19 thoughts on “Virgin Orbit”

  1. So. SpaceshipII and/or III has 6 passengers and 4 pilots and you might say it has to fly 50 or more times a year? Or more than 300 passengers per year which would gross $60 million a year.

    It seems only advantage of 4 pilots is you don’t pay for the co-pilots and co-pilot of spaceship pays 1/2 the price of passenger seat.
    Otherwise, you shouldn’t have any pilots, and have 8 passengers.
    With the 4 pilots, you could be trying to train a lot pilots, so you build and use a lot more than 5 SpaceshipII and/or IIIs.
    Otherwise per passenger the pilots aren’t much per year, but if 2 of 4 are training future pilots, it’s kind of cost for the rapid expansive capability.

  2. Musk is a successful businessman

    Bezos is a bumbling dilettante

    Branson was a hobbyist who discovered that he cannot afford his hobby any longer.

    And NASA is a RICO case waiting to be filed

  3. The point about Pegasus at the end of the article is IMHO a good one.

    Pegasus is a rarely used smallsat launcher, because of its cost. It’s basically a specialty launcher.

    So, the one and only way you’ve got a shot is if you can launch a lot cheaper. The billion in R&D Virgin Orbit spent utterly precluded that, so why on earth did they try? And more to the point, why would anyone invest anything in such a folly? Personally, I’ve been calling said investors “suckers” and “morons” for about a decade. Even a tree stump could see this one coming.

    To be fair though, though Virgin Orbit’s business plan reminds me very much of the one made famous by South Park (the stolen underwear one), it’s not as bad as Virgin Galactic’s business plan.

  4. There’s a reason why the business plan for Starship contains a line about “steal underpants.” Musk watched Southpark. Did Bezos and Branson? I do think Bezos meets the baseline definition of a canny businessman. He’s in the business of making your money into his money. Musk, by contrast, is a “wizard,” one with Edison, Ford, and Burbank.

    1. I’d say Musk is an Edison, alright. He is a genius for taking credit for the both the genius and the hard work of the people working for him.

        1. I keep meaning to deploy some perjorative other than “boob,” but I keep being triggered in the same ways by the same people. Sorry.

          Be that as it may, can anyone come up with specific instances of Musk ” taking credit for the both the genius and the hard work of the people working for him”? Otherwise it’s just disciples of Saint Obama chanting, “You didn’t build that,” which is an instance of the Big Lie technique. Ribbentrop must be the proudest soul in Hell.

          I’m not really up on Tesla, if for no other reason than I think BEV is a bad idea. When it comes to SpaceX, I keep seeing such claims about the Merlin 1D, but it’s universally acknowledged that Tom Mueller developed the Falcon/Dragon engine families, that he previously was chief engineer for the TR-107 engine. and that Baber Nichols owned the turbopump IP, which it legitimately and publicly sold to SpaceX. Anything else? Or is it just the usual petty jealousy from people whose achievements in the field are vanishingly minor? Musk has a degree in physics and another one in business. His success, while hard won, is no surprise. Show me where he cheated.

          I’m also aware of the fairy tales about Edison spread by his enemies during his lifetime and repeated as gospel after he was dead. Westinghouse, Tesla, and Steinmetz all have their partisans, but Edison was Edison. What did the others give us? AC? Broadcast power? In one instance, a bad idea that malformed the modern world, in the other, a nothing muffin. Edison paid Steinmetz for his work.

          1. “Ribbentrop must be the proudest soul in Hell.”

            I think you mean Goebbels.

  5. “After a two-year hiatus, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity resumed flying crew members beyond a 50-mile-high space milestone, marking the end of a years-long flight test program and setting the stage for the start of commercial service as soon as next month.

    It was the first launch of the Unity rocket plane from its VMS Eve carrier airplane since July 2021, when company founder Richard Branson took a ride. Branson said he was “proud” to be watching from Spaceport America in New Mexico when Unity took flight.

    During today’s suborbital flight test, known as Unity 25, the rocket plane sent two pilots and four other Virgin Galactic employees to a maximum height of 54.2 miles, at a top speed of Mach 2.94.”

  6. You mean that you can go out and count how many possible customers there are and multiply by the amount of money they are willing to pay, then build a company that can live on that? What a novel idea, certainly for someone from the space side of Boeing. He just knew that some government, somewhere would just keep writing checks or cheques as the case may be until…

    1. That’s pretty much the definition of “business model,” although you should substitute “potential” for “possible” when it comes to customers. Customers are like energy, they become kinetic customers when they actually give you money. Musk’s advantage is he went to the Wharton School of Business (like Trump). Bezos is just an engineer who got a job as an investment banker (where you learn all about Other People’s Money). Amazon is pretty much the perfect example of a self-actualizing company (“build it and they will come”). SpaceX is an example of a goal-driven company. Boeing? “Money for nothing and the chicks for free,” quoted by men who hadn’t heard about something called “talent.” Rock stars are goal driven. The money and chicks are the perqs.

  7. “What did the others give us? AC? Broadcast power? In one instance, a bad idea that malformed the modern world”

    AC malformed the modern world????

    1. I’m guilty of gross oversimplification here, but AC resulted in a massive, fragile, and expensive infrastructure, including multi-billion dollar power plants. Edison favored a distributed use-case infrastructure that was more robust and flexible. AC did not win the Current Wars on merit, it was decreed by JP Morgan. As far as I know, none of these guys foresaw nuclear power, for obvious reasons.

      People appear to have forgotten how idolized Edison was by the general public, with books and popular songs about him, and later on adoring movies. I have two novels about him, “Edison’s Conquest of Mars” and “Edison’s Voyage to Saturn.” Both were an early form of SF. Of course, people tend to forget that during the Current Wars, Edison murdered an Elephant.

      1. AC voltage wins on two metrics, both of which were critical at the start and less critical (or even reversed) now:

        1) AC is safer than DC. You can pull your hand back after gripping house voltage AC, you can’t pull your hand back from DC, you just fry. This is still true, though we have better housing codes at least.

        2) Transformers. Transformers (or something like them) are a requirement for making up for transmission losses. They didn’t have transistors, so restoring the voltage of DC after transmission losses was VERY hard. So AC wins big here back then, but of course now this is almost irrelevant.

        1. What you’re really saying is, Ac wins on its own terms, and that seems inevitable, because we live in AC World. But compare AC high voltage with long transmission lines to DC low voltage short transmission lines, and the win is not so inevitable. In today’s terms, JP Morgan was an investment banker, and he saw AC was like railroad, complete with government subsidies and rights of way, and with the added advantage of powerplants that beat the pants off railyards. Edison’s vision was more like having an off road bus system in place of railroads. And, of course, it’s all irrelavant now, except AC World will take a long time to fade. Maybe rooftop solar and BEVs will kill it? I’ll be long gone.

          1. PS: a friend of mine died from AC a few years back. He was prepping to transport his sailboat, with it on the trailer, as he backed it around. He went to unstep the mast, not noticing it was touching a power line. He didn’t even get aboard. One hand on the gunwale and that was that. I guess his reflexes weren’t quick enough to snatch his hand back.

  8. I’m trying to find the original papers outlining propulsive EDL, RTLS, and the landing algorithm. I know I had them, but where on what disk, I wonder. So far I found this:


    There were a couple of others. including one written by Draper, I think, for the company whose contract was transferred to Orbital (can’t remember!). And one dating to about 1980 featuring the original algorithm for a vertical precision landing.

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