1% of the energy required to get into orbit is to get up to the right height; the other 99% is in the kinetic energy required to travel laterally."

        So while it's true that the kinetic energy required to stay in orbit is a lot, we can work out just what fraction of the vehicle's total (gravitational Potential Energy + Kinetic Energy) is KE and how it changes with altitude. Making a few assumptions, such as the gravity in orbit being the same as on earth (it's only about 88% different at the ISS altitude, so near enough), the orbit being circular etc:

        Gravitational PE = mgh, and g=GM/(h+Re)^2, Re is earth's radius, h is orbital altitude above ground.

        Orbital KE=mv^2/2, where v ( for a circular orbit) =GM/(h+Re).

        So, PE=GMmh/(h+Re)^2, KE=GMm/(2(h+Re))

        Ratio of PE/KE = 2h/(h+Re) (after some cancelling out)

        Popping some real numbers in, for the ISS at about 400km altitude, which is about the lowest orbital altitude you can do before things fall back to earth real quick due to air resistance, or keep boosting it to stay up there a la GOCE, that ratio of PE/KE is about 12%.

        At a mere 100km altitude (absolutely not a viable orbital altitude for earth) that ratio becomes 3%.

        The altitude at which the energy required to get there is 1% of the kinetic energy required to stay there is (for earth) about 32km above the ground.

        Interestingly, the altitude at which the energy required to get there is the same as the kinetic energy required to stay there, is exactly 1 earth radius advice the surface.

        I've neglected stuff like air resistance to fit through the thick air to get up there in the first place, and the KE boost you get by launching somewhere sensible like the equator and in a sensible direction, but hey!

    2. PerlyKing Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Exaggerated hype

      Orbital flight isn't just about height, it's also about speed. Branson and Bezos are both going up a fair distance, but with a horizontal speed of essentially zero, which means that they fall straight back down again. To stay up there they would need to add a horizontal speed of around 18,000mph.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Exaggerated hype

        Orbital spaceflight is all about speed, and altitude for avoiding the drag that would deplete the energy and reduce that speed.

  22. Fr. Ted Crilly

    nyah..

    When ever I see BO I do not think blue origin rather Body Odour. Is it just me? Besides New Shepard sounds like it shoud be a roll-on...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: nyah..

      Honey, if you are rolling something that shape on your under-arms, you are either doing it wrong, or more kinky than me.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "To the next generation of dreamers: if we can do this, just imagine what you can do"

    Well, first you need to spend your life earning enough money to do anything interesting (competing against others with no other interest *but* money). And then you are either too burned out or just focusing on investing your wealth for your kids. So you never actually improve the state of science.

    Which is why the moon landing back in 1969 is *still* the pinnacle of human achievements.

    1. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Bronze badge

      It's the same with politics. I assume that most people go into politics because they genuinely want to do good, but to get to any real position of power they have to spend so long fighting the machine that all sense of good is destroyed in them.

      1. BloggsyMaloan

        Politics or billionaires: choose your entertainment

        >I assume that most people go into politics because they genuinely

        > want to do good, but to get to any real position of power they have

        >to spend so long fighting the machine that all sense of good is

        >destroyed in them

        Being a cynic, I assume that some start with a mild veneer of wanting to do good which is easily shed as the lure of imagined (*) power tempts them to trade fragile fragments of morality.

        Others have no doubt from the start whose interest will direct their political careers.

        (*) Imagined because once they've been assimilated into the swamp they find that they are controlled by the Borg mind and can influence, let alone control, very little indeed except whether to wear a jacket over an England shirt and whether to wear a hard hat as well as a hi-vis jacket. Thus the would-be mighty fall as the Ides of March grind the sausage-meat of politics.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        It's the same with politics. I assume that most people go into politics because they genuinely want to do good,

        I think it's more about being sociopathic and narcissistic.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Curvature of the Earth

    I'm always both impressed and confused by the curvature of the Earth in pictures from vehicles that have only just made it to the 'edge of space' (or, not, as the case may be).

    VSS Unity reached 85km which, if my maths is correct (?), is the equivalent of about 1.5mm off the surface of a regulation size-5 Euro 2020 penalty-missing football, if the football was the Earth and not an object of hooligan affection.

    It's difficult to see what the angle-of-view of these 'out of the window' images is. We all know that the average drone image, or wide-angle football crowd camera, 'distorts' the image towards the edges and makes everything bendy. You need a reasonably narrow FoV, a well designed lens, or camera image corrections to avoid it. The 'rear view' shot of Unity (showing the wing tips) seems to be pretty wide-angle to me?

    Thus: is the curve shown in the images from unity actually what you would see if you were 1.5mm off the ball as it hit the goalie's right-hand post? Or is it exaggerated because of the lens of the camera used to snap it? Anyone out there with a grasp of the details know?

    1. Boothy Silver badge

      Re: Curvature of the Earth

      Scott Manley does quite a good video (generated GFX) on this, starting low, and working up, so aircraft height, then 10k, 30k, 100k and higher and higher, beyond ISS orbit.

      it's a 360 video as well, so you can pan around the view, or even hook it into a VR/Google cardboard etc.

      https://youtu.be/xpUcZXiKtfU

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Curvature of the Earth

        Curvature starts to become discernible about 34000 feet, if you can see enough of the horizon.

        I think the curvature in the video is exaggerated by wide angle lenses, though I would expect to see it curve both ways depending on the position in the frame.

  25. Plest Bronze badge
    Pint

    Sorry, I don't get it.

    When I think of Branson, Musk and Bezos, I think "Weyland-Yutani"!

