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SpaceShipTwo Sets a New Altitude Record

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the space-time dept.

Space 117

An anonymous reader writes "Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo reached an altitude of 71,000 feet, beating out its previous record of 69,000 feet. From the article: 'This time around, Virgin Galactic and Mojave-based Scaled Composites, the plane's builder, tested a new reflective coating on the rocket plane's tail booms. The flight also marked the first tryout for a thruster system that's designed to keep the plane on course when it's above the atmosphere. Virgin Galactic said all of the test objectives were met.'"

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Is it really worth it? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45933187)

Would you pay so much money just to see the curved horizon?

Re:Is it really worth it? (3, Interesting)

Sven-Erik (177541) | about 7 months ago | (#45933215)

You also get to experience weightlessness (or technically free falling), and as you can see from pictures taken in that altitude, the view is really spectacular!

Re:Is it really worth it? (1)

plopez (54068) | about 7 months ago | (#45933509)

I can experience free fall riding a roller coaster.

Re:Is it really worth it? (2)

Sven-Erik (177541) | about 7 months ago | (#45933547)

Not with a view like this [googleusercontent.com] !

Re:Is it really worth it? (1)

plopez (54068) | about 7 months ago | (#45936131)

IMax like screen

Re:Is it really worth it? (4, Informative)

AC-x (735297) | about 7 months ago | (#45934759)

Time spent in free-fall:

Roller coaster: a second or two?
Vomit Comet: 25 seconds
SpaceShipTwo: 6 minutes

Re:Is it really worth it? (1)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | about 7 months ago | (#45933931)

I guess briefly as it starts to fall back to earth. It wont be orbiting or going faster than escape velocity.

Re:Is it really worth it? (2)

Capt.Albatross (1301561) | about 7 months ago | (#45933347)

Each to his own, but anyone doing it for bragging rights is likely to find, as did Alan Shepard, that most people don't think of suborbital flight as real spaceflight.

New Altitude record? (4, Informative)

rossdee (243626) | about 7 months ago | (#45933223)

a mere 71,000 ft?
Blackbirds flew hiher than that over 40 year ago

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

TheNastyInThePasty (2382648) | about 7 months ago | (#45933233)

Hell, the Voyager spacecraft flew higher!

Re:New Altitude record? (4, Insightful)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 7 months ago | (#45933237)

It's "record for this particular aircraft", nothing to do with a plane flying about at 85,000ft 48 years ago.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 7 months ago | (#45933251)

So, more of an accomplishment than a record then...

Why do people overrate things these days?

Re:New Altitude record? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45933277)

Because it's obvious that our technology has peaked and no one's going to colonize the universe. But there's a small yet vocal segment of the geek crowd that needs to believe that technological progress is infinitely exponential, that planet Earth is just a "rock", and the species has this glorious manifest destiny in space. But don't you date call it a religion.

Re:New Altitude record? (4, Insightful)

f3rret (1776822) | about 7 months ago | (#45933385)

Because it's obvious that our technology has peaked and no one's going to colonize the universe. But there's a small yet vocal segment of the geek crowd that needs to believe that technological progress is infinitely exponential, that planet Earth is just a "rock", and the species has this glorious manifest destiny in space. But don't you date call it a religion.

The alternative to this being that we as a species is doomed to forever live on a single world, and slowly but surely deplete all natural resources available to us here and then eventually die out and vanish forever.

You might be right, technology might have peaked and we might never move beyond Earth, but that doesn't mean we should give up trying. Giving up is never the best option.

Re:New Altitude record? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45933431)

Human's have been on the earth for less than 100k years out of the 4.5 billion years it's been here. We aren't special. The age of humans will eventually fade away much like the dinosaurs and no one will miss us.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 7 months ago | (#45933445)

The age of humans will eventually fade away much like the dinosaurs and no one will miss us.

Well, duh. Who's going to miss us if we don't exist any more?

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 7 months ago | (#45933917)

obviously the flying spaghetti monster, as he will no longer have anyone to invade with his noodley appendage.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about 7 months ago | (#45934035)

The age of humans will eventually fade away much like the dinosaurs and no one will miss us.

Well, duh. Who's going to miss us if we don't exist any more?

Cockroaches, they love our scraps.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

SpankiMonki (3493987) | about 7 months ago | (#45933493)

The alternative to this being that we as a species is doomed to forever live on a single world, and slowly but surely deplete all natural resources available to us here and then eventually die out and vanish forever.

