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SpaceShipTwo Mothership Makes Maiden Flight

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the like-a-virgin dept.

Space 110

RobGoldsmith writes "Earlier this week images were appearing on the Net showing the WhiteKnightTwo craft doing some tests in Mojave. The earliest tests showed perhaps two of the engines being used, while a later test showed all the engines working and some further testing. Today the four Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308A engines finally carried the craft into the air. The maiden flight of the WhiteKnightTwo lasted just shy of one hour and happened today at around 08:15 local time, at Mojave air and spaceport. Rumors suggest that a Beechcraft King Air was used for a chase plane. The craft will be used to position Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo craft to fly into space; this is estimated to happen around 2010."

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110 comments

Beauty of Capitalism (2)

Bordgious (1378477) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194341)

The field of personal space travel is opening up! This is the beauty of capitalism.

I do not eat babies (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26194375)

I am a socialist and I approve of this message

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26194387)

Goatse man's personal space travel is very open as well.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (0, Flamebait)

Dreen (1349993) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194443)

And its worst aspect at the same time.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (5, Insightful)

node 3 (115640) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194747)

The field of personal space travel is opening up!

This is the beauty of capitalism.

And it's only just getting there over 50 years after socialism did it.

Both socialism and capitalism have their places. Capitalism wouldn't have gotten us to the Moon in the 60s. Socialism won't get the masses into space in the 10s. A healthy society has a balance of both.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194941)

If I had mod points... *shakes fist*

You pretty much hit the nail on the head.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (5, Insightful)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 5 years ago | (#26195163)

I would say its not socialism or capitalism that got us into space to begin with. It was nationalism, the military and propaganda. Both the soviets and Americans didn't go into space as a normal part of their economic development / output - they did it to one up each other and to explore military possibilities and advantages from having a pedestal in space. Its still plays a large part in the recent revival of national space programs.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (3, Insightful)

node 3 (115640) | more than 5 years ago | (#26196989)

You're talking about motive. I'm talking about economics.

The economic system that took us to the Moon was socialism. The economic system that is launching Virgin Galactic is capitalism.

Apollo was very much about nationalism and militarism, as you stated. It was also about exploration, science and futurism (although those alone, I suspect, would not have sufficed to draw the needed budget). But regardless the motive, it was *only* possible, during the 60s (and even to this very day) as a socialist endeavor.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

hachi-control (1360955) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199549)

I myself think it was ism that got us there!

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

bwy (726112) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197073)

Quite well said. The proof is in the pudding... the initial space pursuit was between a capitalist country and a communist country.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (3, Interesting)

shar303 (944843) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199029)

To me it is plainly ludicrous to think that free market capitalism will contribute toward space exploration in any meaningful way - unless you seriously think that pleasure trips into low earth orbit for rich individuals are what its all about that is.

The only way that capitalism can really help out here is by continuing to wreck the planet to such an extent that people need to buy themselves an escape. Even here there is the problem that the inability of capitalism to see or plan ahead is what makes them so effective at polluting - and terraforming requires very serious planning, if it can ever work at all that is.

Even when capitalism had a global superpower behind it, it seemed to bogged down by its own shallow goals and could never really produce the goods. If you look at the contrast between the goals of the two respective programmes (US vs USSR) then this is borne out effectively.

For example, even to a child without the benefit of hindsight, I could never see the point of going to the moon, unless you're engaged in pointless showboating.

It seemed to me that the US reacted to the fact that the USSR had gotten the satellite into space, the first man into space etc and needed a publicity stunt to try and convince the public that they were keeping up.

While the US went on to quietly forget about the moon and tried to get somewhere with the increasingly disastrous shuttle, the Russians pushed ahead with their space station Mir, which was by all accounts a huge success.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (3, Insightful)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26196449)

so true. the private sector won't invest in fundamental research or new and yet unproven technology. that's why you need public research to do these things that push society forward.

nothing has prevented private companies from investing in space research/travel in the past 4-5 decades. they just chose not to because it wasn't seen as "financially viable." and if we'd simply waited for the private sector to develop space technology then we would never have gotten GPS, communications satellites, interplanetary probes, the Hubble Space Telescope, etc.

but now that public research has paved the way for commercial space travel, companies like Virgin Galactic can use public research and the technology developed through public funding in order to commercialize space.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (0, Flamebait)

chris_mahan (256577) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197681)

Which is why the Toyota Prius was developed by a Government Agency. The Toyota Government Agency.

