It made a nice change for me to attend a Space related event that was not in Florida. This year the IET Wheatstone Lecture was presented by Will Whitehorn the President of Virgin Galactic. Held in London at the Institute of Engineering and Technology Will covered the short, but highly successful, history of Virgin Galactic, and some of the possible future expansion paths for the company.
The timing of the lecture was very appropriate coming just a few days after the successful launch and orbit of the SpaceX Falcon / Dragon COTS mission. This really highlights what can be achieved when commercial enterprise is let loose in the marketplace. To prototype, build, prove and commission a new supply ship for the ISS will cost less than the cost of launching a single Shuttle mission.
The basic rocket technology has not changed very much since the days of World War II and the Von Braun V2 rockets. Obviously the systems have improved somewhat in the 70 years since the first of the V2 launches, but the core concepts of using excessive amounts of explosive thrust on a multistage missile has not.