Follow the Money
Wednesday the showman Richard Branson and the quiet engineer Burt Rutan unveiled their new design for Spaceship Two. Amid the lovely video, we must kick some tires before buying our ticket. The White Knight 2 carrier is the largest aircraft ever built by Scaled Composites. Have they calculated the dynamic loads on that thin central wing? Is the test schedule realistic?
Some of the most important parts of a rocket are the engines. Rutan's Scaled Composites has been fined for improper handling of nitrous oxide. The tragic explosion in July took the lives of 3 engineers. They've still not figured out what caused the accident. Spaceflight is still dangerous and expensive, but who would pass up a ride like this?
To make a small fortune in Space, one should start with a large fortune. Though about 200 people have paid deposits on flights, that only amounts to about 30 million dollars. Even if successful, Virgin Galactic is unlikely to see a profit for years. Where is the development money coming from? Virgin Galactic is just one visible part of Sir Richard's vast investment portfolio. His Virgin Group encompasses music, telecommunications, airlines, insurance, even some of Northern Rock.
It has taken some effort, but the days of Gordon Brown's Labour government are numbered. His Waterloo is not in Southern Iraq but Northern Rock. Brown has offered 55 billion pounds of public loans to bail out Richard Branson and the other Northern Rock shareholders. The voters are very unhappy with Gordon Brown.
The credit line, 5 times NASA's yearly budget, will be free for the investors to do with as they please. If their investments are profitable, Branson and others pocket 90 percent of the profits. If their investments fail, taxpayers are left holding the bag. Legally robbing the Bank of England would pay for many Space flghts. Branson's many profitable ventures assure that SS2 funding will fly.