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White Knight Two Unveiled

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the call-me-EVE dept.

Space 144

xanthos writes "Sir Richard Branson was at the annual Experimental Aircraft Assoc Fly-in to show off EVE (previously known as White Knight Two), the launch vehicle for Virgin Galactic's commercial space operation. Test flights for the vehicle are slated for next year with the first paying passengers going up in 2011. What surprised me was the following from the article: 'So many people have signed up already, Whitehorn said, that the company has collected $40 million in deposits with orders to build five spaceships to meet the demand.' Will this mean that the $200k price tag may be dropping?"

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144 comments

$200K for outerspace? (2, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898355)

Expensive, but I would do it if it were for a couple days in orbit...

But it's not - it's suborbital. (5, Interesting)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898403)

Unless I'm mistaken, I'm pretty sure that the Virgin experience is completely suborbital. Basically it's $200K for a parabolic rocket ride. I don't understand the appeal. OK, so you left Earth's atmosphere for a couple of minutes.

Where's my 2001 space station?

Re:But it's not - it's suborbital. (4, Funny)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898809)

Where's my 2001 space station?

Did you lose that thing again? It's outside, parked next to my flying car.

Re:But it's not - it's suborbital. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28898859)

"Where's my 2001 space station?"

They spent the money on Iraq. I'm not trolling it's a fact. They have spent around a trillion dollars with no end in sight. When you add in the continued cost of staying in Iraq and the support costs for all the soldiers it's a lot more. A trillion would buy a big chunk of your 2001 space station if not the whole thing. If we spent half on space what we do on defense it would be a very different world. The problem is people will accept the money being flushed down a rathole in Iraq because of fear but they don't want to see it "wasted" on something like making 2001 a reality. There's another problem that few talk about. There simply aren't enough resources to get large numbers of people into orbit. Dropping the price down to say $10,000 would mean millions, maybe tens or hundreds of millions could potentially aford a trip into space. We're having trouble providing food and water and energy to the world so the resources have to come from some where. You really have to focus on a space infrastructure first then work on making it accessible to large numbers of people. The space elevator was an option but it's hard to say how practical it will be. We almost need to consider space mining and space based power before we think about putting a million people into orbit. I realize it'd be over time but the amount of resources is the same.

Re:But it's not - it's suborbital. (3, Funny)

NoahTheDuke (1590009) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900681)

Why do you hate paragraphs so much? What did they ever do to you?! WHYYYYYY???

Re:But it's not - it's suborbital. (2, Insightful)

mahdi13 (660205) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900719)

What we need is a good old fashioned galactic invasion to kick the space program back in gear. If a military threat was coming from another world you know they would spend a couple trillion on the space program in a heartbeat.

Re:But it's not - it's suborbital. (4, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898987)

Unless I'm mistaken, I'm pretty sure that the Virgin experience is completely suborbital. Basically it's $200K for a parabolic rocket ride. I don't understand the appeal. OK, so you left Earth's atmosphere for a couple of minutes.

Where's my 2001 space station?

This is creating a paying way to get there. Of course, there needs to be a use for the 2001-style space station. It's rather useless if it's only an orbital hotel. I'd say the killer app for space tech right now would be the solar power sats followed eventually by space-based mining and manufacture. You move the industry off into space, the surface of Earth can be left for living.

Re:But it's not - it's suborbital. (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899021)

Are you kidding? $200K for a week in an orbital hotel and an open bar? There's probably one in the works already, they're just trying to figure out how to hose vomit off the walls in zero-G.

Re:But it's not - it's suborbital. (3, Informative)

Kepesk (1093871) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900067)

Actually, there is an orbital hotel in the works. Most people aren't aware that there are already two orbital space hotel proof-of-concepts. http://www.bigelowaerospace.com/ [bigelowaerospace.com]

Re:But it's not - it's suborbital. (1)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900167)

You move the industry off into space, the surface of Earth can be left for living.

So true. Also you can use sky-hooks to lift the cargo from sub-orbital to orbital position. Moving things into space at the fraction of the cost we do now.

Re:But it's not - it's suborbital. (5, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899563)

It clearly demonstrates that there is a demand for space flight. If someone developed an affordable means to get there, there are plenty of people who would be booking flights to the moon, or to Mars. Given an assurance of supplies to make the stay survivable, plenty of people would be making their flights one way. All the BS about exploring space for science if just fine - but PEOPLE WANT TO GO! Call us kooks, or whatever. There is a drive to explore, in person.

