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SpaceShipTwo Goes Supersonic Over the Mojave In 2nd Test Flight

timothy posted about a year ago | from the wouldn't-turn-down-a-ride dept.

Space 58

NASA wasn't the only organization with a successful launch this week; Virgin Galactic might not have any firm plans for a launch to the moon, but this week successfully tested SpaceShip Two for the second time, hopefully bringing the era of (more) affordable space tourism even closer. "The test began when the company’s WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft took off with SpaceShipTwo at about 8 a.m. local time from the Mojave Air and Space Port. From there, the mated aircraft ascended to 46,000 feet, whereupon SpaceShipTwo was released from the carrier aircraft and ignited the rocket motor for a 20-second burn to an altitude of 69,000 feet. SpaceShipTwo achieved its maximum speed of Mach 1.43 during this portion of the mission, then returned to Mojave at 9:25 a.m. local time. Upon landing, the test pilots at the controls of SpaceShipTwo, Mark Stucky and Clint Nichols, both pilots for Scaled Composites, reported a flawless flight." The L.A. Times' story on the launch has some great video footage, too.

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58 comments

They should work on a sea based launch platform (4, Funny)

jd2112 (1535857) | about a year ago | (#44787905)

It's only fitting that a carrier aircraft be launched from an aircraft carrier.

Re:They should work on a sea based launch platform (4, Insightful)

Lendrick (314723) | about a year ago | (#44787985)

I wonder if this will ever be viable as a form of travel rather than just space tourism, or if it will always be cost prohibitive. Most people can't afford a quarter million dollars, but for a few thousand dollars, I think a lot of people would love the opportunity to fly in space at Mach 2+ and get across the country in a couple of hours.

Re:They should work on a sea based launch platform (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44788387)

if people were prepared to pay extra to get far away a bit faster, concord would still be in service, or at least succeeded

Concorde's problem was sonic boom (1)

mathew42 (2475458) | about a year ago | (#44788651)

While cost of flights was an issue, the other problem was the limited number of routes because of resident's objections to takeoff noise and sonic boom. It is plausible that if Boeing had developed a competitor that may have lessened political opposition in the USA to flights landing at airports.

Re:Concorde's problem was sonic boom (1)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#44790165)

The other problem with the Concorde was its rather limited flight range. New York to London was just about at its extreme limit (on a routine basis with fuel reserves and no in-flight refueling like is done for military aircraft). That ended up making otherwise much more profitable routes like Los Angeles to Sydney or even San Francisco to Tokyo something that was physically impossible to fly with that aircraft. Had the aircraft been able to fly these routes (nobody cared about sonic booms over the Pacific Ocean), it likely would have continued to fly.

Even London to New York was still profitable though... at least until 9/11 and airport screenings basically killed any advantage for supersonic flight where your wait in the airport just to get to the gate was longer than the flight itself. The TSA really screwed up the airline industry in more ways than is obvious on the surface, and they have definitely killed any attempt to build a next generation of the Concorde at least as long as they continue to do the security theater and deliberately try to remind Americans that they are now subjects and not citizens.

Another problem is that plowing through the air on any aircraft, at supersonic velocities, induces some friction on the wings that causes all sorts of problems due to high temperatures on the airframe surfaces. This requires more exotic materials and causes many of the problems for why it is so expensive to build SST vehicles in general. It works for military aircraft where expense isn't as huge of a factor and the advantages of high speed can be justified. Besides, even for military aircraft they are increasingly going for slower aircraft that can be "stealthy" rather than fast. If you are going to need the fancy composite materials for high temperatures anyway, you might as well design the vehicle to go into space... where surprisingly you don't need to worry so much about sustained high temperatures on the wing surfaces like you do for supersonic vehicles.

I really doubt that the SST [wikipedia.org] would have done any better than the Concorde, and its cancellation was mostly an economic one rather than political, even though politics did play a role. That SST plane by Boeing was pretty much limited by the same constraints as the Concorde with some additional problems that the Concorde engineers were able to resolve. There are some other companies who are considering supersonic vehicles, including a business jet company (where issues of airport queues really don't matter). If there will be something to change, it will be a vehicle made with 21st Century materials (mostly composite materials that simply weren't available in the 1960's) and likely be sub-orbital as well.

Re:Concorde's problem was sonic boom (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44792755)

The range issue would have been eliminated with Concorde 1.1. The need for reheat on takeoff, and extra long runways would also have been removed.
The updated design would even be far cheaper to build due to a huge reduction in the use of those exotic alloys. Every production Concorde was filled with torque and temp sensors as if they were all prototypes. It turned out that the proportion of the wing that needed high-temp alloys was far smaller than expected, this also freed up most of the wing for use as fuel tankage.

