Never mind the thrill of commercial flights into orbit, the true excitement of Virgin Galactic's plan to make spaceflight open to the world will be the new way their crafts use to get there, apparently.
Writing in Britain's Guardian newspaper, Virgin Galactic's president Will Whitehorn attempts to explain why the company will be more environmentally friendly than you may have thought - if, of course, you'd considered the environmental impact of their plans at all:
The company is developing a 21st-century space launch system based on the principles of an entirely carbon composite construction, a unique benign hybrid rocket motor, biofuels where permissible and very high-altitude air launch and firing of the benign rocket rather than launching it from the ground.
The air launch negates the need to use dirty carbon-intensive solid chemical fuelled rocket boosters. The result is a very low-energy and low environmental impact approach to getting humans, scientific payload and eventually even small satellites into space.
The reason for this? Cost... and, it seems, the desire to revolutionize spaceflight in general on your dime:
We are not going to find better ways to get to space unless we can regularise space flight and this system will use space tourism as one means to lower the cost of space access... The highly efficient human and payload space launch systems will lead to an overdue industrial revolution in space. The alternative would be government funding of these new, less polluting systems – which is not an idea one can anticipate any public enthusiasm for.
Well, at least it's not your tax dollars at work...
Virgin Galactic: 'Getting into space has a very low environmental impact' [Guardian.co.uk]