Branson To Take His Family Into Space.
British tycoon Richard Branson says his children will join him on the first of his Virgin Galactic space flights, as he unveiled a new satellite launching service.
Outlining his plans at the Farnborough Air Show in southwest England, the billionaire entrepreneur said he and his adult son Sam and daughter Holly hoped to make the journey on the SpaceShipTwo, or SS2, aircraft by the end of 2013.
The WhiteKnightTwo aircraft that will help launch SS2 into space will also be used for a new launch vehicle, LauncherOne, which will take small satellites into space for around one tenth of the present cost, Branson said.
“Obviously this is the most exciting adventure I have ever undertaken,” the Virgin Galactic founder told AFP.
“It’s both an entrepreneurial and personal adventure in being able to build a spaceship and ask my children to come along who can also enjoy it. It’s every boy’s dream.”
Branson unveiled a full size replica of SS2 at the show.
In all, 529 people have put down a deposit to clinch a space on the 96.54 km, two-hour ride into space, at a cost of STG128,000 ($A196,000) each. Around 120 of them were at the Branson event in Farnborough.
The flights are expected to start from Spaceport America in New Mexico with plans afoot to build a second spaceport in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The WhiteKnightTwo, a large twin-fuselage aircraft joined by a central wing, will launch the SS2 craft, which carries two pilots and six passengers, at approximately 15,240 metres.
Once separated from the mothership, the vehicle will ignite its hybrid rocket and fly to the edge of space before gliding back to perform a conventional runway landing.
Passengers will be able to experience a brief period of weightlessness as its flight path overlaps Earth’s upper atmosphere.
In a separate enterprise, LauncherOne is expected to begin commercial operations in 2016 and can carry up to 227 kilos of weight for prices below $US10 million ($A9.85 million). Source: News.Com.Au
Planetary Resources Agreement with Virgin For Payload Services
“LauncherOne” to provide launch capability for the Arkyd series of robotic spacecraft for the exploration and commercial development of Near-Earth Asteroids.” Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, announced today an agreement with Virgin Galactic, LLC that will enable multiple launch opportunities for its series of spacecraft, including the Arkyd-100 low-Earth orbit (LEO) space telescopes.
Continuous, low-cost launch services for small spacecraft to LEO assists in accelerating Planetary Resources’ vision to make valuable space resources from Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) available to humanity. “While the Arkyd spacecraft line itself radically reduces the traditional cost of exploring the NEAs, the less expensive the cost to launch an Arkyd spacecraft to LEO, the more spacecraft the company will launch.
The more spacecraft that the company launches, the faster it will create a future where access to asteroid resources results in a vast network of propellant depots throughout space and a future where once precious and rare materials are abundant for all. This will enable humanity’s prosperity to continue for centuries to come,” said Eric Anderson, Co-Founder & Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources, Inc.
Of the nearly 10,000 known NEAs, there are more than 1,500 that are energetically as easy to reach as the Moon. In the next few years, constellations of Arkyd-100 Series space telescopes will help fulfill the company’s early objective of identifying additional energetically-optimal, highly-valuable NEAs which will then be added to the detailed list of the company’s prospecting targets and pursued for future potential resource extraction.
“We are excited to announce this agreement with Virgin Galactic. LauncherOne has the potential to provide reliable and continuous launch service capability for small payloads. I expect Planetary Resources will launch several constellations of Arkyd-100 Series spacecraft in the coming years aboard LauncherOne,” said Mr. Anderson.
“We are developing the LauncherOne to deliver small satellites to LEO in a reliable fashion, with the capability to fly dozens of times per year. LauncherOne leverages our work in the area of commercial human spaceflight, and will provide reliable, regular launch opportunities to enable Planetary Resources to explore and develop valuable resources from asteroids,” said George Whitesides, President and CEO of Virgin Galactic, LLC.
Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer of Planetary Resources, Inc., noted that “As Planetary Resources works to expand humanity’s resource base, we also plan to increase scientific and commercial access to the Earth and deep space by developing capable and cost-efficient spacecraft. Interest in using our Arkyd-100 Series for commercial purposes – in addition to finding asteroids – has been very strong.”
* Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, was founded in 2009 by Eric Anderson and Peter H. Diamandis, M.D. Their vision is to establish a new paradigm for resource utilization that will bring the solar system within humanity’s economic sphere of influence. The company will conduct low-cost robotic space exploration beginning with the Arkyd-100 Series of space telescope missions that will identify the most commercially viable near-Earth asteroids.
These initial missions will assist the company in enabling the retrieval of raw materials from these select asteroids, ranging from water to precious metals. Planetary Resources is financed by industry-launching visionaries, three of whom include Google’s CEO Larry Page & Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Ross Perot, Jr., Chairman of Hillwood and The Perot Group, who are committed to expanding the world’s resource base so that humanity can continue to grow and prosper. Some of the company’s advisors include film maker and explorer James Cameron, General T. Michael Moseley (Ret.) and Sara Seager, Ph.D. For more information, please visit www.PlanetaryResources.com.
- Virgin to launch small satellites (bbc.co.uk)