No wonder GM and Chrysler can't compete against a government-funded entity.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (4, Informative)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197859)

the Toyota Prius is hardly fundamental research or cutting-edge technology. however, the Japanese government did invest in Toyota's hybrid gas-electric technology, purportedly subsidizing 100% of its development cost [autospies.com] .

so while there's no Toyota Government Agency, Japan does however have:

  • MEXT (the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)
  • METI (the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry)

and their government actively funds science and public research through these organizations. the Japanese government also owns a large (1/3rd) share of their national ISP/telecom, NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone). and this kind of active support and funding of technology is why Japan has become a global technology leader. it's also why Japan is leading the world in FttH deployment and its citizens have access to 1 Gbps symmetric broadband connections for $0.057 per Mbps, whereas Comcast is charging $3.00 per Mbps for asymmetric "wideband" connections.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

chris_mahan (256577) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198077)

Interesting. Thanks for pointing that out.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

savuporo (658486) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198145)

nothing has prevented private companies from investing in space research/travel in the past 4-5 decades.

Actually, there are documented cases of government obstructionism throughout the past decades. NASA used to launch commercial satellites on Shuttle. How can you field a commercial space launch company in an environment where you have to compete with government for scarce payloads available ?
Beal Aerospace [bealaerospace.com] was basically forced out of the market, read their parting statement on the very webpage.
AAS program was basically used to get a couple companies that were pursuing their own markets tied up with fulfilling NASA requirements, then they morphed it into something else and killed the program entirely.
There are lots more examples, if you go and read the history books that arent written by "authorities"

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (3, Insightful)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198235)

if you want to call the existence of NASA "government obstructionism" then, sure. but that hasn't stopped companies like Sea Launch [wikipedia.org] or FedEx from competing with government services.

that same argument has pretty much been used to lobby for the privatization of all kinds of public infrastructure, which is generally at a detriment to society. you want NASA to stop launching satellites just so an uncompetitive commercial company can have a chance to profit unobstructed, or do you want the government to push technological progress (including commercial technology as well as vital public infrastructure) forward?

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198325)

that same argument has pretty much been used to lobby for the privatization of all kinds of public infrastructure, which is generally at a detriment to society.

Cite please so I can pick it apart for you.

NASA has a long history of interference. In addition, to trying to grab commercial payloads in the early 80's to fill out the Shuttle manifest, they helped create an oligopoly of commercial launch providers from the 80's through to mid 90's. There was for a time single launchers in significant launch categories. I don't remember the breakdown any more, but there were single rockets in virtually all of the US's launch market niches from the Pegasus up to Space Shuttle.

NASA killed the "welterweight" launch market (under 10 kg or so to orbit). In part, NASA was the expected main customer. So that market died when NASA annouced (and later dropped) it's own welterweight contender.

While Orbital Sciences is using the Minuteman ICBM missile as a launch vehicle platform, a similar attempt was made in the late 90's by E'Prime Aerospace to use the more advanced Peacekeeper ICBM missile for the same role. E'Prime was arbitrarily blocked by Congress, but my understanding is that NASA had a hand in it. I think the oligopoly broke up due to increased competition from China in the mid 90's and the Department of Defense's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program (which created competition between Lockheed Martin and Boeing).

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26208339)

while i've never heard of E'Prime Aerospace, but if you want to look at an example of privatization hurting society, then look up info on water privatization in El Salvador [projectcensored.org] . i first read about this issue about 5-6 years ago (when the water supply was first privatized), but the problem doesn't seem to have gotten any better over the years.

other examples of this include India, where the World Bank is also pushing the government to privatize Delhi's water supply [zmag.org] , as well as Pakistan, where the WTO and other IFIs are pushing for privatization of health care against the protest of doctors and other medical professionals. Pakistanis have also recently been swindled by foreign investors when Pakistan Steel Mill was privatized at far below the market price. likewise, there is strong public opposition against the privatization of Pakistan's Oil & Gas Development Company [icem.org] . however, all of this is just the latest episode in a string corrupt privatization dealings by the Pakistani dictator [wikipedia.org] which has cost the Pakistani people over $23.8 billion [asia-pacific-action.org] in national income and domestic resources.

another example of the harm of privatization can be seen in post-soviet Russia [zmag.org] , where the privatization of national assets have made a handful of people disgustingly rich while the rest of society bears the cost of this ransacking of public infrastructure and lack of industry regulation [ilo.org] .

it just seems ridiculous to me that public assets should be auctioned off to the rich at 1/1000th their market value while public institutions like schools, hospitals, transportation infrastructure, etc. remain chronically underfunded. and certain things like the water supply and other public utilities serve a more important purpose than creating lucrative profits for transnational conglomerates, especially in countries where people can barely afford to eat.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

Supergibbs (786716) | more than 5 years ago | (#26204499)

Didn't you see The Astronaut Farmer [imdb.com] ? The government won't just let you build your own rocket...

Seriously though, NASA has placed restrictions in the past and it just recently became more open.

Look at the human genome project, private sector is doing better.

Plus the private sector will always invest if there is potential profit, THAT is the beauty of capitalism. :-)

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

AeiwiMaster (20560) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197669)

I totally agree, but I think that the best way to do this is build the balance into the economic system by making a time based community credit system.

I made video about it to googles 10^100 project.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJ_jyLEvCds [youtube.com]

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198203)

Any money system is inherently a time based community credit system. Everyone already buys and sells their time. The two new features of your system would be that wealth was a public record. This might be interesting, but a lot of cultures simply do not work well knowing that someone has a lot more wealth than another. Kidnapping, theft, etc are as I see it common crimes when wealth is known. I think the criminal element will find some way to launder the profits from crime.

Second, the idea that people can continue to spend even when they don't have money to spend is a small disaster in the making. Inflation is a traditional result when people can keep freely spending even when they are deeply in debt.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

AeiwiMaster (20560) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198343)

Well, you shouldn't analyze the two features in isolation.

That the is no credit limit means that crimes dosn't pay. It better to use the credit than risk beening cut in a crime.

The time, public record and peer presure will help limit the inflation.

With abstract value measure like $ the value can fluctuate. When you use a concrete standard like time, there is no room for fluctuation. 1 minute is 1 minute for everyone.

Also that there is a public record means
that there is a peer presure, so you might hear for it if your credit is very high.

   

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199203)

That the is no credit limit means that crimes dosn't pay.

For example, you steal stuff not time. Then you sell the stuff for time, if that is your inclination. Fraud still works as well. Especially, identity theft.

When you use a concrete standard like time, there is no room for fluctuation. 1 minute is 1 minute for everyone.

As I see it, I can sell off billions of years of my time. That's what causes inflation. Peer pressure? It works in an economic system about the size of a small tribe. Peer pressure doesn't work when the group is a country and the vast majority of people don't care about each other.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

AeiwiMaster (20560) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199513)

Yes, you can still commit crimes and fraud, but you don't have to, in the present money system
some people is forced to commit crimes and fraud to eat and have a place to sleep.

We are all part of a local tribe we call friends and family and local peer pressure is all that is needed.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199629)

some people is forced to commit crimes and fraud to eat and have a place to sleep.

That's not the cause of most crime in the developed world. For example, I imagine the illegality and expense of most recreational drugs is the instigator of more crime than hunger or homelessness.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198147)

Both socialism and capitalism have their places. Capitalism wouldn't have gotten us to the Moon in the 60s.

Stop me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it the capitalists who reached the Moon? The Socialists were the first in orbit, but could never get the N1 rocket working right so they never sent cosmonauts beyond LEO.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

node 3 (115640) | more than 5 years ago | (#26207007)

Stop me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it the capitalists who reached the Moon?

"Ceci n'est pas une pipe"

In other words, a label doesn't make a thing so.

Apollo wasn't a capitalist endeavor. It was a public project, not private. Or, to turn it around, if Apollo (and NASA in general) *are* capitalism, then why are people making such a big deal about the various private space initiatives as being examples of how capitalism will revolutionize space?

BTW, capitalism will revolutionize space. The first space revolution, however, was socialist. It couldn't have happened any other way, except to put it off for decades, perhaps centuries, until the private sector decided the profits were worth it.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26206387)

WHAT!?! someone on slashdot that isn't a libertarian or socialist wacko? Someone with a slightly centrist politics? what is going on here?

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (5, Interesting)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194755)

Capitalism is hardly responsible for it. No private company did this, until the Ansari X Prize subsidized them. That prize money was donated, making SS1 of charitable origins. Capitalism is anything but charitable. In fact, between the charity money and the academic foundation that dreamed up the whole thing, it's closer to a centralised, socialist model.

"Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (2)

evilviper (135110) | more than 5 years ago | (#26195013)

No private company did this, until the Ansari X Prize subsidized them.

That's more or less a happy coincidence. Rutan didn't set out to create spacecraft for the sake of winning the X Prize, nor could it, since it didn't exist when he started. Not to mention that the 1 Million price wouldn't be very much motivation... It was only shortly before Rutan's team was practically ready to launch that Ansari stepped in a ballooned the cash prize into something respectable. At most, the X Prize nominally sped-up the first test flights, and increased the amount of press coverage.

