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Off Topic => General Discussion => Topic started by: Jeff Raven on July 11, 2021, 08:46:11 PM

Title: Richard Branson
Post by: Jeff Raven on July 11, 2021, 08:46:11 PM
So, what does everyone think of Richard Branson's flight today, as well as the 'controversy' of whether he (and others who take such a flight) should get credit for getting to space? I know that the line is somewhat arbitrary, and different groups (e.g.various U.S. organizations such as NASA, the FAA, Air Force vs. FAI) have different standards, and am curious what people's takes are on this?

Regardless of whether he "should" get credit, I think it's quite the accomplishment to have yet another private organization do what they have.
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: molesworth on July 12, 2021, 06:35:28 AM
It was an impressive flight, and interesting technology, but I think it's fundamentally a dead end as far as spaceflight goes, and will never be more than a "tourist attraction".  (Not that there's anything wrong with encouraging tourism.)

Even with the announced future developments of the idea, they're not going to be able to reach orbit or launch payloads into LEO.  They might allow for an occasional science experiment in low or brief zero G, but that would need to be very well planned as it's such a brief opportunity per flight.

Overall, it's a fun idea, and as soon as I make my first million I'll think about buying a ticket  ;)
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: Peter B on July 12, 2021, 11:05:03 AM
So, what does everyone think of Richard Branson's flight today, as well as the 'controversy' of whether he (and others who take such a flight) should get credit for getting to space? I know that the line is somewhat arbitrary, and different groups (e.g.various U.S. organizations such as NASA, the FAA, Air Force vs. FAI) have different standards, and am curious what people's takes are on this?

Regardless of whether he "should" get credit, I think it's quite the accomplishment to have yet another private organization do what they have.

Well, good for him. Private space travel is where aviation was a century ago. Eventually aviation developed to a point where it became available for everyone, and perhaps space travel might get there too.

I'm not as convinced as Molesworth that this technology is a dead end. I assume it'd be possible to sling a small unmanned rocket where the spacecraft hangs that could get into orbit. And the White Knight aircraft could be scaled up (isn't there that monster made of two 747 fuselages that's flown a couple of times?) to carry larger craft. Obviously, it's only going to happen if it's economical. It would be interesting to compare costs with SpaceX.

My concern is about the safety side of things. From what I've read other people in the industry were scathing of Branson after the accident a few years ago where a spacecraft was destroyed. I don't know whether the criticisms were valid or if the critics just didn't like their patch being invaded by a rich amateur; and if the former, whether the shortcomings have been addressed. I'll leave that to people in the know.

As for the altitude thing, that's a non-issue. As far as it matters to me, I prefer the 100km altitude. But if 50 miles is good enough for NASA, then fine, the crew get their astronaut wings.
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: PDI-11 on July 12, 2021, 12:22:06 PM
Regarding the question of "reaching space" and receiving astronaut wings, I think the answer is yes. They exceeded the altitude at which other people receive the recognition.

But I also think we are near the moment in time when "being an astronaut" is entirely different than it was years ago. With hundreds of tourist potentially reaching space each year, the meaning and excitement of being an "astronaut" will change. Previously, the government issues the astronaut wings because it was government employees (or the vast majority were) who were on the missions. I am fine with tourist receiving astronaut wings; they can be handed out by the service provider (Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, or SpaceX).
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: jfb on July 12, 2021, 04:04:01 PM
It may not open up space travel in terms of getting to or beyond orbit, but it may open up practical (for suitably loose definitions of the word) commercial suborbital travel - NY to LA in under an hour, say.  I don't think WK/SS2 is the path forward on that for a number of reasons, but Stratolaunch may be with the right passenger vehicle. 

If they crossed the Karman line, they should get the wings.  I personally would not refer to them as astronauts, because to me the term means something more than having flown to a certain altitude.  But as far as qualifying for astronaut wings, they've met the standard that's been in place for half a century. 
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: apollo16uvc on July 12, 2021, 05:02:08 PM
The livestream was kinda shit...

Prefer the no-nosense streams of NASA and SpaceX that actually have interesting commentary and more than a few seconds of footage in "Space"
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: smartcooky on July 13, 2021, 02:43:19 AM
It was an impressive flight, and interesting technology, but I think it's fundamentally a dead end as far as spaceflight goes, and will never be more than a "tourist attraction".  (Not that there's anything wrong with encouraging tourism.)

Even with the announced future developments of the idea, they're not going to be able to reach orbit or launch payloads into LEO.  They might allow for an occasional science experiment in low or brief zero G, but that would need to be very well planned as it's such a brief opportunity per flight.

Overall, it's a fun idea, and as soon as I make my first million I'll think about buying a ticket  ;)

Branson has about 700 people (mostly the rich and celebrities) signed up to go.