Screw reality shows, let's get out there and meet reality, eyeball to - whatever reality looks back at us with.

NASA has surplus space station in six years (3, Funny)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899583)

Some people at NASA are talking about deorbiting [washingtonpost.com] the ISS as early as 2016. This report is probably a red-herring to raise mroe funds from Congress. But some people are thinking about dumping it. Russians think it can last until 2020 or 2030. Partners could pick it up if US drops out.

Re:NASA has surplus space station in six years (3, Informative)

CecilPL (1258010) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900125)

You're right. They're talking about it because Congress hasn't given them the funds to continue supporting the ISS beyond 2016. But they aren't doing it as a threat, they're doing it because there are international treaties that require them to deorbit it after they stop supporting it.

Nobody at NASA actually wants to destroy it so soon after completing it, but if Congress doesn't fund it they won't have a choice.

Re:NASA has surplus space station in six years (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900731)

Nobody at NASA actually wants to destroy it so soon after completing it, but if Congress doesn't fund it they won't have a choice.

Maybe Rutan will have a new toy that needs a place to park by then :)

Re:But it's not - it's suborbital. (4, Interesting)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899651)

A potential use for such flights [wikipedia.org] is a 1 hour trip between any two points on the globe. Plus, I think you can clearly see the shape of the earth - which to me, would make it feel f'n C.O.O.L.

Re:But it's not - it's suborbital. (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899783)

I don't understand the appeal. OK, so you left Earth's atmosphere for a couple of minutes.

The appeal is seeing the Earth from space. Going to space, even if for just a couple minutes. Of doing something that people born 50 years ago dreamed of doing but had no chance of happening for all but the tiny handful who became astronauts. Of seeing my home planet from a perspective I otherwise would be unable to. I can't even fathom how that is unappealing.

I now have as a goal in my life to see the earth from space. Amazingly, astoundingly, this goal does not look completely unreasonable or unrealistic. In fact, it's beginning to look like there's a good chance I'll be able to do it without doing anything more than setting aside some savings for that purpose. And it's because of people who are trying to do what is practical, rather than shooting for the stars.

Where's my 2001 space station?

Currently non-existent and not likely to exist any time soon and same with a way to get to such a station, were it to exist, that is even in the realm of affordability.

So you can poo-poo reality because it doesn't match your ideal dream, but I for one am pretty damn excited about Virgin Galactic. If commercial space flight continues to advance such that at some point orbital flights are reasonable, then great but I don't think you're going to get there directly, and if it doesn't happen I'll take the next best thing thanks.

Re:But it's not - it's suborbital. (1)

ailnlv (1291644) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900893)

Dude, where's my space station?

EVE of destruction? (1)

Nick Number (447026) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898413)

Expensive, but I would do it if it were for a couple days in orbit...

But when you return it's the same old place.

Re:EVE of destruction? (1)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898651)

Expensive, but I would do it if it were for a couple days in orbit...

But when you return it's the same old place.

The poundin of the drums, the pride and disgrace
You can bury your dead, but dont leave a trace
Hate your next-door neighbor but dont forget to say grace

Re:EVE of destruction? (1)

Anonymous Monkey (795756) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898731)

and tell me over and over and over again, my friend

you don't believe we are on the EVE of destruction

Re:EVE of destruction? (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899443)

Your sig is oddly appropriate.

Obligatory skepticism (2, Interesting)

Robaato (958471) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898375)

Space tourism, yeah. But orbital flights?

Why SpaceShipOne Never Did, Never Will, And None Of Its Direct Descendants Ever Will, Orbit The Earth [daughtersoftiresias.org]

Re:Obligatory skepticism (5, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898437)

Orbital human flights aren't planned for SpaceShipTwo, but they are planning on doing orbital microsatellite launches:

http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2009/07/30/330347/oshkosh-2009-virgin-galactic-flies-high-at-oshkosh.html [flightglobal.com]

Virgin Galactic will use the cash injection to develop equipment - including a new pylon between the twin hulls of WhiteKnight Two - able to carry a two-stage launcher and satellite weighing up to 200kg (440lb), with a total payload of 17t- into orbit. The aircraft is designed as the mothership for Virgin Galactic's spaceliner SpaceShip Two.
Virgin Galactic's chief executive Will Whitehorn says that the company will begin its space cargo business in about three years time, two years after it expects to carry the first paying space tourists into suborbit. "For the first five or six years, 80% of our business will be tourism, but five to nine years after that it will be 50/50 [between passengers and cargo or training and scientific flights]," he says.
Whitehorn says the company could take the cost of launching a satellite into space using a ground-based launcher from $30 million to "as low as $2 million" using WhiteKnight Two.
He expects the first satellite launchers to be Virgin's own design, either built at its factory in Mojave, California or contracted out to a specialist manufacturer, but eventually the aircraft will be able to carry third-party boosters.
Whitehorn says that Virgin Galactic was approached by Aabar because the latter saw the opportunity beyond space tourism for the Scaled Composites-built WhiteKnight Two.
"This investment now gives us the capital to take us through the commercial launch and build an extra WhiteKnight for the satellite business," he says.

