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Beardy Branson bangs birds on Boeing

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Ughh... I do not like where the world is going

Looks like the slogan is - Each tycoon with his own ICBM.

First Musk, then Bezos, now the bearded one with something which looks very much like a first generation nuclear stand-off weapon. Something like a SkuBolt. Considering that the Bearded one already owns an island...

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Re: Ughh... I do not like where the world is going

Does he have a white cat? There will be the giveaway. And yes, it's a bit un-nerving to think that corporates have ICBM capability. It could lend a whole new meaning to "price war". Luckily for us, none of three are in competition with each other for their core businesses. Now if Apple and MS developed launchers, I'd be really worried.

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Thumb Up

Re: Ughh... I do not like where the world is going

I for one look forward to the day when sleek rose gold aluminium or shiny white polycarbonate war machines rain death on us from above.

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Re: Ughh... I do not like where the world is going

Bit too much hair really. I mean, if he was bald with the goatee he could manage it, but no-one could ever be a convincing evil mastermind with a mullet.

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Mushroom

Re: Ughh... I do not like where the world is going

There's only so many volcano lairs to go around, so when such an abode comes up for sale, having one's own private ICBM fleet might help one make the winning bid.

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Re: Ughh... I do not like where the world is going

"There's only so many volcano lairs to go around"

There is actually one available off to the North of the Canaries for about £6million but Branson would need to be quick as the Spanish gov is thinking of buying it.

There is no planning permission there as it's a bird sanctuary but it is a Spanish tradition to build illegally and pay the fine later.

Of course Beardy would need to consult an image consultant if he is going to take World Dominating Villainy seriously, I mean showing up on usurped telly screens in a jumper and jeans etc just won't cut it. Maybe he could grow a ZZ Top beard and crop the hair, get a nifty scar and put some metal in his face to look a bit more sinister, also he needs to change the voice to something a bit more dastardly.

By the way on the same forum thread as the Z124 link there are some numbers that make some sense for this idea as a sat launcher and Branson has managed to make a few bob here and there, so he has probably thought about this a bit as a business venture. Or maybe he is just going to nuke Stagecoach and takeover their contracts.

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Re: Ughh... I do not like where the world is going

I await the 'you're launching it wrong' press release from CUpertino when the iCBM goes breasts vertical

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Anonymous Coward

"first generation nuclear stand-off weapon" ?

I thought it looked more like something else... ahem...

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not sure that follows

"even after the rocket messes with the plane's aerodynamics"

Well the launcher is likely to be a low drag design.

Will we get a flavour of the Skybolt missile about it? In which case a Vulcan could have done the job.

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Re: not sure that follows

And then i find someone thought about it at the time, though how seriously is debateable.

http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=1363.0

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Re: not sure that follows

Have you forgotten the 747 that used to carry the Space Shuttle on its back?

Now theres a lot of really screwed up aerodynamics. Not a piddly thing slung inder the wing. After all, it has two much larger things already slung under each of the wings. i.e. the Engines.

Catering for standoff weaponry is SOP for military Autopilots. Not that difficult to even cater for one 500lb bomb being released when two should have gone.

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@Steve Davies 3 - Re: not sure that follows

> Have you forgotten the 747 that used to carry the Space Shuttle on its back?

*cough* Moonraker *cough*

(Although why they were shipping a fully-fueled-to-orbit Shuttle never really made sense...)

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Aaaargh, my ears

I'd forgotten just how bad low rent corporate video music could be.

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Anonymous Coward

That Guy

is a National Embarrassment.

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FAIL

Re: That Guy

And you are- That Guy!

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WTF?

Re: That Guy

"That Guy

is a National Embarrassment."

Seriously? He's masterminded the creation of a massive empire (sadly he is not really in control of it all anymore and it's standards have epically slipped), he's investing in pushing the boundaries of getting the species into Space properly, he's kept himself and his family pretty much scandal free and he doesn't prance around like a weapons grade toolbag.

The same cannot be said for you, on at least one of those, but I suspect all.

I'm not a rocket scientist, so I' am not going sit here and dissect this grand plan of his, or it's "financial viability" so I'll simply say

"Rock on Beardy, get us into Space and off this f***ing rock"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: That Guy

Must be a different guy to the one who is a blatant self publicist, whose operations have chiefly been supplying a brand to existing operations, and who squirrels his share of the earnings offshore.

