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SpaceShipTwo Tests Its Rocket Engine and Goes Supersonic

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the up-up-and-away dept.

Space 103

ehartwell writes "It's official. This morning, after WhiteKnightTwo released SpaceShipTwo at an altitude of around 50,000 feet, pilots Mark Stucky and Mike Alsbury ignited the engine for a roughly 16-second blast. After the engine cutoff, the plane coasted back to its landing back at the Mojave airport. Virgin Galactic tweeted that the pilots confirmed 'SpaceShipTwo exceeded the speed of sound on today's flight!' Its predecessor, SpaceShipOne, first went supersonic December 17, 2003."

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http://www.linuxadvocates.com/p/support.html (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43583037)

Dear Linux Advocate,

Money doesn't grow on trees. And, Linux Advocates is growing. Naturally, we anticipate operating costs and hope to be able to meet them.

But, any amount you feel you are able to donate in support of our ongoing work will be most surely appreciated and put to very good use. Your contributions keep Linux Advocates growing.

Show your support by making a donation today.

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First HOSTS! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43583059)

Huzzah

Next step (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43583101)

So after exceeding the speed of sound the next step is the speed of light? ;-)

Re:Next step (2)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year and a half ago | (#43583915)

There are a few intermediate steps. Going from the speed of sound to the speed of light is more than an order of magnitude, you realize?

Dang, I'm curious now -

  299792458 m / s / 340.29 m / s = 880991.089952687

Big number, alright - but not as big as I thought. Hmmm . . .

Re:Next step (3, Funny)

bkmoore (1910118) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584253)

The speed of sound at mean sea level 15C, or the speed of sound in a vacuum? There's a big difference.

Re:Next step (2)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584475)

They likely mean the speed of sound at ~50Kft, where it was released from the mothership. The exact speed really doesn't matter. They're testing stability at transonic and supersonic Mach numbers.

Re:Next step (2)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584853)

Woosh!

Re:Next step (5, Funny)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year and a half ago | (#43585041)

What do you mean? A woosh at sea level or in a vacuum?

Re:Next step (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year and a half ago | (#43586191)

Obviously sea level. A woosh in a vacuum would be typed like _________.

Stupid slashdot... it removes all excess white space...

Re:Next step (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43587123)

how would the Swallow breath?

Re:Next step (1)

gslj (214011) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584881)

The speed of light in a vacuum or in a Bose-Einstein condensate? There's a big difference :-)

-Gareth

Re:Next step (1)

Pseudonym (62607) | about a year and a half ago | (#43586799)

It ain't a real spaceship until you can see the Cherenkov radiation.

Re:Next step (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year and a half ago | (#43587295)

speed of sound in a vacuum

I'd love to see someone break that :)

Re:Next step (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584843)

Screw warp speed, go plaid!

Re:Next step (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#43589285)

So after exceeding the speed of sound the next step is the speed of light? ;-)

Yep, and you get a free lifetime subscription to the "space nutter club" . After all, it's just engineering.

Points at SpaceShipTwo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43583117)

Hideki!

Re:Points at SpaceShipTwo (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43583511)

Get out of your mother's basement queer.

Stop the presses (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43583127)

"It's official", company that builds experimental rockets experimented with another rocket. What is this, 1942? Was this the first such rocket to break the sound barrier? Did they measure its speed with something other than onboard (company supplied) instruments? Why in my day, the "official" badge used to mean something. Nowadays, they might as well just slap it on every McRib that goes out the door.

Re:Stop the presses (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43583555)

what have you done recently for us to give a shit about anything you have to say?

regression (-1)

globaljustin (574257) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584047)

I am embarrassed that we are celebrating this...it's like a grown man celebrating learning to ride a bicycle. Our space technology has regressed.

I know it's a trope for some, but I have to mention the X planes we had that achieved LEO in the 50s...**and** they took off and landed properly, on wheels...like a lady.

Yeah, we killed those planes.

Now we have the Air Force's space drone...which has got to be an insult to real astronauts who could certainly, easily pilot a full-size version of our space drone.

We **could** have a space plane **right now** but NASA beuracracy and their ridiculous 'risk management' proceedures that take human ability and decision out of the loop completely.

anger!

Re:regression (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43584287)

I know it's a trope for some, but I have to mention the X planes we had that achieved LEO in the 50s...**and** they took off and landed properly, on wheels...like a lady.

The X-planes that hit the edge of space were carried aloft by a modified B52 mothership (the famous "Balls Eight"), they didn't really "take off... properly, on wheels".

