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发布时间:2019-03-08 01:07:08来源:未知点击:

Would-be round-the-world balloonist Richard Branson is considering an even more spectacular project: civilian space flight. Pretty soon, the intrepid Virgin chief will visit California to check out the Rotary Rocket Company’s technology (www.rotaryrocket.com), a spokesman tells Netropolitan. RRC’s bizarre Roton spacecraft, which uses rocket engines for liftoff yet lands like a helicopter (This Week, 30 January, p 16), is one of numerous commercial spacecraft now on the drawing board. “It’s one of the more credible projects in the private spaceflight sector. It might allow us to operate realistic space tourism,” says Virgin. Rivals to the Roton include a reusable kerosene-powered launch vehicle being developed by Kistler Aerospace (www.kistleraerospace.com). Another rival project is at Kelly Space & Technology (www.kellyspace.com), which is working on a rocket that will be towed by a Boeing 747 before launching itself into space. Scaled Composites (www.scaled.com) hopes to use a futuristic-looking plane as a launcher. NASA’s head, Dan Goldin, has sobering words for Branson and others who may be thinking of investing in civilian space flight. He dismisses such rocket schemes as “system gimmicks to overcome the unbelievable lack of technology that they have”. But this official put-down hasn’t dampened public enthusiasm. The X-Prize (www.xprize.com) is a $10 million reward for the first private company that takes people more than 100 kilometres into space. You can win a trip into space by accessing the site. Don’t forget the travel insurance. The 25 April issue of The Sunday Timessuggested that NASA’s new designs for saucer-shaped, laser-beam surfing spacecraft might “fuel rumours of access to alien technology”. But a glance at NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Program (www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/bpp/) shows that the designs are more influenced by Star Trek. More on these topics: