Tencent technology news on June 10, the space race between billionaires seems to be in full swing, and more and more close to the inflection point. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and British tycoon Richard Branson are both likely to see the edge of space next month, but Branson seems to be taking a step faster.
Jeff Bezos (left) and Richard Branson may be in a very intense space race to see who gets into space first
Bezos announced on Monday that he plans to take the new Shepard suborbital spacecraft developed by blue origin company to enter space on July 20, the first manned mission of the spacecraft. Later, Douglas messier, the blogger of the space blog parallel arc, revealed that Virgin Galactic might be the first to send its founder Richard Branson into space before Bezos.
Previously, an anonymous source disclosed to Messier that Virgin Galactic planned to test fly the so-called SpaceShipTwo suborbital spacecraft over the weekend of July 4. This will prepare Branson to beat Bezos by a narrow margin in two weeks to become the first billionaire to go into space. Virgin Galactic began developing these plans in response to the date set for blue origin’s first manned flight, according to Messier’s sources. Blue Genesis announced its first flight date on May 5, and it was set long before Bezos announced that he would join.
At present, the media can not independently confirm Messier’s report, but a Virgin Galactic spokesman did not deny the news in a statement. “We are analyzing the data of the successful flight on May 22,” the spokesman said. As announced earlier, we expect to complete the final test flight from this summer to early autumn. At present, we have not determined the exact date of the next flight. ” He added that Branson’s flight “is expected to be in the summer months.”. Meanwhile, the company is preparing for a separate test flight, with four “mission experts” playing the role of future passengers.
Virgin Galactic has previously said that mission experts will fly before Branson. But as of Wednesday, the spokesman did not answer questions about which of the two missions would be launched first. “It could be easy to change the sequence of flights or make Branson one of the four Mission experts,” said George nfield, former deputy director of the Federal Aviation Administration and head of the commercial space transportation office
Nafeld added: “Branson has gone through a lot of very dangerous things in his career, but he obviously believes the project will be successful. If he feels that the project is going well and is willing to try it himself, he will have more power to achieve his goals. ”
John Logsdon, founder of the Institute for space policy at George Washington University and a former member of NASA’s advisory board, said: “it’s very interesting for these billionaires to entertain themselves in the first manned flight of a spacecraft developed by their respective companies. The Starship should also conduct orbit test. Will musk take part in the test flight? ”
SpaceShipTwo returned to earth after supersonic flight test
According to nafeld, Virgin Galactic could easily complete the paperwork for launching Branson by July 4. “In my opinion, it’s absolutely feasible,” he said However, he stressed that he was not aware of the details of the communication between Virgin Galactic and FAA, which mainly license commercial rocket launches.
Prior to Branson’s flight, zhenyinhe had to obtain a commercial reusable spacecraft operator license from FAA. The license will allow Virgin Galactic to fly its billionaire founder as one of the company’s first space flight participants. According to the current launch license, Virgin Galactic is limited to flight test by flight staff who are the test objects on a non-commercial basis. Virgin Galactic has submitted the last two verification reports required for the operator’s license. The company expects the FAA to issue a license before the flight in early July, the source said.
Nafeld said that as long as the data of the last flight did not reveal any major problems, it was a very simple and fast thing to modify the license. “It’s very simple to change the license, such as deleting the fifth paragraph. It’s no big deal,” nafeld said
Branson could even get new roles, such as flying as a mission expert. Then Virgin Galactic may be able to fly without changing its license at all. “In my opinion, nothing can stop Branson from flying as a crew member,” nafeld said. At the end of the day, he is still an employee of the company, and they can assign him any role he wants. It’s not the FAA’s business, it’s the company’s business. ”
Asked about the report, a FAA spokesman declined to comment on whether Virgin Galactic is seeking a launch next month. Instead, the agency pointed out that the “participant” license was being modified. It’s not clear how much Virgin Galactic needs to change or accelerate its original plan to get Branson into space before Bezos. “There are always shortcuts if you hurry up, but people in charge of flying are unlikely to stop their boss from taking risks,” logston said
Whether Branson can fly on July 4 depends on whether SpaceShipTwo and its carrier, white knight two, are ready to fly in time. The turnaround time for the flight on July 4 is 44 days. From December 2018 to February 2019, SpaceShipTwo’s first and second suborbital flights were 72 days apart.
If Branson went into space before Bezos, there might be a debate about whether he really went into space. The FAA recognizes 50 miles (80.4 kilometers) as the edge of space, but the international aviation agency believes that the edge of space lies at 62.1 miles (100 kilometers), known as the Karman line. SpaceShipTwo has flown more than 80.4km three times, but has not yet reached the dharman line. Blue origin’s new Shepard spacecraft exceeded this limit 12 times in the previous 15 flights, and exceeded 80.4 km in the other three.
Virgin Galactic said it expects to complete the remaining three flight tests in late summer or early autumn. At that time, SpaceShipTwo and its carrier will be upgraded for a period of four months, and then begin commercial space tourism flights early next year. The second SpaceShipTwo is scheduled to begin flight testing later this year. It is expected to begin transporting tourists and researchers into space in 2022（ Tencent technology reviser / Jinlu)