Re:regression (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year and a half ago | (#43589091)

He may have been thinking of the U2, which flew at the edge of (1950s) space, and took off and landed like, well, an aeroplane :)

Re:regression (4, Informative)

bkmoore (1910118) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584335)

Nope, no X-plane ever made it into orbit. They were very-high-altitude rocket planes, and were much too small to contain enough fuel to reach orbit. More fuel would necessitate a bigger plane to contain it, and hence a bigger motor to propel it, and hence more fuel to run the bigger motor, etc... That's why rockets get around this problem with multiple stages. They jettison excess mass on the way to orbit. A true "space plane" that lands and takes off on a runway and doesn't dump stages along the way would need to be Single-Stage-To-Orbit (SSTO). So far, there are no true SSTO vehicles, even rockets. A space plane would need to haul along landing gear, wings, conventional engines, etc, and would be much more difficult to do than a simple SSTO rocket.

Re:regression (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584895)

I think he meant just edge of space or was confusing it with that. I suppose you could orbit at 100km if you went fast enough and had something to keep the speed up..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-15_Flight_91 [wikipedia.org] went 100km+ "near space", air launch from a b-52. which is in the same ballpark as ss1.

I was excited about space ship one once. then I realized it wasn't something to be excited about, it's a nice plane and all, but not worth all the hubbub, I mean, it's getting way more publicity and nerd creds than what it deserves. I think the x prize goal shouldn't have been so modestly set.

spacex is pretty interesting now though.

Re:regression (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43591765)

Well, thanks, v/informative. So if we were to have a tower design that would give them a Landing Field (powered launch takeoff platform) at 45,000 feet they might could make it. Hotels on the top. Stargazers Hotel. Elevator up the center for people and supplies... and would work on the Moon & Mars. Self-building just drop the package and builds itself, minus hotels and all that I suppose. But it would take a real genius. We need to put in a request for more ten year old geniuses.

Re:Stop the presses (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year and a half ago | (#43585045)

I prefer A.L.C.O.N. to 1942.

Speed? (5, Interesting)

JamesA (164074) | about a year and a half ago | (#43583213)

Why is it taking Virgin Galactic so long for development? Is it a financing or technical issue?

SpaceX was founded in 2002 and is already making re-supply missions to the ISS. Granted that's not quite the same as human spaceflight but it seems like there's a lot faster advancement occurring at SpaceX than at Virgin Galactic.

Re:Speed? (4, Insightful)

Infiniti2000 (1720222) | about a year and a half ago | (#43583349)

It is safety issue. There's a world of difference between creating an unmanned rocket for resupply and creating a fleet of passenger space ships.

Re:Speed? (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#43583421)

SpaceX will be ferrying people soon enough.

There is a world of difference between hops up to 100 miles and actually going into an orbit.

Re:Speed? (3, Interesting)

goertzenator (878548) | about a year and a half ago | (#43583911)

SpaceShipTwo has a top speed of approx 1200 m/s, whereas low earth orbit is on the order of 8000 m/s.

Re:Speed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43592943)

Not to mention it's a completely different mode of travel. Virigin Galactic has actually proceeded tremendously faster then Space-X when you consider Space X is simply creating efficient rockets based on 1960's designs. ( Not trying to downplay their impact, it's a great thing that they are doing )
However, Virgin Galactic is tossing out nearly all but the fundamentals of the last 70 years of rocketry and space travel and starting over from scratch.

Re:Speed? (5, Insightful)

jeffmeden (135043) | about a year and a half ago | (#43583471)

Why is it taking Virgin Galactic so long for development? Is it a financing or technical issue?

SpaceX was founded in 2002 and is already making re-supply missions to the ISS. Granted that's not quite the same as human spaceflight but it seems like there's a lot faster advancement occurring at SpaceX than at Virgin Galactic.

They are approaching it from a cost-is-everything perspective, instead of an orbit-is-everything perspective. The SpaceX supply missions run at least $20,000 per orbited kilo. For a person to buy a ticket, even if they were treated as cargo, would cost in the $1.5M range. For Virgin Galactic to say that they will get a human up and down (safely) for around 1/10th that price, requires approaching the problem a lot differently (for example, a multi vehicle setup).

Re:Speed? (2)

NoImNotNineVolt (832851) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584351)

Virgin Galactic is not saying they will get a human up and down to orbit safely for around 1/10th that price.

Apples to apples, please.

SpaceShipOne took humans to "space", but it seems to have been designed and developed in a fraction of the time it's taken them with SpaceShipTwo. Both had to deal with having a man-rated craft. Both had to deal with getting to "space", or 100km altitude. I'd imagine the bulk (if not all) of the design work was done before SpaceShipOne's launch, so I'm really having a tough time understanding why building the second iteration is taking so much longer.

Re:Speed? (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584647)

Virgin Galactic is not saying they will get a human up and down to orbit safely for around 1/10th that price.