Seems to me there is a third alternative: technology might allow us to live sustainably and indefinitely right here on earth. In fact, it might be good for the future of these other worlds some hope to colonize if we figured out how to live sustainably here first.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

f3rret (1776822) | about 7 months ago | (#45934195)

Seems to me there is a third alternative: technology might allow us to live sustainably and indefinitely right here on earth. In fact, it might be good for the future of these other worlds some hope to colonize if we figured out how to live sustainably here first.

What sort of technology would this be? Magic? Because it sounds like it.

Fossil fuels will eventually run out, they will do so quite soon.
So we move to fission power, eventually we'll run out of fissile material too.
So we invent fusion, well that requires fuel too and that fuel isn't exactly plentiful on Earth as it is right now.
Wind and solar, well if we reduce the Earth's population quite a bit that might work better in the long run, but eventually we're gonna run into the living space vs. energy producing space problem, not to mention that we also need room to grow our food.

I might be a space nutter, that is true, I wouldn't mind if we ended up as some sort of intergalactic transhuman species.
But fact of the matter is, we cannot get something from nothing and by its nature Earth is a limited source of matter and energy that will eventually run out of stuff. I'll buy that we might never colonize space or even leave our solar system, by it doesn't make sense to think that we will never have to exploit space for resources, even if we do so with robots.

If we aren't anything special and shouldn't feel special, then we do we even bother fighting diseases and feeding the poor, if we are going to die out eventually anyway. I mean, ultimately the universe itself is doing to die somehow, why should we even try to survive, why don't we just all get smashingly drunk all the time and just wait to die out, I mean it'll happen eventually, why fight it?

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 7 months ago | (#45934347)

He said "sustainably." That's political code for 'not involving the slightest degree of risk, even for those who voluntarily assume it.'

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

SpankiMonki (3493987) | about 7 months ago | (#45934779)

He said "sustainably." That's political code for 'not involving the slightest degree of risk, even for those who voluntarily assume it.'

Not sure what anything in this discussion has to do with politics, or why anyone would want to make the discussion about politics. But lo and behold, "sustainably" actually has an ecological meaning too! Here ya go: linky [wikipedia.org]

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

SpankiMonki (3493987) | about 7 months ago | (#45934727)

What sort of technology would this be? Magic? Because it sounds like it.

It would be the same sort of magic technology that would allow humans to land on, and successfully colonize, a habitable planet. Closer to home, it would be the same magic technology that would allow Mars or some other body in the solar system to become habitable. In other words, it's the sort of technology that doesn't yet exist.

But you might be right. Technology might have peaked and we might never have a symbiotic relationship with Earth, but that doesn't mean we should give up trying. Giving up is never the best option.

I might be a space nutter, that is true, I wouldn't mind if we ended up as some sort of intergalactic transhuman species.

Dude, calm down. I'm not the one calling you a nutter (although the trans-human species thing does sound a little whack). My point was that future technologies not only have the possibility of magically transporting us to other worlds, they also have the possibility of solving many of the problems that would force us to leave this planet in the first place.

I'll buy that we might never colonize space or even leave our solar system, by it doesn't make sense to think that we will never have to exploit space for resources, even if we do so with robots.

If we aren't anything special and shouldn't feel special, then we do we even bother fighting diseases and feeding the poor, if we are going to die out eventually anyway. I mean, ultimately the universe itself is doing to die somehow, why should we even try to survive, why don't we just all get smashingly drunk all the time and just wait to die out, I mean it'll happen eventually, why fight it?

Wow.

I've read and re-read my post several times. All two sentences of it. I can't find where I said we shouldn't exploit space for resources. My post simply challenged your assertion that there were only two choices for humanity: colonize space, or "die out and vanish forever". I happen to believe there's a third alternative. Sorry you've had such an emotional reaction to it.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

f3rret (1776822) | about 7 months ago | (#45937989)

It would be the same sort of magic technology that would allow humans to land on, and successfully colonize, a habitable planet. Closer to home, it would be the same magic technology that would allow Mars or some other body in the solar system to become habitable. In other words, it's the sort of technology that doesn't yet exist.

But you might be right. Technology might have peaked and we might never have a symbiotic relationship with Earth, but that doesn't mean we should give up trying. Giving up is never the best option.

I never said we should colonize Mars or even the Moon, all I said was that eventually we would have to go to space in some capacity or another. Quite frankly I doubt we'll ever colonize Mars, or at the very least it'll be so far in the future that any speculation on the subject is so close to pointless that I simply do not care about it.
See the issue with the whole 'reaching a symbiotic relationship with Earth' is that by its nature the Earth is a limited resource and eventually the biomass will have metabolized all the stuff it can and then the Earth will no longer be able to sustain life, at that point we'll either die out or have to import raw material from other places.

