Tag Archives: transportation

European company plans to mass-produce sub-orbital spaceplanes

EADS Astrium spaceplane in flight Astrium, the division of the European aerospace company EADS that makes the Ariane rocket, plans to mass-produce a commercial vehicle to take passengers on jaunts above the 100 km altitude that marks the edge of space. (Via BBC.)

Astrium’s market assessment suggests there would be 15,000 people a year willing to pay 200,000 euros for the trip, enough to support a production line turning about about 10 spaceplanes a year.

Robert Laine, CTO of EADS Astrium, announced while delivering the 99th Kelvin Lecture at the Institution of Engineering and Technology in London.

Astrium doesn’t intend to fly the craft itself, but supply them to companies that want to start up a space tourism business.

How far along are they? They’ve done wind-tunnel testing; and run the rocket engine for up to 31 seconds. The plan is for the four-passenger, single-pilot craft to take off using regular jet engines, climb to 12 km, then ignite the rocket to shoot straight up, climbing beyond 60 km in just 80 seconds, then riding its velocity to the 100 km level and beyond.Once it has re-entered the atmosphere, the jet engines take over again for the landing. (Watch an animation: I particularly like the opening text of “Until now, the closest you could get to your dream of travelling into space was to immerse yourself in a good science fiction novel…”)

Laine believes this is the first step toward super-fast intercontinental passenger transporters:

“Today we don’t know how to go to space cheaply. Being able to climb on a regular basis to 100km will give us the motivation to develop the plane that goes, not just up and down to the same place, but from here to the other side of the Earth.

“When the Ariane 5 takes off, 15 minutes later it is over Europe; and 45 minutes later it is over the Pacific. The fastest way is to go outside the atmosphere and that will be the future.”

I’d love to ride one of these things…but not for 200,000 euros. Give it time, though, and the price will surely come down.

(Image © EADS Astrium / images MasterImage 2007)

[tags]space travel, space tourism, aerospace, transportation[/tags]

Return of the airship

A new article by Air & Space Magazine hints at a return to airships, with a focus on their potential use for heavy lifting in military and commercial applications, as well as a use as a spy platform.  That’s the idea, anyway.  It remains to be seen if the necessary advances in technology will make these behemoths economically viable.  One interesting feature would be that they might not come back in the familiar cigar shape – evidently a sphere is better for balancing out the helium.  Another cool thing would be hover pads that could push or pull on the surface, either to keep the airship above the ground/ice/sea, or hold it down while cargo is being offloaded so it doesn’t shoot up into the air like a, well, balloon.

(via SciTechDaily) (image from article)

Virgin America’s Entertainment Tech

796174803 Ebfd404Bb4 MOn Virgin America’s new planes you can build a private playlist from the 3,000 on-board MP3s, play Doom, watch satellite TV, chat with other passengers or order lunch, all from the seat back in front of you. The computers that make this possible run Linux, booted over the network from one of the three servers at the back of the plane. Artur Bergman of O’Reilly Radar has a more detailed description of the experience, and a Flickr photoset with a bunch of cool pics.

Liberating The Sail

33-SmThe art of setting and trimming sails has a long and noble history, but when you think about it, it’s an art that exists because of fundamental flaws in the technology. Sails are fixed to a few basic positions that must be carefully tended to translate the impetus of wind into forward motion. Dan Tracy, “an enthusiastic sailor and fisherman from Mount Desert Island, Maine,” took a page from the kiteboarder’s playbook and attached a really big kite to a trimaran. Flying a kite lets him catch higher, steadier winds, from a wider variety of angles, to power his boat. Check him out on your next visit to Hawaii. [treehugger]

Bruce Schneier and Kip Hawley in Conversation

Kip HawleyBruce Schneier, that pragmatic and insightful observer of the so-called security state, is interviewing Kip Hawley, the head of the Transportation Safety Administration. The interview is going up on Schneier’s blog in 5 installments. Read part 1 to start.

Kip Hawley comes out sounding almost reasonable, though Schneier demolishes most of Hawley’s points (or at least those points that don’t reduce to, “it’s secret, so just trust me”).