The Cranky Ol' Bat

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Virgin Frustrated Over US Rules

(Sorry....I just had to use that headline.)

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is running into difficulty determining how to license Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne technology. The problem seems to be the potential military applications.

Virgin Galactic plans to offer $200k rides into space from Mojave, California. 100 people have already paid the fare, with another 29,000 agreeing to put down a $20k payment for future travel. Each flight is expected to carry five to nine passengers, each with their own window. The passengers would be allowed to take off their seat belts for the four to five minute planned weightlessness during the voyage.

Rutan complained before a congressional hearing that the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation has misapplied rules meant for unmanned boosters to passenger spacecraft. "The process just about ruined my program," he said. "It resulted in cost overruns, increased the risk for my test pilots, did not reduce the risk to the non-involved public, destroyed our 'always question, never defend' safety policy and removed our opportunities to seek new innovative safety solutions."

Virgin Galactic had originally planned to debut in 2007, but the company's president now believes that the delays due to US regulation will push it back to 2008 or 2009.


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