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Virgin Galactic's Suborbital Spacecraft Gets FAA Blessing

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the greenlight-space-flight dept.

Space 65

coondoggie writes "Space tourism company Virgin Galactic today said its spacecraft developer has been granted an experimental launch permit from the Federal Aviation Administration to begin rocket-powered testing of its spaceships. With the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation permit, Scaled Composites and its SpaceShipTwo craft will be able to test the aerodynamic performance of the spacecraft with the full weight of the rocket motor system on board. Integration of key rocket motor components, already underway, will continue into the autumn."

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HOWTO become a core linux developer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40163075)

An alarm sounded in the dark, and Linus Torvalds groaned and shuffled under his covers. His wife lay lazily snoring next to him, and the alarm clock bathed their forms in red light as it pulsed [trollaxor.com] .

Before long Linus slapped the snooze button on the alarm, grunted, stretched, and ambled out of bed.

Linus's alarm was was no ordinary one. For starters, it was a 386-based mini-ATX custom rig with 32 MiB that ran Linux 2.6.36.2 in a one-off distro Linus called Alarmix. He used emacs to edit his alarm configuration file every night, and in the morning when alarmd woke up it played a rather loud klaxon [wikipedia.org] . But today it was far earlier than he had set his alarm, and this was a source of worry for Linus.

This klaxon was a special one, run when alarmd was remotely activated by the Git server [kernel.org] , meant to alert the core Linux developers that someone was attempting to hack into the Linux kernel code repository. There would likely be a logfile of attempted intrusions displaying on Linus's workstation right now.

Stretching his back and cracking his neck as he wandered slowly to his study, Linus fell lazily into his chair.

I wonder who it is this time, Linus thought to himself as he jiggled his mouse, temporality blinding himself as his 50" LCD TV came on.

But before Linus's eyes could adjust, he saw stars. Something hard and cold hit him dead-center in the forehead, flipping him backward in his chair onto the floor.

Hello, Linus, a voice standing over Linus said. Long time no see, isn't it? the voice chided.

What the fuck? was all Linus could muster as he recovered from the blow.

In case you're wondering, Linus, that was the butt of my Colt M1991A officer's model, the voice, high and whiny as Linus's ear tuned back in, said. It's the small-frame six-shot 3-5/8"-barrel version of the classic .45 ACP design.

Linus's heart beat like a jackrabbit fucking on a hot tin roof. A gun? This was a first. His high Finnish forehead was still numb, but he could feel it swelling.

This baby's small enough to conceal but has excellent stopping power, wouldn't you agree?

The interloper laughed at his own joke and Linus's ears perked: the narcissistic sense of humor the whiny, nasal voice it finally came together in Linus's addled brain: his assailant was none other than Eric S. Raymond, the ruddy Open Source advocate and Jger-guzzling, gun-toting gas-bag.

Fuck you, Eric! Linus shouted. After almost twenty years of tolerating the megalomaniacal bullshit that Raymond served on a regular basis, Linus was more angry than scared. You can go fuck yourself!

I'm glad you brought that up! Eric said, cheerfully. That's exactly why I dropped in for a little visit tonight! But I won't be fucking myself

   

Linus's moan was muted by the thin, pale, crooked penis covered in a dark brown syrup plunging rudely into his open maw. He gasped through his nose as the skinny, misshapen prick started pumping in and out of his slick mouth.

Oh yeah Eric said between breaths. Ohhh yeah.

The room was silent except for muffled moaning and a wet, fleshy rhythmic pumping sound which reverberated off the dingy, tiled walls.

"Fuck your mouth, Linus!" Eric said. "I want to see cum and Jgermeister all over your pretty little Finnish face!"

Linus was crying, the eye-liner Eric forced him to apply at gunpoint running down his cheeks from his glassy, bloodshot eyes. He gagged and drool poured from his lips.

I'll need a little lube first, though, Eric said, reaching for his Jger bottle. Your mouth isn't quite wet enough for old uncle Eric

Eric uncapped the bottle in one quick motion, not letting his Colt stray from Linus's forehead. Then, something dark and brown started raining on the festivities, covering Linus's face and Eric's bushy dick.

"This shit'll be good, Linus. Oh, fuck! Open up your mouth, you little bitch," the man said as he withdrew his cock from Linus's bitch-hole.

"Please No more Jäger Can't breath I'm going to be sick" Linus gasped as he desperately inhaled fresh air. The scent of unwashed hacker penis was strong in his nose.

Open up and say ah, boy! Eric shouted and Jer splashed around the unholy union of Linus's soft lips and Eric's gangly penis and balls. I want you to get every last drop in that sweet little mouth of yours!

Eric's face was aglow with the last of his Jäger and his grin, leering and anxious, spread his dropping orange mustache wide.

Eric, no more. Please. I can't- Linus said just as Eric cockslapped him.

