Feeds

Branson 'spaceship' successfully falls off mothership

Surly bonds of Earth still in place for Virgin

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Virgin Galactic, the nascent suborbital joyride company backed by bearded biz-lord Richard Branson, has announced a further milestone on its road to dominance in the exoatmospheric-excursion market. In a test yesterday, one of the firm's passenger rocketplanes was successfully dropped from a jet "mothership" at 45,000 feet to make a glide landing.

VSS Enterprise separates from VMS Eve. Credit: Virgin Galactic

Down, down and away

"I watched the world’s first manned commercial spaceship landing on the runway at Mojave Air and Space Port and it was a great moment," enthused Branson. "Now, the sky is no longer the limit and we will begin the process of pushing beyond to the final frontier of space itself over the next year.”

Following release from the specialist high-altitude four-engined jet VMS (Virgin Mother Ship) Eve, the VSS (Virgin Space Ship) Enterprise made an unpowered gliding descent to land at the Mojave "spaceport". Pilots Pete Siebold and Mike Alsbury carried out a mock landing approach at height before doing it for real on the Mojave runway.

During commercial operations, a VSS would instead fire up its tyre-rubber-and-laughing-gas powered rocket to zoom briefly out of the atmosphere. Even with a helping hand from the VMS carrier, a VSS lacks the power to reach full orbital velocity and so remain in space. Thus, once the rocket has burned out the little ship will plunge back to Earth for a glide landing in New Mexico, the planned base of operations for Virgin Galactic.

It's stretching reality to call this a "commercial spaceship", and it's clear the sky remains very much a limit - and will remain so even once the Virgin "Galactic" joyrides commence. But a commercial seat on an actual real orbital spaceship - as offered in recent times by the Russian space programme and the International Space Station, and perhaps in future by companies boasting armed Soviet-era space warships - costs well over 100 times what a ticket from Virgin Galactic does: a comparatively pocket-pleasing $200k.

Virgin Galactic tickets can be booked as soon as you like; Branson's people have been taking reservations for years already. The first proper test flight isn't expected until next year, however, with commercial operations some distance beyond that.

"Our challenge going forward will be to complete our experimental program, obtain our FAA licence and safely bring the system into service," said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides, following yesterday's glide. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
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.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.