Feeds

Virgin Galactic to save planet from climate change

Keeping up with the Googlers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

One trouble with conducting global atmospheric research is the distinct lack of flashy suborbital rocketplanes available.

Fortunately, the tender heart of space tourism venture Virgin Galactic is easily wrung by such complications. The company said today it plans to join up with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to carry scientific kit on-board during its test-flight phase to help gather data on climate change.

Current research aircraft available to the NOAA are limited to an altitude of about 25,000ft (7,600m). Finding a ride able to fly above that height can be a difficult task.

Virgin Galactic, meanwhile, plans to fling its passenger rocketplanes at an altitude of approximately 50,000 feet (15,151m). The carrier aircraft that will tow Virgin's SpaceShipTwo crafts to that height is expected to make its first test flights in the coming weeks.

The NOAA reckons teaming with Virgin will provide regular access over the next year-and-a-half to Earth's upper stratosphere, mesosphere, and lower thermosphere — relatively understudied regions of critical importance to climate science and modeling.

"We need data and observations to understand how our climate changes," said NOAA administrator Conrad Lautenbacher in a statement. "This affords us a new and unique opportunity to gather samples and measurements at much higher altitudes than we can usually achieve."

Under the agreement, work conducted during the vehicles' test flight program will be done on a no-exchange of funds basis.

The first instruments planned to fly on-board will provide data on atmospheric composition — with an emphasis on the presence of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The data will also provide data to help calibrate satellite-based atmospheric measurements.

"To my mind there is no greater or more immediate challenge than that posed by climate change," said Virgin Galactic founder, Richard Branson. "It's therefore more than fitting that the very first science to be conducted on board our new vehicles may be specifically directed at increasing our understanding and knowledge of the atmosphere and from there, to better inform our decisions as to the most effective ways of dealing with climate change."

Virgin said that in the years ahead, it plans to work other science agencies around the globe to use SpaceShipTwo and its carrier craft as a platform for research and technology demonstration missions. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Rosetta science team thinks Philae might come to life in the spring
And disclose the biggest surprise of Comet 67P
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
The total economic impact of Druva inSync
Examining the ROI enterprises may realize by implementing inSync, as they look to improve backup and recovery of endpoint data in a cost-effective manner.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.