You'll do as I say or else, Eric said. But you could use a break, couldn't you, you stupid little faggot bitch?

Eric released his hand from around his junk and withdrew his cock from Linus's worn mouth.

Gasping, Linus sat against the wall in the bathtub. Covered in various body fluids, his eyes were dark and sunken. He had scrapes and bruises here and there, especially around his jaw. This was his sixth day of being locked in Eric Raymond's bathroom.

You know, that's a good position there, Eric said. He laid his Colt on the nearby toilet tank, the metal clankingon the ceramic toilet tank lid. He took several gulps of his magic liqueur and likewise set the bottle down.

Now open up and take it like a good little bitch, Eric said with a look of child-like glee on his face. Here comes Hurricane Eric!

With this remark, Eric turned around and pointed his ass at Linus, his shaky hands spreading his bulbous, white butt cheeks as far apart as they'd go. His yellow-brown ass crack was covered in a red fur that became darker as it neared his asshole. Eric's puckered anus shook and twitched for a second, and then the walls of the shower reverberated with a wet ripping noise.

Oh god, take it boy! Eric shouted in ecstasy.

Linus, at the business end of Eric Raymond, could do little more than cry as his face was covered in blast after blast of Eric's light brown ass-burps. One shot his him on the neck, the next shotgunned his forehead and hair, and one finally took him square in the mouth. After a few seconds the slimy assault slowed to a twitching trickle.

Linus sobbed and wiped his face with the back of his hand. He streaked the shit, but didn't remove it.

Oh, you're not done yet, Rustard, Eric said from the other end. One more little gift for you, coming up right about

Eric began shitting the largest turd Linus had ever seen in his life. It was a reddish brown clay color with streaks of blood and mucus. It slipped from Eric's ass with ease even though it was already nearing a foot long and had to be as big around as Eric's wrists, which were straining to hold his ass-cheeks apart.

Oh my god, Eric cried as the last of the dark beast left his ass. He turned to look at Linus and saw him against the wall, eyes rolled back in his head, with the turd halfway down his throat. He was convulsing, trying to breatheor was he trying to inhale it? Eric watched in a mixture of shock and arousal for a second before stepping toward the beaten Linux developer.

No you don't, not today, Linus, Eric said as he kicked Linus in the diaphragm with his good foot. No suffocating yourself so you can get out of being my sex slave. No siree bob!

Linus vomited the turd back up along with dinner from earlier. His hot wet sick smelled like an untended portable toilet that had seen use during an attack of dysentery. Linus was sobbing now between coughs, wishing for more than anything to die.

Okay, Linus, you're done for now, Eric said. Get upstairs and modify my privileges in the Linux Git server.

Linus looked at Eric with weary eyes. After days of shit and rape and Linux, he was finally broken. He would give Eric what he had been after for so long and had finally earned by pooping in Linus's mouth: root privileges on the Git server that maintained the Linux kernel source code.

And remember, when you go to do it, Eric said, smiling as he turned on the shower head and began sweeping the shower curtain closed, I am a core Linux developer!

Weeping, Linus climbed on unsteady feet and walked toward the door. He held his stomach and trembled as he went. Now that his playtime was over, he felt dread and nothing more: dread of CML2 [catb.org] running in Linux [kerneltrap.org] .

Re:HOWTO become a core linux developer (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167261)

and in the morning when alarmd[SIC] woke up it played a rather loud klaxon [wikipedia.org]

You know, this is actually a nice little gem hidden in this pile of bullshit "fanfiction".

I would LOVE an alarm clock that sounded like that!

Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (4, Interesting)

crymeph0 (682581) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163077)

When Rutan won the X-Prize in 2004, I was seriously excited. It seemed like commercial suborbital joyrides for anyone with money to burn were happening right then. 8 years later, still no commercial flights. What happened? SpaceX went from first launch in 2006 to ISS in 2012. I know, manned flights require more rigorous design, but SpaceX has been designing for human flight all along, and Musk is in serious contention to get crew flights to ISS by 2015 or 2016. At this rate, we may be able to buy orbital joyrides before suborbital ones. I know Burt Rutan and crew have the engineering skill to get this thing done, what's been holding them back?

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (2)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163115)

SpaceX is commercializing technology that we've been hammering out since Project Mercury in the late 1950s. Rutan's working on developing something much newer.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (4, Interesting)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163175)

SpaceX is commercializing technology that we've been hammering out since Project Mercury in the late 1950s.

Well if you put it that way, SpaceshipOne is just a bigger version of X-15 from the 1950's also.

You know what it looks like to me? It looks like SpaceX's dotcom billionaire (Elon Musk) put everything he has on the line - his fortune, his time, energy, everything - whereas Virgin Galactic's dotcom billionaire (Paul Allen) put a little bit of a seed money, and that's about it. Burt Rutan retired already, he doesn't seem to be burning the midnight oil either. The whole thing seems to be kind of coasting without a lot of funding or urgency.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40163411)

SpaceX is commercializing technology that we've been hammering out since Project Mercury in the late 1950s.