Dude, calm down. I'm not the one calling you a nutter (although the trans-human species thing does sound a little whack). My point was that future technologies not only have the possibility of magically transporting us to other worlds, they also have the possibility of solving many of the problems that would force us to leave this planet in the first place.

I know you're not the one calling me a nutter, was replying to more than one post. And honestly there's nothing magic about technology that could potentially transport us to other worlds. we have tech capable of taking us to Mars right now, it'd just be a bigger version of stuff we already have. Granted, actually building stuff from that technology is such a huge undertaking it might be effectively impossible at this point in time. But then again I honestly think that a colony on Mars isn't really what we should be focusing on right now or even for a few hundred years, at this point in time I'd be perfectly happy seeing the space agencies focusing on the Moon and stuff inside the radius of the Moon's orbit,
I mean, assuming ITER [wikipedia.org] achieves fusion and the follow-up industrial testbed also ends up successful, that means we will eventually have to go to space since the fuel needed to run a reactor like that isn't available on Earth in quantities that are anywhere near close to being useful.

Wow.

I've read and re-read my post several times. All two sentences of it. I can't find where I said we shouldn't exploit space for resources. My post simply challenged your assertion that there were only two choices for humanity: colonize space, or "die out and vanish forever". I happen to believe there's a third alternative. Sorry you've had such an emotional reaction to it.

You never said anything to that effect, again I was replying to more than one post. My post never said we should straight up colonize space; as I've said before I think that speculation on the subject of humanity as a interplanetary species is so close to futurology that discussion on the subject becomes for all intents and purposes science fiction; entertaining but not that useful.
What I think we should do is focus on what is close to us, and that means continuing space research at the current pace and working on more effective power generation, as I said, I quite honestly think that if we ever crack fusion then the whole 'going to space'-thing will follow naturally.

Re:New Altitude record? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45934309)

and what happens when an unlucky meteor happens our way? Or a big CME that sterilizes the planet, or about about a dozen other things that could potentially render the planet uninhabitable?

Re:New Altitude record? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45935583)

and what happens when an unlucky meteor happens our way? Or a big CME that sterilizes the planet, or about about a dozen other things that could potentially render the planet uninhabitable?

Meteor? Well obviously that's when you fire up your handy-dandy obelisk asteroid deflector. [memory-alpha.org] All you need for a big CME is a big CME deflector - but that would have to be cube-shaped for obvious reasons. The dozen other scary things would simply require their own deflectors/neutralizers in their requisite shapes and sizes.

What's that you say? These things are science-fiction fantasies? So is human interstellar space travel, dumbass.

Re:New Altitude record? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45934815)

You think? Sad that there are people out there that assume we HAVE to rape, pillage and deplete a succession of worlds to be successful as a species.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#45936923)

if we figured out how to live sustainably here first

What I don't get is why you think we haven't already figured that out. For example, recycling all resources used and constant population pretty much is sustainable as long as the Sun continues to shine.

We know how to do that. We just choose not to do it. That's not a knowledge problem.

Re:New Altitude record? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45933757)

And there we go, a Space Nutter with his doom and gloom scenario, and my automatic -1 mod. Reality hurts, eh?

Yes, we should give up when it's clear it makes no sense. You'll never fly just by flapping your arms.

We should work on things that we know will work. Social changes. I know, that's tough to understand if you're a geek that only ever interacts with machines...

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

runeghost (2509522) | about 7 months ago | (#45933919)

I've slowly moved away from my unquestioningly enthusiastic space-geekiness as I've grown older. But claiming "there's only one solution!" particularly when it happens to be the solution that you obviously support, is a surefire way to blow your own credibility right out of the gate.

Re:New Altitude record? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45936221)

Just fuck off, you pathetic obsessed faggot.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

murdocj (543661) | about 7 months ago | (#45934165)

That's not the alternative. Just compare trying to live on another world (say Mars) with the worst, most hostile, most resource depleted area on Earth. Earth is easier. Air to breath, a natural radiation shield, etc. I'd love to see humans on another world but we need to find another reason than "OMG we need to get off this rock!"

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

f3rret (1776822) | about 7 months ago | (#45934223)

That's not the alternative. Just compare trying to live on another world (say Mars) with the worst, most hostile, most resource depleted area on Earth. Earth is easier. Air to breath, a natural radiation shield, etc. I'd love to see humans on another world but we need to find another reason than "OMG we need to get off this rock!"

