Virgin Galactic spaceliner-piggyback craft delayed
Branson's economy-class rocketships not quite ready
The "mothership" jet aboard which Richard Branson's planned space-tourism rocketplanes will ride piggyback has had its first flight delayed, according to reports. The WhiteKnight Two carrier craft had been expected to fly this month.
The Rocketplane's reusable lower stage.
Flight International reports that the delay was announced by Will Whitehorn, president of the Virgin Galactic spaceline operation.
"The first flight trials will take place when we are ready and will definitely be this year and possibly within the next few weeks," said Whitehorn, quoted by Flight. He added that the WhiteKnight Two has already done taxiing trials.
The aircraft is a development from the original WhiteKnight which carried the famous Ansari X-prize winning SpaceShipOne on its flights into space. Virgin Galactic plans to commence trials of the SpaceShipTwo passenger-carrying rocketplanes next year.
The Virgin Galactic space-tourism fleet will operate from the new "Spaceport America" rocketport being purpose-built for it courtesy of the New Mexico state government (Virgin will lease the facility). It had originally been hoped that flights would commence in 2007, but there were long delays after a fatal rocketfuel explosion at the Mojave plant of Scaled Composites, the company building the spacecraft. Virgin now says it will start operations in 2010.
Wealthy passengers paying $200k each will enjoy a genuine trip into space complete with weightlessness. However, SpaceShipTwos and their like can't achieve orbital velocity: they merely fling themselves up out of the atmosphere ballistically before inevitably falling back in.
Real space tourism into actual orbit is on offer, in the form of visits to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz ship. But this costs roughly a hundred times more, and the ride is sometimes less than luxurious. ®
Re: What I dont understand is....
"...if normal planes can reach altitudes that are on the edge of space, why cant they just go that extra few feet?"
Maybe because conventional planes have an operating ceiling, after which the plane stops flying, and just starts going down, down, down!!! The X-15's used rockets to get up there, but no conventional airplane will get that way up and stay there.
Those who have tried to break the operational ceiling specs have ended up like these guys: http://www.darwinawards.com/darwin/darwin2004-11.html
Actually, the Vomit Comet mentioned above by Mike Richards, was used as a movie studio by Ron Howard for "Apollo 13".
He filmed all the in-space scenes aboard the aircraft (none of which ran more than 30 seconds), making Apollo 13 the ONLY space movie that uses real free-fall.
And it still failed to get even a "Technical Merit" Oscar.
Mine's the one with a NASA patch on the sleeve.
What I dont understand is....
...if normal planes can reach altitudes that are on the edge of space, why cant they just go that extra few feet? Rather than having a controlled explosion to get there??