Watch live: Blue Origin spaceflight launch with Jeff Bezos

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Yahoo News 20 July, 2021 - 06:00am 11 views

Where is Blue Origin launching from?

If all goes to plan, the company's New Shepard rocket and capsule will take off for an 11-minute journey, launching and landing outside Van Horn, Texas at Blue Origin facilities, dubbed Launch Site One. Space.comBlue Origin to launch its 1st astronaut flight with Jeff Bezos and crew of 3 today

Did Richard Branson go into space?

But Bezos' company Blue Origin says Branson didn't actually go to space. ... The supersonic space plane created by his company Virgin Galactic took off from New Mexico on July 11 and reached 53.5 miles above the earth. KHOU.comWhy Blue Origin says Richard Branson didn’t reach space

Read full article at Yahoo News

Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin: can they be more than 'space' joyrides for millionaires?

InDaily 20 July, 2021 - 09:02am

Senior Lecturer in Physics, Nottingham Trent University

Post Doctoral Research Fellow in Space Science, University of Birmingham

University of Birmingham provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.

Nottingham Trent University provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.

Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson and his team successfully flew to the “edge of space” on the Unity 22 mission aboard a Virgin Galactic plane on July 12. The event was hailed as the start of space tourism, narrowly beating the planned launch on 20 July by fellow billionaire business magnate Jeff Bezos and his firm Blue Origin.

But does the 85km (53 miles), the altitude of the recent Virgin Galactic flight, actually count as space? And what are these companies likely to achieve going forward?

The definition of where space begins is very subjective. The Kármán line is a distance of 100km (62 miles), determined in 1957. This line has been adopted by the Swiss Air Sports Federation (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) to determine if an activity is aeronautical or astronautical.

Alternatively, the US Air Force and Nasa determine their boundary as 80km (50 miles), which is where military personnel get their “astronaut wings”. This altitude has been reached by a number of specialist planes including the X-15 and notably the privately funded SpaceShipOne, reaching 112km (70 miles) – well above VSS Unity’s current achievement. The Blue Origin launch is aiming for 106km (66 miles).

While this altitude allows some excellent views of the Earth, it is not an orbit. To be orbiting at this altitude you need to be travelling at a minimum speed of 7.85km/s (17,500mph) in a horizontal direction. Unity was just an acceleration straight up and then a controlled drop back down. This is relatively simple to do, but it’s significantly more difficult, both in terms of energy and engineering, to turn this into an orbit.

The definition of the edge of space is not trivial. Space is not where you feel weightless, as this can be achieved for short periods of time in specialist drop chambers or on parabolic flights. And despite the tweet from Virgin Galactic stating the crew were in zero-gravity, the gravitational pull was roughly 9.5 metres per square second – about 97% of that on the surface. The weightlessness experienced is purely due to an extended free fall.

The first billionaire in space has excited some, feeling that they too may one day see the Earth from 85km if they can afford US$250,000 for a one-hour trip. However, public opinion has not been unanimous, with many highlighting that the cost of the venture could be used to eradicate poverty or assist with the current pandemic response.

There’s also the environmental impact. According to Virgin Galactic, a single flight on Unity results in carbon emission of 1.2 tonnes – equivalent to a passenger in business class on a return trip from London to New York. Compared to aviation, this is small, but the more regular these flights become the more carbon will be added. Blue Origin’s engines, on the other hand, are powered by liquid hydrogen. While the emissions are therefore minimal, the generation of liquid hydrogen and carbon cost of transporting materials is still an issue.

Although Virgin Galactic has beaten Blue Origin to the punch – SpaceX is ahead of both in terms of private space exploration. It is focusing on launches to the International Space Station and much more adventurous space tourism, such as a trip to the Moon and back, which definitely classes as going into space. The success rate of SpaceX, including the Crew Dragon 2 craft, means that its dearMoon project has a good chance of succeeding, although not for a few years yet. The plan is to develop a new rocket, known as Starship, to launch this first space tourism venture.

Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic is developing a concept supersonic passenger transporter as a successor to the Concorde that would be able to fly up to 19 people from Los Angeles to Sydney in under seven hours. It also won a small contract with Nasa to do research on its flights.

Blue Origin has also collaborated with Nasa to develop concept and technologies to support future human spaceflight operations. The current development is a concept robotic lunar lander dubbed Blue Moon, which is looking to deliver cargo – and maybe even crew – to the Moon. These projects will certainly provide more experience for the companies, although are a long way off being completed or tested.