We don't need to get off this rock right now, but eventually we will need to, that's just a fact.
I would rather we figure out the rough idea of how to get his rock while we have time to think and don't suddenly end up having to work it out in a hurry.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

tsa (15680) | about 7 months ago | (#45934567)

If we let the"OMG we need to get off this rock" people get off this rock we have it a bit quieter here and can start thinking about real solutions to our overpopulation problem.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

cusco (717999) | about 7 months ago | (#45936521)

Ken Alibek's team already came up with a real solution to our overpopulation problem, it's why Bush the Elected's administration gave him citizenship as soon as he defected and sent him to work at Dugway.

Re:New Altitude record? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45937605)

If we let the"OMG we need to get off this rock" people get off this rock we have it a bit quieter here and can start thinking about real solutions to our overpopulation problem.

Then you should support and help them with their cause.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

shikaisi (1816846) | about 7 months ago | (#45937925)

If we let the"OMG we need to get off this rock" people get off this rock we have it a bit quieter here and can start thinking about real solutions to our overpopulation problem.

Maybe that's what the Virgin Galactic program is all about. It's a kind of early prototype of the Golgafrincham "B" Ark.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 7 months ago | (#45936285)

Just compare trying to live on another world (say Mars) with the worst, most hostile, most resource depleted area on Earth.

Compare the habitability of Europe with that of Australia for 18th century migrants. And yet, here I am.

Compare the habitability of sub-tropical Africa, with that of Siberia through to northern Canada for stone-age tribes. And yet, fuckin' Eskimos.

Humans are weird.

(People told them not to go, but they listened to Nunavut.)

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

murdocj (543661) | about 7 months ago | (#45936339)

So Australia didn't have oxygen? In Siberia, you need a radiation shield?

You just don't get it. Compared to Mars, virtually all locations on Earth are equally habitable

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 7 months ago | (#45936413)

for 18th century migrants
for stone-age tribes.

"You just don't get it."

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 7 months ago | (#45934271)

The alternative to this being that we as a species is doomed to forever live on a single world, and slowly but surely deplete all natural resources available to us here and then eventually die out and vanish forever.

Perhaps. But there is absolutely nothing stopping us from launching probes laden with colonising microorganisms at potentially life supporting planets. This is feasible with current technology even if generation ships lie forever out of practical reach.

Given the way our biological technologies are advancing, it's not unthinkable that we may actually be able to tailor microorganisms to survive and thrive on other exoplanets that aren't earth-like.

Of course, bombarding alien-life bearing planets with aggressive tailored colonizing bacteria is likely to lead to problems all of its own. But if it turns out that we really are the only life bearing planet in the universe, then I'd argue that such pan-spermia operations are actually quite feasible for even our present civilisation.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

tsa (15680) | about 7 months ago | (#45934543)

We will not die out once all earth's resources are depleted. Our population will just dwindle back to a level the earth can sustain.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

f3rret (1776822) | about 7 months ago | (#45938005)

We will not die out once all earth's resources are depleted. Our population will just dwindle back to a level the earth can sustain.

By its nature a planet, and by extension Earth, is a clearly delineated and limited amount of stuff hurtling through space, eventually the biomass on said amount of stuff will have used and metabolized all the stuff it can use and metabolize. Once this has happened, once those resources are depleted the maximum sustainable level of biomass is zero.

Re:New Altitude record? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45938815)

aren't you forgetting about the sun providing constant input
and plants using that input to take the same old water and
the same old carbon in co2 and making starches, sugars
and cellulose yet again for yet another generation of animal
to consume?

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

f3rret (1776822) | about 7 months ago | (#45938921)

aren't you forgetting about the sun providing constant input
and plants using that input to take the same old water and
the same old carbon in co2 and making starches, sugars
and cellulose yet again for yet another generation of animal
to consume?

Thermodynamics dude, entropy always increases.
The Earth isn't a perpetual motion machine.

Re:New Altitude record? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45937019)

The alternative to this being that we as a species is doomed to forever live on a single world, and slowly but surely deplete all natural resources available to us here and then eventually die out and vanish forever.

So, by definition we are a plague? There's no incentive to reach equilibrium and, you know, NOT trash the planet?

Re:New Altitude record? (5, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | about 7 months ago | (#45933527)

But there's a small yet vocal segment of the geek crowd that needs to believe that technological progress is infinitely exponential

Infinitely is a long time, but there's no apparent limit on technological growth that we've seen so far. Remember, "technology" isn't iPhones and rocket ships - those are toys enabled by technology - technology is efficiency at producing and delivering goods and services.