Re:Obligatory skepticism (1)

BuR4N (512430) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900353)

"Virgin Galactic will use the cash injection to develop equipment - including a new pylon between the twin hulls of WhiteKnight Two - able to carry a two-stage launcher and satellite weighing up to 200kg (440lb), with a total payload of 17t- into orbit. " Will look something like the Pegasus launch system (but half the payload) I presume

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pegasus_rocket [wikipedia.org]

Not likely... (4, Insightful)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898381)

Will this mean that the $200k price tag may be dropping?

Because everybody knows that when people are trampling each other at the gates to pay the retail price, it's a sure sign that the store is going to lower it in a hurry.

Re:Not likely... (1)

2short (466733) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898887)


There was no supply whatsoever; and only a very limited supply projected in the future. A significantly larger supply is now forecast.
Demand may be strong, but unless it gets stonger, the price ought to drop.

So sayeth Econ 101, which I'm often suspicious of, but pretty much buy here. Assuming the whole thing doesn't fold taking peoples deposits with them, flights will get cheaper to operate the longer they actually own and fly the craft. And I'm dubious they can keep finding customers at 200K for long. You can get a few minutes of weightlessness in an airplane a lot cheaper, and that seems a steep price to do so in what is at best "technically space".

Re:Not likely... (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899473)

I can also experience weightlessness by jumping off my roof for free, but the scenery isn't as cool.

Re:Not likely... (1)

2short (466733) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900189)


Yes, but for a small fraction of 200K, you can experience weightlessness for a similar amount of time with similar scenery as what they are selling. The guy taking your money won't call a plane a spaceship, or the part of the atmosphere you reach "space". But other than that, it will be the same thing for a lot less money.

Re:Not likely... (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899635)

Yes, eventually the price (relative to today's dollar) most likely will drop. But there certainly isn't any point to dropping the price anytime soon, where there is no supply, continuing demand (as in more new people signing up).

And it becomes a huge hassle and PR problem if they drop the price before providing any flights, without also giving all of their customers the same price.
People will pay more to be first. But even rich people don't like to feel like they are getting ripped off.

Re:Not likely... (1)

CecilPL (1258010) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900261)

But the thing is, the reason people are willing to pay $200k is the novelty of it. How many people are going to want to pay $200k to go up a second time, or a fifth? Eventually they'll have to drop the price to continue attracting new customers - hopefully their cost comes down as quickly or they'll become unprofitable.

Re:Not likely... (1)

2short (466733) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900289)

So you think the price will remain strong for a long time... well into the distant uncertain time in the future where they might start actually delivering any product?

Re:Not likely... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899667)

Given a perfectly flat supply curve, Econ 101 wouldn't predict any change in price.

Re:Not likely... (1)

2short (466733) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900121)

They were planning to build a spacecraft, now they plan to build five. That's not flat. I assume you mean, they weren't flying any customers, and now they still aren't. That's flat, but it isn't a market.

It's a futures market. They are selling future space flights, so it's the expected future supply that is relevant. As I understand it, expected future supply has increased.

Re:Not likely... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900483)

I'm not making any assertion about the actual shape of the supply curve, just pointing out that supply and demand can interact in a way where price never changes.

I would expect that the savings from building 5 ships (especially fancy-doo carbon composite ships like Rutan likes to build) are rather minimal and will simply be skimmed off as profit, but that's just speculation.

And all that leaves aside that they don't actually have any competitors, so supply is strictly a function of their choices, not the result of a market.

Re:Not likely... (2, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899771)

Because everybody knows that when people are trampling each other at the gates to pay the retail price, it's a sure sign that the store is going to lower it in a hurry.

If they're smart, that's exactly what they'll do. If they can get it working smoothly, then scale up to where their costs are lower, then lowering the expense of the flight is the most profitable route. Right now the only market they're tapping is the market of the very rich and those who are willing to save up multiple annual incomes for one trip. Every time they lower the price they'll increase the size of their market.

