Virgin Galactic hints at Orbital Domination

2 11 2010

Virgin Galactic astronaut aboard a SpaceShipTwo spacecraft. Credit: Zero G

At the recent dedication of the main runway at the world’s first devoted commercial spaceport, Sir Richard Branson (of Virgin Galactic fame) slid in an apparently innocuous but Hiroshima-sized comment.  While Virgin Galactic has practically cornered the space tourist market with the successful suborbital space flights of SpaceShipOne and upcoming flight tests of SpaceShipTwo (the larger, tourist-rated version,) apparently Branson has his sights set much higher.

According to reporters in attendance at a press conference following the dedication, Branson said, “We plan to be in orbital travel within the next few years.”

I would be shocked if this didn’t set off a tsunami through the NewSpace circuits.

Furthermore, Branson said that Virgin Galactic is in talks with some of the serious commercial orbital space transportation contenders, (SpaceX, Orbital, Boeing, Lockheed, Armadillo Aerospace, etc.,)  and will soon decide whether or not to partner up to pursue NASA and commercial orbital contracts or fly solo, so-to-speak.  Official word is due in early 2011.

What does this mean?  Well, Branson’s formidable Virgin brand carries with it an overriding seriousness, even considering the intrinsic unknowns of commercial spaceflight, (as their clinching of the Ansari X Prize proved all-too-well.)  At this point, however, I believe a statement like this is a declaration that it continues to be a great time for the promise of free-market spaceflight.  It is only fitting that the comment was made at the dedication of the country’s first spaceport launch and landing lane.

Let’s hope this competition continues to force NewSpace innovation and the acceleration of hardware to orbit!

VMS Eve and VSS Enterprise circle New Mexico's Spaceport America. Credit: Mark Greenberg


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3 11 2010
Tweets that mention Virgin Galactic hints at Orbital Domination « Astrowright -- Topsy.com

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Space Archeology, Ben Wright McGee. Ben Wright McGee said: Virgin Galactic hints at Orbital Domination: http://wp.me/pOYQz-ta […]

3 12 2010
Comfort Kills « WHITE THREADS

[…] Richard Branson founded Virgin Records and became a multi-millionaire.  A lot of people would have been satisfied with the success of their early endeavors.  Not Branson.  Did he get complacent, drink too many margaritas, and absolve himself of productivity?  Absolutely not.  Instead of basking in the warm glow of success, he throws himself on the fire.  He risks it all and starts an airline.  It too is successful.  Does he sit back and smile?  Maybe a little – and then he starts a mobile technology company.  Why stop there?  How about an innovative digital publication?  Still not satisfied??  Virgin Galactic – oh yeah – flights into space. […]

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