Stephen Hawking to Help Name Virgin Galactic’s Second SpaceShipTwo

Stephen Hawking (Credit: NASA)
Stephen Hawking (Credit: NASA)

UPDATE: Looks as if the unveiling will be on Friday, Feb. 19, here in Mojave.

Stephen Hawking will name the second SpaceShipTwo vehicle when it is rolled out of its hangar next month in Mojave, Calif.

Sir Richard has invited the theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking to name the new plane at the unveiling. He has already offered the scientist Virgin Galactic’s only free ticket into space – which Professor Hawking has accepted, provided his health allows it.

“Obviously, we had a year’s delay after the accident and it’s tremendous that Stephen Hawking has agreed to come and name the new spaceship,” Sir Richard said.

“He has made it very clear that he thinks mankind and womankind need to work very hard to try to colonise other planets and that space is very important for people back here on Earth,” he said.

Hawking has a free ticket on SpaceShipTwo which now costs a cool $250,000 (up from $20o,000 in 2013). The PR benefits of having the world-famous physicist involved in the roll out ceremony is probably well worth the cost. And it’s the least Hawking can do for such a generous gift.

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Branson: Virgin Galactic Leading the Way in Clean Spaceflight

SpaceShipTwo in powered flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
SpaceShipTwo in powered flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Richard Branson is once again talking up how clean his space program is despite all objective evidence to the contrary.

“We are doing everything we can to try to work towards turning the world into a place that’s run by clean energy, not dirty energy. We’ve managed to reduce the amount of energy, of carbon output, to get somebody into space … to less than a round-trip, economy class, from London to New York,” he said.
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Video: Branson Predicts New York to Tokyo in Under an Hour

Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson was on CNBC’s Squawk Box the other day talking up his plans to follow up Virgin Galactic’s suborbital space tourism flights with hypersonic point-to-point transcontinental commercial passenger service.

IFG Leads Florida Pathfinder Flights Project to Promote for Space Tourism

Starfighters
MIAMI (IFG PR) — InterFlight Global (IFG) has partnered with Starfighters Aerospace at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to lead, design, develop and conduct a Space Tourism Point-to-Point Pathfinder set of flight missions using Starfighters’ supersonic F-104 jet aircraft. IFG intends to promote, develop, enhance and position Florida as the world’s leading Space Tourism hub.

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Front Range Airport Executive Director Departs

Front_Range_AirportDennis Heap has been dismissed as executive director of the Front Range Airport near Denver after 19 years in the position, the airport authority said in a terse, two-paragraph press release.

The Front Range Airport Authority announced today that Ken Lawson, assistant director of aviation, will serve as interim aviation director. Dennis Heap’s last day of employment with the airport was Monday, Aug. 19, 2013.

“The Front Range Airport Authority appreciates the many years of dedicated service that Dennis provided as aviation director,” said Stephanie Takis, chair of the airport authority. “However, the Authority decided to move in a new direction.”

The Denver Business Journal reports:

Lawson on Tuesday told me that the authority and Heap parted ways due to a personnel, contractual matter.

“The authority and Heap could not come to an agreement on an employment contract,” Lawson said. Heap’s current contract was due to end on Dec. 31, Lawson said.

Front Range Airport is currently seeking a spaceport license in the hope of becoming a major center for point-to-point suborbital travel.

 

Move Over, Jet Engines! Here Comes SABRE!


The Biggest Breakthrough in Propulsion Since the Jet Engine
Reaction Engines Press Release
November 28, 2012

Reaction Engines Ltd. can announce today the biggest breakthrough in aerospace propulsion technology since the invention of the jet engine. Critical tests have been successfully completed on the key technology for SABRE, an engine which will enable aircraft to reach the opposite side of the world in under 4 hours, or to fly directly into orbit and return in a single stage, taking off and landing on a runway.

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Reaction Engines Says Tech for Sabre Engine in Place


Reaction Engines announced today that tests have verified that the technology is in place to build its Sabre engine, which lies at the heart of its reusable, single-stage-to-orbit Skylon spacecraft.

