地缘贸易博客This blog considers how ideas and events framed by geography and trade shape our world, while sharing observations and analysis on discovery, transport, industry and much more.






Friday, 25 February 2011

Space Air Travel – the new frontier. If NZ and Australia were only 2 hours away


Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two craft
The history of spaceflight is short and until recently, largely uninnovative. Nazi scientist Wernher von Braun helped develop the basic technology, which involved using large amounts of liquid fuel to push large weights to escape velocity. This technique lasted throughout the cold war and beyond.

Today, Virgin Galactic is trying to buck the trend. Its SpaceShip Two craft, designed by Scaled Composites, is essentially a glider with a rocket attached. Carried aloft by a subsonic aircraft, it is launched in the air and then the rocket carries it to 109km (just over the 'Karman Line' which delineates suborbital flight from atmospheric flight). Then it glides back to earth, completing the three-hour mission.

But perhaps the real story here is the potential to apply this technology to inter-continental space travel around the Earth. Experts say that by travelling into near-Earth orbit, the length of inter-continental flights could be cut dramatically, so a flight from London to Sydney could last just two hours.

Imagine what it would mean if the Asia Pacific region were to be within commuting distance for passenger travel to Europe, US, Latin American and Africa. It would dramatically change the notion of time and space in such a way that we have not known since the invention of telegraph technology that modernised the world in the 19th century by breaching time and space.

Inter-continental space travel would bring the world geographically closer and would eliminate the distance barrier for the world's most isolated countries like New Zealand. In elapsed time travelling New Zealand would be as close to London as Northern European countries. It would bring continents together.

For the first time we are closer than ever to this becoming a reality in the 21st century.

What has happened so far

The construction of the World's first facility for commercial space travel in the Rio Grande valley of New Mexico is nearing completion. Spaceport America is the first of its kind in the world. Virgin Galactic has signed up to be the anchor tenant for 20 years and has dedicated hundreds of millions of US dollars to developing the technology.

The inauguration of the world's first spaceway (that is runway for space air travel) at the world's first commercial built spaceport was held in Autumn last year.


Spaceport America - the world's first Spaceport for commercial
space travel
Virgin Galactic's Sir Richard Branson said at the event “...the last few weeks have been some of the most exciting in Virgin Galactic’s development. Our spaceship is flying beautifully and will soon be making powered flights, propelled by our new hybrid rocket motor, which is also making excellent progress in its own test program...we are seeing unprecedented numbers of people coming forward to secure their reservations for this incredible experience.”

It is still unclear when Virgin Galactic will make it's first flight into space but the Geo Trade blog will continue to monitor progress on the first space flights closely and will keep you updated on all developments on near-Earth orbit inter-continental flights.

Photos Source: Courtesy of the Virgin Galactic website

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