In an effort to reassure its ticketholders, Virgin Galactic sent them email on May 10 disputing the story that they have discovered cracks in WhiteKnightTwo.


Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right or below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

In an effort to reassure its ticketholders, Virgin Galactic sent them an email on May 10 disputing the article that said there are cracks in WhiteKnightTwo’s wings.

The email was interestingly sent before the article was published, which of course meant that it could not directly address any of its findings.

The story above also has a link to an article detailing the many predictions by Virgin Galactic about when they will begin commercial flights, going back to 1999. To put it mildly, their track record has not been good.

Share

8 comments

  • joe

    Virgin Galactic’s press nightmare, I think that this is an overly optimistic plan to fly commercial space with not enough development, unsafe in my mind, with a lot going on with engines and delivery vehicles, I don’t think that if I made the kind of coin that is required, that I would pay ticket price as much as I would like to see the curvature of space around the earth. Humans are in the infancy of rocket travel, the reliability of rockets is not good enough, when they can make rockets as reliable as car engines, that is a different story.

  • Edward

    “when they can make rockets as reliable as car engines, that is a different story.”

    I like to tell my friends and family that with a car, you can just pull over to the side of the road when there’s trouble, but you can’t with an airplane or a rocket. Reliability and safety are critical items in aerospace. Getting to space is difficult, dangerous, and expensive. Hopefully, that will quickly change, as air travel changed.

    We have learned a lot and come a long way with reliability and safety in passenger airlines in the past 100 years, and it will take a lot of learning to achieve the same level in rocketry. The challenge is, what do we do the first time that a commercial rocket kills its crew — and just as with cars, aircraft, and government spacecraft, that *will* happen.

    I sincerely hope that it does not happen because of something that we learned long ago, such as wing spar cracks.

    At the risk of over-posting this link (I think I posted it less than a month ago), Bill Whittle talks about this topic:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXbdJ3kyVyU (7 minutes, “The Deal”)

  • I really like Bill Whittle. And this particular commentary by him cannot be over-posted. In fact, I think I will post it on BtB.

  • Edward

    Of the dozen or so times that I have watched it, I always focused on the boldness needed to get past the lives lost learning how to fly safely. All those times, I missed his point, which you caught: “You see, either you live for something — something worth dying for — or you just rot on the installment plan. That’s the deal.”

    This is an important factor in American Exceptionalism, the freedom to live for something worth dying for.

  • One of the wisest phrases from science fiction was Frank Herbert’s line from Dune: “Fear is the mind killer.”

    One must not let fear dictate your actions. Otherwise, you will not reach for that heaven that happens to be beyond your reach, and will instead end up being a servant of others, accomplishing nothing grand with the precious gift of life you get for only a few short decades.

    We must all live bravely, while never stepping on the bravery of others.

  • joe

    Ok, so when a car engine quits, you pull over to the side of the road, when an airplane engine quits in a piston single, you go through an emergency check list and simultaneously start looking for a place to set down, if you break a prop , you pull the mixture knob NOW, and start looking for a place to set down, when Columbia started encountering problems, exactly what check list could have been completed to stop what happened? When a rocket explodes, no check list exists that can or will deal with saving a crew, things happen in milliseconds, I do not think that human civilization should not try, but at this point, we are not ready for tourists in this unforgiving atmosphere.

  • Edward

    How do you propose that we know when space travel will be forgiving enough for spacecraft passenger flights?

    Complete safety is not attainable. Mr. Whittle did not say that there would never be another fatality in a major US airline, just that there had been 10 years without one, meaning that US airline safety is higher than ever before. This safety was attained at the cost of lives lost. Spaceflight will have its fatality-laden learning curve, too.

    A couple of years after he made that video, the crew of Asiana 214 lost situational awareness, crashed on landing into San Francisco, and three passengers died. At some time, there will be more airline passengers killed. At some time, there will be space passengers killed, too. It *will* happen. Just as with cars, ships, airplanes, and (as Christopher Reeves once could have told you), horses, no form of transportation, no matter how mature, slow, or well understood, is completely safe.

  • joe

    I understand that complete safety is not possible at this time and may never be possible, I think that when an astronaut straps into a shuttle or other space vehicle, they do so with the complete understanding that they may not come back, they have no illusions of safety, only that it has a probable successful outcome, when a passenger gets on an aircraft to go to the other side of the country or world, they have a completely different expectation of the outcome of their trip, I do not know when rocket engines with highly explosive fuels will be that safe if ever, I guess if some one is willing to pay to be onboard spaceship two, more power to them, with regards to Asiana flight 214, I suspect that they did not have any situational awareness, when the glide slope could not be tuned in, that should have been a red flag, how does an experienced flight crew miss that, how does a pilot look out the cockpit window and look at a run way and not think about the sight picture on an approach to landing and not think, I am low, I need to add power and maintain a speed set for landing, to mindlessly keep raising the nose and lower airspeed indicates a complete lack of understanding about the relationship between pitch and airspeed/ power controls altitude formula, modern day jet transport is way safer than auto travel, with by far the largest margin of safety over and above any other means of transportation, this is why I say make rocket travel as safe as car travel, I understand that there is risk in every day things that we do, I do not have a good answer for when that is, good video by Bill Whittle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *