Feeds

Branson 'spaceship' successfully falls off mothership

Surly bonds of Earth still in place for Virgin

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
'Yes, yes... YES!' Philae lands on COMET 67P
Plucky probot aces landing on high-speed space rock - emotional scenes in Darmstadt
THERE it is! Philae comet lander FOUND in EXISTING Rosetta PICS
Crumb? Pixel? ALIEN? Better, it's a comet-catcher!
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
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.
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.
How to simplify SSL certificate management
Simple steps to take control of SSL certificates across the enterprise, and recommendations centralizing certificate management throughout their lifecycle.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.