Well if you put it that way, SpaceshipOne is just a bigger version of X-15 from the 1950's also.

You know what it looks like to me? It looks like SpaceX's dotcom billionaire (Elon Musk) put everything he has on the line - his fortune, his time, energy, everything - whereas Virgin Galactic's dotcom billionaire (Paul Allen) put a little bit of a seed money, and that's about it. Burt Rutan retired already, he doesn't seem to be burning the midnight oil either. The whole thing seems to be kind of coasting without a lot of funding or urgency.

Burt Rutan is retired. Spacecraft One represents new technology. It's interesting to note that a suborbital flight with Virgin Galactic costs about $200,000. SpaceX is "reducing" the cost of orbiting an astronaut to about $20,000,000 per seat. Reaching orbit is more difficult / expensive, but not by a factor of 100. It's the difference between a conventional rocket / capsule like the Dragon / Falcon SpaceX design and Rutan's Spacecraft Two.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40163623)

Not a factor of 100?

Are you sure?

Work out mgh for an altitude of 200km vs. 1/2 * m * v^2 for orbital velocity, and I come up with a number over 150.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163889)

Cost is not a function of energy or fuel usage. If only that were true. From what I understand, $200,000 is not only the projected cost of a Virgin Galactic suborbital ride, but it is also roughly the propellant cost of putting a Dragon capsule in orbit.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

ongelovigehond (2522526) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163933)

No, energy is not the only thing, but a factor of 100-150 in difficulty between sub-orbital and orbital seems very reasonable, if you also take into account the other difficulties. Energy requirement may be a reasonable proxy.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163981)

I think propellant cost is a more reasonable proxy. Keep in mind that most of those "difficulties" are fixed and don't depend (or depend weakly) on launch frequency, such as R&D, launch pads, manufacture infrastructure, etc.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

ongelovigehond (2522526) | more than 2 years ago | (#40164251)

Propellant cost isn't the only thing. The fuel mass/payload mass ratio is much more reasonable for a sub-orbital craft, which means you don't have to cut so much mass, making the engineering a lot more relaxed. And it's not only accelerating, reentry from orbit is a lot more challenging than landing from sub-orbital.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40164327)

So it's more difficult. Again, I don't see that translating into actual cost in the long run. We've increased complexity quite a bit going from a horse drawn wagon to a modern car in a modern transportation system. But the marginal cost of getting from point A to point B is still mostly the cost of fuel and the cost of the occupants' time.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (2)

ongelovigehond (2522526) | more than 2 years ago | (#40164387)

The cost of fuel, plus the cost of the rocket hardware, including its design and quality control. The difference between manufacturing of a car and of a rocket is that a simple bolt in the car is maybe 10 times stronger than required. A similar bolt in a rocket may only be 25% stronger than required. This means that you need very good engineering, tight manufacturing requirements, and good quality control, which are all costly. The design cost can be spread out over multiple launches, of course, but this requires you achieve many launches in the first place.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40165283)

The cost of fuel, plus the cost of the rocket hardware, including its design and quality control.

My point here is that all the complexity scales sublinear with the number of rocket flights per unit time.

but this requires you achieve many launches in the first place.

A key assumption on my part is that there are indeed many launches of reusable vehicles occurring.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40176117)

reusable != reusable.

Rockets capable of achieving earth orbit are high tech devices. They are not reusable in anything like the sense that a car is reused on all trips after the drive home from the dealer. Nor even like Virgin Galactic's rocket, which has nothing like the fuel mass fraction that the Falcon rockets have.

They truly need to be torn down and rebuilt -- the safety margins are much smaller than other technologies, and the wear and tear often greater. The space shuttle would have been much cheaper to operate if it had not been "reusable".

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40176939)

They truly need to be torn down and rebuilt

Today. Not tomorrow. It's remarkable how we still think of tomorrow's technology in terms of what we can do today. This isn't some sort of utopian observation (say like "Nanotech will make it irrelevant in 20 years"), but just an observation that difficult problems get solved and we've come a long ways in dealing with such things.

the safety margins are much smaller than other technologies, and the wear and tear often greater

Even if that were strictly true, so what? My point is not that rocketry is just as easy as any other technology, but rather that the complexity doesn't scale with number of launches. Once you've figured out truly reusable Earth to orbit to Earth technology, it doesn't just work for that particular launch vehicle or even that model.

The space shuttle would have been much cheaper to operate if it had not been "reusable".

And if the Shuttle had been launched at its intended launch frequency of 40 launches a year, it would have been cheaper to operate than an expendable version would be.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 2 years ago | (#40164281)

i think the russians have proven all these bullshit theories wrong... for years

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40164291)

You can think whatever you want. Proof requires a chain of reasoning supporting your assertion. That's not present here.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40164727)

You can think whatever you want. Proof requires a chain of reasoning supporting your assertion. That's not present here.

