Thursday, January 24, 2008

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.

4 Comments:

Blogger Red River said...

Burt Rutan's X-15-to-orbit has already flown its prototype. Composites are a known system and the jet engines are off the shelf. And VG plans to charge about $20k per person once the early-adopters have paid their millions.

If the average person masses 200 pounds, then at $20K that is $1000 per pound. About a factor of one-hundred reduction from the current cost and with much higher tempo.

Access to space for science and commercial activities will drop a hundredfold in cost.

That is the real story.

8:16 AM  
Anonymous Dilettante said...

Hi Louise,

I've just come across your theory and blog and am fascinated. I also read Nige's exposition of it. I'd like to make a comment and this may not be the right thread to post it, but I fear choosing a relevant but much older thread would not make it visible.

Basically, using conservation of energy, you have:

SE = Sitting Energy = Mc**2

GPE = Gravitational Potential Energy = GM**2/R

Total universe energy = SE + GPE

At t1, total universe energy is:

SE1 + GPE1 = Mc1**2 + GM**2/R1

At t2, total universe energy is:

SE2 + GPE2 = Mc2**2 + GM**2/R2

From conservation of energy:

SE1 + GPE1 = SE2 + GPE2

Mc1**2 + GM**2/R1 = Mc2**2 + GM**2/R2

c1**2 + GM/R1 = c2**2 + GM/R2 (1)

On the other hand:

R1 = Integral from 0 to t1 of c(t) dt (2)

R2 = Integral from 0 to t2 of c(t) dt (3)

Therefore you should be able to derive your equation from (1), (2) and (3).

In other words, the only weak point I see in the derivation of your equation is R(t) = c(t) * t.
Obviously it cannot be so because c(t) is not constant, and obviously R has to be the integral over time of c(t).

That said, I do not think that you will arrive to a different equation, only to a constant factor.

Sorry for being so lazy as to do it myself.

Take care.

7:22 AM  
Anonymous dilettante said...

LOL. It was resting, not sitting energy. Pls excuse my English. Sitting Bull still learning.

7:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comments re: Northern Rock are way off line. Doesn't sound like you know much about the subject.

6:15 AM  

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