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Virgin Galactic Signs Historic Lease Agreement

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the coming-to-america dept.

Space 49

RobGoldsmith writes "Governor Bill Richardson today announced that Virgin Galactic has signed a 20-year lease agreement with the State of New Mexico. Virgin Galactic's world headquarters will be established in New Mexico and its operations will be located at New Mexico's Spaceport America, the nation's first purpose-built commercial spaceport. The signing of the lease agreement coincides with the beginning of the test flying program for Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo launch vehicle which got underway this month in Mojave, CA. The WhiteKnightTwo will serve as the mother ship for SpaceShipTwo, the vehicle that will carry commercial astronauts into sub-orbital space from Spaceport America."

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If this keeps up, we won't need NASA. (2, Funny)

Mad-Bassist (944409) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290743)

As more and more people hop on the private space vehicle bandwagon.

I think this makes up for Governor Schwarzenegger tempting Tesla Motors into abandoning their plans to build their first plant in Albuquerque and staying in California. After all, I can't see rocket launches happening in San Francisco!

Re:If this keeps up, we won't need NASA. (3, Informative)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290815)

Reusable SSTO isn't going to develop from continued work on suborbital vehicles like this. They're too small and expensive to use for transport, they're too big and heavy to reach space and stay there, and if engine tech changes either of those facts, it will change for more dedicated vehicles too. Space tourism like this will take us nowhere. The only long term benefit that will come from this is more experience entering atmospheres in an aerodynamic vehicle, and even then it won't be much use immediately as these suborbital planes start their reentry low and slow. For a real spaceship to make a similar reentry would need a lot of propellant used in slowing down.

Re:Reusable SSTO isn't going to develop (1)

giafly (926567) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290871)

I agree entirely, but it's not polite to call these things "suborbital". A better word is "retarded".

Re:Reusable SSTO isn't going to develop (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26292653)

Ok, I'll bite. Why do you think suborbital flight is retarded?

Re:Reusable SSTO isn't going to develop (1)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 5 years ago | (#26296719)

retard (ri-tard') v., -tarded, -tarding, -tards.

(v.tr.) To cause to move or proceed slowly; delay or impede.

(v.intr.) To be delayed.

(n.) 1. A slowing down or hindering of progress; a delay.
      2. Music. A slackening of tempo.

[Middle English retarden, from Old French retarder, from Latin retardÄre : re-, re- + tardÄre, to delay (from tardus, slow).]

Re:If this keeps up, we won't need NASA. (2, Informative)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26292623)

Reusable SSTO isn't going to develop from continued work on suborbital vehicles like this. [...] Space tourism like this will take us nowhere.

I strongly disagree. Two things to remember: 1) the most important problem for space tourism is developing the market. Turning a profit is a far harder problem than developing an SSTO. The market needs to be demonstrated before someone will invest in an SSTO. 2) One doesn't need SSTO. For example a two stage to orbit (TSTO) fully reusable launch vehicle (RLV) would probably be more efficient. It would require considerably less development effort and have a much better mass fraction.

Re:If this keeps up, we won't need NASA. (2, Interesting)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 5 years ago | (#26293173)

Agreed that SSTOs are not the only goal, any form of cheap access to space would be good. I still don't believe that Virgin Galactic's model is going to change anything though. It is forming a new market, but one that is selling expensive experiences to people, on a low profit margin. All the innovation they will be motivated to attempt will be in terms of lowering their costs to allow them to give roughly the same experience as they can offer now to a larger market.

Re:If this keeps up, we won't need NASA. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26297727)

I don't see that. I think we have good evidence that people will pay more for orbital rather than suborbital. That is the incentive. Besides Virgin has already indicated that it's goal is orbital space tourism. So I see that as additional evidence that there is incentive to provide an orbital experience, even if Virgin cannot supply it.