Nonsense. As everyone should know by now, the only thing you need for a proof is a pudding.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 2 years ago | (#40173077)

typical hypocritical dumb shits... of course none of your your bullshit requires any proof (cos there is none)

but at least you're right about there being no chain of reasoning here (including throughout your posts)

actually both the americans and the russians together prove your bullshit posts wrong. russian launch cost/kg is a fraction of that of the ol' space shuttle, and they both launched to the same height. cost of space launches has more to do with people than propellent... this page explains:

http://www.jerrypournelle.com/reports/jerryp/gettospace.html [jerrypournelle.com]

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40174283)

If we look at the nearest, non-imaginary analogue to space flight, namely, air flight (it even uses a similar amount of energy for the longer airplane flights as it would take to get to orbit), we see that cost at least among the commercial airlines, is fairly close to fuel costs. Generally, about a quarter to half of a normal air ticket is fuel cost.

The biggest difference between air and space flight isn't the technological or physical environment, but the frequency with which vehicles return to use. For airplanes, it can be as little as a few minutes to refuel and conduct a simple inspection of the plane's exterior. For orbital rockets and such, the vehicle usually isn't reused and when it is (in the case of the Space Shuttle or the X-37), the vehicle tends to be used again no quicker than a few months later. For suborbital, a key new development in the past decade has been a demonstration of relatively fast turnaround achieved by SpaceShipOne which returned to flight within a week of a previous flight.

So I find it remarkable that despite no real exploration of launch frequency aside from certain ballistic missile programs (which I'd say is more likely to support my argument than not, even though the missiles were all intended to be disposable), that one is somehow able to make such a forecast. That is why I noted that no "proof" had happened.

My view is that we will as has occurred in many major transportation modes, reduce the per flight cost to some simple multiple of propellant cost, say a factor of three greater than the cost of the propellant used. For LOX/kerosene rockets, that will end up being a floor around $100 per kilogram in current dollars. For LOX/liquid hydrogen rockets that would be a floor around $300 per kilogram.

these rockets will be nearly completely reusable and used at least several times a week. That's completely different from the current extremely slow launch rate of every major orbital launch platform in history.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 2 years ago | (#40177227)

From the linked page in my previous reply (by Jerry Pournelle), he compares space flight today like taking a trip in an airliner and dumping the airliner in the ocean when you reach your destination, BUT... the Russians get around this by mass-producing their spacecraft (well, as far as spacecraft could be mass-produced).

the problem with using propellant as a metric is that the relationship of propellant with altitude isn't linear for getting to space (the relationship is actually well understood in the rocket equation), and other costs are similarly nonlinear, because of obstacles like radiation, reentry, mass fraction, safety systems (you can't pull over or glide to a controlled crash in orbit). The difference between Russians and Americans is bureaucracy, institutionalization, ladder climbing, and all the other things that Jerry Pournelle highlighted. The Russian way of doing things more closely resembles the US X program from the 50's. Kazakhstan isn't exactly the most hospitable place on earth, so it doesn't appeal to those who want nothing more than a comfy government desk job. If NASA ran its space program out of Kazakhstan, its costs would plummet and its efficiency would increase appreciably.

There are also some interesting articles at spacefuture.com about the status quo of space technology, and about the military value of space, and the suggestion that it has actually been in the US government's own interest to stall commercial and private space flight for military reasons isn't beyond the realm of possibility.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40177427)

the problem with using propellant as a metric is that the relationship of propellant with altitude isn't linear for getting to space (the relationship is actually well understood in the rocket equation), and other costs are similarly nonlinear,

So why is nonlinearity a problem here? And I should have said that the cost floors I mentioned were for a one-way trip to LEO, which admittedly is still poorly defined, but at least it's a fixed destination and bypasses this particular bit of complexity.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 2 years ago | (#40178253)

So why is nonlinearity a problem here?

its not, but propellant has no bearing on cost/kg, using comparison between russia and united states space launches as example

people factors have more bearing on cost than propellant, which is really fuck all in the big scheme of things. if your going to use some multiple of propellant costs for overall launch costs, you could very well use some multiple of the cost of coffee for the engineers and it would be just as valid

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40190759)

but propellant has no bearing on cost/kg, using comparison between russia and united states space launches as example

How about a comparison to a launch system with far higher launch rates? I'm not arguing for current launch systems at current rates. I'm arguing for mature transportation systems that reuse the launch vehicle, have very high frequency of launch, and for those two reasons, look nothing like any launch system in existence today.

people factors have more bearing on cost than propellant

People factors are sublinear with launch frequency. The cost of people in R&D is independent of the launch rate. The launch and operations workforce can be more efficiently used over many launches than a few. There are economies to scale when using people.

if your going to use some multiple of propellant costs for overall launch costs, you could very well use some multiple of the cost of coffee for the engineers and it would be just as valid

No it wouldn't. The key behind using a multiple of propellant is that rockets need to expend a fixed amount of propellant to do a particular job. Nothing else has to be expended in a rocket launch.