    I don't get the hero worship of the likes of Branson, Musk and Bezos. Sure, they're smart and know how to find the right people to get stuff done but I simply see them as businessmen, smart, clever at being businessmen.

    Maybe my heros are more grounded a lot are people no one has ever heard of. Photographers Ben Long and Justin Reznick. Technologists Tom Kyte, Brent Ozar, Dennis Ritchie and David Gassner. Entertainers like Dee Snider and Lemmy Kilminster. I prefer my heroes to be people from whom I can actually take genuine life lessons and use those to make a difference to my own day to day life. Branson bleating about floating around outer space isn't really going to help me much today.

    1. Mooseman Silver badge

      Re: Sorry, I don't get it.

      You take life lessons from Lemmy and you're still alive? Impressive.

  26. MJI Silver badge

    British Virgin Islands

    Of COURSE he lives there

  27. Steve Channell
    Thumb Down

    Concorde

    You could see the curvature of the earth and darkness of the sky from Concorde at 2/3 of the altitude of Branson’s plane, but didn’t experience weightlessness (mainly because rapid decent would make passengers feel sick (there’s a reason NASA’s weightless simulator is called the vomit comet)).

    Branson’s plane is “innovative” in that it does not require air for the engine, but does not use the lack of drag to get you anywhere, other than where you started. Was it a test-bed for a plane that could avoid sonic boom it would have a place in history, but it’s a technological dead-end that just provides a joyride (without the meal or champagne that Concorde provided).

    In the joyride stakes, it’s not as good as Bezos’s craft.. had it been commercial a decade ago, it might have been a commercial success, but missed the boat

  28. KBeee Bronze badge
    Facepalm

    Where does Space begin?

    Blue Origins tweet is being a bit disingenuous there.

    There is no Internationally recognised standard of where space begins.

    The Kármán line was originally set by Hungarian physicist Theodore von Kármán in the 1900's at about 80km/50 miles. This was later arbitrarily reset to 100km mainly because it's a nice round number.

    The FIA says 100km (though recently they considered putting it back to its original 80km).

    NASA Mission Control (unlike NASA itself) considers it to be 122km/76 miles.

    There is even a case for 1000km/600 miles as then the Earths atmosphere can be disregarded for all practical purposes.

    The FAA, NASA, USAF, NOAA all think it's 80km/50 miles, and anyone going over 50 miles high as having been in Space and being an Astronaut. Even "real" Astronauts are surprisingly cool with this. Terry Verts (former commander of the International Space Station) and Mike Massimino both reckon that they are, with Massimino saying “I think if you get above that line, you certainly qualify as an astronaut, absolutely. The more the merrier!”, though let's face it, Mike Massimino is fucking cool anyway.

    It brings up interesting political and legal questions too.

    There is "Freedom of Space" at the moment, like "Freedom of the Seas" (much under attack now), where no one should interfere with your passage, or require permission or authorisation to visit or use.

    If the limit on where Space starts was legally set and Internationally recognised, it would determine where that "Freedom" starts. Any object below that would be in your airspace when overflying you, and if you hadn't given permission or authorisation for it to be there, you'd be entitled to shoot it down if you had the capability.

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Where does Space begin?

      Proper deep space is beyond the Kuiper Belt, or between it and the Oort Cloud, or maybe beyond the Oort Cloud. Compare those distances with Galactic distances.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Where does Space begin? Atoms in Spaaaace

        Interstellar space : "This gas is extremely dilute, with an average density of about 1 atom per cubic centimeter. (For comparison, the air we breathe has a density of approximately 30,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules per cubic centimeter.)"

        From: http://www-ssg.sr.unh.edu/ism/what1.html

        Intergalactic space : "The intergalactic medium is the hot, X-ray emitting gas that permeates the space between galaxies. With temperatures of millions of degrees Kelvin and containing less than one atom per cubic meter (a density less than 10**-27 kg/m3), intergalactic space is one of the hottest and most rarefied environments in the Universe."

        From: https://astronomy.swin.edu.au/cosmos/I/Intergalactic+Medium

        Now that's proper space, that is.

      2. Mooseman Silver badge

        Re: Where does Space begin?

        So what you're saying is space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space....

  29. Sir Loin Of Beef
    Thumb Down

    This is such a waste of time, money, and my attention span.

    Billionaires are useless and should not exist.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      It's important to remember though, Sir Loin, that it's not all about you.

  30. bjr

    Depressing, the X15 flew higher in 1963

    It's been 58 years since the X15 flew to 67 miles and 60 years since Alan Shepard made his flight. If someone had built an airplane and few it 120 feet on a beach in 1963 no one would have cared except the mother of the Cub Scout that did it. Branson's flight was only to 50 miles and Bezos will just be taking the worlds most expensive pogo stick to a lousy 100KM. Even when Alan Shepard made his flight it was basically just a participation trophy, Yuri Gagarin had already orbited the earth. Both of these efforts are just a colossal waste of resources and money. You can get more zero gravity time for vastly less money on Nasa's vomit comet. Virgin has at least used their technology to put a couple of satellites into orbit, Blue Origin has accomplished exactly nothing and they've knee capped ULA with their failure to supply an engine to replace the Russian engines that they have been using. As someone who watched Alan Shepards launch in his first grade classroom and is now old enough to collect Social Security I find this extremely depressing.

  31. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    QUIT!

    BURNING UP MY OXYGEN

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pollution

    This man has consistently run roughshod over the rest of the world, his work ethics are about the same as well. He needs sending out to space with a one way ticket to colonize one of Saturn's rings.

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