Sir Richard Branson All Fired Up With Latest Rocket Motor Test

May 31, 2009 by Mary Anne Simpson, weblog
Eve--named after Sir Richard's Mom. Credit: Scaled Composites LLC

Virgin Galactic owned by Sir Richard Branson completed a successful test on May 28, 2009 of its hybrid nitrous oxide motor designed by Scaled Composites and a subcontractor Sierra Nevada Corporation. The innovative hybrid motor is the largest of its kind in the world and offers safety features including a kill switch allowing the spaceship to glide back to Earth and perform a conventional runway touch down.

The Virgin Galactic model dubbed, SpaceShipTwo is being built by aerospace expert, Burt Rutan owner of Scaled Composites LLC.

As one might expect, Rutan and Branson have come up with a highly efficient and extraordinary design for their spacecraft. SpaceShipTwo will launch after reaching the upper atmosphere after detaching from the mother ship called Eve. The hybrid motor uses nitrous oxide and according to Sir Richard does not contain harmful toxins as solid rockets used by the . Another advantage of the launch is the cost savings for fuel.

The SpaceShipTwo has a capacity to carry six space tourists and two pilots into suborbital space at speeds up to 2500 mph and soar about 65-miles above the Earth. The expected ticket price is $200,000 per passenger and currently there are 300 space tourists on the waiting list. Testing on SpaceShipTwo will begin later this year.

Scaled Composites is located in Mojave, California. Paul Allen provided major funding for the SpaceShipTwo design that went a long way to garner the $10 million dollar Ansari X Prize. The Virgin Galactic team is fired up and ready for GO.


Scaled Composites LLC,
Virgin Galactic,

© 2009

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5 / 5 (4) May 30, 2009
The good thing about the hybrid motor is that it combines the simplicity of solid-fuel rockets with the safety of liquid-fuel rockets. Unfortunately, the article gives no details of the design hurdles that must have been overcome in the hybrid engine, such as the tendency of the rubbery elements of solid fuel to shed fragments.
2 / 5 (8) May 30, 2009
Man anyone wasting 200k on a trip on this thing is an idiot. I would never even think about paying 200k, even if i was super rich, just to get to the top of the atmosphere and then come back in.
if im gonna pay a fortune to go into space, i better go into space and hang out there awhile damn it. :)
5 / 5 (4) May 30, 2009
LuckyBrandon, here's your free ticket. Tell us what it's like. If $200K was 5% of your yearly gross income...shoot, most people spend that on summer vacations.

Anyhow, the definition of where "space" begins is not a fixed thing like the difference between the beach and the ocean. The air gets thinner and thinner. The amount of energy to escape the Earth gets less and less. But it doesn't "end" at any particular place. You can orbit pretty low, providing you're willing to put up with the atmosphere. And as for "completely" escaping Earth's gravity...well...the moon orbits the Earth. And as for getting into what's called "deep space". That's quite a lot further than any human being has been.
4.5 / 5 (2) May 31, 2009
Man anyone wasting 200k on a trip on this thing is an idiot. I would never even think about paying 200k, even if i was super rich, just to get to the top of the atmosphere and then come back in.

if im gonna pay a fortune to go into space, i better go into space and hang out there awhile damn it. :)

What a "fortune" is, depends on which end of the stick you're at.
5 / 5 (2) May 31, 2009
Well its a great start. It might seem like a lot of money but when you think about it, you could afford it (even if you had to sell your home) whereas previously it was pretty much impossible to get into 'space'.

I can only see this getting cheaper and cheaper. Heck if they can get this down to $10 to 20 k average people would do it cause its not like you can experience it anywhere else.
5 / 5 (1) May 31, 2009
Could this motor technology enable orbital flight eventually? I would love to visit an orbiting Hilton for a week!
1 / 5 (2) May 31, 2009
doc-it didnt take my comments (testing this new chrome browser and it flunked for a minute), so sorry for late reply here... I wasnt speaking so much as to deep space, but more like half way between the earth and moon would be cool. Although I will say deep space would be much cooler, but its beyond our means for now.....
To me if you cant look back on the earth from afar and at least see some starts around it, even if its taking up 98% of th window and stars behind it in the background take up 2% of hte window I would be satisfied with calling that space. But from my understanding, this craft merely hits the upper portion of the atmosphere...this to me is not me, simply put, this is merely a di*k tease.
Also, last I heard, the border of space and earth has now been defined. There was an article a few eeks back on this site about it in fact :) Whether it was right or not of course still remains to be seen :)
You give me that free ticket buddy, and I'll report back to the world whether its a waste of time or not. I kid you not, YouTube reaches faaaaar :D
1 / 5 (2) May 31, 2009
accarilho-good point. But I don't care if I had more cash than donald trump. I would never waste this kind of money on something so useless.
I can see this having purposes such as easier launches to be able to get to the space station, or later to a lunar colony....but to the upper atmosphere only....its a waste.

