Today, we take a break from shop-talk to share a novel vision for the future of flight.
Richard Branson wants to take you from Los Angeles to Tokyo in one hour. If that sounds like science fiction, then get ready for the kicker: he’ll do it by flying you through outer space.
Branson’s commercial spaceflight venture, Virgin Galactic, has been the subject of a great deal of press in the past, despite having sent relatively few people to space. Cynics would say that is a result of our headline-centric culture. Optimists would say it is because big ideas deserve big coverage, and Virgin Galactic is literally shooting for the stars. We take a more moderate point of view. Now that Elon Musk’s SpaceX is consistently showing that commercial spaceflight is a viable industry, the real goal for other players in the market is finding applications for the rapidly improving technology.
Last week, Branson suggested one idea that caught our eye: super-high-speed transportation through the lowest levels of space. The concept, similar to Virgin’s Space Ship Two, would tow the vehicle into the upper atmosphere. Then, the vehicle would be released from its towing apparatus, ignite rocket engines and speed toward its destination half-way around the world.
It may seem like a stretch to believe people will spend “going-to-space”-level money just to shave 12 hours off a trip, but Virgin Galactic already has a waiting list of space tourists who have paid $250,000 to book a visit to Low Earth Orbit.
The tech has a long way to go, but Hartzell knows first-hand that technology can advance quickly if the right team is put to the task. You can read the full article here.