Virgin Galactic ethics
- Dec 10, 2009
Over the last few days I have been asked about the ethics and the rationale behind the Virgin Galactic suborbital space program. So I thought it best to outline a few my thoughts here on why I think this is such an important initiative to get behind and invest in.
Since the 1960s, space technology has played a big role in helping scientific research, weather forecasting, communications and climate studies. Without it our ability to understand the pace and nature of climate change would be severely curtailed as much of the evidence of the causes and effects of a warming planet has been derived from satellite technology.
I believe that we need to continue to exploit the huge potential space holds; but current technology is old, carbon intensive, expensive and funded by Governments. Virgin Galactic’s system has radically overturned much of the traditional thinking behind space launches and as a result is cleaner, cheaper and safer by design. It is also privately funded. We will use horizontal air launch rather than vertical ground launch. The spaceship is released from a carrier aircraft at around 50,000 feet. This removes the need for large, energy hungry and dirty ground-based rocketry.
It is our intention that Virgin Galactic will also act as a test-bed for new and clean technologies, such as the use of carbon composites in large aircraft, which have applications across a range of industrial sectors. Due to the experimental licence under which it operates, it also has the potential to provide an ideal platform for the testing and possible first regularised commercial use of sustainable, renewable jet aviation, something that the Virgin airlines are actively supporting for their industry too.
On a more local note – Virgin Galactic and its partner Scaled Composites are creating a lot of jobs, in a town where they are a scarce commodity and in a region that's currently has a 4% higher unemployment rate than the rest of California. Technology and the adaption of it to help us understand our planet better are one of the keys to a sustainable economy.