Re:If this keeps up, we won't need NASA. (2, Insightful)

linzeal (197905) | more than 5 years ago | (#26293329)

Yeah, and the Wright Brothers plane and 20-30 years of tinkering it took to build a reliable plane never happened because the first 5-10 years the planes could barely stay aloft and they learned nothing from their failures and sub-stratospheric flight. You might point out we already know how to build a rocket that can go orbital, even to the moon and beyond. Well I will tell you that none of that knowledge exists in any complete form outside of JPL, ESA, NASA, JSA and now the Chinese space agency. Building a rocket engine is non-trivial, let alone the rest of the systems and until the government starts open sourcing that knowledge the private industry is going to have to learn that on their own.

Re:If this keeps up, we won't need NASA. (1, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26293337)

On top of my other points, you can make significant progress towards an orbital launch vehicle from a suborbital one. The difficulties are exaggerated and already have been well explored in a number of historical vehicles (Space Shuttle, Soyuz, Apollo, Volstok, etc). For example, SpaceShipOne generated about a quarter to a third of the delta v needed to reach orbit. More efficient engines, higher mass ratio, and better propellants can get you the rest of the way. Reentry is similarly exaggerated. Sure the vehicle needs to dissipate somewhere around 40 times as much energy entering the atmosphere from orbit as SpaceShipOne did in its suborbital flights. But that is a solved problem. And as long as the vehicle is much less dense per cross-sectional area than the Space Shuttle, it can use cheaper thermal protection systems (TPS) than the Space Shuttle's tiles. The TPS is spun as a big deal, but there are plenty of ideas and results out there for adequate reentry systems.

In the meantime, the suborbital vehicle tests the business model, the workforce, the infrastructure, etc. It provides someone for potential investors to study. These are the really important things not the technological issues that people normally fixate on.

Re:If this keeps up, we won't need NASA. (1)

cpuffer_hammer (31542) | more than 5 years ago | (#26294531)

I wonder if we miss the point, when we think of suborbital flight is a thrill ride. The suborbital up and down thing my not be the goal. The goal is a fast trip from UK to US or UK to OZ or the like.

There my be some people who will spend there money to take a thrill ride, and some that will win contests and prizes for the same. But there is business in people who can justify a time saving trip and have their company pay for the trip. (and get to go to the edge of space).

Remember lots of people payed to take flights with barn stormers, just to ride in a plane. It was the business traveler make air travel profitable.

It my not be Space Ship 2, but suborbital flight is not just a thrill ride, it is the next generation in fast executive travel.

Re:If this keeps up, we won't need NASA. (1)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 5 years ago | (#26295559)

Look up a company called Reaction Engines Limited, and their Lapcat vehicle project in particular. Real suborbital transport is in the works, although as ever it doesn't seem to be going anywhere very fast. The Lapcat is a derivative project based on an engine originally meant for a full scale horizontal takeoff cargo SSTO. This is how I believe that progress towards true spaceplanes will be made. The designs that Reaction Engines have been producing and refining have been genuinely innovative with the potential to change the game in more fields than just transglobal air travel.

For the record... (2, Funny)

cablepokerface (718716) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290799)

Richard Branson is by far my favorite actually existing Mad Scientist.

Re:For the record... (4, Interesting)

ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) | more than 5 years ago | (#26291789)

Burt Rutan is mine.

Branson is just the Bill Gates of a different industry.

Re:For the record... (1, Informative)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26292841)

Branson is just the Bill Gates of a different industry.

You mean Branson is also technologically incompetent, earning his money only because he was in the right place at the right time, deserving none of his fame/fortune, while one of the world's largest and most powerful companies in the world made a huge mistake; allowing him to show the world he is one of the scummiest, cut-throat, marketing geniuses ever seen?

Wow...what are the chances of two of those flukes would happening in my life time.

Re:For the record... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26292999)

Doesn't it just piss you off that such a scummy person has donated more to charity than you'll ever earn in your life?

Re:For the record... (0)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 5 years ago | (#26294189)

Well here's an interesting tidbit along those lines. When the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (or whatever it is called) was established Bill Gates was the richest man in the world and endowed it with something like $1 Billion. OTOH Warren Buffet, with less money than Gates, pledged to donate something like $30 Billion - to the Gates Foundation.

