Monday, April 29, 2013

Virgin Galactic Breaks the Sound Barrier...

Developments are coming fast and furious in the private space industry right now.  Recently we had SpaceX and its Grasshopper test sessions and its second successful resupply/return to the ISS and Orbital's successful test launch of its Antares rocket.

Today its Virgin Galactic.  Virgin's efforts are decidedly the most consumer-centric of the bunch at the current time with its endeavors targeted toward getting well heeled customers into space for a brief period of time.  Virgin's design is based off of the Ansari X Prize winning design that some decade ago by Scaled Composites took private flight into space for the first time.

Utilizing a solid rubber fuel mixed (some engineer needs to explain to me how you control a solid propellant fuel burn--by throttling up and down the amount of oxidizer you "shoot" into the mixture/burn?) with nitrous oxide for its propellant the Virgin Galactic Space Ship Two broke the sound barrier during the first firing of its rocket in flight earlier today.  Ignited for only 16 seconds the ship reached Mach 1.2 and reached a height of 55,000 feet after being dropped by the White Knight transport at 47,000 feet.  Testing is expected to continue ramping up in the remainder of the year with a test to its intended suborbital height in excess of 328,000 feet (near triple the height of the Red Bull Stratos jump late last year) likely to occur before the 2014.

Reportedly over 500 people have already gotten themselves on board at a cost of $200,000 a pop for the rides on the ship when it becomes fully operational equating to some $100MM in revenue which is a good deal of money...but given Sir Richard Branson is a billionaire, really isn't that much for the effort...I have a feeling bigger and bolder plans are in store...

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