Friday, January 23, 2015

Branson To Press On With Space Tourism

January 23, 2015 11:11 am

Davos 2015: Richard Branson to press on with space tourism

Entrepreneur working to get next spaceship finished
Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson speaks at a press conference at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mohave, California on November 1, 2014. British tycoon Richard Branson insisted Saturday his dream of commercial space travel remained alive but warned his company would not "press on blindly" without knowing what caused the spacecraft crash that killed one pilot and seriously injured another. Speaking to reporters after arriving in the California facility which had been the hub of Virgin Galactic's ambitious space program, Branson said safety remained his paramount concern. "We owe it to our test pilots to find out exactly what went wrong, and once we've found out what went wrong, if we can overcome it, we'll make absolutely certain that the dream lives on," Branson told reporters. His comments at the Mojave Air and Space Port came as a team of federal investigators began probing the causes of Friday's accident, which dealt a devastating setback to the cause of commercial space tourism. AFP PHOTO/JOSH EDELSONJosh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images©AFP
Galactic venture: Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson at a press conference after the crash at Mojave Air and Space Port, California
ichard Branson will press on with his Virgin space tourism venture despite the fatal crash of one of his rocket ships in October and hopes eventually to use it for high-speed flights around the Earth.
Sir Richard, whose Virgin Galactic venture this week announced that it will also employ its ships to launch a network of telecommunications satellites, said that he had asked himself if it was worth continuing after the crash, in which one test pilot died and another was seriously injured.
“I remember thinking when happened, ‘My God, if this happens again we will be absolutely crucified. Is it worth going ahead?’ But if you take that attitude, progress never goes forward,” Sir Richard said in an interview with the Financial Times in Davos.
“We have got 300 engineers beavering away to get the next spaceship finished and going through test flights. I am not going to give dates because [we] made that mistake before, but when we have done that and the Federal Aviation Authority gives us registration, we will be up, up and away.”
Sir Richard said that it was impossible to guarantee that suborbital space flights, which will cost about $250,000 per passenger, would be entirely safe. “One cannot guarantee anything but we are working toward getting it as safe as possible and the longer we operate the safer it will become,” he said.
He said that Virgin Galactic “ultimately” wanted to use the technology, involving a rocket ship being launched in mid-air from a mother ship, to offer flights around the Earth. It would first need to bring the tourism venture to maturity, however.
Virgin Galactic is investing between $150m and $200m in building a second mother ship to create the capacity to launch several hundred satellites as part of a venture with OneWeb. The venture plans to create a constellation of 648 low Earth orbit satellites to offer mobile and internet access.
The OneWeb network will cost about $2bn. Virgin and Qualcomm, the mobile technology company, have become early-stage investors, with other investors being sought later. It comes amid renewed interest in providing telecommunications via satellites to underserved countries.

A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral
Dramatic setbacks have not put off investors in the private sector space race
Google and Fidelity have together invested $1bn in SpaceX, the venture founded by Elon Musk, founder of the electric car company Tesla, in the hope of using satellites for communications. Sir Richard said that OneWeb was ahead of SpaceX in already having 2,500 satellite slots booked.
Previous efforts at using networks of satellites for telecommunications have failed but Sir Richard said the technology had since advanced. Satellites could offer high-speed internet access not only in Africa and Asia, but in some low-population areas of the US, Australia and Europe.
“I don’t think anyone has tried anything like this. The cost has dropped dramatically over past decade since anyone last tried it. The technology has improved dramatically and while nothing is guaranteed I believe there is a market and it will work,” he said.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Novel Falcon 9 Blasts Off For The ISS

January 10, 2015 11:17 am

Novel SpaceX Falcon mission blasts off from Florida

The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket launched by SpaceX on a cargo resupply service mission to the International Space Station lifts off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, January 10, 2015. REUTERS/Scott Audette (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY TRANSPORT)©Reuters
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. Jan 10 - An unmanned Space Exploration Technologies Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida on Saturday carrying a cargo capsule for the International Space Station, then turned around to attempt an unprecedented landing on earth.
While the cargo ship flies towards the space station, the rocket was expected to head back to a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean some 200 miles (322 km) off Jacksonville, Fla., north of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch site.
If successful, the test by the privately owned SpaceX firm will mark a significant step in its quest to develop rockets that can be refurbished and reflown, slashing launch costs.
The mission blasted off at 4:47 am EST and it was not immediately clear if the flyback maneuver had succeeded.
Elon Musk, founder and chief executive of SpaceX has estimated the chance of a successful landing on the first try at 50 percent.
SpaceX Vice President Hans Koenigsmann told reporters before launch: “When you look at (the floating platform) on the ground, it’s a very big platform, but if you look at it from 150 or so miles up ... then it looks like a very small place to land on.”
The primary purpose of the flight is to deliver a Dragon cargo capsule to the space station, a $100bn laboratory that flies about 260 miles above Earth.
The capsule, which is loaded with more than 5,100lbs (2,300kg) of food, equipment and supplies, should reach the station on Monday. The cargo includes fruit flies for immune system studies and an instrument to measure clouds and aerosols in Earth’s atmosphere.
SpaceX is one of two companies hired by NASA to fly cargo to the station -- a project that involves 15 nations.
However, the second firm, Orbital Sciences was sidelined in October after its Antares rocket exploded minutes after liftoff.
Saturday’s launch was SpaceX’s 14th Falcon 9 flight and the fifth of 12 planned station resupply missions under its $1.6bn contract with NASA.
The launch had been scheduled for last Tuesday, but was called off less than two minutes before liftoff due to a technical problem with the rocket’s upper-stage motor.