Everything since then has been purely, undeniably, capitalistic. Richard Branson isn't paying to develop a fleet for the sake of some subsidy, somewhere.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 5 years ago | (#26195927)

Everything since then has been purely, undeniably, capitalistic. Richard Branson isn't paying to develop a fleet for the sake of some subsidy, somewhere.

Probably not, no. What Branson may be doing is underwriting a future where commercial carriers can make the hop from New York to Sydney in an hour or two, and he isn't waiting for Boeing to come up with the answer. He does run an airline, remember, and is known for being a bit of a visionary. It's an investment in an SST that doesn't go boom.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

dasunt (249686) | more than 5 years ago | (#26196257)

Capitalism is hardly responsible for it. No private company did this, until the Ansari X Prize subsidized them. That prize money was donated, making SS1 of charitable origins. Capitalism is anything but charitable. In fact, between the charity money and the academic foundation that dreamed up the whole thing, it's closer to a centralised, socialist model.

We didn't have D. D. Harriman in this timeline. :(

Capitalism doesn't mean that (2, Informative)

SteveFoerster (136027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26196281)

No private company did this, until the Ansari X Prize subsidized them. That prize money was donated, making SS1 of charitable origins. Capitalism is anything but charitable.

Oh, please -- if you knew anything about capitalism you wouldn't be quoting Keynes as an authority on it.

Simply put, there's nothing whatsoever that's anti-capitalist about private charity, in fact quite the opposite. It's the coerced "charity" of the welfare state with which capitalists disagree. But if something's voluntary, capitalists are fine with it.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 5 years ago | (#26196757)

The rebuttal to that would be that without capitalism, no one would be wealthy enough to afford to donate a $10M prize.

- RG>

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 5 years ago | (#26196837)

The rebuttal to that would be that without capitalism, no one would be wealthy enough to afford to donate a $10M prize.

We shouldn't proclaim that if no individual ("a capitalist") is rich enough to donate $10M then nobody is rich enough to do that. The government is usually the richest of them all, and it plays an active role in socialism. During the space race in 1960's money was flowing freely in both countries, and it wasn't VC money - it was a blank check from the government.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26197105)

Charity is still capitalism, idiot.

From Wikipedia:

Capitalism is an economic system in which land, capital goods, and other resources, are owned, operated and traded by private individuals or corporations for the purpose of profit.

source [wikipedia.org]

Capitalism means the means of production are owned, operated and controlled by private citizens.

So you're saying that it's socialist that the "X PRIZE Foundation is a non-profit prize institute" which is a private company, which "offered a US$10,000,000 prize for the first non-government organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks" is socialist?

You have absolutely no understanding of economics. So shut up.

Also, quoting Keynes? The man who came up with the idea that if the economy starts to decline, just print more money!

You're an idiot.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26197275)

Says the moron AC who quotes wikipedia to prove absolutes...

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26197737)

Socialism is forced charity at the barrel end of a loaded gun.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1, Flamebait)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198247)

Capitalism is hardly responsible for it. No private company did this, until the Ansari X Prize subsidized them. That prize money was donated, making SS1 of charitable origins. Capitalism is anything but charitable. In fact, between the charity money and the academic foundation that dreamed up the whole thing, it's closer to a centralised, socialist model.

I agree with the majority of repliers. This is bunk. The prize money was donated by private entities and run by private entities. That's capitalism, private ownership of capital. "Academic" doesn't mean "socialist". "Socialism" doesn't mean "charity".

Let me reword the Keynes quote. Socialism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of reasons, using public resources, will somehow work for the benefit of us all.

Re:Beauty of Capitalism (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194927)

Oddly enough, I don't find the prospect of space tourism .. inspirational.

I'm happy for Scaled, and I admire their use of engineering to bring the cost of manned suborbital down, but I can't say the idea of people going into space so they can gawk and brag to their friends is all that appealing. I'm fine with it, but I'm not going to put them in the same ranks of explorers as Alan Shepard.

So what... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26194369)

Now we're invading the alien homeworld instead of them invading ours? Brilliant!

Re:So what... (2, Funny)

masshuu (1260516) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194687)

So in 80 years a boy named ender will be born?

Mojave? (2, Funny)

contra_mundi (1362297) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194381)

This needed a Mojave test to ditch all the negative association? Now I'm a only a bit less certain about not flying there, than my wallet.

Re:Mojave? (1)

LenE (29922) | more than 5 years ago | (#26196157)

Since I work in Mojave, I must say I was befuddled with the codename Microsoft chose for their image rehabilitation. Mojave sucks, outside of the cool things going on at the Spaceport.

I can assure you that neither Vista nor "Mojave" had anything to do with this first flight.