Apples to apples, please.

SpaceShipOne took humans to "space", but it seems to have been designed and developed in a fraction of the time it's taken them with SpaceShipTwo. Both had to deal with having a man-rated craft. Both had to deal with getting to "space", or 100km altitude. I'd imagine the bulk (if not all) of the design work was done before SpaceShipOne's launch, so I'm really having a tough time understanding why building the second iteration is taking so much longer.

I am not an expert in this field but some observations are apt: 'Two is a pilotable, larger craft whereas 'One was a smaller, shoot-up-parachue-down craft. The design differences are pretty big; they surely could have been working on the design for 'Two the whole time, but not much of the work on 'One carried over.

Re:Speed? (1)

NoImNotNineVolt (832851) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584691)

Then what was the point of One? Was it not a prototype that is representative of the intended final design?

If the only thing the X Prize did was encourage a giant pissing contest without directly resulting in real advances in affordable human spaceflight, then the crown for "Most Awesome Ansari" will have to go from Anousheh and Amir all the way back to Aziz.

Re:Speed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43586285)

It was a prototype that represented *parts* of the intended final design.

Also, that particular X-prize was for taking humans to an extreme altitude ("the edge of space", no velocity and thus no orbiting mentioned). It was not a prize for generating a profitable edge-of-space tourism company, or a profitable sub-orbital/edge-of-space intercontinental rapid transportation company. Those are things Virgin is or may be working on now.

The lift aircraft, the hybrid-fuel restartable rocket motor, the steerable, flyable, landable pressure vessel design, and the flight control and navigation avionics design are all things that Virgin may be significantly re-using from the first version.

Re:Speed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43584833)

SpaceShip One landed on a runway, on wheels. No parachutes were used

Re:Speed? (2)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43585465)

I am not an expert in this field but some observations are apt: 'Two is a pilotable, larger craft whereas 'One was a smaller, shoot-up-parachue-down craft. The design differences are pretty big; they surely could have been working on the design for 'Two the whole time, but not much of the work on 'One carried over.

One would expect design differences given the larger size of SpaceShipTwo, the greater need for reliability as a passenger carrying vehicle instead of a prototype, and various performance and safety issues that were discovered with SpaceShipOne or with the 2007 accident (that killed three people and set back the attempts to develop a propulsion system for SpaceShipTwo).

So given that, I think a lot of the work on SpaceShipOne carries over. They have the same basic design of both the carrier aircraft and the rocket vehicle. They use the same sort of aerobraking system for the rocket vehicle. They know of a number of issues that need to be dealt with (such as instability of SpaceShipTwo once it separates from the carrier aircraft and boosts to its suborbital phase).

Re:Speed? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584723)

Why is it taking Virgin Galactic so long for development? Is it a financing or technical issue?

SpaceX was founded in 2002 and is already making re-supply missions to the ISS. Granted that's not quite the same as human spaceflight but it seems like there's a lot faster advancement occurring at SpaceX than at Virgin Galactic.

They are approaching it from a cost-is-everything perspective, instead of an orbit-is-everything perspective. The SpaceX supply missions run at least $20,000 per orbited kilo. For a person to buy a ticket, even if they were treated as cargo, would cost in the $1.5M range. For Virgin Galactic to say that they will get a human up and down (safely) for around 1/10th that price, requires approaching the problem a lot differently (for example, a multi vehicle setup).

I never understood why not just do balloon to as high as a balloon goes and back.. would be lot cheaper. and do it the jump way. I'd rather pay for that than the near-space jump with virgin galactic.

anyhow, seems just like a big waste of money all and all. sure, it's cheaper. but it's still useless.

Re:Speed? (1)

kellymcdonald78 (2654789) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584783)

SpaceX was founded on the the "cost-is-everything" perspective as well. Elon's whole purpose in founding SpaceX was to substantially reduce the costs of payload to orbit. BTW, Falcon 9.1 prices to orbit are currently ~$4000/kg, while Falcon 9 Heavy should be half that, also if they are successful recovering and reusing stages, prices should drop below $1000/kg

Re:Speed? (3, Interesting)

rocket rancher (447670) | about a year and a half ago | (#43589779)

Why is it taking Virgin Galactic so long for development? Is it a financing or technical issue?

SpaceX was founded in 2002 and is already making re-supply missions to the ISS. Granted that's not quite the same as human spaceflight but it seems like there's a lot faster advancement occurring at SpaceX than at Virgin Galactic.

They are approaching it from a cost-is-everything perspective, instead of an orbit-is-everything perspective. The SpaceX supply missions run at least $20,000 per orbited kilo. For a person to buy a ticket, even if they were treated as cargo, would cost in the $1.5M range. For Virgin Galactic to say that they will get a human up and down (safely) for around 1/10th that price, requires approaching the problem a lot differently (for example, a multi vehicle setup).