Not the rocket, not the workforce, not the launch platform or control systems. Obviously, a lot is currently expended by rockets, especially the disposable kind, but that current necessity doesn't scale with launch frequency. At higher launch frequencies, reusable rockets of increasing sophistication are economically supported. That what drives the cost per launch to a multiple of propellant cost.

In particular, rockets don't need to expend a fixed amount of engineers' coffee, in fact that particular number goes down as launch frequency goes up!

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 2 years ago | (#40192189)

I'm arguing for mature transportation systems that reuse the launch vehicle, have very high frequency of launch, and for those two reasons, look nothing like any launch system in existence today.

if you're going to argue about abstract pipe dreams, then using coffee drunk by engineers is probably about as useful.

what if cost isn't measured the same way in such future? what about if humanity blows itself to kingdom come before then (highly likely)? what if the US dollar isn't a reserve currency (also possible)? what if aliens come to visit and everything we think we know gets turned on its head (live long and prosper)?

Nothing else has to be expended in a rocket launch.

if you only consider cost of propellant, then you're not considering overall launch costs (obviously). the workforce is a much more significant cost factor than propellant, rocket, etc (again, simply by comparison between Russia and USA), and will be similarly influential with any future launch system, regardless of how frequent the launches are.

if spacex launches three times a week, then using the same technology, the russians would be able to launch with the same frequency for a lower cost/kg. the rocket might be exactly the same, with the same amount of propellant, but the russians or the chinese will always be able to make more money from it that companies in the US. it is obvious even if you exclude all other differences and just look at the cost of labor on top of your fixed costs (rocket, propellant). look at mass-production as an extreme example (the number of space launches will never reach the quantity of shoes that can be mass-produced in a factory); even the relatively tiny difference in cost of producing a pair of shoes in the US and China makes moving production to China worthwhile. the difference in cost of launching a rocket in the US and China is much much higher, and it has nothing to do with propellant.

using the exact same technology and the same amount of propellant, different companies and countries will have different overall launch costs because of various other factors such as safety standards, minimum wage (significant), level of bureaucracy, legal environment (significant in the US because it makes insurance one of the biggest costs in any space launch), recouping R&D costs to break even, etc.

in the current economic and political environment, if trips to space were to all of a sudden become as frequent as trips in an aircraft, there is an excellent chance that operations will be conducted in either russia or china. cost of propellant ultimately doesn't count for shit when compared to all the other costs associated with putting anything in space, regardless of how often you do it. you're simply trying to compare a space launch to a trip in an aircraft or a car, which would be nice but not really comparable. even future space launches using horizontal takeoff and landing single stage to orbit will have costs far in excess of propellant.

if spacex ever actually becomes commercially viable, it won't remain in the US after competition from china comes into play. at the moment it survives as a government contractor.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40194013)

I'm arguing for mature transportation systems that reuse the launch vehicle, have very high frequency of launch, and for those two reasons, look nothing like any launch system in existence today.

if you're going to argue about abstract pipe dreams, then using coffee drunk by engineers is probably about as useful.

Then it's a good thing I'm not, isn't it? The future is by its nature hard to predict, but I think it very foolish to assume that it won't follow the path of other transportation technologies. It just isn't that different.

Nothing else has to be expended in a rocket launch. if you only consider cost of propellant, then you're not considering overall launch costs (obviously). the workforce is a much more significant cost factor than propellant, rocket, etc (again, simply by comparison between Russia and USA), and will be similarly influential with any future launch system, regardless of how frequent the launches are.

Then answer this question. How many man-hours have to be used in a launch of a vehicle that doesn't require a pilot?

There's a reason I look at propellant. That has to be used. Any particular amount of labor isn't required, but one does need to expend propellant with a rocket. This comes even more important when considering launch systems that aren't rocket based. Some of those, such as space tethers, are limited by energy, which results in a even lower cost floor.

if spacex launches three times a week, then using the same technology, the russians would be able to launch with the same frequency for a lower cost/kg.

But the technology isn't the same. You also have to include social factors such as the respective leadership of the two groups. The Russians are ultimately run by politicians with no particular competence in this area, while SpaceX is currently run by Elon Musk.

in the current economic and political environment, if trips to space were to all of a sudden become as frequent as trips in an aircraft, there is an excellent chance that operations will be conducted in either russia or china. cost of propellant ultimately doesn't count for shit when compared to all the other costs associated with putting anything in space, regardless of how often you do it. you're simply trying to compare a space launch to a trip in an aircraft or a car, which would be nice but not really comparable. even future space launches using horizontal takeoff and landing single stage to orbit will have costs far in excess of propellant.