Also, I don't believe its a dead technology, at least for satellite launches. Pegasus has had about 40 successful air-lauches of satellites into orbit over the last 30 years. Initially they were using a B-52, now they use a Lockheed L-1011 (Tri-Star).

While there are disadvantages in doing it this way such as mass limitations, the big advantage is that any orbital inclination is possible without a significant payload penalty or safety limitation you face in ground lauched - you literally point the mothership aircraft in the desired direction and launch the rocket.

Here is the Pegasus launch of the CYGNSS weather and hurricane research satellite back in 2016. It ended up in a 512 x 6908 km @ 35° (target orbit was 510 x 6888 km @ 35°)

Enjoy

Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: Zakalwe on July 13, 2021, 04:25:47 AM
More power to him... shrouds don't have pockets and he's got to find a way of spending all those millions he's made of plundering the NHS.

So what about the altitude? It's all a game of rich men dick-waving after all. However, getting to space in a sub-orbital hop as a passenger doesn't make you an astronaut anymore than flying in an airline makes you a pilot.

Hopefully access to space (and Mars!) will increase and we'll move beyond such simplistic notions.
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: Peter B on July 13, 2021, 05:48:23 AM
The livestream was kinda shit...

Prefer the no-nosense streams of NASA and SpaceX that actually have interesting commentary and more than a few seconds of footage in "Space"

Actually a lot of the video was pretty poor, in terms of formatting. For examples: the numbers showing things like speed and altitude were invisible against light backgrounds; showing the altitude in feet was silly - 300,000 feet is meaningless to most people, but 56 miles is a number that people understand; and using variable width characters wasn't useful either, particularly with altitude - the characters changed rapidly, meaning the numbers flickered back and forth, making them a little harder to read.
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: molesworth on July 13, 2021, 06:51:37 AM
I'm not as convinced as Molesworth that this technology is a dead end. I assume it'd be possible to sling a small unmanned rocket where the spacecraft hangs that could get into orbit. And the White Knight aircraft could be scaled up (isn't there that monster made of two 747 fuselages that's flown a couple of times?) to carry larger craft. Obviously, it's only going to happen if it's economical. It would be interesting to compare costs with SpaceX.

Also, I don't believe its a dead technology, at least for satellite launches. Pegasus has had about 40 successful air-lauches of satellites into orbit over the last 30 years. Initially they were using a B-52, now they use a Lockheed L-1011 (Tri-Star).

Just to clarify - I'm not saying air-launch systems are a dead end, and I agree they're a good way to launch small payloads cheaply.  However, I think that Virgin's SpaceShipTwo and successors are not heading in that direction.  The design is ingenious with the feathering wings and rubber/NO2 engine, but even scaled up it will, at best, be useable as a sub-orbital point-to-point transport system or just possibly a tourist ride to very low orbit.

I'd also agree about the very poor quality of the streaming, and I switched over to NASA Spaceflight who showed the release and ignition well before the Virgin stream.  Hopefully they'll sort out the technical glitches for future flights, and maybe have less of the ads and pundits, although they're likely catering for a different audience to us...
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: Obviousman on July 13, 2021, 04:21:13 PM
More power to him... shrouds don't have pockets and he's got to find a way of spending all those millions...

I like that. I'll have to try and use that phrase some time!
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: Obviousman on July 13, 2021, 04:26:09 PM
However, getting to space in a sub-orbital hop as a passenger doesn't make you an astronaut anymore than flying in an airline makes you a pilot.

Reminds me of when I was debating with a Twoofer on the Loose Change forums, such a long time ago. They were arguing that an aircraft could not do certain things, and they were blatently wrong. When I called them out on this, stating my qualifications as an air trafic controller, aircraft navigator and pilot, having worked in aviation most of my life, they counted with their over 10,000 flying hours. And yes, when pushed, it was 10,000 hours riding as a passanger in an airliner!
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: nikolai on July 14, 2021, 09:51:26 AM
It was an impressive flight, and interesting technology, but I think it's fundamentally a dead end as far as spaceflight goes, and will never be more than a "tourist attraction".  (Not that there's anything wrong with encouraging tourism.)

Even with the announced future developments of the idea, they're not going to be able to reach orbit or launch payloads into LEO.  They might allow for an occasional science experiment in low or brief zero G, but that would need to be very well planned as it's such a brief opportunity per flight.

Overall, it's a fun idea, and as soon as I make my first million I'll think about buying a ticket  ;)

I'm getting that the kinetic energy in an orbit at 100km altitude (which is a pretty low orbit) is more than 30 times as much as the energy needed to lift one up 100km.

