Virgin and Rocketplane notes

A few short items from presentations at the ISDC by Alex Tai of Virgin Galactic and Chuck Lauer of Rocketplane on Friday:

  • Tai said that Virgin was “toying with the idea of ‘space attendants’” on its SpaceShipTwo flights. The attendants would help passengers back into their seats at the end of the zero-g phase of the flight, an alternative to some sort of tether system that would link passengers to their seats, but make it more difficult to float around the cabin.
  • Virgin is planning three- and seven-day training experiences, including high-g and zero-g training as well as the “etiquette of space”: how to not get in the way of your fellow passengers on your flight. The training process, of course, would include the “five-star Virgin treatment”, which seems to involve plenty of parties: “Virgin is big on parties”.
  • As in past talks, Tai was vague on the company’s schedule, saying that it will be drive by safety, not the calendar. Flight tests of SS2 was scheduled to begin in 2008, and will past 12-18 months. If all goes well during the flight test phase, he said, commercial flights could begin in late 2009.
  • Lauer said the AR-36 engine that will be used on the Rocketplane XP, being developed by California-based Polaris Propulsion (a startup created by former Rocketdyne employees), passed its critical design review recently. The first “full-up” engine test is planned for this summer.

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