Sky high and down to Earth

News Editor

This Thursday, Staffordshire University hosts ‘Space Tourism – New Business For The 21st Century’ where Adam Baker, a consultant at Rocket Engineering, will look at the progress of human space travel to date against the changes that might occur in this decade.

Virgin Galactic, for example, is currently taking deposits starting from $20,000 (about £12,000) for a journey into suborbital space.

So far around 410 ‘Virgin Galactic astronauts’ have signed up for the $200,000 (£120,000) flights, which could start as early as 2012.

Dr Baker will look at the key technologies being developed to make this kind of journey reliable and safe. He’ll also consider the implications of affordable space travel in relation Britain’s growing space industry and how it might be able contribute to space tourism.

The event is free to attend but registration is required.

Looking many, many years into the future, Briefing wanders whether low-cost airlines will join in with this mode of flight, bringing with it the usual undignified scramble for seats and proposing a fee for using the loo.

Still in the Midlands and news that Birmingham University is hosting an IMechE lecture focussed on the control and instrumentations systems for Bloodhound SSC, the car that will attempt to set a new land speed record of 1,000mph.

According to the event’s publicity material, the control system will be responsible for the various propulsion systems fitted to the car including a Euro fighter EJ200 Jet engine, an 18” hybrid rocket and a Formula One internal combustion engine used to pump the oxidizer into the rocket.

The control system will also actively control wings mounted at the front and rear of the vehicle to maintain sufficient load on the wheels to ensure the car does not take off.

The control system’s real time, multiple processors will assist driver Andy Green by displaying data collected from many systems allowing him to control the vehicle.

The lecture, delivered by John P Davis, is free to attend.

As many of you already know, the Bloodhound project is making all its design and performance data available on the internet. The Bloodhound Education Programme will then be made available to all pupils in primary and secondary schools, and to students in further and higher education.

Nearly 4,000 schools registered in the first 18 months of the project, going some way to fulfil one of the project’s aims to inspire and encourage the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Let’s hope they succeed, given Richard Noble’s stark assessment of the aerospace sector.

Speaking in Sheffield last week Richard Noble, whose Thrust 2 programme brought the land speed record back to Britain in 1983, said: ‘In 20 years, 60 per cent of the aerospace workforce will have gone. We have to do something about it.’

George Osborne might be going some way to remedy this in the near-term on Wednesday when he delivers his Budget speech.

How so? Yesterday’s Sunday Times speculated that funding is to be made available for 50,000 more apprentices, with 8,000 to be placed with SMEs over the next four years. Similarly, the number of technical colleges is likely to be doubled to 24. SMEs will receive an investment boost too in the form of support for enterprise investment schemes and venture capital trusts.

Be sure to visit The Engineer on Wednesday afternoon for reaction to the Budget and what it means for your sector.