Re:For the record... (3, Informative)

cnettel (836611) | more than 5 years ago | (#26294433)

Yes, Buffet pledged to donate that sum, or rather stock that at the time of the pledge were worth that sum. Gates initial endowment on the other hand was $94 million, which is also off by your numbers. Bill and Melinda Gates have actually given $28 billion and their donations constitute most of the current endowment to the foundation.

Re:For the record... (0)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 5 years ago | (#26294755)

Ahhh then Buffet's action worked - good to know it prodded Gates into action! As for $94 Million vs $1 Billion - I'm sorry I was overly generous in my recollection of Gates initial endowment.

Re:For the record... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26294369)

Branson made his initial fortune illegally. he mis-sold export-only records back within the UK. today this is known as carousel fraud - and costs the EU tens of billions revenue.
he was oh-so-happy to settle out-of-court and pay backdated taxes once all the legitimate competition had fallen by the wayside.

Re:For the record... (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26300123)

Did he donate the tax deductions he received too? Did he fail to claim them as charitable donations? I did not think so. If he was really the great guy you want to believe, we would have never known he made those donations. The guy has more money than God. Of course he needs huge tax breaks. And of course we all need to hear about it.

Branson is Not Lucky. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26295021)

Branson was rich to start off with. So he funded people and did things and made more money. Branson is a great investor.

Branson is not a Bill Gates. Its more like a Cisco Systems if you want it like it up with the computer world. Cisco systems will buy product if you if they can stick there label on it. Also Cisco will provide funding at very low interest rates if need so companies providing them with stuff can expand production plants.

Bill Gates is more a destroy and control operation.

Remember Cisco Systems is larger than Microsoft.

Only 20 years? (2, Insightful)

yogibaer (757010) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290807)

That does not seem like a lot of time. The spacecraft are still in testing stage and at best a couple of years away from small scale tourist business and some decades (a century?) away from Weyland-Yutani style mining operations even within the limits of our solar system. So if you a serious about long-term commitment and you find a good spot for your own spaceport, a 99year lease would have made more sense...

He's a businessman ... (5, Insightful)

fantomas (94850) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290975)

"So if you a serious about long-term commitment and you find a good spot for your own spaceport, a 99year lease would have made more sense."

He's a businessman. 20 years seems like a long enough commitment, who knows what the economic world will look like in 2030? Might be better to move his operations out to somewhere else in the USA, off to India, China, etc. What's so special about the current site that somewhere else couldn't match in a few years time and give him a better price?

Croydon Airport [wikipedia.org] only lasted as the main international London airport for less than 30 years, would a space port stay in the lead for longer than that? (Croydon Airport started operations in 1920 but was overtaken in the 40s by a small military airport in the west of London built over a hamlet called Heath Row).

Re:He's a businessman ... (2, Informative)

Rick Bentley (988595) | more than 5 years ago | (#26292261)

Might be better to move his operations...

Yes it would. Equatorial launch saves a lot of energy when it comes to getting into orbit, the centripetal force from the Earth's rotation is not insignificant.

Remember that the Earth is about 24,000 miles in circumference, making a revolution every 24hrs, that's 1,000mph at the surface -- a nice bit of initial velocity on your way to space. You get this full effect at the equator, you get none of it at the poles. New Mexico is about 32 degrees North of the equator, hardly optimal. There's a reason private companies put payloads into space from the equator.

VG isn't going orbital, so this isn't as big of a deal for them, but I'll bet they plan/hope to in the future. At that point they'll want to be a the equator for their launches. Also, I'm sure New Mexico kicked in some good stuff (rent free or at least rent deferred on the land, maybe some capital improvements on the land, etc...). So, NM is fine for now but in 20 yrs it may not matter.

Re:He's a businessman ... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26292731)

At that point they'll want to be a the equator for their launches.

Not necessarily. They'll want a high inclination orbit for tourism (so tourists see more of the Earth). There will be some value to having launch facilities near the customers. So, for example, European and North American launch facilities make sense because that is where the customers are.

