Dang. I may live to see commercial space flight after all.

An article by Spencer Reiss at Wired bangs the drum for the commercial space flight efforts of Burt Rutan and Richard Branson.

The major roadblock isn’t engineering — Rutan and his engineering company, Scaled Composites, are proven innovators. I would bet my youngest child that SpaceShipTwo and its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, will be ready.

The hitch won’t be funding: Branson has ordered 5 SS2s and 2 WK2s, and sold seats ahead of time, through his new company, Virgin Galactic.

No, the fly in the ointment — er, the air in the fuel line? — is government red tape. The New Mexico headquarters (Spaceport America) at the edge of the White Sands Missile range still has to jump through hoops to clear FAA certification and environmental regulations. Until it’s ready, the recently renamed Mojave Air & Space Port will be used.

I may not be ready: the first flights are tentatively scheduled for 2009.

Here is a description:

The spaceship hitches a ride up to around 50,000 feet attached to a specially designed carrier aircraft, ‘the mothership’. Once at 50,000 feet, the spaceship is released from the mothership and ignites its hybrid rocket. The spaceship then begins a climb from 50,000 feet to over 360,000 feet. This climb takes about 90 seconds and will reach a speed of just over 3 times the speed of sound. Shortly before the apogee (maximum altitude) of its flight path, the spaceship feathers (folds its wings) in preparation for re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. drawn by the Earth’s gravitational pull. As the spaceship meets the resistance of the upper atmosphere, the feathered wings act as air brakes, safely positioning and decelerating the spaceship allowing for a carefree re-entry into the earths atmosphere. At approximately 60,000 feet, the spaceship’s wings are re-configured into their original position allowing for an unpowered (glide) landing back at the spaceport.

It’s there-and-back-again, don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Well, according to the Virgin Galactic website FAQ, the flight will last about two-and-a-half hours.

Mercy.

More than enough time to get sick.

The chance of a lifetime to fulfill a childhood wish.

And it only costs $200,000 (around £107,000) — deposit required.

Does Virgin Galactic take American Express?

The website doesn’t say.

[cehwiedel also writes at cehwiedel.com]

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