I have ignored the initial kinetic energy you have if you use the earth's rotation, but that's not all that much.  Also, the kinetic energy requirement for the orbit is an underestimate, because you have to lift a lot more fuel up high.

So I think this is a whole different sport than going into orbit.  It's a bit like riding a horse versus driving a Ferrari.  But as someone else said, there are potential applications for suborbital, like fast air (or over the air) transport.  Or ICBMs; maybe those can be privatised too.
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: molesworth on July 15, 2021, 06:05:36 AM
...  Or ICBMs; maybe those can be privatised too.

Well, if that's an option, I guess it's time to make a start on that secret island volcano super-villain base I've been planning ;D
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: Obviousman on July 16, 2021, 01:59:46 AM
There will have to be a change to the definitions for the award of astronaut wings, most likely to do with some professional qualifications and crew duties whilst aboard. The pilots would qualify but the SLF* would not.







SLF - Self Loading Freight
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: smartcooky on July 16, 2021, 06:19:28 AM
There will have to be a change to the definitions for the award of astronaut wings, most likely to do with some professional qualifications and crew duties whilst aboard. The pilots would qualify but the SLF* would not.







SLF - Self Loading Freight

Maybe, in the best traditions of the military, they could get half wings. In most Air Forces, pilots get full wings

(https://www.dropbox.com/s/0brfg5itzwezsd4/Wings.jpg?raw=1)

...but other aircrew get flight brevets like this...

(https://www.dropbox.com/s/d7b0g90ugtfwnpw/HalfBrevet.jpg?raw=1)

The letters on the middle designate what their aircrew specialty or qualification. This one is a Load Master. Other letters are

N - Navigator
AE - Air Electronics
AO - Air Ordinance
O = Observer

Maybe those who get to space in a sub-orbital flight get half wings with SO
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: Obviousman on July 16, 2021, 07:23:03 PM
It could be as simple as the manifest; if you are listed as crew, you qualify. As for the brevet, it could be anything. Reminds me of today's Navy: every child wins a prize, everyone gets a set of wings.

The days of the Two Winged Master Race are gone.
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: bknight on July 17, 2021, 12:07:25 PM
So, what does everyone think of Richard Branson's flight today, as well as the 'controversy' of whether he (and others who take such a flight) should get credit for getting to space? I know that the line is somewhat arbitrary, and different groups (e.g.various U.S. organizations such as NASA, the FAA, Air Force vs. FAI) have different standards, and am curious what people's takes are on this?

Regardless of whether he "should" get credit, I think it's quite the accomplishment to have yet another private organization do what they have.

It was a great step forward in civilian trips to near outer space.  NASA started awarding wings at that altitude years ago, probaly becusue the X-15 pilots were miffed.
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: Peter B on July 20, 2021, 10:06:40 AM
And I see now that Blue Origin has up-and-downed.

Well, congratulations to them too. At least BO's rockets are being developed with a longer trajectory in mind, compared with Virgin Galactic. New Glenn looks impressive.
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: Jeff Raven on July 20, 2021, 10:26:03 AM
And I see now that Blue Origin has up-and-downed.

Well, congratulations to them too. At least BO's rockets are being developed with a longer trajectory in mind, compared with Virgin Galactic. New Glenn looks impressive.

*edited*  Yup. The flight went pretty smoothly. (the broadcast I watched was another story) I thought on initial (and replay) watch that the thrusters didn't fire just before landing, but they did. I'm sure the chairs are designed to handle a 16mph landing speed instead of the slower one that the thrusters provide, but it's good to see that they didn't have to. 

Looking forward to seeing and hearing the in-capsule video and audio.
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: Glom on July 20, 2021, 04:49:00 PM
My concern is about the safety side of things. From what I've read other people in the industry were scathing of Branson after the accident a few years ago where a spacecraft was destroyed. I don't know whether the criticisms were valid or if the critics just didn't like their patch being invaded by a rich amateur; and if the former, whether the shortcomings have been addressed. I'll leave that to people in the know.

Don't worry. NASA, Virgin Galactic's operations are regulated by the FAA so... oh... right.

I saw a rant by Steve Shives about how he's salty about these flights and wants real astronauts back. It was a douchier echo of arguments I've heard before about how the age of the eccentric billionaire isn't inspiring the way the golden age of NASA was.

The thing is, I think this really is rose tinted nostalgia goggles. NASA was achieving the most (in human spaceflight; for the purposes of this argument, that's what I'm talking about) when it was running on unashamed willy waving. When that factor became less powerful, things got more stagnant. For the likes of Shives, NASA achieved enough for them to believe that its drive was the furthering of human endeavour, a true proto-Starfleet exploring strange new worlds, but the truth is it was never that ideal. Throughout the decades of stagnation they could hope that maybe it would be this year that the president and Congress would give NASA the support they needed to become proto-Starfleet, but this was always a forlorn hope.