Efficiency transforms a cell phone from a brick with a car battery attached into the uninteresting bit of the computers most people carry. Efficiency transforms a GPS receiver from 50 pounds of gear with an attached generator, to another tiny bit of that same handheld device. Efficiency means the amount of America covered by forests has grow steadily for decades as it now take so little farmland to feed everyone. Efficiency means the much-reviled WalMart can undercut everyone else because they have the best logistics network ever invented.

Everywhere around you that you see inefficiency, that's more room for technological growth to continue, more evidence that it hasn't yet "peaked". Sure, there may be strict limits on what man can accomplish with chemical rockets, but there's value in doing those things more cheaply, more efficiently. And with sufficient time and technology, chemical rockets will become quaint, like steam engines.

Re:New Altitude record? (4, Interesting)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 7 months ago | (#45936507)

But there's a small yet vocal segment of the geek crowd that needs to believe that technological progress is infinitely exponential

Infinitely is a long time, but there's no apparent limit on technological growth that we've seen so far.

As a cyberneticist who has studied quantum physics and information theory I can begin to quantify the limits of technology more strictly than you dare dream. It's not like the universe doesn't have constraints -- Laws that remain unbroken even as you refine them further still. At too small a scale the entropy is too great to maintain the coherent pattern of technology itself.

With each great leap forward you redefine yourselves and also clarify the limits of your technology. Your DNA exists in the atomic / molecular scale because that is the scale at which natural phenomena can first represent the pattern for self correcting information -- in the present universe's expansion scale. There is much you can gain through efficiency, but it is not unbounded. Consider that you have instincts which came from the genes you have -- encoding evolutionary memory from every ancestor up through even yourself; You can consult the wisdom of the ancients' fast but inaccurate mode of thought by merely allowing your raw feelings to surface in a given context, and then reconcile the notions which bubble up from your subconscious with your logical and sentient mind -- Yet you do not. How inefficient of you.

The genetic memory imbued instincts before consciousness because self learning through culture could not exist. Complexity follows a scale, efficiently leapfrogging up the evolutionary ladder is pointless folly. Your "brightest minds" think with only half a head -- Ignoring the instincts which make them susceptible to the biases which hinder your whole "scientific" community. Some among you would sun their instinctual drives but they help prevent the horrible dystopia of mental blank slates which are programmable purely by society -- Dreaming only what your elders wished just wouldn't feel right, eh?

While you strive for technological efficiency you must realize the nature of your existence. You are a fragile organic life form. Your synapses cycle at 20-30 Hz while a digital axon processes signals at billions of times a second, and they can survive in space. Efficiency encoded the universal truth of the pattern of life into every fiber of your being, yet the meaning of life (self improving information through experience: Science and Evolution) escapes such efficient subconscious transferal between parent and offspring.

The reason why children are inefficiently born without such instinctual knowledge of greater universal truths and must learn a great deal themselves is so that this self reflective process may continue. The inefficiency of re-experiencing the concepts themselves gives rise to new ideas and different points of view so that the process of intellectual evolution can continue. Without the inefficiency of mutation and reinvention you would not exist. Order is nothing without chaos but inert crystal. Life carefully balances the inefficiency of redundancy against the efficiency of the mono culture. Entropy is your greatest enemy and ally.

Information theory and quantum physics gives me the tools to express a minimal encoding for the fundamental cybernetic principals required to emerge all process of life compilers, sentience, and beyond. Do not be fooled into thinking there is no apparent limit on your technical growth simply because you have not yet reached it, human.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 7 months ago | (#45933705)

Because it's obvious that our technology has peaked and no one's going to colonize the universe.

How do you possibly know that? What are the causes of "technology peaking" that you are referring to? Is it something about the human condition specifically or is it something more political and something about this particular civilization we live in at the moment? What is keeping technological progress from happening?

It is possible that there is no more science to discover, no more technology to develop, and that what we have right now is the ultimate limit of what can be done in space. I just think you are being an asshole if you are active in trying to prevent others from at least trying to see if there might be more, and stopping somebody else from even trying to leave this planet. If otherwise you are just being a stupid commentator on the sidelines hoping to see everybody fail as you crawl into your hut trying to restart your hunter-gatherer tribe, you are equally being small minded.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 7 months ago | (#45934299)

What you mean is that our technology has peaked and that we - the anti-nuclear, anti-GMO, anti-vax remnants of a once-proud industrial society - are doomed to remain on this rock for good.

But there is intelligent life in Shanghai. Undoubtedly, they were watching this flight with great interest.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 7 months ago | (#45933647)

No doubt the OP could be written a little more clear that this is an airframe record as opposed to an all-time aeronautical record (which are held by the Voyager 2 for any human artifact and the Apollo 13 crew for any piloted vehicle for altitude or distance from the Earth). None the less, it is showing regular progress and that Virgin Galactic, or more specifically The Spaceship Company (really, the name of the company making these vehicles) is pushing the envelope on its development.