Re:Not likely... (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900129)

Think market share. They have maybe a one year advance on spaceX. It is better to launch 500 tourists a year at 100,000$ than 50 at 200,000$

Passenger Compartment? (4, Interesting)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898409)

So, instead of optimizing the vehicle to be just a launch system, they are creating additional revenue by adding in a passenger compartment. "Only $1,000 will get you a window seat where you can watch rich people fly into space!"

Re:Passenger Compartment? (3, Insightful)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898517)

So, instead of optimizing the vehicle to be just a launch system, they are creating additional revenue by adding in a passenger compartment. "Only $1,000 will get you a window seat where you can watch rich people fly into space!"

Hey, I'd pay to see something that cool up close, especially if they also threw in a few zero-g parabolas.

Stupid Economics (1)

hercubus (755805) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898425)

Now we're going to end up with Pepsi ads in orbit and hotels on the moon.

Re:Stupid Economics (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28898637)

How is that bad? It's not like you're going to mess up the moon's ecosystem (it's dead) or that these projects would come to realization if marketing/product placement wasn't funding the initial effort...

What I'd like to see is even more commercialization of the moon so that the private sector can finally kick NASA's slow ass to mars ;)

Re:Stupid Economics (4, Insightful)

Deosyne (92713) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898685)

God, I hope so. The only way that space exploration is going to really take off is after it becomes commercialized. America wasn't discovered out of idle curiosity; those dudes were out looking for ways to make more loot, whether it be the Vikings looking for resources to take or Columbus looking for a better trade route. I'd rather a rich guy drop a quarter million on a company that will produce bigger orbital launch vehicles and facilities than give the same to a real estate developer for yet another useless suite in New York.

Re:Stupid Economics (1, Funny)

ukyoCE (106879) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899185)

THIS

We gotta convince the content industry there's DRM on Mars

They foot the bill for space exploration, AND we get to kick them off the planet.

Re:Stupid Economics (1)

AshtangiMan (684031) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900409)

I laughed at that but the mods tell me that I should flame you. So here it goes: That was funny. Moron.

Re:Stupid Economics (1)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898799)

Now we're going to end up with Pepsi ads in orbit and hotels on the moon.

And this would be bad...how? Let the rich pay the way to future space colonization by the masses.

Re:Stupid Economics (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899869)

...When everybody knows the hotels belong in orbit and the Pepsi ads on the moon.

"passenger's"? (1)

Mendokusei (916318) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898455)

Does anybody proofread these submissions at any point?

Re:"passenger's"? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28898561)

Haven't you heard? That's how we make word's plural on the Internet.

In other new's, the contraction of "you are" is "your", and "it's" means "belonging to it".

Re:"passenger's"? (2, Funny)

damien_kane (519267) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898817)

Haven't you heard? That's how we make word's plural on the Internet's.

There, FTFY

Re:"passenger's"? (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899183)

"it's" means "belonging to it".

I was already aware that that was wrong, but the question is *why*, since the possessive apostrophe applies to almost everything else?

Re:"passenger's"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28899515)

I was already aware that that was wrong, but the question is *why*, since the possessive apostrophe applies to almost everything else?

For the same reason we say "her" instead of "she's", and "his" instead of "he's". Pronouns are irregular. It makes more sense for "it's" to be a contraction of "it is/has", the same way it works with "he's" and "she's".

you must be new here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28898615)

the "editors" are all imbeciles and the only editing they do is hamfisted "editorializing"

slashdot is a joke

Cola Space Wars? (1)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898745)

the first paying passenger's going up in 2011.

That is correct grammar~ In this case, "going up" is a noun, and it refers to the one person who was first. Much like "a send-up".

You will probably quibble at the "first shooting down of the orbitting Pepsi ad" when it is reported.

Unless, of course, the Pepsi ads DO shoot down. Sure, why not. Take the Cola Wars to the Final Frontier. First targets, Atlanta and Plano, TX.

Re:"passenger's"? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898875)

Its the contaction of "passenger is".

Re:"passenger's"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28899085)

It's the contraction of "passenger is".

Sorry, couldn't resist

Re:"passenger's"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28900727)

Does anybody proofread these submissions?

Brevity is wit.

Yuk (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28898539)

Tranny

Dropping? (1)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898549)

[FTFA]

Will this mean that the $200k price tag may be dropping?

They have more orders than they can fill with a $200k price tag, so why again would they consider dropping the price?

