22 February 2010

Virgin Galactic could be a real space line

Spaceport America impression
This is either a blinding 'flash of light' moment, or a real 'duh' moment cos all you guys saw it coming already and I'm the last to join the cluetrain.

Like most people, I've been fascinated by the advances made by Burt Rutan & Richard Branson's space programme - though at the same time deeply irritated by its constant appearance in travel publications just because it is being marketed like another Branson airline. My line has been that "space tourism" will only exist when they start selling room nights in orbit or on the moon! For now it is simply a "space experience".

But I'm now wondering if I was slightly...wrong. Maybe it is about travel.

I was writing a short item this morning about hard-hat tours of the construction site in New Mexico for Spaceport America, the new home for Virgin Galactic, and I remembered I had seen something recently about plans for a Spaceport Scotland in Lossiemouth.

At the time I just thought: "Ah, interesting. Branson may expand his thrill ride operations to Europe, just like Disneyland!"

But now I find there is also a Spaceport Sweden.

So here comes the duh/flash moment...

Wait a sec. Just because a Virgin Galactic spaceship takes off from Scotland, doesn't mean it has to return there. It could land in, say....New Mexico, less than an hour later. Now THAT is the beginning of an airline! Or rather a space line.


Anonymous said...

Nice thought, but I don't think the Virgin spacecraft will have enough altitude to reach the two geological points you mentioned. Remember, they're only going up 62 miles on a suborbital trajectory, so its landing must be within that range.

Now ORBITAL spacecrafts are what Virgin Galactic is aiming for, once the suborbital market is safe and sound. In that case, you are correct! Bring it on!

onliner said...

Thanks for that, Anon.

Interesting. I didn't know that.

Still, it doesn't entirely shoot down the idea. Just puts it in a holding pattern for now.

...along with my other 'big idea' for VG

If we are going to develop our capabilities and expand our knowledge in space we need to be sending lots of probes off to explore our local planets, and preparing for permanent or semi-permanent manned colonies...on the moon first and then Mars. To do that we need a cheap, quick and easy way of delivering stuff into orbit.

We should be mass-producing small semi-automated freight pods for Sir Richard to put into space. Hundreds of little boxes than can carry building materials, food, equipment and other supplies to a point on the Moon and Mars so they are already there when manned expeditions arrive.

I see a payload ejection, then a small ion motor to slowly accelerate the probe or cargo pod on its way.

A bit like canal transport in the 18th/19th century - with non-perishable goods (eg coal). It doesn't matter how long the cargo takes to reach its destination. What is important is the rate it is dispatched from the start point because that equals the rate of delivery at the other end.

So, I'm guessing the payload can't be ejected at 62 miles. It would need an orbital trajectory so you could slingshot it on its way.....?

Robert Jacobson said...

Great to hear that main stream travel journalists are taking suborbital and related space experiences seriously. There are other credible players like XCOR Aerospace worth taking a look at.

For the latest on news in and around the entrepreneurial space industry, check out http://www.62MileClub.com (shameless plug)