For Virgin, I don't think it's a financing or technical issue, because the purpose of Virgin Galactic is marketing for the Virgin brand, not producing a fleet of passenger-carrying spaceships. It puts Branson's brand in front of geeks, and geeks are a legitimate market demographic who can be manipulated by marketing propaganda just like any other market demographic. After all, smart geeks like to think they are investing their money in smart, geeky ways. As long as Branson keeps up the appearance of creating that fleet, he wins -- geeks will be able to cite Virgin Galactic in defense of the presence of any Branson-tainted investment in their portfolio, even if Virgin Galactic never puts another single human in space.

For SpaceX, cost-is-everything is indeed one driving factor, but getting payload tariffs as low a possible is a means to an end, not the end itself. Unlike Branson, Musk is a neo-industrialist who is deliberately and successfully following in the footsteps of Harriman, Vanderbilt, Carnegie, and Rockefeller. He is using technology to create a self-financing infrastructure that will enable the (lucrative, he expects) exploitation of off-planet resources, in almost the exact same way his predecessors used technology 125 years ago to create the infrastructure necessary to exploit terrestrial resources (and along the way created the social, political, and economic system that put America at the top of the industrial food-chain for nearly a century.) Musk's game plan is thus materially little different than that of any robber baron from the late 19th century. It remains to be seen whether or not history will repeat itself -- I haven't heard any manifest-destiny claims being issued from Musk's PR department yet, but I imagine it's only a matter of time, if he sticks to his current plan.

Re:Speed? (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year and a half ago | (#43583493)

You're right. It's much more difficult. You need around two orders of magnitude more fuel to actually make orbit.

Re:Speed? (1)

pavon (30274) | about a year and a half ago | (#43583531)

Even more aptly, it only took 3 years for SpaceShipOne to go from concept [scaled.com] to first powered flight [wikipedia.org] . And a little less than an year after that to complete the X-prize. SpaceShipTwo has taken three times as long to get to the same point in development. I know that building the craft for commercial customers and not experimental jet pilots would take some extra time, but I figured most of that would be testing related, and they would have gotten to this point long ago. That engine explosion must have really set them back a long time.

Re:Speed? (1)

tgd (2822) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584621)

Why is it taking Virgin Galactic so long for development? Is it a financing or technical issue?

SpaceX was founded in 2002 and is already making re-supply missions to the ISS. Granted that's not quite the same as human spaceflight but it seems like there's a lot faster advancement occurring at SpaceX than at Virgin Galactic.

Politics, mostly. There's plenty written up on what has been going on, if you do some Google searching.

A lot of it boils down to the difference between a company that is good at research, and a company that is good at manufacturing. Another factor was the explosion in New Mexico, which set things back and reportedly demoralized some of the key people involved.

Re:Speed? (1)

ThePeices (635180) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584767)

Why is it taking Virgin Galactic so long for development?

Space is hard.

Re:Speed? (1)

confused one (671304) | about a year and a half ago | (#43585049)

Scaled Composites had to develop two separate vehicles... The lift vehicle and the sub-orbital vehicle. There was a substantial amount of testing for the White Knight 2 to complete before they could start testing the sub-orbital vehicle.

Re:Speed? (0)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year and a half ago | (#43585077)

Why is it taking Virgin Galactic so long for development? Is it a financing or technical issue?

They're still working on the list of hairdressers and telephone sanitizers.

WhiteKnightTwo, SpaceShipTwo (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43583237)

theycutdownonspacestosaveonfuelcosts?

Re:WhiteKnightTwo, SpaceShipTwo (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | about a year and a half ago | (#43583307)

Sign writers charge by the word.

Re:WhiteKnightTwo, SpaceShipTwo (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | about a year and a half ago | (#43583751)

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?

Re:WhiteKnightTwo, SpaceShipTwo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43585931)

haha, Benny Hill

Terribly Exciting - 10 years ago (2, Insightful)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year and a half ago | (#43583339)

When Spaceship One blasted off to win the X-Prize. I remember being very excited. I watched the launch and read as many articles about it as I could.

That was 10 years ago. Now we have SpaceX and Orbital Sciences making orbit. Tremendous new things seem possible now with Falcon Heavy and Grasshopper reusable stage coming in the pipeline. SpaceShipTwo? A bigger version of SpaceShipOne that carries passengers, but still only suborbital with no further prospects. Where is the Tier Two orbital program that Rutan hinted at? Why did it take so long to get SS2 off the ground? Did Scaled get lost and rudderless with Burt retiring? Did they lack funding? What's the deal?

