Author Topic: Richard Branson  (Read 4115 times)

Offline Jeff Raven

  • Venus
  • **
  • Posts: 77
Richard Branson
« 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.

Offline molesworth

  • Mars
  • ***
  • Posts: 325
  • the curse of st custards
Re: Richard Branson
« Reply #1 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  ;)
Days spent at sea are not deducted from one's allotted span - Phoenician proverb

Offline Peter B

  • Saturn
  • ****
  • Posts: 1173
Re: Richard Branson
« Reply #2 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.

Offline PDI-11

  • Mercury
  • *
  • Posts: 5
Re: Richard Branson
« Reply #3 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).

Offline jfb

  • Mars
  • ***
  • Posts: 385
Re: Richard Branson
« Reply #4 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. 

Offline apollo16uvc

  • Mars
  • ***
  • Posts: 386
  • Where no telescope has gone before.
    • Patreon
Re: Richard Branson
« Reply #5 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"
Watch me at: YouTube
Experience the past: Flickr
Support me on Patreon

Offline smartcooky

  • Uranus
  • ****
  • Posts: 1889
Re: Richard Branson
« Reply #6 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

► What you can assert without evidence, I can dismiss without evidence
► When you argue with idiots you risk being dragged down to their level and beaten with experience.
► Conspiracism is a shortcut to the illusion of erudition

Offline Zakalwe

  • Uranus
  • ****
  • Posts: 1571
Re: Richard Branson
« Reply #7 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.
"The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.' " - Isaac Asimov

Offline Peter B

  • Saturn
  • ****
  • Posts: 1173
Re: Richard Branson
« Reply #8 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.

Offline molesworth

  • Mars
  • ***
  • Posts: 325
  • the curse of st custards
Re: Richard Branson
« Reply #9 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...
Days spent at sea are not deducted from one's allotted span - Phoenician proverb

Offline Obviousman

  • Jupiter
  • ***
  • Posts: 689
Re: Richard Branson
« Reply #10 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!

Offline Obviousman

  • Jupiter
  • ***
  • Posts: 689
Re: Richard Branson
« Reply #11 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!

Offline nikolai

  • Mercury
  • *
  • Posts: 18
Re: Richard Branson
« Reply #12 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.

Offline molesworth

  • Mars
  • ***
  • Posts: 325
  • the curse of st custards
Re: Richard Branson
« Reply #13 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
Days spent at sea are not deducted from one's allotted span - Phoenician proverb

Offline Obviousman

  • Jupiter
  • ***
  • Posts: 689
Re: Richard Branson
« Reply #14 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