-- Len

Re:Mojave? (1)

Joseph Hayes (982018) | more than 5 years ago | (#26200135)

they probably just said "to hell with trying to put a spin on this" and just named it after something as barren as the user base of the product they're trying make one last push for.

Universe? (5, Funny)

evilviper (135110) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194461)

It is these spaceships that will allow affordable sub-orbital space tourism for the first time in the history of the universe.

That's a little presumptuous, don't you think? In the multi-billion year history of the Universe, and all the innumerable planets that have ever existed in it, you're really SURE that there hasn't ever been any affordable space tourism?

No technologically inclined species on a small planet with rather low gravity? No planets with super-volcanic mountains that peak just slightly shy of orbit? No species of living beings robust enough that they can handle the massive G-forces of being fired out of a cannon on the ground? etc.

Boy is your face going to be red when the Quixblarxians land their space ship in the parking lot of the nearest courthouse just to sue you for defamation of their space tourism industry...

Re:Universe? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194517)

It is these spaceships that will allow affordable sub-orbital space tourism for the first time in the history of the universe.

That's a little presumptuous, don't you think? In the multi-billion year history of the Universe, and all the innumerable planets that have ever existed in it, you're really SURE that there hasn't ever been any affordable space tourism?

No technologically inclined species on a small planet with rather low gravity? No planets with super-volcanic mountains that peak just slightly shy of orbit? No species of living beings robust enough that they can handle the massive G-forces of being fired out of a cannon on the ground? etc.

Boy is your face going to be red when the Quixblarxians land their space ship in the parking lot of the nearest courthouse just to sue you for defamation of their space tourism industry...

Okay, its the first in the history of the observable universe.

Re:Universe? (1)

Edzilla2000 (1261030) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194813)

Any space tourism would have been observed by said tourist.

Re:Universe? (3, Funny)

lgw (121541) | more than 5 years ago | (#26196979)

And the cat would always observe whether the cat was dead or alive.

hah (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194539)

sarcastic tho may be, your words still may be containing a great measure of truth.

Re:hah (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194575)

sarcastic tho may be, your words still may be containing a great measure of truth.

Thank you, Yoda.

Re:Universe? (1)

Chewbacon (797801) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194719)

I for one welcome our new masters of intergalactic litigation. That is assuming (and hoping) they practice law in a courtroom and not with a death-ray.

Re:Universe? (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 5 years ago | (#26195647)

Do they have to choose?

Re:Universe? (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26196409)

I for one welcome our new masters of intergalactic litigation. That is assuming (and hoping) they practice law in a courtroom and not with a death-ray.

Hmmm, who knows what the RIAA have up their sleeves?

Re:Universe? (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 5 years ago | (#26196737)

No planets with super-volcanic mountains that peak just slightly shy of orbit?

Just one nitpick (and I stand to be corrected): orbit is based on trajectory/velocity, not altitude.

- RG>

Re:Universe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26212025)

No planets with super-volcanic mountains that peak just slightly shy of orbit?

Just one nitpick (and I stand to be corrected): orbit is based on trajectory/velocity, not altitude.

Not to nitpick, but high altitude on a rotating body directly translates to high speed, which directly translates to geostationary orbit if you are located on your planet's equator. Therefore, there is indeed a relationship between altitude, velocity, and orbit. ;)

On the other hand, to speak of sub-orbital flight is indeed a perversion, since orbit means *any* orbit. But this wasn't the GP's fault, it's common use to speak of "sub-orbital flight" if you can't sustain it for a longer period of time.

On just another hand, the GP's super-volcanic mountains touching orbit would have to endure tough forces (and hefty storms). I don't think they would be stable enough for extended space tourism. ;)

Man those Burt Rutan planes sure are ugly (0, Troll)

mozumder (178398) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194479)

Someone get them an award winning industrial designer please.

Re:Man those Burt Rutan planes sure are ugly (1)

RabidMoose (746680) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194507)

Would you prefer it work well, or look good?
Besides, I don't think it's ugly at all.

Re:Man those Burt Rutan planes sure are ugly (4, Funny)

node 3 (115640) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194791)

Besides, I don't think it's ugly at all.

Neither do I, but on to your main point...

Would you prefer it work well, or look good?

Both are generally possible.

Unless, of course, it's designed to reach (sub)orbit by being repulsed by the Earth.

Re:Man those Burt Rutan planes sure are ugly (1)

finalbroadcast (1030452) | more than 5 years ago | (#26196021)

If that were possible I am pretty sure that Ms. Hilton wouldn't have had to buy a ticket on VG, she would simply have been sent to Alpha Centauri by now.