Just a few percent improvement here and there would have resulted in a drastically more practical plane, but the orders dried up when the FAA banned it from most US airports.

Re:They should work on a sea based launch platform (2)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#44788705)

The one thing I've learned by following Scaled Composites over the last decade, they aren't going to make this affordable. I doubt they'll achieve their goal anytime soon if ever. They seem to have stalled out, progress is ridiculously slow. Very disappointing.

Elon Musk seems to be doing things far faster as far as commercial spaceflight goes.

Re:They should work on a sea based launch platform (1)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#44789947)

I wonder if this will ever be viable as a form of travel rather than just space tourism, or if it will always be cost prohibitive. Most people can't afford a quarter million dollars, but for a few thousand dollars, I think a lot of people would love the opportunity to fly in space at Mach 2+ and get across the country in a couple of hours.

The funny thing is that when you get to significant distances where suborbital spaceflight matters, you might as well try for orbital spaceflight [thespacereview.com] as the energy needed is the same or even more.

A couple of years back Scaled Composites + Virgin Galactic did suggest they would build a "Spaceship three" [wikipedia.org] vehicle. I haven't heard anything about it for some time and it seems like that idea has been dropped or at least shelved for a very distant future (more than a decade away). I suspect that if the current vehicle produced by The Spaceship Company [wikipedia.org] (yeah, that is its name) finally gets into operational status and some of the deposit backlog becomes actual flying customers, you will start to hear about the next generation.

Some interesting other businesses besides people going for thrill rides includes bona fide space research, where there are some people interested in using SS2 for testing components on spacecraft prior to sending them into orbit. They currently use sounding rockets, parabolic aircraft, drop towers, and other sorts of systems for this kind of activity, and it is cheap enough (in comparison to orbital spaceflight) that it provides a good practical testing environment. Indeed several universities and even NASA research grants have already been signed explicitly to do this kind of activity. Many of these contracts are generic enough that they are not tied just to Virgin Galactic either, and this looks like a long term and sustained application for this vehicle even if the trill ride market dries up completely.

Point to point delivery of some manufactured goods is definitely an application being looked at, where being able to deliver a component over a distance of several thousand miles in a couple of hours would be considered justification for a flight all by itself. Yes, there are some things that spending a quarter of a million dollars or more to save a few hours in shipping time would be worth the effort. It also gets the rather strange notion of delivering something if "it absolutely, positively, has to get there yesterday" (when crossing in the right direction over the International Date Line).

Another application that has been considered is delivering Rangers or SEALs in a "space plane" that could literally go anywhere on the Earth and arrive in just a few hours. There are definitely some drawbacks to such a vehicle and it has been debated as to if it is even worth bothering to try this concept at all, but there are definitely potential military applications for a vehicle like this.

I mention these other applications for revenue that Virgin Galactic and/or the Spaceship Company could have simply to point out that the only way it will become cheap enough for mere mortals like you and I to use something like this is if other much more profitable business opportunities also exist using the same technology. I'm sure other business opportunities can be found for a vehicle like this, but unfortunately most business ideas for space usually require substantially cheaper transportation options than currently exist, thus profit margins so low (at least to start with) that even well financed companies with investors looking at the long term prospects are unlikely to invest in developing such vehicles. It really is trying to find a way to make a profit, and once that happens other ways to utilize a vehicle like this can be found.

I'm not convinced that the price will go down that much simply because the just slightly cheaper business opportunities simply aren't there.

Re: They should work on a sea based launch platfor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44790083)

Why not just put an aircraft carrier in space? I mean... What year is this?

Re: They should work on a sea based launch platfor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44792321)

Like a real life Space Battleship Yamato.

Re: They should work on a sea based launch platfor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44803257)

More like Macross really

Re: They should work on a sea based launch platfor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44791479)

I seen the photos. The pilots eyes had popped out and they now look chuwhawas, perminantly.
Super sonic is only for the ugly.

Re:They should work on a sea based launch platform (1)

GNious (953874) | about 10 months ago | (#44796185)

see: Copenhagen Suborbitals's launch platform.

War for Israel (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44787907)

Good evening, Goyim. Ready to go to war for Israel? Forward, MARCH!