Re:Terribly Exciting - 10 years ago (5, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | about a year and a half ago | (#43583467)

SpaceX charge rather more than $200,000 per seat to fly into space. And there's a big difference between NASA 'man rating' and being safe enough to routinely fly tourists; if SS2 flew daily and was as 'man rated' as the shuttle, they'd kill everyone on board every two months.

Re:Terribly Exciting - 10 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43584435)

But if we wanted to compare apples to apples, we should compare the cost of a flight on SS2 to XCOR's Lynx which is supposed to cost less than half as much for basically the same roller coaster ride.

I'm curious what VG would charge for an orbital flight although I don't think they'll offer one in the foreseeable future.

Re:Terribly Exciting - 10 years ago (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43585513)

I'm curious what VG would charge for an orbital flight although I don't think they'll offer one in the foreseeable future.

Let's not get too hasty. I'd like to see the suborbital market work first. It is possible that many people will pay to fly to orbit, but we know for sure that there's a lot more people who will pay to go to other points on the Earth's surface in a timely manner.

Suborbital rocket flight won't truly be competitive with normal air flight on a cost basis (the latter is a multiple of propellant cost and rockets need to carry a lot more propellant than jet engines do). But if they can get the cost and travel time down enough, they can come up with something that is competitive and profitable, even without going into space directly.

Re:Terribly Exciting - 10 years ago (2)

peragrin (659227) | about a year and a half ago | (#43585659)

Nasa had an astronaut death rate of 1.5%. For every 100 Astronauts that went into space on top of a giant explosion 1.5 were killed.

While no where near safe for the general population. It is comparable to every other man rated space fairing vehicle that uses semi controlled explosions to move.

Re:Terribly Exciting - 10 years ago (5, Interesting)

sixoh1 (996418) | about a year and a half ago | (#43583533)

I got a chance to meet Rutan a few years ago here in Colorado Springs at the USAFA - he spoke passionately to the cadets about the fact that when he started in aerospace the speed/power/altitude curve was bent upwards, and then after the shuttle it bent back over itself into decline (think about the fact that the SR-71 is the fastest aircraft in the world right now, and we haven't built a new one in a LONG time). Then he talked about his work, building year after year on the EZ and other aircraft to become an expert at composite fabrication and aircraft.

The gist of his talk was loosely - `get out there and do it - and this time STAY`. I'm pretty sure if you asked him why Scaled is running so "slowly" you'll get an earful about how much they've learned. What is missing from Scaled is the money and industry savvy that Elon pumped into SpaceX. Scaled was really only made to win the X prize, and even with Brason on-board hyping the hell out of it, Rutan is not a "run flat-out" kind of guy. A big difference between the software engineer mindset (Elon) and the test-pilot "I damn sure hope this plane flys" aerospace engineers.

Re:Terribly Exciting - 10 years ago (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43583883)

Yes, stupid physics and all those pesky limits. Get out there and stay? In an utterly hostile radiation-blasted vacuum with nothing in it? What for? For the symbolism? Because that's all it is at this point.

Re:Terribly Exciting - 10 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43584587)

Yes, stupid physics and all those pesky limits. Get out there and stay? In an utterly hostile radiation-blasted vacuum with nothing in it? What for? For the symbolism? Because that's all it is at this point.

You're going to die of old age, QA. You're mortal. You will inherit the Earth. The rest of us - our descendants, though it take a thousand years - will go to the stars.

Re:Terribly Exciting - 10 years ago (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584969)

What for? For the symbolism?

Symbolism is nice if it helps with funding, but no.

You do it because the engineering will only happen if it is needed. We'll never figure out how to live in a hostile radiation-blasted vacuum if we aren't even trying.

Re:Terribly Exciting - 10 years ago (2)

lennier (44736) | about a year and a half ago | (#43586437)

You do it because the engineering will only happen if it is needed. We'll never figure out how to live in a hostile radiation-blasted vacuum if we aren't even trying.

And we want to live in a hostile radiation-blasted vacuum.... why, exactly?

Re:Terribly Exciting - 10 years ago (1)

cstec (521534) | about a year and a half ago | (#43587747)

And we want to live in a hostile radiation-blasted vacuum.... why, exactly?

To once and for all prove that Twinkies are immortal.

Re:Terribly Exciting - 10 years ago (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#43590401)

Because eventually our current habitat will be no more. It's not exactly an emergency, but some forward progress would be nice.

Re:Terribly Exciting - 10 years ago (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a year and a half ago | (#43585359)

"SR-71 is the fastest aircraft in the world right now"

That we know of. There have been hints at other craft going faster, namely Aurora [wikipedia.org]

Re:Terribly Exciting - 10 years ago (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year and a half ago | (#43583575)

Slashdot sure has changed, most of the people posting don't even comprehend the difference between what they did and say a concord.