Re:Dropping? (1)

pluther (647209) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900419)

They wouldn't, as long as they're the only ones doing it, and as long as people are signing up faster than they can get flights up.

In those circumstances, the price would logically rise fairly quickly.

However, it's unlikely that both of those conditions will remain true for very long.

With the (hopefully large) profits they pull in, they will be able to build more systems and launch more frequently. This will allow them to operate more flights. They may be able to then lower the price to attract more customers, and make more money with a smaller profit margin.

Also, once they've proven there's money to be made, other companies will copy them, often making incremental improvements, allowing them to do the same thing with far less initial R&D, and possibly lower operating costs, which will drive prices down even further.

Anyway, that's the ideal. Sure there are bumps along the way (for example, the more people are doing it, the more risk-averse they will become, thus the need for higher safety standards), but more likely than not, prices will start coming down soon. They'll likely never be cheaper than a planetary jet flight, for that you'd need a space elevator.

Of course the price will drop (4, Informative)

bytestorm (1296659) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898599)

Virgin's FAQ [virgingalactic.com] says 200000 is only for the first 100 and then scaling down between 100 and 175K for the remainder of the first 1000 and 20k thereafter.

Re:Of course the price will drop (3, Informative)

bytestorm (1296659) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898679)

That's just the deposit price; full ticket price is still 200,000.

$40m? (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898607)

$40m @ $200k/each is only 200 people. Do they really need 5 additional ships? (Though, they don't say if a deposit is 100% the cost, so it might be more people) And why the hell would you pay $200k for a suborbital flight for a couple minutes?

Re:$40m? (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898705)

Because going to orbit would cost you $20,000,000 or 100x as much, and that price isn't expected to decrease below the $1,000,000 point anytime in the next 20-30 years?

Re:$40m? (1)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898815)

And why the hell would you pay $200k for a suborbital flight for a couple minutes?

Why would someone pay $1million for a diamond ring? $1millon for a car? $50k for a sub woofer?

Not because they can, but because you can't.

Re:$40m? (3, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898845)

And why the hell would you pay $200k for a suborbital flight for a couple minutes?

Hey, people paid $10,000 for a Concord flight... why not go suborbital for $200,000? If you gave me the choice of a trip to space or a Ferrari, I'd personally choose the trip to space.

Re:$40m? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28899889)

If you gave me the choice of a trip to space or a Ferrari, I'd personally choose the trip to space.

A trip to space only impresses nerd girls.

Re:$40m? (3, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900217)

I'm already married :)

Besides, anyone using a car to find women - well, let's just say those girls are not low-maintenance and you have been warned.

Re:$40m? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898923)

Why would you pay $10,000 for a suit or $250,000 for a car?

Re:$40m? (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899579)

Those can get you laid. Although a first date in space might not be a bad idea if that's your goal. How's the hundred mile high club sound?

Re:$40m? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28899961)

Those can get you laid.

Many a female junkie will let you get laid for £20.

Re:$40m? (1)

Normal Dan (1053064) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899729)

women

Re:$40m? (5, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900041)

And why the hell would you pay $200k for a suborbital flight for a couple minutes?

I don't get why people keep talking about how it's suborbital, like that means it isn't completely fucking awesome. I'm serious, I just don't get it.

I mean, it's almost as if you're saying that if I gave you a free ticket aboard Spaceship Two, you'd begrudgingly take it while muttering "what's the point?", and then once in space you'd be yawning and saying "Sure we're outside the atmosphere but it's not orbital" while the rest of us are shitting our pants at the incredible experience we're having, seeing earth from space.

Is that the wrong impression? Are you just saying orbital would be cooler, but not actually denying that suborbital, if that's all you could get, would still be fucking sweet? I hope so, because otherwise there's just going to be too big a gap between our thinking to overcome.

But if so, then the answer to "why the hell would you pay $200k for a suborbital flight for a couple minutes?" is simple: Because that's how much it costs, that's how high it gets you, and that's how long it lasts, to do one of the most incredible things you may ever have the chance to do in your life.

For people who can afford $200k for a luxury, of which there are quite a few, this must seem like a great deal. If the price gets down to $20k like they suggest, then I'm going to be scrounging up my savings for the day when I will leave the planet's atmosphere, even if briefly. I know I sure as flying fuck won't be complaining that I'm only 100km above the earth's surface, doing something my father and father's father would have given their left nuts to do.