Re:War for Israel (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44787957)

Yeah

Drop the bomb

Exterminate them all

Re:War for Israel (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year ago | (#44789515)

The last thing that Israel wants is for USA to take out Assad and thus stop the civil war in Syria
If the Arabs are killing each other its good for Israel.

Re:War for Israel (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44788019)

Actually, Juedenfett, the answer is no.

I and many other Americans are tired of American policy being influenced by
Israel. Let them sink or swim without US help.

Why not just link to the youtube vid directly (4, Informative)

fewnorms (630720) | about a year ago | (#44787933)

The L.A. Times' story on the launch has some great video footage, too.

Yeah, it's a good thing we have to visit the L.A. Times site to see what is basically nothing more than an embedded video from YouTube [youtube.com] .

Some people actually rtfa. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44788003)

n/t

Re:Some people actually rtfa. (1)

adolf (21054) | about a year ago | (#44788755)

When TFL in TFS describes TFV instead of TFA, R'ing TFA only happens by mistake.

Besides, embedded videos suck.

Re:Why not just link to the youtube vid directly (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44789877)

But how else will latimes.com, auditude.com, newsinc.com, jumptime.com, gigya.com, quantserve.com, revsci.net, perfectmarket.com, facebook.com, amazon-adsystem.com, doubleclick.net, circularhub.com, scorecardresearch.com, liverail.com, twitter.com, optimatic.com, tribune.com, googlesyndication.com, adap.tv, legolas-media.com, fbcdn.net, chartbeat.com, outbrain.com, tribdss.com, trb.com, rubiconproject.com and google.com, run their code on your machine?

(for the ignorant, yes, that's the actual blocked scripts (excluding youtube.com and ytimg.com) list I got for the provided link from my noscript)

Re:Why not just link to the youtube vid directly (1)

GTRacer (234395) | about a year ago | (#44793237)

This. Is. Why. I. Hate. "Reblogging".

Meaning, there are too many layers added onto newsy items, but without adding value. It's also why I rarely click on any news/vid links outside of larger sites I've decide to allow. And why I avoid local news stations like the plague. The number of ad network hooks is unreal sometimes!

It's also why I love NoScript and wish it was on Chrome...

News? (2, Informative)

FPhlyer (14433) | about a year ago | (#44788139)

Why is Slashdot so late in reporting this? This happened days ago and has been reported widely across all media outlets. The NEW in "NEWs for nerds" implies "fresh" whereas this story is now stale.
I guess this is "Olds for Nerds. Stuff that mattered."

Re:News? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44788295)

Join the crowd, blame Dice Holdings Inc.

Too true. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44788481)

Too true. At least it wasn't Yahoo.

Re:News? (3)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#44789117)

Why didn't you submit it two days ago? It doesn't say "FPhyler writes" on it. And if you didn't want to see it, did you vote against it in the firehose? That's what the "stale" button is for.

Bitching about something you could have done something about but didn't is pretty lame.

Re:News? (1)

FPhlyer (14433) | about 10 months ago | (#44793815)

1. I quit submitting news to Slashdot over a decade ago when I realized that stuff I submitted would just be rejected only to have the exact same story published weeks later submitted by someone else.
2. I don't use firehose. The frontpage wastes enough of my time so why would I want to be dragged into that monstrosity?

Gone is the day when Sir Richard would pilot it.. (1)

Dr_Marvin_Monroe (550052) | about a year ago | (#44788165)

I mean, he's always been such an adventurer type. Seems that he should have figured some way to be 'fuel engineer' or something like that for the flight.

Re:Gone is the day when Sir Richard would pilot it (2)

gagol (583737) | about a year ago | (#44788305)

If I was him, cutting red ribbon and getting in the first SAFE and TESTED comemrcial plight would be my first option. I can hire minions for safety tests.

Re:Gone is the day when Sir Richard would pilot it (0)

gagol (583737) | about a year ago | (#44788311)

So late, so dark, can hardly see the keyboard, sorry for typos.

Re:Gone is the day when Sir Richard would pilot it (1)

FPhlyer (14433) | about a year ago | (#44788371)

Apology not accepeted. We expect better from oyu!

Re:Gone is the day when Sir Richard would pilot it (0)

gagol (583737) | about a year ago | (#44788407)

Aye under stand...

Re:Gone is the day when Sir Richard would pilot it (1, Offtopic)

leathered (780018) | about a year ago | (#44788337)

I mean, he's always been such an adventurer type.

No, he's always been a publicity whore type.

Feets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44788333)

Why on earth do I have to read about some obscure feet units on Slashdot? I thought that we are the sane people...