Re:Terribly Exciting - 10 years ago (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year and a half ago | (#43583577)

Actually, Orbital Sciences has been putting payloads into orbit since 1990, using converted ballistic missiles.

Re:Terribly Exciting - 10 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43583835)

Only in space can going to the same place for decades the same way be called "tremendous new things". Space is as obsolete as a coal locomotive, they also are only kept by weird rich people.

it was mostly hype, man... (0)

globaljustin (574257) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584213)

Did they lack funding? What's the deal?

They suck at space. Space is a bitch of a place to try to do business. Operational decisions **must** be made by engineers and astronauts...not businesspeople or actuarial risk analysts.

First, I was happy to see SS1, but it was also sad. Why? It was 40's technology dressed up with plastic and circle windows. SS1 was mostly **hype**

2. SS1 was a C- business concept at best. Hype aside, people need stuff in space, so even though we all knew SS1 was kinda silly, we figured it would be the first of many (progreessively better) companies. It would *start a trend* so we endured and played along with the hype.

The progress never happened. Why? Geeks have great concepts but there is a disconnect between the concept and the execution. All the innovation gets stripped when you let sub-moronic 'investors' make the operational decisions.

Solution: We must speak with a united voice at what needs to happen next in space. No singularity bullshit. No ridiculously expensive missions to 'find life'...no...fuck that shit. We go to asteroids and the moon and we *fucking mine that shit*

mining = money = more spaceflight

Re:it was mostly hype, man... (1)

lennier (44736) | about a year and a half ago | (#43586491)

We go to asteroids and the moon and we *fucking mine that shit*

And once we have it, what do we do with it?

Getting space ore down to Earth in a rocket cargo hold will pay off only if it's solid gold/platinum, last I checked the ballpark numbers.

De-orbiting entire asteroids the cheap way is not particularly fun for those near the impact site.

Leaving it in space for colonists to build with literally begs the question: what would be the economic reason those people to live in space? To mine more stuff so they can build more homes for more miners? That's a nice pyramid scheme, but we can already run those cheaply on Earth.

Re:it was mostly hype, man... (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#43589577)

Leaving it in space for colonists to build with literally begs the question: what would be the economic reason those people to live in space? To mine more stuff so they can build more homes for more miners? That's a nice pyramid scheme, but we can already run those cheaply on Earth.

The stock space nutter response is that they will build starships. Which would be fine if (a) we could build starships and (b) there was anything within reasonable human travel distance worth visiting.

Re:Terribly Exciting - 10 years ago (2)

k6mfw (1182893) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584309)

Al Stern at SETIcon II said these suborbital flights have generated interests among certain researchers because cost is reasonable and researchers themselves can fly and conduct the experiment. Some sub-orbitals flights might be too low and others get to that sweet spot. Stern also made some mention about sub-orbital flights into areas where meteors break-up which seems to imply gather samples. Although this can be done by remote control, Al Stern says look at university professors, they go to the basement themselves to conduct the experiment (or get a grad student). They do space things by remote because there is no other choice. He mentioned some other stuff (I cannot precisely remember it all) and was quite enthusiastic about commercial space.

Get the DVD, "Commercial Space and Suborbital Science - Wave of the Future, $10.00, featuring Alan Stern, Peter Jenniskens, Ariel Waldman, David Knight. Moderated by Franck Marchis." at http://seticon.com/products/#category=saturday [seticon.com]

long term goal? (1)

farenht (98981) | about a year and a half ago | (#43583383)

What is their long term goal for this program? Surely it can't be just taking tourist to the edge of space and back. Could this lead to high speed air transport or something?

Re:long term goal? (1)

sixoh1 (996418) | about a year and a half ago | (#43583571)

Branson wants to make Virgin Galactic profitable just doing tourism - think about it, for the moment he's got an exclusive market for the sub-orbital hops, and a turn-time/serviceability of SS2 being a day or less. This is a much better revenue stream than the one-a-quarter rocket launches for SpaceX, and is widely scalable at $100k or less a pop. Far more seat occupiers at that rate than the $20M per Dennis Tito ratio for the full-orbit experience.

Re:long term goal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43583703)

Long term goal is both Space tourism and eventually destination flights. They've made predictions that from their Space Port in NM landing in a newly built Space Port in...say Abu Dhabi (go where the money is?) it could be a 2 hour procedure from walking in, to stepping out (in a equaly desolate desert location, but now different continent). Which would then include there abouts 6 minutes of weightlessness. With more space port locations. Asia/Europe/South America. Not only could they make the tourism to space more accessable (at 200,000 a ticket though could you not afford the ticket on conventional plane?) but also increase the number of "get there quick" destinations.