Re:Man those Burt Rutan planes sure are ugly (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199895)

Generally, in aviation, if it looks good it flies good, and if it looks bad it also flies bad. There are some exceptions to this, for example the Fairey Gannet, the ugliest aircraft ever built, actually flies quite nicely, and most helicopters which are so ugly the earth repels them.

Re:Man those Burt Rutan planes sure are ugly (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194531)

Someone get them an award winning industrial designer please.

Well I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Personally I think they are very elegant vehicles.

Re:Man those Burt Rutan planes sure are ugly (1)

3waygeek (58990) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194763)

Maybe this guy [sae.org] ?

Re:Man those Burt Rutan planes sure are ugly (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#26195475)

I really beg to differ, in fact I think the Beechcraft Starship is one of the best looking planes ever designed. I had the luck of seeing one in person and they just look like what an airoplane should.

Re:Man those Burt Rutan planes sure are ugly (1)

johno.ie (102073) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198003)

ALERT! ALERT!
Female detected on slashdot

Re:Man those Burt Rutan planes sure are ugly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26198831)

It is so by the design: It is so ugly that the earth repells it, untill it so far away that the earth can no longer see it. At this moment normal gravity kicks in, and you have a nice stabilised spaceship.

I just love this... (3, Interesting)

sockman (133264) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194503)

I don't know why space flight is so fascinating, but this is just incredible. I'm really sad that I was born too late to experience the moon landings, so attempts like this to pick up the slack of the once dominant leader in space exploration are just exciting.

Re:I just love this... (2, Insightful)

Lavene (1025400) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197711)

I don't know why space flight is so fascinating, but this is just incredible. I'm really sad that I was born too late to experience the moon landings, so attempts like this to pick up the slack of the once dominant leader in space exploration are just exciting.

Isn't it funny... I'm sad I was born too early to experience a (manned) Mars landing.

ob Canuck joke (5, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194553)

the four Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308A

For readers in the USA, the equivalent model is the PW308.

Re:ob Canuck joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26194691)

i don't get it

Re:ob Canuck joke (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26194749)

A lot of consumer electronics that come from the USA into Canada require minor modifications, usually language specific to please the French speaking population (which is mostly for the Quebecers). A good example is HP and Dell peripherals: they usually add "CA" at the end of the models to distinguish it from American models, e.g. Dell 1720 and Dell 1720CA.

Re:ob Canuck joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26196841)

Whoosh

Re:ob Canuck joke (4, Funny)

robinesque (977170) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194771)

PW308 "eh?"

Yay! Go Virgin! Woooh! (1)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194637)

I am completely stoked by this demonstration of Virgin's commitment to a better, more technological future. Who knows, by 2010 they may also increase Virgin Media's crappy 30 megabyte mailbox.

Re:Yay! Go Virgin! Woooh! (1)

FluffyWithTeeth (890188) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194689)

I know you're not being serious, but Virgin don't own Virgin Media anyway, NTL just license the brand name.

Re:Yay! Go Virgin! Woooh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26195569)

Can you please show me examples of companies working towards a less technological future? Doesn't technology naturally progress

Re:Yay! Go Virgin! Woooh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26200281)

Can you please show me examples of companies working towards a less technological future?

Organic food companies.

Doesn't technology naturally progress

Uh.. the dark ages? That should prove that not moving forwards - and forgetting what was already known - is at least a possibility.

DRM or the whole evolution in schools fiasco isn't as bad as the dark ages, but it proves that technology and science can regress in our society, too.

Don't be fooled into thinking that progress will inevitably march on. It takes work to progress, and it takes work to keep the reactionary types from taking over (Luddites, evangelical christians, OS/2 users, etc.).

Re:Yay! Go Virgin! Woooh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26196269)

I thought you were talking about your sexual experience. My mistake.

Re:Yay! Go Virgin! Woooh! (1)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197559)

What, me, Rick, a virgin? Try telling that to some of the foxy chicks who owe me favours!

Odd to use a King Air (1)

reality-bytes (119275) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194833)

Slightly odd to hear that they used a King Air as the chase ship as Scaled previously used a Rutan-designed Beechcraft Starship which always looked the part with it's futuristic/unusual canard pusher configuration.

I suppose with so few Starships remaining and the maintenance issues that implies; it may now be easier for Scaled to just borrow or lease King Airs for the job.

Still, it would be a shame to hear there are no Starships left flying.

Re:Odd to use a King Air (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26194969)

Pretty soon they will be able to use an old WhiteKnightTwo for the purpose.

