Branson and virgin galactic are go
By Sam Chapman
Virgin Galactic's SpaceshipTwo very recently became the world's first manned commercial space vehicle, having successfully completed a free flight from 45 000ft. It looks like a quality piece of kit and it's now one that seems to work.
Dubbed VSS Enterprise, the spaceship capable of mach 3.5, was released from its mothership (yes, it has one!) and completed the 11-minute glide, landing at Mojave Air and Spaceport in California on 10 October 2010.
In doing so, Enterprise's flight achieved its two primary goals [it didn't crash]. The more technical explanation was that they worked on verification that all systems worked prior and following its clean release and the performance of it relative to the 'lift-to-drag' ratio of the spaceship during glide flight.
Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, never one to miss a photo opportunity, was there at the scene. He said: "This was one of the most exciting days in the whole history of Virgin. For the first time since we seriously began the project in 2004, 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. 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."
Virgin Galactic, who are within Branson's British Virgin Group and are now well on the way to becoming the world's first commercial space-line. So far, 370 deposits have been paid totaling $50 million.
Ascent into space
Once in service, the Enterprise will be carried to launch altitude, by the mothership, before being released in mid-air allowing the shuttle to use its single hybrid rocket engine to ascend into space. The BBC has also covered this news story.
A purpose built spaceport (hopefully complete with X-Wings and space shields) called 'Spaceport America,' obviously, has been erected in New Mexico, where a runway inauguration ceremony is scheduled for 22 October 2010.
Piloting the maiden voyage, resembling Thunderbirds, were Pete Siebold and co-pilot, Mike Salisbury. The former said: The VSS Enterprise was a real joy to fly, especially when one considers the fact that the vehicle has been designed not only to be a Mach 3.5 spaceship capable of going into space but also one of the worlds highest altitude gliders.
Tickets cost a measly $200,000 (£126 000) a piece, so what are you waiting for?
This got Blokely HQ thinking - could we ever send a plain old [non millionaire] fella into space? Now, whilst our budget is healthy "promise" we don't have a spare £126,000. Not being ones for pipe dreams, we're pretty determined to make this a reality.
We're currently filling in grant forms, contacting every single *ahem* bank in the land and calculating the profit margins gleaned from every revenue stream we can imagine (renting out chimpanzees to rival publications as writers).
Consider this a mission we have chosen to accept. We want to try and get a normal person into space. That would be an incredible little challenge and achievement. Would you like to help? Let's start the brainstorm now...