Just like I outsourced all my grocery store trips to China? Oh right, I wasn't supposed to make those sorts of comparisons any more, no matter how valid they happen to be.

The thing about transportation is that it only works when it takes you from places where you are to places where you want to be. Chinese or Russian launch vehicles are less useful to US or European customers because the customers are elsewhere. Someone has to move the payload to the launch location and that's not going to be a trivial cost because the payload needs to be insured and you have to spend some time to do that move. There's also the matter of somewhat intangible costs like industrial espionage and liabilty (government owned accidents tend to fall to the customer to pay off). You don't have to worry about SpaceX stealing your secrets or fining you when their rocket goes boom.

Further, it's worth noting that SpaceX is doing things that these other players can't replicate, such as launches with vastly fewer people involved.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 2 years ago | (#40200679)

The future is by its nature hard to predict

exactly the point i was trying to make (hence why there isn't much point in trying, including comparison to other transportation tech)

How many man-hours have to be used in a launch of a vehicle that doesn't require a pilot?

for a space launch, many more man-hours are required than would be required for any other type of transportation, manned or not. when you go flying in an airplane, you don't pass through a region of 2000 degrees celsius as in reentry, which then requires many man-hours of inspection and refurbishment (hence the huge turnaround time for the old space shuttle, and will also delay spacex launches). there are entire control centers designated to a single vehicle, with multitudes of support, maintenance and development personnel, and then there are those actually involved in the launch. you may not believe me, but spacecraft aren't comparable to aircraft or cars, and won't be for the foreseeable future.

space tethers will require even more personnel than earth to orbit shuttles, because they will require an orbiting station, so you may as well compare the resources for a space tether system to those required to operate the ISS.

But the technology isn't the same. You also have to include social factors such as the respective leadership of the two groups. The Russians are ultimately run by politicians with no particular competence in this area, while SpaceX is currently run by Elon Musk.

but my hypothetical argument was that if the technology were the same, the two would be different. this was precisely to highlight that propellant isn't the variable, but social factors and politics etc (what I originally wrapped up in "people factors") are what make the difference, which you have appeared to grasp now which is good. don't be too quick to denounce russian politics, which have been crucial in russians becoming by far the best spacecraft engineers in the world. even the ISS depends on the life support and ferry support from the russians. they mass produce spacecraft like the US (and the rest of the world, including spacex) could only dream of. in the big scheme of space tech and politics, Elon Musk is a nobody, yet to really prove his worth, while the rest of the world has trailed the russians from the very beginning (even the moon landings by the US were not beyond russia, especially if russia had comparable funding to nasa).

Just like I outsourced all my grocery store trips to China?

if the difference in price was thousands of dollars, you would be stupid not to, and you of course would, and companies vying to survive and make a buck for their shareholders will sure as hell use chinese launch services instead of US-based if the price is cheaper. companies have no loyalty to anybody but their major multinational shareholders.

Chinese or Russian launch vehicles are less useful to US or European customers because the customers are elsewhere

don't be naive. shipping a satellite across the countryside in a truck or across the ocean costs fuck all compared to the cost of launching. US or European customers would use Russian or Chinese launchers in a heartbeat

payload needs to be insured

only in the US or Europe, which is even more reason to launch elsewhere

intangible costs like industrial espionage and liabilty

intangible costs don't mean much to companies because they don't translate directly to figures in a profit/loss statement, but in any case industrial espionage isn't restricted by geopolitical boundaries and hasn't been fore years, and liability insurance is far more expensive in western countries than in russia or china.

SpaceX is doing things that these other players can't replicate, such as launches with vastly fewer people involved

spaceshipone by scaled composites, but also the russian program involves far fewer people than any nasa launch. its difficult to compare spacex because they aren't really launching commercially yet

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40176097)

"Cost is not a function of energy or fuel usage."

True. On most measures, however, like speed or altitude, it's much worse than linear.

In this case, while it's a factor of > 150 for energy, that energy must also be dragged along, thanks to the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation, there's a not-so-happy exponential term involved in the speed. It is *hard* to get things up to orbit safely and reliably, even if we understand all the technology required.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

ThePeices (635180) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163663)

reducing the cost to 20 million USD?

it *already* costs 20 mil to pay Russia to send you to the space station via soyuz, including training, and has for a few years now.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163853)

reducing the cost to 20 million USD?

it *already* costs 20 mil to pay Russia to send you to the space station via soyuz, including training, and has for a few years now.

Perhaps for an indvidual, but NASA are paying over $50,000,000 a seat. And I believe that Soyuz is already flying in order to take Russian crews to ISS, NASA aren't buying an entire flight just for their astronauts.