Bob-the difference is, you can pay a few million to sit on the space station for a week or so, actually in space, or 200k for this, which by comparison equates to nothing more than choosing a pinto over a 69 camaro RS/SS.....actually in hind sight, you probably cant make trips to the space station anymore since its at full capacity.

5 / 5 (1) May 31, 2009
Come on, Brandon, free enterprise is great! Those wealthy, early adopters will bring the price down so that one day, before we die, we just might be able to afford a flight, and possibly to an altitude that would even make you happy :)

Even bargain hunters can participate: I spent several hundred bucks a while back to send a family picture and a physical item up in a Bigelow Aerospace experiment in orbit (about 300 miles.) It will be up there for a decade, and they even have pictures of everyone's stuff (mine seems to be stuck to the wall and never floats free, bummer.)

I grew up reading sci-fi, and I guess I just get a thrill out of the fact that I sent something into orbit. How many people can say that? Oh, wait, I forgot, NASA is taxpayer funded, so I guess most people own something in space. Darn it all, spoil my fun!
1 / 5 (2) May 31, 2009
Unfortunately, the article gives no details of the design hurdles that must have been overcome in the hybrid engine, such as the tendency of the rubbery elements of solid fuel to shed fragments.
5 / 5 (4) May 31, 2009
I got an idea for a rocket that is fueled by solid cash soaked in gasoline.
5 / 5 (1) Jun 01, 2009
What you define useless is pretty much up to you. Some will find it useless to spend 200k on a sport car, some would not. I don't see why going to the upper atmosphere should be more useless than buying a car or a summer-house or going into a casino and losing them all for the fun of it.
If I had that money, I would gladly try this flight.
And this is a wonderful start for other companies to offer similar service, thus bringing down the price as a whole And this will make people start thinking why should we just hang into space, when we could make some facilities-like hotels and so on. And little by little, a new industry will be born. Yay!
1 / 5 (2) Jun 01, 2009
deni-because after the 200k is spent on that car, you still have it in your garage. a more accurate representation would be something like spending 200k on a world trip. In other words, something to show for it, or nothing to show for it, is the choice (well maybe you'll get a t-shirt or something for your 200k).
But I agree on the aspect of to each his own.
not rated yet Jun 01, 2009
I'm worried that this is a deadend technology. (SpaceshipOne etc.) All calculations i've done indicate that simply lofting a rocket to the height and speed that any current airbreathing engine can achieve saves (very little/almost nothing) from the work that the rocket motor needs to do to achieve any useful orbit. Think about it. SpaceshipOne's mothership, at huge expense, achieves 25% of minimum orbit altitude and >5% of minimum orbital velocity, for a total rocket fuel saving of perhaps 2%. Should simply increase the rocket motor's fuel load by a little over 2% and launch from the surface. Granted, the rocket motor's ideal exit cone shape is different for atmospheric operation than in vacuum, but simply strapping on a few solid boosters is a lot cheaper for getting out into vacuum than a piloted aircraft.

Besides, the minimum starting weight of any useful spacecraft gets very high very quickly when one starts talking of useful masses to useful orbits.... Way beyond anything ever hauled to 10 km altitude by any present aircraft.
not rated yet Jun 07, 2009
LuckyBrandon, its impossible to go from no space tourism to space hotel all in one step. First you gotta build up your tourist base.
To speed up the space tourist industry growth and decrease trip costs Virgin should, in the not too distant future, share their plans of the "Spaceship x" with others interested in setting up a space tourism company...

When the novelty wears off, and a solid tourist base has been estabilished(due to falling costs), then they will look at doing something even more amazing... I wonder who will be the first couple to be honeymooning in zero G?
1 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2009
i agree with that somewhat, with the somewhat being that space tourism has been going on for a decade or so via russia...
I do agree on the rest though :)

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