Awe (1)

Paradise Pete (33184) | about a year ago | (#44788441)

This is why people should not use the word "awesome" when they simply want to say that they like something. Because now saying this is awesome means little more than "Hey that's a nice pair of socks."

The door is only ajar (1)

Dollyknot (216765) | about a year ago | (#44788607)

I don't think people have thought this through.

We lost two shuttles, Challenger and Columbia, one leaving the earth and the other returning. Attaining escape velocity and leaving escape velocity in the earth's atmosphere, is dangerous, expensive and quite frankly stupid.

There is evidence of water on the moon, believe it, or believe it not, water is condensed rocket fuel, use the water on the moon, to accelerate SpaceShipTwo, to escape velocity in the safety of the vacuum, that most of the of the universe seems to consist of.

If we can use our hands to fly drones around our planet, with which to kill people from thousands of miles away, we can use those same hands, to construct a rocket fuel plant on the moon, with telepresence. Ok a large capital cost to set it up, but once done, the door to the universe is truly open.

Fly a space tug to the moon and fuel it there, it returns to the earth, hooks up to SpaceShipTwo then whoosh.

Using rocket fuel that is already at escape velocity, probably takes more smarts, than a species with the apparent intelligence, not much higher, that of a gerbil possesses :(

Re:The door is only ajar (5, Interesting)

FPhlyer (14433) | about a year ago | (#44788753)

I don't think you've thought this through...

The purpose of SpaceShipTwo is to reach suborbital flight not to obtain escape velocity.
The purpose of the Space Shuttle was to reach low Earth orbit not to obtain escape velocity.
We did not loose Challenger or Columbia in a "dangerous, expensive and quite frankly stupid" endeavor to achieve escape velocity.
Even with your plan of extracting resources from the moon you still have to design and build your payloads on earth and that means traversing the atmosphere at some point during the mission. At least until we have more permanent manned facilities off earth that can perform their own manufacturing and fabrication.
That said... going to the moon makes lots of sense. We're funding billions of dollars sending probes to the Jovian moons and Mars why? Looking for life. That's a big gamble who's only reward right now is going to be to answer the philosophical question of whether or not man is alone in the universe. Yeah... it might pay off but then again it might not. For all we know we are sending probes out with all the wrong instruments for finding that life because we're assuming that life requires water and that it will be carbon based. That's a big assumption based only on limited data. We only know of one world where carbon based life exists and uses water as a solvent. Could be that most life in the universe is based on totally different molecular structures.

We've got a whole other world right here on our back porch. Why isn't the moon already crawling with rovers? Why aren't we prospecting it's surface for minerals and materials that humanity can use? Why aren't we exploring it's surface for caves that we can seal off and flood with a breathable atmosphere for building a permanent human settlement? If we can get full-on manufacturing and construction facilities operating on the moon we can build spacecraft that can visit the rest of the solar system using much less v then it does to send the same spacecraft from the surface of the Earth. From Earth you have to account for higher gravity and aerodynamics. From the moon... well heck, even the tiny little Apollo lunar module was capable of launching from the surface and achieving lunar orbit.

Re:The door is only ajar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44788975)

*whose

Re:The door is only ajar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44789049)

> who's only reward right now is going to be to answer the philosophical question of whether or not man is alone in the universe.

It is not that long ago when people still bulieved that creatures lived in the rainforests of the Moon and that there wrere green men living in the Mars. It is actually not that long that man bulieved that the Earth was flat and you would just drop if you sail too far off the coast. Would you prefer that we would not know answers to those philosophical questions?

We have found life from the bottom of the sea from places where we thought that nothing could live. What we can learn from that life? New genes, new materials? Biomimicry? If we find something, it is hard to tell what kind of benefits it can provide. Ethernal life, unlimited energy source, cure for everything.

But I'm not actualy that interested in those findings (unless they actually find something like animals there). I'm more interested in practising space travel, which I think will define will the human kind survive or not.

For searching life, I think we should focus more on the seas. We are currently studying the depths of the seas with a fraction of the budget we spend on space and we know less about our seas that we know the surface of the planet Mars. If you explore the seas, it is almost guaranteed that you will find something astonighing. It is not even a gample.

Re:The door is only ajar (3, Informative)

Deadstick (535032) | about a year ago | (#44791755)

It is actually not that long that man bulieved that the Earth was flat and you would just drop if you sail too far off the coast

Well, OK, if you consider 2500 years "not that long". The diameter of the Earth was measured, to a precision of around 10%, by a chap named Eratosthenes circa 500 BC.

