Transterrestrial Musings

Defend Free Speech!

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay

Site designed by

Powered by
Movable Type 4.0
Biting Commentary about Infinity, and Beyond!

« Space Media Panel | Main | Personal Space Travel In Europe »

Virgin Tales

Jeff Foust has some reporting on Will Whitehorn's talk at ISDC yesterday. In this post, he notes that White Knight 2 will roll out on July 28th, presumably in Mojave, and discusses other potential applications than just a first stage for SpaceShipTwo, including a satellite launcher. The lack of comment other than "we've learned some lessons" on the SS2 propulsion is interesting to me. It sounds like they're still not sure what they're going to do, which continues to put SS2 schedule (whatever it is) in jeopardy. I suspect that Sir Richard's hype remains ahead of the actual program.

In this post Whitehorn mildly disses the Lynx:

XCOR is a company I respect, but with respect to them, they're not building a spaceship. They're building basically a high-altitude MiG equivalent. They're building something that you can strap in and go up to 37 miles. You won't get your astronaut wings but you will see the curvature of the earth. That will be an exciting project, but the problem is that it's not a space project, and I think it's been a little bit wrong to call it that.

While technically that's true, it is a project that can easily evolve into a "space project," which is what the program intent is. I don't see this as a problem. In fact, I see it as a solution, because Virgin may have bitten off more than it could chew with SS2. In hindsight (and foresight for some of us) it might have been useful to develop more operational experience with a lower-performance vehicle before moving to a bigger one.

Really, the only thing lacking from the XCOR product is a lack of astronaut wings--it will certainly be a space experience, and a more personal one with a better view, sitting in the left seat. I think that the market for it will be bigger than Whitehorn claims to think.



Jim Bennett wrote:

I think we need an equivalent of the "duck test" to distinguish commercial aviation from commercial space, to the extent we need to. The 100-km definition of space is a highly arbitrary bureaucratic convenience. The Lynx is regulated by FAA-AST, not FAA-AVR. It uses rocket propulsion, not jets. It can't be steered by aerodynamic control surfaces once it's out of the atmosphere.

In other words, it has all the attributes of a spacecraft, and with a few performance enhancements its basic design could easily top 100 km.

It walks like a duck. It quacks like a duck. Let's face it, the Lynx is a duck.

Rand Simberg wrote:

Yes. Whether it technically goes into space or not, it is most definitely a suborbital vehicle per the new legal definition. Armadillo will probably be flying people in their rockets before they get to a hundred kilometers, and they'll be doing it on an AST experimental permit as well.

Habitat Hermit wrote:

However Whitehorn also said that if cheap enough Virgin will buy Lynxes (presumably in addition to WK2/SS2) according to Clark's notes.

Jim Bennett the 100 km definition is not arbitrary nor bureaucratic it is based directly upon Kármán line.

Whitehorn calling it a MIG equivalent is sort of silly though, almost a bit like saying a first stage booster doesn't have anything to do with space since it only travels so far ^_^

Dennis Wingo wrote:

I saw the same presentation and actually they were quite complimentary of XCOR overall.

Rand Simberg wrote:

That's why I said "mildly," Dennis. XCOR is, of course, a potential supplier for Virgin Galactic.

Frank Glover wrote:

Funny that anyone from Virgin would say that as, 100km or not, there are still a boatload of people who are saying essentially; 'If it ain't at least orbital, it ain't space.'

Though one wonders how Al Shepard, Gus Grissom and assorted X-15 pilots would've regarded that...

Ashley wrote:

I didn't see the presentation, only Foust's comments the Personal Spaceflight blog, but I consider the remarks fairly harsh. Lynx has a lot of advantages, like not having to wait around under a carry-craft for an hour, not having to share your experience with a space-bus full of strangers (I consider a pilotless single-passenger ride to be the ideal), bigger windows, and a propulsion system that hasn't killed anybody*. Foust was blatantly trying to draw attention to all of Lynx's downsides, in my opinion.

*Ouch! But really, I consider a system incorporates a monoprop, isn't easy to test hundreds of times, and has to be significantly rebuilt between uses, to be less safe than XCOR's system.

Edward Wright wrote:

The 100-km definition of space is a highly arbitrary bureaucratic convenience.

"Where space begins" is a question whose answer varies greatly depending on the context. For an astronomer, the answer would be based on atmospheric transparency; for a pilot, it would be based on aerodynamics.

For biological purposes, I think the best definition is based on how long you can survive exposure without a spacesuit. If your survival time at time at altitude X is indistinguishable from your survival time at ISS, then for all practical purposes, I believe you're in outer space. Just as the astronauts walking on the Moon were in space (even though their altitude above the lunar surface was zero).

You won't get your astronaut wings"

I think some companies attach too much importance to this particular piece of costume jewelry. Astronaut wings are actually pretty easy (and cheap) to get. AST was giving away free commercial astronaut wings at the X-Prize Cup. At any major airshow, you can find souvenir booths selling NASA, Air Force, and Navy astronaut wings.

Because these wings are government designs, they are in the public domain and the government can't control who manufactures and sells them.

A space tourism company would be much better off designing its *own* costume jewelry, which it can copyright and control. I don't think anyone, including Virgin, has really thought this through.

Leave a comment

Note: The comment system is functional, but timing out when returning a response page. If you have submitted a comment, DON'T RESUBMIT IT IF/WHEN IT HANGS UP AND GIVES YOU A "500" PAGE. Simply click your browser "Back" button to the post page, and then refresh to see your comment.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on May 30, 2008 5:02 AM.

Space Media Panel was the previous entry in this blog.

Personal Space Travel In Europe is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 4.1