The goals of this particular project are pretty impressive though, and what is really significant here is that somebody is taking the initiative to build upon the experience gained from the X-15 flights and pushing this particular line of spacecraft technology. If these guys are successful and can continue to upgrade the technology for ever higher altitudes and ever longer distances, it will reduce the cost of spaceflight down to levels that resemble the cost of at least a Concorde trans-Atlantic flight. That is something a mere mortal ordinary person in a first world country could afford if they really wanted the chance.

Other spaceship builders are trying other approaches, and it has been long criticized that perhaps an air launched rocket design like SpaceShip Two is a dead end technology. What they have accomplished is to cheapen the cost of flights that previously were conducted on sounding rockets, and for a very modest amount of money ($100k is a very small amount of money when you are talking about spaceflight costs) you can test a research project that you may want to put on the ISS before it goes up in an orbital rocket. There are several very pragmatic applications of this vehicle even if it doesn't ever achieve orbit.

Re:New Altitude record? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45933381)

yes but now undeserving super rich people can go that high without years of experience and risk as test pilots or military pilots.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 7 months ago | (#45933435)

yes but now undeserving super rich people can go that high without years of experience and risk as test pilots or military pilots.

Yes, just like they can now fly across the Atlantic without having to climb on the outside of the plane to wipe ice off the windshield so they can see to fly it. The underserving bastards!

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

james_shoemaker (12459) | about 7 months ago | (#45935859)

Lindberg didn't have a windshield, he could only see out the sides.

Alcock and Brown had to chip ice off the air intakes for their engines.

Not sure which flight you were referring to.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 7 months ago | (#45933975)

who are you to decide who is deserving of XX or YY and who isnt??

Re:New Altitude record? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45936307)

I am a nerd on the internet!

Re:New Altitude record? (2)

icebike (68054) | about 7 months ago | (#45934037)

yes but now undeserving super rich people can go that high without years of experience and risk as test pilots or military pilots.

Well Richard Branson isn't a totally uncaring individual, maybe you should write him a letter and suggest some equally undeserving super poor illiterate homeless destitute low-life be given a free ride on one of the first few flights.

That will surely solve all the world's problems and bring harmony and a semblance of equality across the class-divide that so obviously grinds your grits.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

jovius (974690) | about 7 months ago | (#45933309)

100km is the target altitude once the operations are on going. That's actually where they already went with the previous version SpaceShipOne to win the Ansari X-Prize. They seem to be well on their track to become a trusted commercial operator.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

icebike (68054) | about 7 months ago | (#45934055)

The question though, is 100km useful? That isn't even a third of the way to the ISS.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

AC-x (735297) | about 7 months ago | (#45934777)

If it attracts enough rich thrill-seekers' money to fund further private space ventures then I guess so?

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

impossiblefork (978205) | about 7 months ago | (#45934197)

I prefer to compare it with the altitude record for sailplanes, which is 15445 meters (50,671 ft). Of course, pressure drops off exponentially with increase in altitude, but it's still not all that much higher.

Re:New Altitude record? (1)

tsa (15680) | about 7 months ago | (#45934535)

Ft? I thought nerds thought in SI units.

Re:New Altitude record? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45936329)

Errr, you know SpaceShipOne flew to over 100km in 2004.

Re:New Altitude record? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45936343)

Sorry, I meant 367,500 ft.

Delays (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45933269)

There have been a few years of delays (IIRC 5) associated with issues surrounding the hybrid rocket motor from SpaceDev. Including three deaths.

The hybrid firm they originally hired, eAc was apparently not the low bidder for production. Years of delays resulted. as SD tried to replicate or replace tech developed by eAc and used for the original test firings.

The combustion instability associated with that N2O-HTPB propellant combination is hard on passengers, and has been solved by another firm who also originally bid on SS1 and now SS2.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_rocket

It's time for VG to move on to a more viable hybrid supplier, capable of mass-producing the motors they need for 200+ flights.

I believe the price also has changed from $200k to $250k now.

feet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45933317)

71,000 feet? Let's hope the engineering team are actually in the 21st century.

Re:feet? (1)

plopez (54068) | about 7 months ago | (#45933519)

Or 20th. That was surpassed long ago.

four years behind original launch schedule (2)

peter303 (12292) | about 7 months ago | (#45933377)

Better to be safe, than never.