Here's the first relevant page Google found:

http://www.space.com/8158-nasa-signs-335-million-deal-fly-astronauts-russian-spaceships.html [space.com]

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (3, Insightful)

luminousone11 (2472748) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163415)

If you ask me SpaceshipTwo has great potential, Anything that moves us away from using upside down roman candles to get off this rock is an improvement.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

ongelovigehond (2522526) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163943)

It depends. There's not much potential in sub-orbital itself, except as a glorified roller coaster ride. If that's all you want, great. If you want to grow into orbital flights, it remains to be seen how much of the SpaceshipTwo design can be reused. And even if it can be adapted, that still leaves over 90% of the required orbital speeds that needs to be provided by roman candles.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40163479)

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Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (4, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163499)

The whole thing seems to be kind of coasting without a lot of funding or urgency.

The big difference is this: SpaceX is launching pizza to the space station, Spaceship Two is launching paying customers for short trips into space. Astronauts would be annoyed if their pizza delivery was late, but that's nothing compared to half a dozen families crying on TV because you just blew up their mum or dad because you rushed your rocket into service without proper testing.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40163539)

Which one has killed people in testing...

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#40169067)

It isn't a rocket, and it isn't going orbital, just sub-orbital for about 12 minutes at a time. $250,000 for 12 minutes of weightlessness in what is technically space.

I'd be more impressed if they were actually going to fly to somewhere, e.g. London to New York. We already lost our only supersonic passenger jets.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40163513)

I would venture to guess that they are bogged down in red tape. A single study can take over a year to set up and perform. How many have they been taxed with by the FAA and how many employees can they afford to dedicate to them without selling tickets?

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40163693)

Sir Richard Branson. Not Paul Allen.

Branson is the boss of the entire Virgin Group.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40164017)

Virgin Galatic's billionaire is Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Records fame. Paul Allen invested in Burt's SpaceshipOne and the Allen Radio Telescope.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40165999)

Virgin Galatic's billionaire is Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Records fame. Paul Allen invested in Burt's SpaceshipOne and the Allen Radio Telescope.

Never let facts get in the way of a perfectly good opportunity for a rant against someone or something associated with Microsoft on Slashdot!

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40167057)

SpaceX is commercializing technology that we've been hammering out since Project Mercury in the late 1950s.

Well if you put it that way, SpaceshipOne is just a bigger version of X-15 from the 1950's also.

Well, other than being a rocket propelled airplane... they have pretty much nothing in common. Different engines, different aerodynamics, different structures, different... well, pretty much everything. Not bigger, different. Very different.
 
Falcon on the other hand is, as the OP says, scaling up and refining design concepts going back to Mercury-Redstone.

Re:Virgin Galactic Vs. SpaceX (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163687)

I know Burt Rutan and crew have the engineering skill to get this thing done, what's been holding them back?

They're doing something much harder, with fewer resources, while being tied to scaling up an existing design. And Rutan retired over a year ago.
 
And what time machine are you using to "know" they have the skill to pull off something never done at that scale before? I could next week's stock prices.

Regulations (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 2 years ago | (#40164829)

My guess is regulations. Have to prove the equipment is safe to operate.

Can be a good thing, you don't want rockets blowing up and crashing into populated areas, you don't want people paying for a tourist ride and dying regularly (particularly in a country so partial to lawyers as the USA). Perhaps the different flight paths make a big difference.

I'll let an air regulations expert take over from here - I don't know if Rutan and Musk have to satisfy different regulations because the SpaceX rocket is aimed to descend into the ocean hundreds of miles off US territory while Rutan's flights all happen over US land, and hence the process is less arduous for Musk's SpaceX team, or whether there are other factors involved.

A hundred years ago people went up in crazy stringbags for their first flight and quite a few died. The differences are that we are not so accepting of pilot and passenger deaths these days, but also that the fallout will be more significant and could hurt a lot more innocent bystanders. 50mph canvas and wood airframes are less likely to injure or kill people in the next town than modern multi-ton high speed rocket systems.

Because Virgin's spaceplane is a dead end (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 2 years ago | (#40170183)

Virgin's spaceplane is a dead end. It's that simple.

It can never achieve orbital velocities and their current design is not scalable. The whole vehicle is nothing more than an expensive analog of a "sports car" - a generally useless toy for rich people.

SpaceX, on the other hand, produces real and useful technology.

cornfused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40163135)

What I want to know what does the FAA have to do with space travel?

Re:cornfused (4, Funny)

Genda (560240) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163183)

You can't speak to NASA until you make it through their airspace... welcome to vertical bureaucracy!

Re:cornfused (2)

Githaron (2462596) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163223)

I wonder if anyone has ever considered creating a launch pad in international waters.

Re:cornfused (4, Informative)

Hartree (191324) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163249)

Yes. But more for the higher payload an equitorial launch allows than legal reasons.

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

Re:cornfused (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163507)

If you're not going into orbit an equatorial launch doesn't make a lot of difference (it did say suborbital in the summary)

But the question remains, how high does tthe FAA's jurisdiction go?
If you had a semi-orbital trajectory from say the Cook Islands (in the Pacific) and landing in the UK would the FAA still have to give you clearance?

