Once seen as impossible, Virgin Galactic faced engineering concerns and developed a vehicle that would allow for sub-orbital flights. NEXT FRONTIER? Form a space craft that will not only launch through the orbit but on to Virgin Galactic’s space hotel which will offer, in addition to an incredible view, daytrips to the moon.
In a recent speech to Virgin Galactic customers Richard Branson, the company’s founder made this incredible statement of future plans. Some might consider him a dreamer, and they would be right, but far more often that one thinks, dreams come true. Riding to the Earth’s orbit (and beyond) would require that he develop a space ship that can reach speeds far beyond that of what he has already developed. One space policy expert asks where Branson could even get that sort of funding. If I am not mistaken, that was asked of his earlier plan.
Some might say that he has yet to deliver on the first but we have not only witnessed several test launches of this system, but NASA has purchased time on some of his flights. 500 hundred people thus far have paid $200,000 for a sub-orbital flight around the Earth. The trips are planned to start in 2014.
But to orbit? And then the moon? Branson plans on a new launch vehicle to be built on the technology of VG’s SpaceShipTwo (naming it LauncherOne) which launches in mid-air off the back of the WhiteKnightTwo, a huge mothership. This new technology would be less expensive per flight and would be capable of launching hundreds of new satellites in a 24 hour period. This is the part of the plan that will be most difficult. If he can reach orbit, the rest is easy, well, easier.
Personally I think Branson is the right kind of dreamer. In his first vision-quest he pulled off the seemingly impossible or at least unlikely not having NASA’s assistance like SpaceX or other commercial entities, he did however, employ several ex-NASA people. He is the best kind of dreamer. He has the dream and then looks to reality to make it so.