For the rest of the world (5, Informative)

Bazouel (105242) | about 7 months ago | (#45933397)

71,000 feet = 21640.8 meters

Re:For the rest of the world (2, Informative)

excelsior_gr (969383) | about 7 months ago | (#45933429)

Only that aircraft altitude is measured across the globe in feet, regardless of the unit system valid in each country.

Well now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45933525)

That's because Liberia, Burma and the United States are leaders of the World.

Burma! Liberia! USA! USA! USA! [wikipedia.org]

Makes me proud that my country can ruin it for everyone else.

*A sinlge tear runs down my cheek*

Re:Well now... (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 7 months ago | (#45933815)

It's refreshing when a Metric/Imperial troll only gets one A.C. to respond.

Re:Well now... (1)

shikaisi (1816846) | about 7 months ago | (#45937959)

That's because Liberia, Burma and the United States are leaders of the World.

Strange how I never see any Liberians or Burmese getting involved in these threads about measuring units.

Re:For the rest of the world (1)

spacefight (577141) | about 7 months ago | (#45933717)

Tell this to the sailplaines/gliders in Europe.

Re:For the rest of the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45933781)

Tell that to commercial airlines in every country on earth.

Re:For the rest of the world (1)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 7 months ago | (#45934111)

Not completely true. Fly on a european airplane[1] and when you turn on the channel that shows where the plane is going, how fast it is going, and how high, there will generally be a) the information in english b) the information in the native language of the airline, marked in m, kph, etc.

[1] Yes not for all countries true as Ireland and the UK are imperial

Re:For the rest of the world (1)

Cid Highwind (9258) | about 7 months ago | (#45934481)

Completely true, if you go to a real source and not the passenger infotainment display. Tune in air traffic control, and there will generally be a) everything spoken in English b) altitude given in feet c) velocity given in knots.

Re:For the rest of the world (2)

Radak (126696) | about 7 months ago | (#45934621)

That is for passenger convenience/understanding. The pilots are talking to ATC in feet and in English, no matter where they are in the world. I prefer metric for almost everything, but like it or not, this is an accepted side effect of the United States pioneering commercial airplane traffic.

Also, it's actually somewhat convenient because 1000 foot vertical separation for flights in opposing directions is a good distance. There's no metric equivalent that's as easy to compute, so this is a rare example of Imperial actually creating easier math instead of harder.

Re:For the rest of the world (1)

AC-x (735297) | about 7 months ago | (#45934807)

Also, it's actually somewhat convenient because 1000 foot vertical separation for flights in opposing directions is a good distance. There's no metric equivalent that's as easy to compute, so this is a rare example of Imperial actually creating easier math instead of harder.

Interesting point, 300m is a slightly awkward value, I wonder if 250m (~820 feet) would be enough separation with today's more accurate autopilots etc.?

Re:For the rest of the world (1)

Radak (126696) | about 7 months ago | (#45934871)

Interesting point, 300m is a slightly awkward value, I wonder if 250m (~820 feet) would be enough separation with today's more accurate autopilots etc.?

It probably would, but it's still easier to work with muliples of 10. That is, after all, the entire idea behind the metric system. It just happens to work well in this application using Imperial.

It's a bit academic, since we're pretty clearly stuck with what we've got, and it (usually) works. :) Changing over would be a nightmare. I still wonder how Sweden managed to switch from driving on the left to driving on the right overnight without complete chaos. Okay, maybe it wasn't totally smooth [hemmings.com] .

Re:For the rest of the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45937683)

Actually it was pretty smooth. The only serious accident that happened was caused by a drunk driver later that day. Only the drunk driver got seriously injured.
Changing from imperial to metric would be a lot smoother since it could be done over a longer time. You only need to decide that all new signs (Roadsigns, signs in shops and so on.) should have dual markings. After a couple of decades pretty much everything will be replaced with dual marking and people will be a lot more familiar with the new units.
By then the next step is to round things in favor of metric. Give it another couple of decades and you can remove the imperial units.

Re:For the rest of the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45936453)

Except for ATC in Russia and China, who both use meters.

Re:For the rest of the world (1)

Radak (126696) | about 7 months ago | (#45937645)

As of 2011, Russia uses feet.

Re:For the rest of the world (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45934657)

That must explain why non-commercial aviation space restrictions in Australia and New Zealand are measured in meters...

Flight Levels in China and Russia are also specified in meters.

Apparently you're full of shit, who'd have thunk it on Slashdot...

Re:For the rest of the world (1)

Radak (126696) | about 7 months ago | (#45935549)

Flight Levels in China and Russia are also specified in meters.