Course that is all speculation, other than carrying your passport and immigration forms etc. for wherever you may end up I don't think you'd be able to take luggage. So, practicality? Nearly non-existant. Cool factor? Huge.

SpaceShipOne (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43583601)

I just wanna' know why Obama hasn't already boarded SpaceShipOne and headed off for the stars...

Re:SpaceShipOne (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43585315)

Childish. Grow up.

These flights have nothing to do really with space (5, Interesting)

hsmith (818216) | about a year and a half ago | (#43583803)

I think the "Space" part of it is a side show to what Virgin is really pushing for.

The bigger goal, IMO is being able to enable flight from the US/Europe to Australia in a matter of hours by a "plane" jumping into low Earth orbit and circling the globe in 2 hours. Imagine being able to "jump" to the other side of the Earth in an 1 hour? A 2 hour flight to China? Australia? Europe?

It takes 88 minutes in LOE to circle the globe.

It would simply be revolutionary. IMO that is the near term end goal of Branson's interest in space flight. I think the "manned space flights" are tangential to what the immediate goals are. Hammering out the science to allow cheap cross earth flights, is simply incredible.

Re:These flights have nothing to do really with sp (4, Informative)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year and a half ago | (#43584615)

There is a vast difference between SSO, or even SST, and what you propose. SSO and SST just go straight up and straight back down. There is very little ground track in their flight envelope. In order to get to orbit, you need to go straight up, and then go about double that to really get out of the atmosphere, and then tack on around 8km/s velocity. You're looking at a few dozen times more energy, and around a hundred times more fuel. A sub-orbital transcontinental flight won't need quite that much, but you're still way up there in comparison. Add in the fact that you're actually going to need a real thermal protection system for re-entry. They're not even in the ballpark.

Re:These flights have nothing to do really with sp (3, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43585583)

They're not even in the ballpark.

Energy is not hard to come by. SpaceShipOne generated about a sixth of the delta-v it'd need to reach orbit. I consider that fairly close given the type of engine and relatively low mass fraction. SST is supposed to have slightly better performance in that regard. But neither is intended for this particular role.

But I think naysayers are overstating the difficulty of more delta v and a different thermal protection system. Sure, it might need a radical vehicle redesign. But guess who demonstrated that they can design such suborbital vehicles?

Re:These flights have nothing to do really with sp (4, Informative)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year and a half ago | (#43586133)

I think you're understating the difficulty of more d-V. Six times the d-V doesn't simply mean six times the fuel. Energy is proportional to velocity squared, so you immediately need thirty-six times the energy. When you factor in the exponential behavior of the rocket equation, and the fact that you need yet more fuel just to take up the additional fuel needed to accelerate the spacecraft itself, your fuel consumption balloons fast.

Re:These flights have nothing to do really with sp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43587769)

Damn right. Those who do not understand rocket equation should go play Kerbal Space Program.

The difference between a rocket that can make it 100km up and a rocket that can actually reach stable orbit with any substantial payload is staggering.

Re:These flights have nothing to do really with sp (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43590199)

Finally, you mention the rocket equation! I find it interesting how the people who talk about how hard it is, tend to be weak on the actual math. So you have some inkling of the difficulties. Now, use a more efficient engine, for example, LOX/kerosene optimized for vacuum.

I also was a bit in error. Delta-v for SpaceShipOne was a quarter what they needed to get in orbit. Using LOX/kerosene would boost that delta-v by about 40%. Sure, you still need a high propellant to dry mass ratio (something like 12 or 13 to 1 for achieving 9,500m/s starting from 300 m/s at 350 sec ISP, there's also a minute boost from the altitude, something like 20-40 m/s equivalent in delta-v and drop in air resistance and gravity losses, I'll stab at another 300 m/s) for a very good LOX/kerosene engine), but as I mentioned earlier, I don't think that's so hard.

For reentry, the key is surface area. The larger the cross sectional area of the return vehicle relative to its mass, then the less heating the vehicle will endure. Since these vehicles are launched above most of the atmosphere, the constraint on surface area (for air resistance losses and stress on vehicle) are greatly reduced. At 50k feet, I understand that pressure is about a tenth what it is at sea level. So those forces from air resistance tend to be a factor of ten smaller.

Re:These flights have nothing to do really with sp (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592635)

I also was a bit in error. Delta-v for SpaceShipOne was a quarter what they needed to get in orbit.

You were right the first time. SSO only reached 112km, which is roughly equivalent to 1.5km/s of d-V. Between altitude and orbital velocity, LEO is around 9.5-10km/s. That's 6.5 times higher.