Re:Odd to use a King Air (3, Informative)

Moofie (22272) | more than 5 years ago | (#26195127)

Raytheon (Beech's parent) scrapped most of the Starships. I believe one or two are still airworthy, despite Raytheon's aggressive attempts to get them all out of the sky. The last owners have amassed a large stockpile of spares.

It's a shame. The Starship was truly the Way of Things To Come in aviation. It never performed quite as well as hoped, but it paved the way for large composite structures in commercial aviation.

Re:Odd to use a King Air (1)

CompMD (522020) | more than 5 years ago | (#26200973)

I know of two that are still airworthy, and I had the luck to actually get within 50 feet of one taxiing in Salina, Kansas. Raytheon did everything in its power to kill anything creative while they owned Hawker Beechcraft. To my knowledge, all the tooling was destroyed, and none of the aircraft data is being shared with anyone, so nobody else can copy it. There's one Starship sitting outside on the tarmac of an aircraft museum just on the outskirts of McConell AFB next door to Boeing IDS and across the street from Spirit Aerosystems. Sadly, its not in good shape, and it makes you feel bad that something so interesting and creative was killed.

I don't know about the actual tooling... (1)

A New Normalcy (1190543) | more than 5 years ago | (#26209213)

... but my brother has seen all the associated specialized apparatus for construction, including the autoclaves. All remains unused, as it is a bit too small for the follow-on projects. The accounting ramifications must be stupefying.

Re:Odd to use a King Air (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26195257)

Per Wiki:

As of autumn 2008 only six Starships continue to hold airworthiness registration with the FAA. Three Starships are based in Oklahoma, one in Washington, one in California, and one is still registered to Raytheon Aircraft Credit Corporation in Wichita, Kansas.

I too was surprised that the Rutan Starship may not still be flying. I guess we still have the P180 [youtube.com] though.

Re:Odd to use a King Air (1)

LenE (29922) | more than 5 years ago | (#26196221)

Slightly off-topic, but the Piaggio Avanti is not really a canard design, and it is definately not a Rutan design. Scaled did a plane in the late-80's to early 90's called the Triumph, which was basically a three-surface design like the Avanti, but with familial resemblance to the Beech Starship. It never went into production, because of Beechcraft/Raytheon selling off Scaled Composites in the middle of the design phase.

The fact that a Starship was used on the SS1 flights has more to do with the generosity of its owner. Scaled Composites does not own a plane with comparable capacity.

Re:Odd to use a King Air (1)

CompMD (522020) | more than 5 years ago | (#26201145)

The canard on the P180 isn't there simply for looks; its the key to a three-surface design. You're absolutely correct that it is not a Rutan design. The P180 had significant testing and analysis performed on it, something Rutan doesn't do much of. It was designed mostly by Dr. Jan Roskam. Where the Starship was made primarily as a technology demonstrator (composites) and to look cool, the P180 was built for performance. To date, I believe it is still the fastest turboprop aircraft in the world.

Re:Odd to use a King Air (1)

LenE (29922) | more than 5 years ago | (#26203759)

The canard on the P180 isn't there simply for looks; its the key to a three-surface design.

Agreed. I'm only correcting a common misconception that the P180 is a canard design like the Starship. They are totally different. The P180 does not have elevators on the canard, as would be required for a canard type aircraft. The Starship, on the other hand, has elevators on the canard.

The P180 had significant testing and analysis performed on it, something Rutan doesn't do much of.

Here, you are quite wrong. Burt, and by extension Scaled, does not do production aircraft, but we do plenty of testing.

Where the Starship was made primarily as a technology demonstrator (composites) and to look cool, the P180 was built for performance. To date, I believe it is still the fastest turboprop aircraft in the world.

You believe incorrectly. The fastest turboprop in the world is the Tupelov Tu-95 bear bomber. The original Starship prototype (Rutan/Scaled model 115), the 85% scale technology demonstrator matched the top speed of the P180, and greatly exceeded it's takeoff and landing performance, two decades before the P180.

This was not a production plane, only a prototype. The process to refine this aircraft into a certifiable production plane basically doomed the eventual craft that was made available for sale, because the FAA regulations at the time were only for aluminum aircraft, not an airframe made from composite materials. The Starship was supposed to be a replacement for the Beech King Air, not just a technology demonstrator. Because it was the first composite airframe to have to grind against government regulations that had no provisions for composite materials, it suffered the typical slings and arrows that pioneers tend to collect. Now, composites are becoming the norm in aerospace materials.

-- Len

Re:Odd to use a King Air (1)

CompMD (522020) | more than 5 years ago | (#26204257)

"Here, you are quite wrong. Burt, and by extension Scaled, does not do production aircraft, but we do plenty of testing."