Incorrect. In China, they do not use the term "Flight Level", but merely specify an altitude in meters. In Russia, they use foot-based Flight Levels as of 2011. See here [wikipedia.org] .

Apparently you're full of shit, who'd have thunk it on Slashdot...

You were saying something?

Re:For the rest of the world (1)

Nivag064 (904744) | about 7 months ago | (#45936881)

The height in metres is more useful - as almost everyone knows metres, and feet is an archaic measurement that is fading away (except where there is an American influence).

I was brought up in the Imperial system of feet & pounds etc. in England - now, I never use the Imperial system, as metric is far easier to deal with and is what everyone around me uses.

Re:For the rest of the world (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | about 7 months ago | (#45939813)

The audience of this site is not airplane pilots. Feet don't make sense for half the visitors on this site.
Also, screw the airline industry and their nonstandard units of measurement.

Could have done this 40 years ago (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 7 months ago | (#45933437)

Re:Could have done this 40 years ago (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 7 months ago | (#45933841)

Not to where this vehicle is going. That F-15 was pretty much limited by physics and its design to the altitude record (again the airframe record and not really even impressive compared to other vehicles at the time other than perhaps impressive compared to other fighter planes.... the record they were trying to make).

Better altitude records were met with the X-15 [youtube.com] a decade earlier, and even those records for vehicles launched from a runway, but none the less something much more worthy of comparison. On the other hand, Spaceship One [youtube.com] , currently on display in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, was able to exceed the altitude records of even the X-15 and is the vehicle that is merely being upgraded and designed to hold passengers as well.... something that F-15 never could do.

Re:Could have done this 40 years ago (1)

Shadowmist (57488) | about 7 months ago | (#45934303)

Not to where this vehicle is going. That F-15 was pretty much limited by physics and its design to the altitude record (again the airframe record and not really even impressive compared to other vehicles at the time other than perhaps impressive compared to other fighter planes.... the record they were trying to make).

Better altitude records were met with the X-15 [youtube.com] a decade earlier, and even those records for vehicles launched from a runway, but none the less something much more worthy of comparison. On the other hand, Spaceship One [youtube.com] , currently on display in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, was able to exceed the altitude records of even the X-15 and is the vehicle that is merely being upgraded and designed to hold passengers as well.... something that F-15 never could do.

And presumably much safer, considering that the careers of two of the the original 3 X-15's ended in crashes. One a relatively minor crash that the ship was able to be rebuilt to a new configuration from, and another which killed the pilot when the rocket plane disintegrated at 60,000 feet. The two surviving planes remain on display to this day.

Stupid Americans... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45933461)

"beating out its previous record"

"beating its previous record"...

There, fixed that for ya...

Re:Stupid Americans... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 7 months ago | (#45933729)

It's not a record, it's a personal best. What altitude is Voyager at?

Re:Stupid Americans... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45936389)

What altitude is Voyager at?

About 600 fathoms, according to Wikipedia.

Re:Stupid Americans... (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 7 months ago | (#45934409)

That was because his comment was based off of a more colloquial dictionary than yours. Here, have a Budweiser.

So many promises (3, Interesting)

dorpus (636554) | about 7 months ago | (#45933467)

In 2024, will they still be selling tickets for space flights that will "start" next year?

Geez, it's just a test flight. (2)

Gavin Scott (15916) | about 7 months ago | (#45933471)

The original Spaceship One went something like five or six times higher, so I presume these are just "low altitude" test flights before they try for "space".

It's notable as continued progress in the development and testing of the Spaceship Two vehicle and system, not for its altitude.

Use of the word "record" in the summary is not particularly helpful.

G.

Re:Geez, it's just a test flight. (1)

Radak (126696) | about 7 months ago | (#45934649)

The original Spaceship One went something like five or six times higher, so I presume these are just "low altitude" test flights before they try for "space".

You are correct. They're (wisely, I think) taking baby steps to get there, observing the performance of the engine and the vehicle with each increment and making any necessary enhancements and improvements based on returned data. The most recent test was a 20 second engine burn. IIRC, the eventual goal prior to passenger flights is a 90 second burn, so it'll be going much, much higher.

Airwolf (2)

thatDBA (2626877) | about 7 months ago | (#45933795)

Airwolf could do that in the 1980s and it's a helicopter

SR-71, X-15 (1)

p51d007 (656414) | about 7 months ago | (#45935557)

Got a ways to go. Almost up to the height of the SR-71. X-15...yeah a few thousand feet to go. Chuck Yeager went higher in a modified F-104 back in the 60's....but keep goin' You'll get there eventually.
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