Re:These flights have nothing to do really with sp (1)

pavon (30274) | about a year and a half ago | (#43587111)

In order to get to orbit, you need to go straight up, and then go about double that to really get out of the atmosphere, and then tack on around 8km/s velocity.

But you don't need to go orbital, just a ballistic. While the trajectories of some of the longer flights like Sydney to London are approaching the energy needed for orbit, there are plenty of medium length ones like LA to NY, or NY to London that are well within the grasp of a scaled-up version of SS2.

Re:These flights have nothing to do really with sp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593173)

Have you not paid any attention to their design? The feather mechanism is supposed to negate the need for a heat shield.... keep the hull well below terminal velocity, no rapid heat up.

Re:These flights have nothing to do really with sp (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year and a half ago | (#43594189)

"Terminal velocity"... I don't think that means what you think it means...

Re:These flights have nothing to do really with sp (1)

isorox (205688) | about a year and a half ago | (#43587033)

I think the "Space" part of it is a side show to what Virgin is really pushing for.

The bigger goal, IMO is being able to enable flight from the US/Europe to Australia in a matter of hours by a "plane" jumping into low Earth orbit and circling the globe in 2 hours. Imagine being able to "jump" to the other side of the Earth in an 1 hour? A 2 hour flight to China? Australia? Europe?

It takes 88 minutes in LOE to circle the globe.

It would simply be revolutionary. IMO that is the near term end goal of Branson's interest in space flight. I think the "manned space flights" are tangential to what the immediate goals are. Hammering out the science to allow cheap cross earth flights, is simply incredible.

Sadly I'm not sure the bulk market is there. You used to be able to hop on a plane in London and land in New York 3 hours later. Now it takes over 7.

I could see a market for a charter - sometimes as a business you need someone to be somewhere, and it's costing you $100k/hour that they aren't there, but that would require a lot of planes to be in key places ready for immediate launch (NY, LA, London, Tokyo, Singapore)

Re:These flights have nothing to do really with sp (2)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#43589685)

Yes, it's a real pity that there's no way of instantly communicating with people on the other side of the world.

Seriously, apart from the military, who the cares whether they can fly half way round the world in an hour for a face to face meeting?

If it could be done for the same price as a current air fare, fair enough, we'd all like to get to our holiday destination quicker. But when you're talking about $100K+ a trip, it seems like a tiny and uninteresting market.

Yawn (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43584473)

The SR-71 was deployed in 1964 and had an operational elevation limit of 80,0000ft. What excactly are we breaking out the champaign for?

Re:Yawn (1)

isorox (205688) | about a year and a half ago | (#43587039)

The SR-71 was deployed in 1964 and had an operational elevation limit of 80,0000ft. What excactly are we breaking out the champaign for?

It's Cham-pag-en

Re:Yawn (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43587403)

Fucking hell slashdot really is finished

Re:Yawn (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#43589729)

The SR-71 was deployed in 1964 and had an operational elevation limit of 80,0000ft. What excactly are we breaking out the champaign for?

It's Cham-pag-en

When pointing out a spelling mistake, it's customary to provide the correct answer.

Hint, it's not "Champagen".

Re:Yawn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43590927)

I thought it was a Futurama reference.

Re:Yawn (1)

isorox (205688) | about a year and a half ago | (#43591777)

I thought it was a Futurama reference.

Indeed, I am a bit of a coin-o-seur.

It seems that the slashdot demographic isn't what it used to be.

Not So Sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43584875)

Photos of the Test showed a very dirty (looking) burning exhaust thrust, much like the Concord when it crashed on take-off from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport: i.e. possible blown fuel feed pump. Maybe it went supersonic after the pilot shutdown the engine and went into a dive to extinguish any burning of aft section of the craft.

Be a long time before this thing goes 'Commercial.' I would not buy a ticket having seen this.

Re:Not So Sure (3, Informative)

confused one (671304) | about a year and a half ago | (#43585089)

It's not a jet turbine burning kerosene with oxygen, it is a hybrid rocket motor. It is burning a solid composite material with a nitrous oxide oxidizer. It will never be a "clean looking" burn; expect something closer to what the solid boosters on the shuttle produced.

Re:Not So Sure (1)

twosat (1414337) | about a year and a half ago | (#43587145)

The RocketMotorTwo engine was designed and built by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the company that is also developing its own space plane, the lifting-body Dream Chaser.

Did it really break the sound barrier? (1)

aphelion_rock (575206) | about a year and a half ago | (#43585477)

Looking at the flame out of the back of the craft it looks more like a raw fuel dump than something that will sent the spaceship into supersonic flight.

16 sec burst (1)

froth-bite (2777385) | about a year and a half ago | (#43587091)

sounds like kittyhawk. interesting to think that first steps are so tentative decades later. we haven't changed that much, it seems.
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