Of course, if you went to high school in, say, Texas, you might believe that Columbus had something to do with it.

Re:The door is only ajar (1)

FPhlyer (14433) | about 10 months ago | (#44793827)

Thanks for correcting that. Drives me crazy when people claim the ancients were so dull witted as to believe the world was flat.

Re:The door is only ajar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44789245)

...We did not loose Challenger or Columbia in a "dangerous, expensive and quite frankly stupid" endeavor to achieve escape velocity....

Let's get this straight.

The Space Shuttles were designed with the perfectly reasonable aim of attaining orbit safely and cheaply. This was a valid aim. During the design process the aims were compromised, and what was delivered was, in hindsight, arguably 'dangerous and expensive'. But this was only realised 5 years after the first launch - much too late to stop the huge project. So it ran for another 20-odd years, with another disaster during that time.

I don't know how 'stupid' that was. You could argue that it was only in 2003 that it became obvious that stacking engines side-by-side was inherently more dangerous than doing it vertically. The project was a failure in terms of its initial goals. But that is how progress happens...

Re:The door is only ajar (1)

FPhlyer (14433) | about 10 months ago | (#44793839)

I don't think you understood what I was saying. I agree that the Shuttle was a failure from inception but... none of the shuttles ever achieved escape velocity. They only achieved orbital velocity.

Re:The door is only ajar (2)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about a year ago | (#44789271)

Bringing objects to, and from, larger gravity wells such as those of the Earth and Moon is enormously expensive in energy and "delta V". Without launch catapults or skyhooks all that energy and delta V has to come from rocket fuel. For small, limited payload objects, it's expensive but doable, as is demonstrated by the Apollo program.

For larger, ongoing systems like a lunar colony, the costs are literally astronomical. The potential benefits are often astronomical as well, but many of the benefits are achievable in earth orbit, without needing to deal with another gravity well on the Moon. Solar sail based power gathering, solar sail based asteroid or ice belt mining, zero G crystal growth for computer components, foamed metal manufacture, and enhancements in chemical analysis and production without the gravitational "settling" of heavier components could all pay for orbital stations. With those structures in place, it's then much easier to make the trip to the Moon: your spacecraft can be built as true spacecraft, without having to work in Earth's atmosphere or be over-engineered to survive the brutal launch accelerations necessary to efficiently launch from the Earth's surface to orbit.

But manufacturing spacecraft on the Moon seems ludicrous. Build them in orbit, and never even consider putting them in a deep gravity well.

Re: The door is only ajar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44791515)

What happened to Timmy when he fell down the well?

Re: The door is only ajar (1)

Roachie (2180772) | about 10 months ago | (#44793695)

He impacted the electromagnetic wall.

Re:The door is only ajar (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about a year ago | (#44791783)

But manufacturing spacecraft on the Moon seems ludicrous. Build them in orbit, and never even consider putting them in a deep gravity well.

Sure, just haul the construction materials and tools up the gravity well and then put 'em together.

Re:The door is only ajar (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about a year ago | (#44792899)

The investment costs for the first set of solar sails equipment to build the first fleet of asteroid recovery recovery ships is very high. But they need not be manned, and they can start a cycle of cheap solar sails guiding quite large asteroids back to earth orbit for mining. The fiscal ROI for any significant sized asteroids returned to LEO, then used for arbitrary manufacture, including spacecraft, is potentially enormous. It take a very long investment cycle: the asteroids will take years to recover from the asteroid belt, or for more predictable mining with high water content tap Saturn's rings. But the ROI, either way, is potentially _enormous_.

Re:The door is only ajar (1)

Alioth (221270) | about 10 months ago | (#44798141)

It's a lot easier to do that than place the basis of an entire industrial society (what you would need to mine the moon and make the materials to build a spacecraft) on the Moon.

Re:The door is only ajar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44789905)

As for inter-planetary travel, why don't we launch a series of cylinders (the size that fits into the faring space of rockets) and connect them in space, slap an ion-drive on the back and KEEP THIS IN LEO, next to the ISS. Then we can use this as our exploration vehicle and just use rockets and capsules to get the "humans & cargo" to the iSS. The climb inside the inter planetary craft (IPC) disconnect from ISS and travel to places. Attach an extra module for landing/leaving the moon.

Who are the idiots that think we need to launch everything from Earth every time?