Virgin Galactic’s sister company Virgin Orbit, a low-cost, small satellite launch plan, is far more impressive. It has already completed two successful missions, deploying payloads to low Earth orbit. This works in a similar way to Virgin Galactic by having the LauncherOne rockets attached to a carrier plane (Cosmic Girl) and firing at an altitude of 10km. This is a good alternative for launching small, lightweight satellites to about 500km, so that they don’t have to wait for an opening on larger rockets.

Branson has completed his lifelong dream, and Bezos and passengers are on the brink of going a bit higher, but to the vast majority of people who will never get to experience such a flight it is of little importance. No new records have been broken and no new technology has been tested. The real excitement will come when these companies are able to reach orbit, willing to trial new technologies, assist significantly with scientific research, and open their doors to more people who aren’t super rich.

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OP-ED: More than a joyride?

Dhaka Tribune 20 July, 2021 - 09:02am

The flights of Bezos and Branson hardly count as going to space

Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson and his team successfully flew to the “edge of space” on the Unity 22 mission aboard a Virgin Galactic plane on July 12. The event was hailed as the start of space tourism, narrowly beating the planned launch on July 20 by fellow billionaire business magnate Jeff Bezos and his firm Blue Origin.

But does the 85km (53 miles), the altitude of the recent Virgin Galactic flight, actually count as space? And what are these companies likely to achieve going forward?

The definition of where space begins is very subjective. The Karman line is a distance of 100km, determined in 1957. This line has been adopted by the Swiss Air Sports Federation to determine if an activity is aeronautical or astronautical.

Alternatively, the US Air Force and Nasa determine their boundary as 80km, which is where military personnel get their “astronaut wings,” This altitude has been reached by a number of specialist planes including the X-15 and notably the privately funded SpaceShipOne, reaching 112km -- well above VSS Unity’s current achievement. The Blue Origin launch is aiming for 106km.

While this altitude allows some excellent views of the Earth, it is not an orbit. To be orbiting at this altitude you need to be travelling at a minimum speed of 7.85km/s (17,500mph) in a horizontal direction. Unity was just an acceleration straight up and then a controlled drop back down. This is relatively simple to do, but it’s significantly more difficult, both in terms of energy and engineering, to turn this into an orbit.

The definition of the edge of space is not trivial. Space is not where you feel weightless, as this can be achieved for short periods of time in specialist drop chambers or on parabolic flights. And despite the tweet from Virgin Galactic stating the crew were in zero-gravity, the gravitational pull was roughly 9.5 metres per square second -- about 97% of that on the surface. The weightlessness experienced is purely due to an extended free fall.

The first billionaire in space has excited some, feeling that they too may one day see the Earth from 85km if they can afford $250,000 for a one-hour trip. However, public opinion has not been unanimous, with many highlighting that the cost of the venture could be used to eradicate poverty or assist with the current pandemic response.

There’s also the environmental impact. According to Virgin Galactic, a single flight on Unity results in carbon emission of 1.2 tons -- equivalent to a passenger in business class on a return trip from London to New York. Compared to aviation, this is small, but the more regular these flights become the more carbon will be added. Blue Origin’s engines, on the other hand, are powered by liquid hydrogen. While the emissions are therefore minimal, the generation of liquid hydrogen and carbon cost of transporting materials is still an issue.

Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic is developing a concept supersonic passenger transporter as a successor to the Concorde that would be able to fly up to 19 people from Los Angeles to Sydney in under seven hours. It also won a small contract with Nasa to do research on its flights.

Blue Origin has also collaborated with Nasa to develop concept and technologies to support future human spaceflight operations. The current development is a concept robotic lunar lander dubbed Blue Moon, which is looking to deliver cargo -- and maybe even crew -- to the Moon. These projects will certainly provide more experience for the companies, although are a long way off being completed or tested.

Virgin Galactic’s sister company Virgin Orbit, a low-cost, small satellite launch plan, is far more impressive. It has already completed two successful missions, deploying payloads to low Earth orbit. This works in a similar way to Virgin Galactic by having the LauncherOne rockets attached to a carrier plane (Cosmic Girl) and firing at an altitude of 10km. This is a good alternative for launching small, lightweight satellites to about 500km, so that they don’t have to wait for an opening on larger rockets.

Branson has completed his lifelong dream, and Bezos and passengers are on the brink of going a bit higher, but to the vast majority of people who will never get to experience such a flight it is of little importance. No new records have been broken and no new technology has been tested. The real excitement will come when these companies are able to reach orbit, willing to trial new technologies, assist significantly with scientific research, and open their doors to more people who aren’t super rich.