The news brings the promise of not only routine, affordable access to space but also point-to-point travel at Mach 5 and major improvements in fuel efficiency for existing airliners. The announcement featured a major endorsement of the technology by ESA, has has worked with the British company to evaluate the results of the tests, Reuters reports.

“ESA are satisfied that the tests demonstrate the technology required for the Sabre engine development,” the agency’s head of propulsion engineering Mark Ford told a news conference.

“One of the major obstacles to a re-usable vehicle has been removed,” he said. “The gateway is now open to move beyond the jet age.”

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Front Range Airport Gets State Funding to Launch Spaceport Bid

DENVER (Front Range Airport PR) — Front Range Airport is ready to launch its bid for spaceport licensing with full funding commitments from strategic partners.

“The Colorado Department of Transportation’s Division of Aeronautics approved a grant request for $275,000, which is the last commitment needed to match a $200,000 grant received Sept. 25, 2012, from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation,” said Dennis Heap, executive director for Front Range Airport.

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FastForward Group Releases Survey Results

The FastForward Study Group, which is looking at the development of high-speed point-to-point travel, recently conducted a 13-question survey to determine opinions about the venture. The group has now posted the survey results:

http://bit.ly/RCx1AM [PDF]

FastForward Project Releases Point-to-Point Transport Survey

The FastForward Project has released a survey seeking opinions and perceptions related to future ultra-high speed point-to-point (PTP) services for passengers and priority cargo. Please take a minute to provide your input.

Take the Survey

About FastForward Project: The FastForward Project is a diverse, ad-hoc industry study group focused on common issues related to future global, high-speed point-to-point transportation (including passenger travel and fast package delivery). The all-volunteer group is broadly supported across the aerospace industry, with key members from flight system providers (both entrepreneurial and traditional aerospace hardware companies), future operators, government agencies, commercial aerospaceports, academic organizations, and specialist consultants. Members have backgrounds ranging from traditional aviation to space applications.

Look Out Spaceport America! Here Comes Colorado

Colorado has applied to the FAA of spaceport certification of Front Range Airport, which is about 22 miles from Denver and six miles from Denver International Airport. The reason? To prepare for the impending era of suborbital, point-to-point passenger service:

The impetus for applying for spaceport certification now is the result of serious interest on the part of out-of-state companies preparing for future space tourism, said Tom Clark, CEO of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.

The companies, which Clark would not identify, are working on a spacecraft that takes off horizontally from a runway like a plane but then, tens of thousands of feet into the air, lights a booster rocket capable to taking passengers past the upper reaches of the atmosphere, Clark said.

That would open up the possibility not just of space travel to ordinary — but wealthy — people, but also of ultrafast travel to points on Earth, he said.

“Once you light that thing, then you’re in Sydney [Australia] in an hour and a half,” Clark said. “We in Colorado like to brag about being able to ski in the morning and golf in the afternoon. This would let us boast we can ski in morning and be surfing just after lunch — that’s the future these people are talking about.”

It’s a great vision. I’m not sure just how quickly that will happen. There are a lot of steps involved and it could take some time. On the other hand, why wait until it’s here to get a spaceport designation? And in the meantime, Colorado would be able to attract companies developing the vehicles.

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Rocketplane Global Expects to Begin Suborbital Space Tourist Flights in 2013

Rocketplane Global Vice President Chuck Lauer said today that the company expects to begin flying space tourists on suborbital rides out of Cecil Field in Jacksonville by 2013. Rocketplane has signed a letter of intent with the Jacksonville Aviation Authority to become the first commercial space operator to use the former Naval air base turned spaceport, Lauer told attendees at Space Access ’10 in Phoenix.

Lauer  said that that Rocketplane would fund development of its six-person space plane as part of a $300 million project that would also create a Spaceport Visitor’s Center at the Jacksonville site. The center would include full motion 3D/HD suborbital flight simulators that would allow visitors to experience a 4-minute version of the 45-minute spaceflight that well-heeled passengers will fly aboard Rocketplane’s suborbital vehicle.

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