Re:cornfused (1)

ThePeices (635180) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163671)

If you had a semi-orbital trajectory from say the Cook Islands (in the Pacific) and landing in the UK would the FAA still have to give you clearance?

Technically you dont, thats why you can fly U2 spy planes over another country without violating their airspace, and all the political fallout that would result.

Re:cornfused (2)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#40164245)

I beg to differ, countries can and do protest U-2 overflights as they do violate sovereign airspace - airspace above a certain altitude is uncontrolled, but you still have to be authorised to overfly the country to use it. Perhaps you were thinking of the Shuttle.

Re:cornfused (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40164029)

As I recall, the FAA's jurisdiction doesn't go to space. But if you go from Earth to space or vice versa, then you pass through it. And I believe the Outer Space Treaty requires the country that your business is flagged under to be liable for third party damage in space caused by your flights.

Re:cornfused (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40163293)

You didn't even read the description, did you? Before they go into space, they have to test the aerodynamic properties of the craft under full weight. Sort of like how the Enterprise was tested before the space shuttles were launched. And yes, there is also the fact that you have to clear things with the FAA for a vertical launch. People who launch high-powered rockets as a hobby have to put in some serious paperwork with the FAA after a certain height. For lower powered rocketry, there are still FAA rules. You can not launch near an airport and over certain heights, you need a space approved by the FAA. This is true for over the counter rockets. I've only launched a mile and I had to be in an approved area. We had an airplane circling us out of curiosity and we had to wait until they were a certain distance away. We launch some rockets and they returned. Had to wait, launched, they returned. Due to quite reasonable FAA rules, they were really getting on our nerves.

Re:cornfused (1)

Genda (560240) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163423)

It was North Koreans trying to get information for their missile program!!!

I think I need to lay off the Sci-Fi for a bit... (1)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163487)

At a glance, I saw 'bombing' after suborbital and a company called Virgin Galactic with a Chairman like Richard Branson sounds like it would have a 'Phase 2'.

Flame trojan removal tools from bitdefender.com (-1)

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I read this (2)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163619)

and I thought, 'So what? SpaceX is already in orbit and has damned near certified the Dragon capsule.' These guys are still struggling to get their aircraft certified. Once Burt retired, it was like their lights went out. A suborbital ride when an orbital ride is coming available? It's like getting tickets to a 7 course banquet, then showing up and getting stuck at a table with a beautiful view of the kitchen door while the potscrubber drops a bag with a Big Mac & fries on it.

Re:I read this (1)

ThePeices (635180) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163681)

and I thought, 'So what? SpaceX is already in orbit and has damned near certified the Dragon capsule.' These guys are still struggling to get their aircraft certified. Once Burt retired, it was like their lights went out. A suborbital ride when an orbital ride is coming available? It's like getting tickets to a 7 course banquet, then showing up and getting stuck at a table with a beautiful view of the kitchen door while the potscrubber drops a bag with a Big Mac & fries on it.

Wait, SpaceX is getting into the space *tourism* market?

Really?

Re:I read this (1)

sahonen (680948) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163857)

I'd be willing to bet that SpaceX will put anything into orbit that you ask them to, as long as you've got the paperwork in order. Satellites? Check. ISS cargo and crew? Check. Space tourists? Why not?

Re:I read this (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#40163859)

Wait, SpaceX is getting into the space *tourism* market?

Really?

I believe they're supposed to fly Dragons to Bigelow's space station in a few years, if Bigelow can afford to launch it.

Re:I read this (2)

tgd (2822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40165985)

Wait, SpaceX is getting into the space *tourism* market?

Really?

I believe they're supposed to fly Dragons to Bigelow's space station in a few years, if Bigelow can afford to launch it.

Its listed in their upcoming flight manifest, FWIW. But IIRC, its on the flight schedule *before* the man-rating flights of Dragon, so I would assume the launches they've got planned are to put more Bigelow test modules into orbit.

I've not seen anything that suggests Bigelow is even remotely close to actually manning their modules.

Re:I read this (3, Interesting)

Confusador (1783468) | more than 2 years ago | (#40164735)

SpaceX cargo flight to ISS: $133,000,000
VG 5 minute suborbital flight: $200,000

I'm not sure what you're trying to compare.

Re:I read this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40172721)

Also:

Failure of SpaceX (or OSC) flight: $cost of mission + $millions in losyt renvenue of its customers.
Failure of VG flight: 0.002% of the "The 1%"

How to speed up space transport industry (1)

YodaSensei (1486541) | more than 2 years ago | (#40166101)

SpaceX should rename to Space(Se)X, and switch to a less traditionnal space tourism business-model. The porn industry has been pivotal in spreading the use of the Internet (much more than sharing art pieces, scientific papers and all that nonsense) : likewise, it will be strip clubs in geosynchronous orbit and zero-G sex experience that will make space travel popular.

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