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Watching Virgin Galactic’s suborbital flight on July 11th

Capitalism in space: Virgin Galactic has now made available the live stream for its planned suborbital flight on July 11th that will also carry the company’s founder, Richard Branson.

I have embedded the live stream below the fold. Though the company has not announced an actual launch time, according to that stream the broadcast is now scheduled to begin at about 9 am (Eastern). The flight itself should last about ninety minutes total, from takeoff of the carrier airplane to landing of both it and the suborbital spacecraft, VSS Unity.

The weightless portion of the flight will last about four minutes or so. Unity will get to more than 50 miles altitude, which meets the American definition of space but not the international standard of 67 miles. For more details about the flight, see this article.

Expect the broadcast to be filled with endless hype and blather about how “spectacular” and “amazing” and “wonderful” Virgin Galactic is. And yes, what the company is doing is very cool, a privately financed manned spacecraft capable of reaching space, returning to Earth, and then flying again. Unfortunately, both suborbital companies (Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin) seem to think they have to convince people of this obvious fact on their broadcasts, and scream it at the viewers endlessly. They would be wiser to take SpaceX’s soft-sell approach: State once what they are accomplishing and then simply report on what actually happens, with no breathless commentary.

I don’t expect that to happen however. Thus, I’m not sure I can stomach hours on end of Virgin Galactic PR hype on Sunday, especially considering that this spaceflight by Branson is more than a decade late. His own endless hype for the last fifteen years, promising over and over again that he would be flying in mere months, has soured me from any desire to listen to more. Maybe I’ll go on a hike instead.

Conscious Choice cover

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Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Jeff Wright

    I can’t wait to miss it.

  • jeff

    take plenty of water.

  • pzatchok

    I would watch it.
    just not live.
    I consider that flying machine to still be experimental and it still has a pretty good chance of a spectacular mistake.

    I don’t want anyone to die but you do not watch NASCAR for the left hand turns.

  • Lee Stevenson

    I would recommend tuning in to the European Football championship 2020 instead .. (yes it’s actually called football, not soccer… The ball is mostly kicked with the feet…. And yes, it’s the 2020 contest…. This one I have no explanation for… Because Covid?)
    Anyways…. England Vs Italy is likely to be much more exciting, unless spaceship2 turns into a fireball. Which I obviously hope it doesn’t, but I believe it is not impossible for this sub orbital, sub space, rocket airplane launch to go horribly wrong. Fingers crossed for a successful flight and for England in the football!

  • David K

    I’m just not sure what the point of 4 minutes of weightlessness is. I’d rather just take a cruise somewhere topical – much cheaper and the food is better.

    Now a couple weeks on the moon or even the ISS is a different matter.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Sadly there are thousands of journalists (and millions of people) who don’t understand how fundamentally less of an achievement this is from actual orbital spaceflight. I wonder if some idiot will ask Elon Musk for his reaction. Should be a spectacular snark!

  • Col Beausabre

    “Watching Virgin Galactic’s suborbital flight on July 11th”

    Do I really HAVE to, daddy?

    News for Branson, what was impressive in 1961 is a BBBIIIIGGGG yawn sixty years later

    Dropping a rocket powered vehicle from a mothership? 1947 and Bell X-1/Boeing B-29

  • Lee Stevenson

    I have been arguing this point rather forcefully on another thread…. A ride on an airplane, even if rocket powered, which depending on your definition, doesn’t even make it to space, just doesn’t do it for me.

    Perhaps 15 years ago it would have been deeply exciting… 10 years ago even, but today? Not so much. Given limited funds ( lol!) I’d take a ride on Bezos’s rocket, it’s actually a rocket. Given huge wealth, give me a trans-lunar orbital ride in a dragon capsule. Either way, both kinda pee over the spaceship2 experience. Too little too late I fear.

  • Lee Stevenson

    @Col Beausabre… That Chuck guy sure did have a massive pair…. And they were solid brass… All the way thru!!! I’m sure there are still guys like that generation produced… But where, I don’t know…

  • pzatchok

    Could Musk just build a pressurized can with windows ans put it on top of a Falcon 9? Sort of like the BO pogo launcher.

    Everyone who rides it could be in a space suit in a seat facing out. How many people could he place inside a ship like that?

    Lets say a thousand pounds per passenger. This would include the person and all life support plus some of the ship. He could possibly lift 15 to 20 people at once and land them back at their take off point.

    He could basically make a people pod the size and shape of the fairings. The fairings are just for aerodynamics and some little protection, Bezos does not use one.

  • wayne

    Any updates as to the actual launch time? Just tuned into yt to check….
    –I guarantee, I can’t (and won’t) “stomach hours on end of Virgin Galactic PR hype.”