That was what has Shives so miffed. The arrival of these market disruptors has forced him to face the reality that NASA was never what he wanted to believe it was.

But there is something else. Shives wants real astronauts back. He talks about how he regards them as heroes. But the age of hero astronaut was always going to be temporary. No-one thinks of the guy flying the A350 from Heathrow to JFK as a hero, even though their flight is far more of a feat than what Lindburgh did. Even an Airbus test pilot isn't regarded as a hero. Aviation is routine now, mundane. If we are to progress, that is what space is to become. Seeing Branson go to (almost) space is a kick in the teeth because it heralds the post-astronaut age. One where going to space is the realm of the ordinary guy, not the hero. Branson is an ordinary guy except for his wealth and all that wealth did was get him an earlier ticket. But the idea is that where the super rich go now, in a few years, the economically average will follow. What Shives really wants is to trap spaceflight in amber, fossilised in a state of perpetual novelty. Perpetual novelty is of course an oxymoron. And it is having to face this truth that upsets him.

Really, this is a very exciting time. Space travel is no longer at the whim of the government with a willy to wave or pork to pack in barrels. The richest men in the world aren't doing this because they want to make money. They already have it all and they didn't obtain it by crazy ventures like this. They're doing this because they think space travel is cool. The profit component is simply necessary to make it stick this time. In a way, they represent the ideal of space flight as a human endeavour more than NASA ever did. But it is not what the likes of Shives spent their childhoods imagining. Their journey to coming to terms with that has only just begun.

True, Bezos, Branson and Musk put a big share of their ego into this, but a Youtuber has no business criticising others for narcissism.
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: Zakalwe on July 21, 2021, 03:41:34 AM
New Glenn looks impressive.

Vapourware and CGI is easy.
BO are really struggling with developing the BE-4 and are already well behind plan. ULA are allegedly very pissed that BO has failed to deliver, but they are also protecting BO to an extent. Unless they move to another engine Vulcan will be delayed.
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: Count Zero on July 21, 2021, 05:28:20 PM
I saw a rant by Steve Shives about how he's salty about these flights and wants real astronauts back....

That is an absolutely brilliant analysis/summation.  May I share it (with attribution)?
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: Glom on July 22, 2021, 03:23:28 AM
I saw a rant by Steve Shives about how he's salty about these flights and wants real astronauts back....

That is an absolutely brilliant analysis/summation.  May I share it (with attribution)?

Sure, I guess. Attribution to some guy.
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: Glom on July 23, 2021, 10:54:03 PM
Looks like the FAA have decided that the term "astronaut" refers to flight crew and not passengers.
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: bknight on July 24, 2021, 11:48:00 AM
Looks like the FAA have decided that the term "astronaut" refers to flight crew and not passengers.

Bureaucrats  ::)
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: Jeff Raven on July 24, 2021, 03:51:35 PM
Looks like the FAA have decided that the term "astronaut" refers to flight crew and not passengers.

Yup. And the timing was very pointed.  The passengers could still qualify for honorary wings, but not the full ones. From CNN:  The new order allows the agency to issue an honorary award to "individuals whose contribution to commercial human space flight merits special recognition." It's up to the sole discretion of FAA's associate administrator for commercial space transportation to determine who qualifies for the "honorary" astronaut wings.

The criteria for full wings are not very specific:  (In addition to the 50+ miles altitude) Commercial launch crew members must also demonstrate "activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety," an FAA spokesperson said, quoting the new order.   So, based on that, riding around on a joy ride wouldn't qualify, but what if they were also testing systems that were going to be used in the next generation of craft?  Would that be enough for the second criterion? Based on that one, how many of the mission specialists during the space shuttle years who were there for scientific research would still qualify? Same with ISS.  I don't even want to think about how they're going to decide the first one.
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: Obviousman on July 24, 2021, 09:41:23 PM
There will have to be a change to the definitions for the award of astronaut wings, most likely to do with some professional qualifications and crew duties whilst aboard. The pilots would qualify but the SLF* would not.







SLF - Self Loading Freight
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: nikolai on July 25, 2021, 12:04:24 PM
SLF - Self Loading Freight

For those who might not be familiar with the phrase, this is commonly used by snotty flight attendants with attitude problems to express their contempt for the people who are paying their salaries.
Title: Re: Richard Branson
Post by: Obviousman on July 25, 2021, 04:24:08 PM
SLF - Self Loading Freight

For those who might not be familiar with the phrase, this is commonly used by snotty flight attendants with attitude problems to express their contempt for the people who are paying their salaries.


And aircrew various when refering to pax (passangers).