Some allegations in the past of being a bit creative with cash flow across businesses (though that was in Private Eye)

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Unhappy

Because the Pegasus worked out so well for Orbital.

Turned out to be the most expensive launcher per unit mass to orbit on the planet.

Still if they are following Branson's usual SOP he won't be paying for it.

Bad ideas keep coming around.

Doesn't make them any better.

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Re: Because the Pegasus worked out so well for Orbital.

This was pretty much what I was thinking. I don't really see the advantage of air launching a rocket. The cost saved to delta-v gained ratio is just abysmal. The only advantage I can think of is that it doesn't require a large flat open bit of land with few, if any, humans around in case you prang it.

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Re: Because the Pegasus worked out so well for Orbital.

Orbital launcher was priced on the basis of "I need this satellite now and I am not waiting 2+ years for a launch slot". That went south as the waiting time for a small satellite launch slot went down to under 6 months (and continues to go down even further as they now piggy-back them on big launches). It was also very underpowered and limited from its very start. So is Branson's new venture. Too small, initial launch speed is too slow and start altitude is too low.

In fact out of all of these experiments only Burlak looks remotely interesting (Mach 1.7 launch at 15+km, up to 1tn payload), but it was cancelled even before it started when Russia effectively mothballed its Tu-160 fleet for 10 years due to economical reasons in the early 1990-es.

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Re: Because the Pegasus worked out so well for Orbital.

The only advantage I can think of is that it doesn't require a large flat open bit

The other advantage is that it can fly to the equator, launch there and come back without paying the French. Same as SeaLaunch - that alone is ~ 5%.

Savings for actual high altitude launch are not so shabby either. In reality you use ~ 30% of stage 1 fuel to reach Mach 1. 50% to reach mach 2 and stage one on most rockets is fully spent and separates at Mach 4.5 or thereabouts. The speeds and launch profiles for most orbital vehicles are well known - have a look yourself (these are the numbers for Soyuz).

Thus, a launch using a Boeing flying to the equator, launching at maximum safe speed (about Mach 0.8) and maximum altitude (about 13km) is ~ 25% of stage one fuel. If you launch from something that can actually carry a sufficiently large payload things start to look interesting.

Here is why the Bearded idea is actually daft. While Boeing 747 can theoretically carry significantly more than the ancient 1011L used in the Pegasus program (70 tons vs 23 tons), it cannot carry it on the wing mount. The size there is determined by the wing structural strength and is probably going to be under 15 tons.

While at it - the 70 tons you can top-load on a Boeing 747 is still very short of the 300 tons of a Soyuz launcher. However, when you compute all cost/fuel savings it is equivalent to a 100 ton launcher which is not to shabby. You can throw some pretty good sized payloads into space with that. However, for that, the Bearded one will have to do what NASA did with its B747 shuttle carriers - modify it into a proper launch platform. I doubt he has the resources (and the motivation) to do that.

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Re: Because the Pegasus worked out so well for Orbital.

"However, for that, the Bearded one will have to do what NASA did with its B747 shuttle carriers - modify it into a proper launch platform."

NASA hardly modified the 747 into a "proper launch platform"; they proved that it was possible to release a light, aerodynamically modified shuttle with no fuel safely from its carrier in flight. There were some nice designs for flyback boosters early in Shuttle development programme, but they weren't 747s... I always rather liked the one that was a sandwich stack of triangular pancakes, where the outer two were boosters which peeled away and turned back to land while the middle one headed on upwards...

betsest,

M.

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Mushroom

Re: Because the Pegasus worked out so well for Orbital.

but it was cancelled even before it started when Russia effectively mothballed its Tu-160 fleet for 10 years due to economical reasons in the early 1990-es.

But its good to see them back in service now. Unless you're anywhere in Syria, and particularly if you're a Turkish aligned insurgent. Here on the right you can see an IS oil convoy taking an unscheduled stop whilst heading towards Turkey.

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Re: Because the Pegasus worked out so well for Orbital.

"... it doesn't require a large flat open bit of land ..."

Runway?

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Re: Because the Pegasus worked out so well for Orbital.

I think there might be a bit more to it than that. Hint: LOHAN.

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Pint

Headline joy

May I be the first to congratulate El Reg on a welcome return to headline writing excellence.

Bravo folks!

On a Friday too, with beer just over the horizon.....

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Branson employs the masses

But why has he employed Edgar Davids? (1:03 in the video)

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Launcherone?