Re:Only 20 years? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26292499)

Are you kidding? Do you make a 99 year lease on your car or your house? This spaceport is in the middle of nowhere. And there's a good chance that neither the spaceport nor the business will exist in twenty years. A century long time frame is crazy given an unproven market where little is known.

FAILZOrS!? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26290811)

of FrreBSD Usenet Troubles of those

signs of hostage (US) release by corepirate nazis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26290907)

you can feel it in the air. better days ahead. still, continuing to destroy this planet, thinking we'll find 'somewhere else' to live, is not likely a valid plan.

SLASHDOT SUCKS ASS! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26290993)

Sometimes you have to be reminded of this.

A necessary step... (0)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 5 years ago | (#26291033)

This has to happen at some point. As with any new technology, it must be adopted at some level by the public (albeit the rich public) to become cheaper, more refined, and generally available. Eventually some entrepreneur will find a way to make good money off of this regardless of the high costs. Although this may not be the form that Joe Public finds useful, it will eventually lead to a vehicle that is.

And this is "historic" how? (2, Insightful)

pongo000 (97357) | more than 5 years ago | (#26291265)

Technically, every business deal is an "historic" moment from the perspective of that exact deal probably never being consummated before. But I'm at a loss to figure out how a business lease qualifies as "historic."

Re:And this is "historic" how? (4, Funny)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 5 years ago | (#26291695)

Obviously it qualifies as historic because it is "the nation's first purpose-built commercial spaceport".

Other upcoming historic moments include "the first purpose-built commercial Twinkie served at a spaceport," "the first spilled soda on the tarmac of a purpose-built commercial New Mexico spaceport" and "the first Rabbi, Pastor, and Bishop with too few parachutes on a SpaceShip".

Historic? (3, Insightful)

GravityStar (1209738) | more than 5 years ago | (#26291325)

Signing a 20 year lease for a space port is historic? I'll bet history will have something to say about that. Or rather, it won't.

Rather good timing for me! (2)

Huxley_Dunsany (659554) | more than 5 years ago | (#26291575)

Oddly enough, my wife and I are taking a drive to Las Cruces, NM today - it's the closest Jack in the Box to Albuquerque - and our first "sight-seeing" stop on the way home will be the land where the Spaceport is being built!

di3k (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26291985)

cont4minated while 'You see, even the future of the Discussion I'm that support

Re:Reusable SSTO isn't going to develop (1)

clint999 (1277046) | more than 5 years ago | (#26295967)

Signing a 20 year lease for a space port is historic? I'll bet history will have something to say about that. Or rather, it won't.

Location, location, location (1)

haaz (3346) | more than 5 years ago | (#26296565)

I tried to see where they were going to build this "Southern New Mexicoâ(TM)s Spaceport America," which puts it near Alamogordo or Las Cruces. While I'm happy for New Mexico, I just hope for the sake of all the people who will be working there at the great new headquarters of "Southern New Mexicoâ(TM)s Spaceport America" that they manage to be there in southern New Mexico... perhaps the advent of this new space center will bring Stuff To Do to southern New Mexico. (They can always visit the Owl Bar & Cafe in scenic San Antonio, NM! Good burgers there.) But given how the economy is going, I wouldn't be too surprised if this is quietly put on the back burner this summer.

WTF? Call the fraud squad! (1)

Rockin'Robert (997471) | more than 5 years ago | (#26298885)

So, let me see if I've got this straight: A:
* fraudulent gov'nor of a
* fraudulent (unconstitutional) 'state' called NM
* fraudulently leasing out Republic of Texas' soil to Virgin (nasty! nasty!) Galactic tours?
FIND: http://republicoftexas.50megs.com/ [50megs.com]
AND OFFICIAL MAPS: http://www.sonofthesouth.net/texas/republic-texas-map.htm [sonofthesouth.net]
http://www.earlytexashistory.com/Tx1836/maprepub.html [earlytexashistory.com]
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