More on Virgin’s Mojave event, and Branson’s “cheap” space plans

Yesterday, Sir Richard Branson blogged about Wednesday’s Virgin Galactic customer event in Mojave, where several hundred future Virgin astronauts got to hear about the progress the company has made and future plans but, due to winds, not see a test flight of SpaceShipTwo. (Interestingly, Branson’s post says about 300 customers attended the event, while the Virgin release said “approximately 400.”) “The excitement in the room was palpable as us future astronauts imagined where the journey might take us,” Branson wrote in his post.

What’s more interesting, though, is what you won’t find in that post now. When it was originally published yesterday, Branson said that attendees also got to witness a test of a liquid-propellant rocket engine, a test that created “a piercing light flashing across the barren desert landscape.” Since SpaceShipTwo uses a hybrid rocket engine, this engine presumably is one under development for the company’s LauncherOne small satellite launch vehicle, which the company previously said will use liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants. However, that brief passage is no longer in the post: there’s no mention at all of any engine test during the event. Doug Messier, who was in Mojave but not at the Virgin event that day, reported there appeared to be a 15-second engine test, but he could neither hear nor see it from his vantage point.

Meanwhile, Branson dropped a hint that there’s something else, perhaps, going on at Virgin with respect to low-cost human spaceflight. In a brief interview with Business Insider (see video below), he says he hopes to eventually bring the cost of flying on SpaceShipTwo down. “I think in the next ten years it’s going to be quite expensive,” he said, but that they will eventually be able to bring the price down “quite considerably.” That much, at least, is in line with past comments by Virgin officials.

Branson, though, then springs a surprise. “We do have another idea, which we’re going to announce in about four months’ time,” he said, “which will enable people to travel up to space very cheaply—not everybody, but quite a few people who never expected to go to space. We’re going to unveil that in about four months’ time.” Pressed for details, Branson demurred. “I always say too much. I’ve already said too much.” Whether this is a technological innovation or a financial one (such as a means to finance the now-$250,000 ticket price) remains to be seen.

1 comment to More on Virgin’s Mojave event, and Branson’s “cheap” space plans

  • Lars

    Can I get a source on their propellant choice for Launcher One? I did not know anything about hydrogen for the upper stage. It seems to be a bad choice.

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