Virgin Galactic’s spaceship makes solo flight but without rocket engine
flight, in California.
and then dropped to glide back to the Mojave Air and Space Port.
short hops above the atmosphere.
to witness the drop test.
world’s first manned commercial spaceship landing on the runway at Mojave Air
and Space Port and it was a great moment.”
and has already taken deposits from 370 customers who want to experience a few
minutes of weightlessness on a suborbital flight.
head of astronaut relations at Galactic.
always been around 500. We’re well on our way to that,” he told BBC News.
made history in 2004 by successfully flying to 100km (60 miles) in altitude twice
in a two-week period.
be capable of carrying eight people – two crew and six passengers.
by the “Eve” carrier plane before being released in mid-air. Enterprise will then
ignite its single hybrid rocket engine to make the ascent to space.
the first time the spaceplane had been released at altitude.
ship back to the Mojave runway.
fire its rocket engine.
be allowed to climb aboard.
before we put it into commercial operations. There is a timetable in terms of
what we’re going to do, but as we’ve said many times before, ‘it takes as long
as it takes’, Mr Attenborough said.
through its space launch systems.In particular, access to the upper atmosphere
from the limit of commercial aviation flight (~40000ft or 12km) to the edge of
space at ~100km is very limited. Balloons cannot reach the upper Earth atmosphere,
and orbital vehicles fly too high. Ground based measurements e.g. with lasers
and rocket experiments into the region have either limited sensitivity or duration
respectively. However the upper atmosphere is the “gateway” that connects Earth’s
environment and space, where great surges of energy meet, from the Earth surface
radiating back into space, and energy from the sun and interplanetary space traveling
inwards. A specific region of the upper atmosphere, the mesosphere (50-90km) is
a highly sensitive indicator of global atmospheric temperatures, thus might act
as the ‘canary in the coal mine’ where climate change is concerned. Virgin Galactic
aims to revolutionize regular access to this region for scientists and their experiments,
thus greatly enhancing our ability to understand climate change and determine
or ‘microgravity’ can enable a range of valuable scientific experiments currently
performed by sounding rockets or at great cost using the long duration space station
or space shuttle. Microgravity science can address problems such as protein folding
which is instrumental in developing designer drugs to combat a host of diseases;
and designing new materials for transportation, computing and biomedicine. The
space launch system under development will allow more detailed, affordable and
frequent ‘human in the loop’ microgravity science experiments. These have the
potential to rapidly advance several areas of science that have stagnated in the
last few decades due to poor access to space.
and much more will need to be done in the future if we are to reap the greater
benefits that space offers. The next steps will take significant new private sector
investment which we believe will be readily available if Virgin Galactic is a
commercial success. It is clear from industries such as mobile telephony that
once technologies are unlocked from government control and exposed to private
R&D and investment, innovation and change can rapidly follow.
transcontinental passenger and freight travel via space and a range of other transformational
applications are all achievable in a relatively short time frame. How short will
depend to a large degree on the early and visible success of Virgin Galactic and
other similar cutting edge clean-tech initiatives.