(Though, they don't say if a deposit is 100% the cost, so it might be more people)

Oh and yeah, it's pretty much the definition of a deposit that it isn't 100% of the cost. Putting down a "deposit" that is 100% of the cost is called "paying in advance". Combine this with the fact that Branson is out to make money and thus probably isn't building extra vehicles for no reason, and I think it's safe to say that $40m in deposits represents a lot more than 200 people.

Old News (1)

Kepesk (1093871) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898657)

How is this new news? WhiteKnightTwo was unveiled a year ago. http://www.universetoday.com/2008/07/28/virgin-galactics-whiteknighttwo-sees-sunlight-for-the-first-time-gallery/ [universetoday.com]

Re:Old News (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899009)

Last year was just the plane being unveiled. This is the first time that the craft flew itself to an air show (the world's biggest one, mind you), where anybody could go and see it for themselves. A number of additional details about the craft were also revealed (see my other comments).

Admittedly, the "White Knight Two Unveiled" title is a little misleading though.

Re:Old News (1)

Kepesk (1093871) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899135)

Agreed, agreed. Except that it has appeared at a couple other events where people could go see, but not anything nearly so well publicized. But yeah, the title is a little misleading.

Flight video; more details (4, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898667)

There's some pretty cool video of White Knight Two flying at Oshkosh here:

http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/hyperbola/2009/08/video-all-the-virgin-galactic.html [flightglobal.com]

There's also some notes from a panel discussion [parabolicarc.com] on the craft. Some highlights:

* Production run for the program is set up for 12 WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft and 50 SpaceShipTwo crafts;
* This is the first all-composites aircraft, something that the aviation industry needs to embrace more;
* WhiteKnightTwo is not just an aircraft, it is a spacecraft delivery system that is capable of delivering cargo into space cheaply; [orbital microsatellite launch]
* Scaled and Virgin are confident they can build a WhiteKnightThree that will allow they to launch even larger payloads into space;
* Rutan said WhiteKnightTwo is very manueverable, and he expected to put the vehicle through aerobatic manuevers at the Oshkosh show next year;
* Whitehorn didnâ(TM)t seem to like this idea very much, vigorously shaking his head and trying to dissuade the designer from such an idea.

WK2 at Oshkosh (2, Interesting)

Nick Driver (238034) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899333)

I just got back home from Oshkosh and saw the WK2 up close and personal there at Aeroshell Square. I didn't know beforehand that only the starboard side fuselage pod has any seats for crew. The left side fuselage has fake painted-on "windows" so that it looks like there are real windows from a distance, but apparently the left fuselage only contains equipment and possibly fuel tanks, there are no seats for any occupants on that side.

I took several photos of the center wing section where the spacecraft is supposed to attach. I saw no big heavy-duty attachment brackets there at all, but instead there were bundles of exposed wires only, and there were two cut-off loose wire ends just dangling out in the slipstream.

I did get one good photo of the WK2 in flight as it approached to land, but they did not do any repeated overflights for the crowd to see, I only saw one overflight, then it landed.

Re:WK2 at Oshkosh (1)

yabos (719499) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900389)

I was just going to post asking where the pilots sit. It's a weird looking design, like 2 planes stuck together.

First All composite plane? Not by a long shot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28899735)

The first all composite airplane? Hardly!

Rutan championed moldless composites with the design of the Veri-EZ, and later the Long-EZ and Solitaire. All three planes are all-composite planes, and have been flying for almost 40 years. Spin-offs of the design include the Velocity (www.velocityaircraft.com), the Cozy (http://www.cozyaircraft.com/) and the berkut (now being made and used solely as a UAV for USAF. See http://www.genaero.com/video/Berkut_Autoflight.wmv)

Meanwhile, in the certified world, Diamond Air has been making all composite planes since 1981. IIRC, they built the company using experience from building all-composite gliders. Cirrus announced certification of the SR20 in 1998.

WK and SS1 broke alot of ground, but all-composites is not one of them.

Re:First All composite plane? Not by a long shot! (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900033)

Yeah, EVE is the largest all-composite plane ever built. Not the first.

Re:Flight video; more details (2, Informative)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900941)

I know this was from the website so I don't refute you, but.

* Rutan said WhiteKnightTwo is very manueverable, and he expected to put the vehicle through aerobatic manuevers at the Oshkosh show next year;
* Whitehorn didnâ(TM)t seem to like this idea very much, vigorously shaking his head and trying to dissuade the designer from such an idea.

Burt Rutan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burt_Rutan [wikipedia.org]
has a brother Richard "Dick" Rutan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Rutan [wikipedia.org]
Burt designs aircraft, and Dick flies them.