    Dana Carvey / George Bush
    “Not gonna do it….”

  • mike shupp

    Wayne —

    Six AM has become 7:30 AM, Another 20 minutes or so. We’ll see, but I wouldn’t be surprised if hot weather causes postponement for another day or two ,,,,

  • Doubting Thomas

    Wanted to watch it…but UGH!!!! They have Stephen Colbert (!!!!!???!!!!) as the host………sorry cannot endure that guy while I wait for the launch. What on earth or in space is that guys chops for narration??? Why pick such a polarizing guy as Colbert?

    The monsters are every where.

    Still wishing the crew luck and may St. Barbara watch over them and intercede for them.

  • wayne

    Thanks– just tuned in.

    Doubting Thomas-
    gee whiz, They have to ruin everything. It’s in their Nature.

    “Civil War”
    Slash & Myles Kennedy (2010)

  • Edward

    Doubting Thomas asked: “What on earth or in space is that guys chops for narration??? Why pick such a polarizing guy as Colbert?

    I interpreted it as Branson turning this launch into a joke. What else could it mean that he chooses a silly comedian to host?

  • pzatchok

    The worlds worst video.

  • Andrew M Winter

    Just caught the descent. I’ll watch the whole thing when it hits You Tube.

    Branson’s done it. He beat them all with the first passenger flight to space. Wow. I really thought they were done after that last crash.

  • Lee Stevenson

    Well….. He did it…. And congratulations to all involved. I’m sure there have been moments over the last decade and a half that everyone here has doubted that we wouldn’t see the day this thing flew to the edge of space, but it has. If it will ever turn a profit is another thing, but every milestone in the commercialisation of space is to be celebrated!

  • Lee Stevenson

    “doubted we would ever see the day” is what I meant… Lol…. Although I quite like the original!

  • Edward

    pzatchok wrote: “The worlds worst video.

    I also wish they had let us hear the pilots and mission controllers talk rather than have their words misinterpreted by someone else.

    However, Virgin Galactic is correct in saying that this is another important milestone in the commercialization of space,

  • No slam on the achievement itself … but the Muzak-meets-Ruby-Rhod (from The Fifth Element) commentary detracted from the experience.

    Of course, the question I want answered is … did anybody onboard throw up? Will have to review the interior replays …

  • Ray Van Dune

    Remarkable how short the flight was, especially compared to the excruciatingly long duration experience of watching Steven Colbert, or the hours of self-congratulation sure to follow. Gack! Whose idea was it to let Colbert “host”, or whatever that tasteless thing he did was called?

  • Lee Stevenson

    A question…. I know the rocket itself is a single use solid fuel ( burning rubber if I recall correctly…. Hardly environmentally friendly), does anyone know how long it takes to change the thing out to a new one?

  • Doubting Thomas

    Lee – My understanding of a major reason to go with the hybrid motor is that the fuel (what everybody calls Virgin Galactic’s rocket motor) is designed as a cartridge with nozzle which was supposed to be able to be removed and replaced quickly (less than an hour) for quick turn around tourist flights. The oxidizer which is nitrous oxide has gone back and forth from gaseous to liquid (don’t know now which) is separately fueled into the airframe (spaceframe ?)

    The cartridge has gone back and forth from a traditional SRM HTPB type fuel to some from of polybutadiene .due to HTPB instability. The new fuel was supposed to get it a higher altitude. Even with that one of their recent (last 2 or 3 years) suffered a no start and the Spaceship had to glide back.

    Watched the replays without that obnoxious Colbert and all the best to them but it seemed like a pretty short zero G experience. As I understand it, the interior camera broadcast failed so we will have to wait for the tape as they say in football and horse racing.

    That’s all I know.

  • Doubting Thomas

    I think this Kahlid guys song was almost as long as the entire flight. Poor Chris Hadfield, what a humiliation.

    Branson has been able to transform thru Colbert, some clueless singer, vapid commentary into an amazing trivialization of so many people’s years and years of hard work, sacrifice and frankly, loss of life in developing this system.

  • mkent

    That was less than I was expecting. I was expecting about four minutes of weightlessness, but the live video made it seem significantly less than two. By the time one is unstrapped and out of one’s seat a person would have to get right back in it for re-entry. I’m not sure I would bother. I’d probably just look out the window the whole time instead. I have no idea how anyone would be able to unstrap, run an experiment, and get strapped back in during the brief time available.

    Too bad XCOR didn’t make it. I’d still take a ride in a Lynx over either SpaceShipTwo or New Shepard.

  • Edward

    Please be aware that the freefall (zero-G) portion of the flight begins at engine shutdown, not at apogee.

  • Lee Stevenson

    @Doubting Thomas, thanks for the info!

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