I clicked submit too quickly. I meant conventional testing. Don't get me wrong, I love CFD and structural FEA, but sometimes you can't beat a wind tunnel. Call me old fashioned. :p

"You believe incorrectly. The fastest turboprop in the world is the Tupelov Tu-95 bear bomber. The original Starship prototype (Rutan/Scaled model 115), the 85% scale technology demonstrator matched the top speed of the P180, and greatly exceeded it's takeoff and landing performance, two decades before the P180."

How about "fastest GA turboprop" then? I'd expect the scale model to match the P180, but as you said, that was a technology demonstrator, not something necessarily certifiable.

"This was not a production plane, only a prototype. The process to refine this aircraft into a certifiable production plane basically doomed the eventual craft that was made available for sale, because the FAA regulations at the time were only for aluminum aircraft, not an airframe made from composite materials. The Starship was supposed to be a replacement for the Beech King Air, not just a technology demonstrator. Because it was the first composite airframe to have to grind against government regulations that had no provisions for composite materials, it suffered the typical slings and arrows that pioneers tend to collect. Now, composites are becoming the norm in aerospace materials."

I know, getting new aircraft to production can be a nightmare. :) I feel your pain though. I worked on a recent Scaled VLJ that unfortunately didn't go into production actually (name omitted, but I'm sure you can guess what it was). That was where I got my first exposure to how annoying bringing a great idea to production in the aerospace world can be. You know, I always wondered where the prototype of that jet ended up. If that aircraft had gone into production, Eclipse probably wouldn't exist, Cessna would have scrambled to get the Mustang out, and Piper would have built something even stupider than the PiperJet.

Re:Odd to use a King Air (1)

LenE (29922) | more than 5 years ago | (#26204599)

I know, getting new aircraft to production can be a nightmare. :) I feel your pain though. I worked on a recent Scaled VLJ that unfortunately didn't go into production actually (name omitted, but I'm sure you can guess what it was). That was where I got my first exposure to how annoying bringing a great idea to production in the aerospace world can be. You know, I always wondered where the prototype of that jet ended up. If that aircraft had gone into production, Eclipse probably wouldn't exist, Cessna would have scrambled to get the Mustang out, and Piper would have built something even stupider than the PiperJet.

Oh boy. I can think of two Scaled VVLJ's concepts that happened around the same time. The first is on display in Oshkosh Wisconsin, and the second one (that I think you were probably involved with), I have no clue as to its whereabouts. I saw the spirit of the first fly this summer at Airventure with a spiffy orange and white paint scheme. I think it was a last ditch effort to save the company that is aspiring to produce it. The second, well, that is history now.

-- Len

Re:Odd to use a King Air (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26204163)

You use what's readily available and will do the job. Sure a Starship would look cool, and maybe they just happened to have one handy last time, but there's little reason why a King Air can't do it.

Similarly, a lot of military aircraft test flights use humble T-38's trainer as chase planes. The plane may be over 30 years old, but it's inexpensive, ubiquitous, has a back seat for a cameraman and hardpoints for extra instrumentation if needed, and can keep up with the test aircraft up to low supersonic.

Controls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26196455)

If this thing has a pilot and copilot, would they sit in separate cockpits?

Re:Controls? (1)

LenE (29922) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197221)

No. They sit side by side. The pilots really need to communicate so they are about a foot apart.

White Knight 2 is not the first twin-fuselage plane to have been built. For example, North American built a twin P-51 at the end of World War II. You couldn't put the co-pilots of a twin P-51 in the same fuselage, as there simply was no room. That is not the case with this plane.

-- Len

Disco Stu (3, Informative)

clarkes1 (1309863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198001)

the actual video of the launch is here: WhiteKnightTwo launch [flightglobal.com]

Re:Disco Stu (1)

mtargettuk (1309861) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199713)

looks like a straight liner - can it actually turn? ;-)

White power - white space scandal (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26198223)

Why is the system named "White Knight"? That sounds racist, especially considering the knights of the Klu-Klux-Klan. Maybe they don't allow negro and hispanic people to fly?

I think Pres. Obama should revoce their spaceflight licence until they can come up with a less politically charged name.

British English... (0, Offtopic)

Corf (145778) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199075)

Giving you the groundbreaking opportunity to become one of the first ever non-professional astronauts.

How does this qualify as a complete sentence?

Mojave (1)

IdleTime (561841) | more than 5 years ago | (#26202923)

The word "Mojave" has forever been ruined by Microsoft! Thank you for ruining a perfectly fine name and polluting my mind with that jingle.
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