Richard had been a fighter pilot, and asked Burt for years to build him an Aerobatic plane, Burt wouldn't do it because the liability insurance on such a design would be too expensive.

Instead Burt built an airplane called Voyager to fly around the world, and Richard flew it around the world with his then girlfriend as the copilot.

Dick also flew a Rocket Powered Long EZ for XCOR a test bed for their Rocket motor, and other Rocket Racing League technologies.

Knowing how conservative Burt is, and the fact he doesn't like Aerobatics;
http://www.avweb.com/news/profiles/182970-1.html [avweb.com]

I have to believe it was Dick not Burt that said he'd fly aerobatics in WhiteKnightTwo at Oshkosh next year.

How fat? (0, Flamebait)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898697)

How fat can I be and still be able to fly?

>>Cue jokes about Americans.

A Science Fiction Life (4, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#28898751)

Iirc it was 1964 when Star Trek came out. The science fiction stuff in it was pure fantasy; magic, impossible: cell phones, flat screen computers, doors that opened themselves, medical readouts in the hospitals, etc. It would be five more years before man walked on the moon; orbital flight was in its infancy.

Now it looks like another fantasy will come true - the price of space flight may become affordable to an average guy like me! This is simply amazing.

Travel to the stars is still far off though... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28899127)

And let's face it, that was the main point of a series called Star Trek

Re:A Science Fiction Life (1)

Tarsir (1175373) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899631)

Now, I wasn't alive in 1964, so maybe I'm way off base, but I really don't think that a self opening door was pure fantasy, much less impossible. All you need is a crank with a motor attached, and a switch in front of the door that starts the motor when you step on it.

Re:A Science Fiction Life (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900631)

But it was. When the Disney people saw Star Trek, they approached Roddenberry and his people, wanting to use similar technology in their Tomorrowland exhibit. They were disappointed to find that Star Trek used two off-camera stage hands to pull the doors open.

The real thing came about years later. IIRC the first ones did use pressure switches in mats, and I do remember they were often unreliable. The early self-opening doors had handles for when they didn't work. More modern ones use motion detectors, which also didn't exist back then.

What's more primitive than that, when I broke both my arms five years earlier, they knocked me out with ethyl ether to set the bones, and used plaster casts on them. Plaster gets HOT when wet. Now about the only thing ether is used for is automotive starting fluid. It was a ghastly, horrible experience to be anesthesized then. Now the ansthesiologist says "ok, you're going to sleep now" and you're out like a light, with no nausea, terrifying hallucinations, or any of that. A two hour surgery seems like a minute to the patient.

If you could travel back in time to 1964 you would be amazed at how primitive things were compared to today. Having lived then, I realize intellectually that we are living in primitive times now.

I marvel at the wonders young folks will see in their lifetimes. I would never have dreamed that I would ever get to have surgery that would correct my extreme myopia and I would be able to not need my thick eyeglasses.

Re:A Science Fiction Life (1)

caseih (160668) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900517)

Except that this isn't "space flight." It's merely going up really high (to the edge of space) and then falling back down for a short time. Basically a more expensive version of the vomit comet, or a safer way to sky dive. It does nothing to address and overcome the real problems of space travel. On the other hand, it does contribute to the development of suborbital transglobal travel. So maybe the fantasy in "Rocketship Galileo" of a world where passengers can travel anywhere in just a couple of hours maybe be closer to reality.

Re:A Science Fiction Life (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900943)

Iirc it was 1964 when Star Trek came out.

Nooooooo it wasn't http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060028/ [imdb.com]
"Star Trek" TV series 1966-1969

hybrid nitrous oxide and rubber rocket engine-WTF? (3, Funny)

zooblethorpe (686757) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899101)

Can anyone more familiar with the rocket design explain this perplexing quote?

This is how it works: The launch vehicle takes off like a plane, carrying the spaceship between twin booms; once it gets to a certain height, the spaceship drops from the launch vehicle, firing its hybrid nitrous oxide and rubber rocket engine to climb vertically at almost four times the speed of sound; once it reaches 62 miles - the edge of space - it floats back down and uses its wings like a badminton shuttlecock to re-enter the atmosphere and land like a plane.

So, does this thing literally burn rubber? :D

Cheers,

Re:hybrid nitrous oxide and rubber rocket engine-W (4, Informative)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899309)

So, does this thing literally burn rubber?