Re:The door is only ajar (1)

FPhlyer (14433) | about 10 months ago | (#44793853)

There was actually some discussion in the early days of the shuttle about burning the engines a little longer while the shuttle was still attached to an empty fuel tank. Those tanks could have been linked together, filled with an atmosphere and turned into a massive space station.

Re:The door is only ajar (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44788851)

..I think that you might need to get something out of earths gravity well to construct something in the moon.

so blablablabla blaabla water fuel blabalbal drones blablabal. contrary to what you seem to believe this isn't a spaceship btw in the sense that it would fly out to space.. it just jumps up from atmosphere and comes back down, just for frills.

Re:The door is only ajar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44795493)

There are numerous things wrong with this comment, although I agree with the sentiment.

The shuttles were 1970s technology with military requirements (orbiting and deorbiting completely over US territory) that put far more strain on things. Then it was pork-barrelled out at the last minute which constrained the design even further.

Liquid hydrogen/oxygen are limited in their applications as fuel due to evaporation or heavy refrigeration equipment. Electrolyzing equipment is either rate-limited or requires large solar arrays. Carbon and nitrogen can probably be found on the Moon which would allow for creation of other fuels. Alternately, fission powered rockets (probably with Hydrogen propellant) are viable if you aren't risking bringing it through the atmosphere.

Drones exist, and there are largely automated factories. However, few of these are completely hands off, they usually have highly predictable pre-processed input, and set-up costs would be astronomical. A human (and all the requisite equipment) is still more versatile, and quicker at many tasks than equivalent weight in remote drones. I imagine any moon base set up before the advent of strong AI would have a small number of humans as care-takers for a much larger predominantly automated facility. I'm sure anyone at NASA would happily move all their plans towards moon-mined fuel as soon as you can convince someone to provide the requisite billions or trillions of set-up capital required.

Next, SpaceShipTwo cannot attain orbit. Its only use is extremely fast over-earth travel and as a thrill-ride. It will travel at about 1.1km/s. With some assumptions about Isp and air resistance, it's about 1/3rd to 1/2 fuel and is carrying about 1/40th to 1/20th of the fuel it would need to attain orbit.

Additionally any vehicle designed for in-atmosphere use, or even one capable of supporting itself against Earth gravity is going to have a lot of unnecessary weight for a spacecraft.You'd be better to use a more conventional launch system (or something like a launch loop or rotovator if you're happy to throw around the amount of money needed for a moon base) to get your humans up, and rendezvous with a true spaceship (one which has never been on, and would not withstand being on Earth).

Another issue is that fuel is currently only a very minor cost because current launch systems are all single-use, a moon fuel-mining base would not help with the majority of the cost (which is getting something up from Earth). SpaceX has noticed that the cost of propellant is a minor factor and has some interesting ideas with regards to sacrificing some fuel economy (carrying much more delta-V in order to land everything on rockets) for reusability. A moon-manufacturing base would be a massive boon in this regard, but again, good luck finding someone willing or able to fund it.

Finally we get on to alternative propulsion systems. Chemical rocket technology is useless for much other than sending the occasional probe around our solar system. An intermediate between the current way of doing things, and having interplanetary infrastructure would be to have a high ISP tug (ion drives are looking promising) which stays in orbit and goes on many missions, but is refueled (probably with Xenon) and resupplied from earth.

Pfft. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#44790011)

hopefully bringing the era of (more) affordable space tourism even closer.

This is no more 'space tourism' than going to the zoo is 'jungle tourism'. It's a glorified amusement park ride that only goes to 'space' because of an unscientific legal definition of 'space'.

Re:Pfft. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44790593)

Reality is not welcome in space stories. Nor in 3D printing stories. Go be accurate somewhere else grandpa, we have some drooling to do over here!

NASA? Not quite. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44790967)

It was Orbital who was successful. It was their launch vehicle after all. The launch site was NASA's.

Are you in need of loan?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44793849)

Hello,

            Are you in need of loan?? you can get your problems solve when
you run to him . Am Mrs , Anna . From Usa , last week Monday,
I was looking for loan to pay for my bills , so i get myself into the
hand of different scams and i was scams by different lender, If not
for Mrs , Sadaih who is my good friend introduce me to Mrs Pack More
(C.E.O) Pack More Loan Company, and he help me with a loan of $200.000
without stress . So My good people of Usa , you can contact him
via Email: packmoreloancompany@gnail.com And don't forget to tell
him,that i introduce you to his Company

Clean Burn ... This Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44794027)

They might get 58/100 burns without major malfunction ... meaning loss of craft and all aboard.

A ways to go yet.

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