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Virgin Galactic's orbital plans

Flyaway

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I get the feeling that longer term that this will be the more commercially successful arm of the operation compared to the human flights.
 

blackstar

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I get the feeling that longer term that this will be the more commercially successful arm of the operation compared to the human flights.

Alas, neither one is assured. Keep in mind that the space tourism side has existed for well over a decade and is still not operational. I was going to events in 2005/6 where people were claiming that regular suborbital tourist flights would be starting by around 2009. The only reason that they're still afloat is because the deep-pocketed investors have not demanded their money back.

As for the orbital side, they're up against a lot of other competitors, some of whom have successful track records and customers lined up. There have been several market studies indicating that there is room in the small launch vehicle market for 2-3 companies, and there are now more than that with rockets. So some of the existing companies are likely to struggle, and the ones that are not already flying are going to have an even tougher time.

Air launch supposedly has benefits over ground launch, but a lot of those benefits are either illusory or not all that great. For instance, it is common to claim that they don't need the ground infrastructure and can launch from anywhere with a runway. Except they do need the ground infrastructure to prepare the rocket and payload. So if it's not at the takeoff runway, it has to be somewhere else, and the takeoff runway is just a temporary base.
 

TomcatViP

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That sounds ridiculous. Has Cornwall also turned its back to RR, Aston Martin, Business jet aviation or started stoning girls that like too much diamonds...?
 

Archibald

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I get the feeling that longer term that this will be the more commercially successful arm of the operation compared to the human flights.

The funny thing is that SpaceX could destroy BOTH.

- A mature Falcon 9 with ride shares / hitchikers is presently eating into even Rocketlab market share - and Virgin is behind Rocketlab.

- A suborbital Starship that can do intercontinental P2P flights will also do suborbital tourism and there, neither Virgin nor B.O stands a chance, for two reasons.

A- Starship is huuuuuge compared to both tiny things: it can carry either a crapload of passengers or provide immense volume to flip-flop during the zero-g parabola

B- Not only Starship is enormous, delta-v wise there is also a huge gulf.
Virgin, Blue Shepard basically top at 1 km/s, perhaps 1.4 km/s: that's plenty enough to shoot vertically to 100 km and land back.
Starship however has 7 km/s of delta-v: that's what it takes to achieve 8000 miles hops. With so much delta-v the zero-g parabolas can be greatly extended.

In fact Starship flight profile would look like the old Shuttle Abort Once Around: it could nearly turn a complete orbit around Earth. Earth equator being 40 000 km, at 30 000 km per hour this takes 1.5 hour - compare that to B.O or Virgin pitiful 5 minutes. Starship should be able to provide 30 to 50 minutes of zero-G.

Even with an empty mass of 200 mt Starship would have a delta-v of 7253 m/s and this is relatively close from the ISS circling the globe at 7800 m/s - (even if ascending to orbit takes 9200 m/s).

Shave a little empty mass from Starship (let's say -40 mt : down to 160 mt) and it should be able to make an "Abort Once Around" flight profile: circling Earth once taking 1.5 hours.
Remarquably, this would allow suborbital tourism flights starting and ending same place: just like New Shepard or Virgin - with the enormous difference of : "1 hour of Zero-G circling the globe" instead of "5 minutes going up and down to 100 km" !
 
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TomcatViP

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That's why I think Virgin should emphasize the legacy of their flight profile with that of the supersonic/Hypersonic research test flights of the 1950's 1960's.
Going into space The right stuff way...
 

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