Feeds

Virgin Galactic: Flights 'still a few years away'

Not going ballistic

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson's planned "space tourism" operation, has admitted that it is "still a few years away from operations".

The company's COO has suggested that work is at a standstill pending the outcome of health-and-safety investigations into the fatal explosion earlier this year at the Mojave facilities of Scaled Composites, where Branson's rocketships are being developed.

Luxury vomit-comets, grounded perhaps for years.

Virgin Galactic was formed in the wake of Scaled Composites' 2004 Ansari X-Prize triumph, when its privately-developed SpaceShipOne suborbital rocketplane was first to achieve the X-Prize goals. SpaceShipOne was funded by Microsoft founder Paul Allen, and subsequently Richard Branson stepped in with £60m to order a fleet of five scaled-up SpaceShip Two passenger craft and a brace of White Knight Two launch platforms.

The SpaceShip Twos, like their forerunner, will not be able to achieve orbit. However, they will be able to carry their wealthy thrillseeker passengers on brief ballistic arcs outside the Earth's atmosphere, during which they will experience weightlessness and dazzling views. The first hundred tickets - at $200k each - sold fast, and flights were planned to commence in 2008. The New Mexico state government also has coughed up $31m to build a new desert spaceport, designed by Norman Foster, from which the Virgin Galactic fleet will operate.

But it now appears that things have ground to a halt, Alex Tai, Galactic COO, revealed as he addressed the Royal Aeronautical Society last week on the occasion of Sputnik's 50th anniversary.*

Speaking of the fatcats-in-space plans, he referred to the Mojave explosion, saying: "We are waiting for the [accident investigation] report. We are still a few years away from operations," Flight International reports.

Apparently, work on SpaceShip Two is on hold. However, Tai said that a nifty simulator with "stunning visuals" is on offer to console Sigourney Weaver and other wealthy customers who have reserved seats, and who - it now appears - may have to wait until next decade for their zero-gee joyride. ®

*Sputnik actually did reach Earth orbit.

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.