For some reason when the video started I read it to ryhme with pepperoni.

And once I started I couldn't stop . . . . .

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Happy

Re: Launcherone?

Or Luncherone!

Calzone- in a can!

I can't unsee it now either...

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Rocket weight

Payload fraction is usually around 5% for LEO, so the rocket will be between 4-5 tonnes.

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Prelude to Space

At last, we are getting nearer to Arthur C. Clarke's vision of how to get into space

His 1947 novel 'Prelude to Space' used an nuclear powered ramjet lifter that carried the smaller space ship up to LEO from where it was launched. Since most people have an irrational fear of anything nuclear (a holdover from the cold war which I assume will produce down votes), it is maybe time to replace Clarke's nuclear ram with the Skylon engine to do the same thing. After all, anything has to be better than using exploding totem poles to push anything 'up there'.

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Re: Prelude to Space

There's nothing irrational about fear of a nuclear ramjet. It's even pointed out in that very book how seriously bloody dirty it is, to the extent of requiring a decent area either side of the flightpath to be devoid of anything anyone might give a shit about[1].

Cold air in front, exposed pile in the middle, very hot and seriously radioactive air out the back. Remember the Windscale fire? Very much the same thing, only without the filters on the exhaust......(!)

[1] Built by the British and launched from Australia. I think Arthur may have been having a bit of a dig at our antipodean cousins here.

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Re: Prelude to Space

Apparently the whole idea works a lot better if you fuel it with Americium instead of Plutonium or Uranium.

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Re: Prelude to Space

No, in the early days of the space race (when the UK was still involved) we did tend to launch from Australia. Lots of empty space in the middle. Same reason we tested our nukes there....

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Anonymous Coward

He just likes the sound of his voice

They still haven't reached the Kármán line with their paying passengers vehicle. They will miss the boat on this too, by the time they fly there will be other cheap choices.

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Stop

Easy solution

Easiest would be to just build a ~600 mile high tower and throw the satellites off the top using a big spinning horizontal wheel. Simples.

Make it inflatable and it can be packed away when not in use.

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Big Brother

Total Mass, Payload Fraction.

obv. Big Brother 'cause surveillence,

"Virgin Galactic's not saying what LauncherOne weighs"

Fortunately you can read that important detail in the online article

"Virgin Galactic Reveals Boeing 747 For LauncherOne" from Aviationweek

They claim

"55,000-lb. rocket", "400-kg satellites into high-altitude, sun-synchronous orbits"

880lbs gives a 1.6% payload fraction.

Not bad considering they are not using a 'high energy' upper stage, just kerolox.

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LauncherTwos (?)

Am I the only one to think that the 747 would look better with a pair of LauncherOnes under its wings? How to say it... more businesslike ;)

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Branson has opened Pandora's box for the nuclear terrorist / rogue state.

How long before Iran / North Korea / Pakistan / ISIL reverse engineers (or illicitly obtains) the designs for the 747 conversion? The missile technology exists already, so does the nuclear warhead. All that the rogue states required was a delivery system. Now they have one. A transcontinental one.

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Iran, North Korea and Pakistan already have the capacity to develop delivery systems or could use cargo space on existing transport routes. If we limit the discussion to ISIS then all that the rogue group requires is a delivery system: and a generous North Atlantic donor nation who could supply the plane, parts, technical know how, some prepackaged fissionable material in a rounded box, flight training, flight plan clearances and a target list. A friendly Middle Eastern nation or two to help with landing / loading and take off might also be required. It would be easier just to drive or let someone else deliver the package.

However, given that even under the extreme pressure the Russian's and Syrian's are applying to ISIS R US no one has yet gone nuclear. It may be that obtaining a nuke is the biggest barrier in your scenario rather than the delivery system.

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all the ISIS-type groups need to do to get a nuke is pinch one from the Pakistanis.....

its known that members of the Pakistani security services and army are sympathetic, and worries about warhead "misplacement" are often quoted as the reason why the Pakistani military are scared to take their nukes out of their secure bunkers. If they did (say for a practice drill) Al-Quaeda would know - and would hijack the warhead

As for North Korea, Iran et al........they don't so far have a stand-off delivery system. The chances of a bomb on a suicide aircraft getting to target are now low, but the chances of a 747 disguised as a regular commercial aircraft getting close enough to launch a stand-off missile (e.g a modern Blue Steel or SRAM) are much higher

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