Solid fuel compositions tend to be rubbery. This makes them insensitive to vibrations and thermal stresses which could lead to cracking in stiffer compositions. Cracking is a Very Bad Thing as it tends to produce sudden trust variations.

So if by "rubber" you mean "made from the sap of a rubber tree or a similar hydrocarbon synthetic designed primarily for flexibility and resilience", then no, it doesn't burn rubber. The fuel is designed primarily for high specific impulse, with the rubbery characteristics design in secondarily.

The use of a hybrid solid-fuel/fluid-oxidizer design allows the engine to be throttled, and yet is considerably cheaper than a comparably powerful liquid rocket design.

Aside: has anyone noticed that /. is even more borken than usual today, failing to recognize the text entry area for comments past about a 64 column limit?

Re:hybrid nitrous oxide and rubber rocket engine-W (3, Interesting)

Enigma2175 (179646) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899587)

So if by "rubber" you mean "made from the sap of a rubber tree or a similar hydrocarbon synthetic designed primarily for flexibility and resilience", then no, it doesn't burn rubber. The fuel is designed primarily for high specific impulse, with the rubbery characteristics design in secondarily.

You are wrong, the engine burns rubber (at least synthetic rubber). From http://science.howstuffworks.com/spaceshipone5.htm [howstuffworks.com]

"To cut down on both cost and risk, SpaceShipOne is propelled by a mixture of hydroxy-terminated polybutadiene (tire rubber) and nitrous oxide (laughing gas). The rubber acts as the fuel and the laughing gas as the oxidizer."

Re:hybrid nitrous oxide and rubber rocket engine-W (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28899467)

Yes and no, it burns hydroxy-terminated polybutadiene (tire rubber) according to this article [howstuffworks.com]

Re:hybrid nitrous oxide and rubber rocket engine-W (3, Interesting)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899683)

Yes. Truth be told, it doesn't matter what you use as the solid fuel in a hybrid rocket. You can use cardboard, salami, your mom, whatever. Some fuels are certainly better than others, but anything that burns with your oxidizer will work. They're probably using polyethylene or something similar (it's what we used in our college rocket club's hybrid rocket).

Re:hybrid nitrous oxide and rubber rocket engine-W (1)

skrimp (790524) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899709)

Actually, radtea is wrong and Anonymous Coward is correct.

"In our hybrid motor we use Nitrous Oxide (N2O or laughing gas) as an oxidizer and hydroxy-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB or rubber) as the fuel."
-- scaled.com [scaled.com]

--
"Maybe I should provide a clever tagline"

Re:hybrid nitrous oxide and rubber rocket engine-W (2, Informative)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 4 years ago | (#28900025)

If you look up "hybrid rocket" what you'll see is a lot of similar systems. Traditionally, rockets were either liquid fuel, where you mixed two liquids (oxygen and kerosine, oxygen and hydrogen, for example) or one block of solid fuel like the Thiokol system on the Space Shuttle boosters -- which is, itself, commonly referred to as rubber. A hybrid system uses a solid fuel and a liquid or gaseous oxidizer. Nitrous oxide works well. One interesting thing about it is that you can use just about anything that contains carbon as the solid fuel: rubber, a big stack of paper soaked in wax, or even the infamous Salami Rocket [mythbustersresults.com] . ("That's what SHE said.") People who build big model rockets often use stacked wax paper discs because they hold up better than salami, and are easier to make than thiokol-type stuff (and they seem to burn more cleanly as well, compared to home-made polymer-type fuels.)

EVE? (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899187)

Bet he gets podded his first time out.

wait a second... (1)

haaz (3346) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899299)

White Knight... White Knight... wasn't that a BBS?

Er, never mind.

Re:wait a second... (1)

AntiGenX (589768) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899959)

Not that I'm aware of, but I used White Knight [wikipedia.org] software back in the day to log onto BBSes.

No Thanks; I Prefer The Reliable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28899337)

launch company known as Energia [energia.ru] .

Yours In Flight,
Kilgore Trout

Red Ryder (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 4 years ago | (#28899759)

Ya know, back in the olden days, the premier BBS terminal program (think: properly and well-done HyperTerm) on the Mac was Red Ryder. It was such a popular shareware that the guy earned like $5 from it.

Anyway, when he went pro, the Red Ryder people came calling and said he had to change the name. So he changed Red Ryder to White Knight. He then got complaints that White Knight was also a nickname for people in the KKK.

Have times changed? How much more should a huge production like this catch the attention of people.

Oh, and don't argue with me about the validity of the complaint. I'm just relating it.

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