An interesting and prescient article reminds us that the rosy-tinted press releases about "Private-enterprise space tourism Real Soon Now" have been coming out for twenty Friedman Units, ever since June 2004. The public relations may not have fooled nature but they did convince enough ticket-buying Wealth Creators that they were really D. D. Harriman and that a five-minute high-altitude Experience had always been their childhood dream. They also convinced New Mexico voters to spend $210 million paying for Virgin Galactic's ground facilities (which is how billionaires stay billionaires).
I learned that the engine which
I also learned that both designs follow the hybrid liquid-oxidiser / solid-fuel principle [not actually reusable]. That approach was familiar from a Mythbusters episode -- "salami rocket" being a phrase that sticks in a guy's mind -- but it was also used by the Top Gear team in their proof-of-concept attempt to turn a Reliant Robin into a space shuttle.
SpaceShipOne (which won the Ansari X Prize) was intended for multiple test flights to discover and solve the teething troubles of hybrid-propellent rocketry... but once its second manned flight qualified it as First Private-Enterprise Reusable Manned High-Altitude Vehicle, there were financial incentives to put it on show in a museum as F P-E R M H-A V, and it was far too valuable to risk the typographical wrath of God by actually re-using it.
One can only advise Richard Branson to use Papyrus for the logo if he decided to go ahead with funding SpaceShipThree. That would really get the deity's attention!
Below: Artist's impression of SS3
* Riddled style sheet prefers this word to "vainglory" and "insouciance". Some of our best friends are Hubris.
** Updated to reflect announcements that the rocket chamber is intact and that rudder performance was involved. Someone forgot to switch their cellphone to Flight mode.