Sir Richard Heralds New Rocketship for New Mexico
Satellites gone up to the sky.
Things like that drive me out of my mind.
I watched it for a little while.
I like to watch things on TeeVee.
pom pom pom Satellite of Love….
– Lou Reed
On December 7 Sir Richard Branson, entrepreneur of spectacle, and Burt Rutan, aerospace engineer unveiled SS2, the next generation of their commercial spacecraft at Rutans Scaled Composites hangars in Mojave, California. This ultimate quick machine with a view will nestle under a mother craft, WK2 – EVE (named for Bransons mom) to fly to 16 kilometers above the earth, then separate and zoom with its own rocket to suborbital altitude from where its six passengers and two crew may view the earth and heavens from a perch hitherto reserved for NASA astronauts. I cant imagine what else theyll do. The swoopy moments between separation and SS2s rocket kick-in are sure to be a real “thank you, maam”. The first SS2 has been christened ENTERPRISE in the tradition of spacecraft real and fictional, by Governor Richardson of New Mexico and Californias centerfold Schwarzenneger.
So far about 300 potential space tourists are signed up at $200K apiece to take off from and land at Spaceport America in Upham, NM. west of White Sands. Roll over Bob Goddard and J. Robert Oppenheimer.
I guess some of us will just be watching on TV.
Rutans SS2 with its carbon fiber fuselage is a hyper-advanced aircraft.
His designers use CATIA, the modeling software originated at Dassault Aviation in France and brought into architectural practice by Frank Gehry. Scaled Composites works with a CMS 5 axis CNC miller that can handle material 50 x35 x 8. Ive seen a milled wing at Eclipse Aviation in Albuquerque – skin and structure routed from a single aluminum ingot – no rivets – pretty incredible. SS2s wings are designed to open like a badminton birdie to brake the crafts descent. Rutan has an amazing imagination.
Sir Richards Virgin Galactic commodifies space travel and will open it to all the banality and spectacle of contemporary commerce. One imagines televised celebrity space weddings. Commercials with the spacecraft interior decked out as the set. Suborbital ping pong. Political candidacy announcements. Thats on the banal side. Some things Id like to see:
Ultimate Fighting in a spacecraft cage.
Reality show where the losers get pushed out.
World series of poker suborbital.
Porno filmed in the ENTERPRISE.
A sex change operation televised from space.
Sarah Palin seeing Russia.
What would you like to see? Comments please.