Copyright Ⓒ 2012-2019. 2A Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.

8/C, FR Tower, Panthapath, Dhaka 1207, Bangladesh.

Raise your hand if you're tired of hearing about Richard Branson

The Manila Times 20 July, 2021 - 09:02am

Nevertheless, Richard Branson and his little "spaceship" are an interesting case study in why the world probably deserves an extinction-level meteor impact, and so, the topic is worth a little more examination.

First, the particulars of the flight itself. The vehicle, known as "SpaceShipTwo," with Branson, three other Virgin Galactic employees and two pilots aboard, was lifted to an altitude of about 46,000 feet above its base in New Mexico by a carrier plane dubbed "White Knight Two." The spaceplane then detached and fired its single-rocket motor for 70 seconds to accelerate upward, then coasted to its peak altitude of about 282,700 feet (roughly 53 miles or 86 kilometers) a few minutes later. The plane then descended, taking about 25 minutes to glide to a landing back at its base, which is grandiosely named "Spaceport America."

The flight was only the fourth powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo; an earlier version, SpaceShipOne, successfully flew three times before suffering a mechanical failure and crashing during its fourth flight in 2014. Branson's expressed goal for his program, which has been in development for about 17 years, is to be able to enter the "space tourism" business or, in other words, provide recreational flights for paying passengers who wish to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see some nice views of the Earth from extremely high altitude.

First of all, there was nothing at all "historic" or "record-breaking" about the flight. Although the Virgin system surely represents a great deal of refinement in the technology, the basic system of launching a rocket-powered plane from a carrier aircraft has existed since the end of World War 2. The concept of "space tourism" is nothing new as well; the first "space tourist" spent a week on the International Space Station in 2001, and there have been others since (at prices of upward of $20 million for the privilege).

And unlike Branson, those forerunners can actually claim to have been to space, whereas the limit of his achievement was to have been "really high up." Although the relatively modest altitude achieved by SpaceShipTwo has sparked something of a debate about where "space" really starts, there is actually a reliable definition: it is called the Karman Line, and it is at an altitude of 100 km or 62 miles; in other words, about 17 kilometers higher than Branson and his fellow passengers traveled. To put it in a more familiar perspective, that would be like traveling from Caloocan to Manila and then going home and telling everyone you visited Las Piñas.

Granted, the Karman Line is an arbitrary boundary. What is considered "the edge of space" in a scientific sense may be much higher or somewhat lower, depending on who you ask. There is a specific reason, however, why the 100-km altitude is a valid benchmark. According to the internationally-recognized legal definition of space, based on the principle that space cannot be claimed as territory, the Karman Line marks the ceiling of any country's airspace. Get above that line and you're in space; below it and you're in the territory of whatever country is below you. Thus, Richard Branson didn't go to space; he just went to a really remote part of New Mexico.

Why, then, if Richard's Big Adventure was so unimpressive, have we been compelled to hear so much about it? It is because for his entire career, Richard Branson has been a master of image cultivation and marketing. By crafting a persona of the hip, rebel adventurer - in short, an annoying wanker - he has managed to fool the entire world into assuming he has done innovative things and made billions in the process.

Compared to his contemporaries like Jeff Bezos, who is scheduled to ride his own rocket next week, or Elon Musk, whose SpaceX company has built a fleet of space trucks, Branson is contributing almost nothing to the overall human march to the stars, except for what amounts to a very expensive amusement park ride (tickets for a Virgin Galactic flight will start at something north of $250,000). Bezos and Musk are every bit as annoying as Richard Branson if not more so, but both of their space ventures are long-term programs with real practical aims toward offering broader commercial opportunities in space, space exploration, and even colonization of the Moon and Mars. Naturally, they will make a great deal of money from pursuing those aims, but they are at least potentially contributing to the greater good.

Richard Branson, on the other hand, gets all the rest of us to contribute to Richard Branson, on the basis of his being Richard Branson. As one glaring example, he was able to prevail upon the government of New Mexico, one of the poorest states in the US, to pony up some $220 million in state taxpayer money to build his "Spaceport America," and then let it sit idle for 10 years before finally moving Virgin Galactic's operations there.

It is somewhat impressive that he has been able to make his vacuous, personality-worship business model work to his advantage, but rather than praising him for it, we should blame ourselves for letting him do it at the rest of the world's expense.

ben.kritz[email protected]

Jeff Bezos Blue Origin

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