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  Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo / WhiteKnightTwo (Page 2)

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Author Topic:   Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo / WhiteKnightTwo
Robert Pearlman
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Virgin Galactic release
Two Flights in 24 hours for SpaceShipTwo

More exciting news from the Mojave Desert this morning with confirmation that SpaceShipTwo, VSS Enterprise, had completed two successful glide flights within 24 hours.

This was the quickest turnaround time yet between VSS Enterprise solo flights, reinforcing the unique and transformational ability of Virgin Galactic's spaceflight system to undertake daily flights to space.

Both flights saw early morning take-offs for VSS Enterprise, in mated configuration with the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, followed by high altitude releases at around 52,000ft and glides back to smooth touch-downs on the Mojave Air and Spaceport runway. Both flights were part of a continuing program of envelope expansion, specifically focussing on speed and susceptibility for flutter.

This morning's flight was the 12th solo flight for SpaceShipTwo since its inaugural glide flight on 10th October 2010, including two successful "feather" flights which demonstrated the spaceship's unique re-entry configuration.

The quick turnaround between the latest two flights demonstrates an important factor in Virgin Galactic's planned commercial operations, which will see daily flights of both carrier aircraft and spaceship to accommodate the fast growing demand from both space tourists and researchers.

Congratulations to the whole team at Scaled Composites and particularly to SpaceShipTwo test pilots Pete Siebold, Doug Shane, Mark Stucky and Clint Nichols.

Lewis007
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Space.com reports:
Another successful glide of the first SpaceShip Two craft, christened VSS Enterprise, took place June 23, marking the 14th glide flight test of the vessel — an 8-minute, 55-second free fall after midair release from its mothership. The test came a week after VSS Enterprise proved it could be flown on back-to-back days...

According to Virgin Galactic, all objectives of the fledgling spacecraft's recent test flights were met.

"Another good flight test for the program, on a beautiful Mojave morning," said George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic's CEO.

SpaceShipTwo testing is headed for a quiet period starting in July, as the Scaled team analyzes the data from the test flight program to date.

"This summer Scaled will be going through the data to make sure they apply any important lessons … to the next phase of test flights," Whitesides said. "We’re proceeding with the diverse set of tasks required to set up the spaceline, from planning spaceport operations to customer training procedures to ongoing business development."

Scaled Composites' SpaceShipTwo Flight Test Summaries
  • Flight: 67 / GF14
  • Date: 23 Jun 11
  • Flight Time: 7 min, 33 sec (1.6 hr for WK2)

  • WK2 Pilot: Siebold
    WK2 CoPilot: Binnie
    WK2 FTE: Maisler

  • SS2 Pilot: Stucky
    SS2 CoPilot: Nichols

  • GS Crew: Tighe, Persall, Verderame, Bassett, Glaser, Reid, Knupp, Inks

  • Objectives: Continued flutter susceptibility envelope expansion

  • Results: All objectives achieved.

Robert Pearlman
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The Telegraph reports that David Mackay, 53, will be the chief pilot for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic when it begins the first sub-orbital space flights by 2013.
Mr Mackay has temporarily swapped his home for the Mojave Desert testing ranges in California taking test flights in Virgin's WhiteKnightTwo 'mothership'.

He spent 16 years with the RAF before joining Virgin Atlantic in 1995, working as a captain with Virgin Atlantic.

Mr Mackay is one of four pilots selected to become Virgin Galactic test pilots working with the development team at Virgin's Spaceport centre in the US.

328KF
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Scaled Composites has successfully completed the first full-duration test firing of Rocket Motor 2. The test summary is below:
Fire: 07
Date: 25 August 11

Objectives:
Perform seventh full scale flight design RM2 hot-fire
Continue all systems evaluation
Continue fuel formulation evaluation
Continue nozzle evaluation
Continue motor structural evaluation
Continue valve/injector performance evaluation

Results:
All objectives completed. Performed 55 second, full duration hot-fire, including igniter performance, oxidizer flow and pressurization systems, data acquisition system measurements, structural evaluation, nozzle ablation, and fuel regression rate data.

328KF
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SpaceShipTwo is flying again, following some modifications. Apparently the craft experienced an unintentional stall of the the tails right after separation.
Flight: 73 / GF16
Date: 29 Sep 11 Flight Time: 7 min, 15 sec
SS2 Pilot: Stucky SS2 CoPilot: Nichols SS2 FTE: Persall
GS Crew: Alsbury, Verderame, Kalogiannis, Vannoy, Glasser, Reid, Inks, Tighe, Bassett

Objectives:
Post maintenance functional check flight
Clean release
Evaluate stability and control
Flutter expansion
Previous flutter point validation
Increased weight landing (using water ballast)
Pilot proficiency

Results:
Test card called for releasing the Spaceship from WhiteKnightTwo and immediately entering a rapid descent. Upon release, the Spaceship experienced a downward pitch rate that caused a stall of the tails. The crew followed procedure, selecting the feather mode to revert to a benign condition. The crew then defeathered and had a nominal return to base. Great flying by the team and good demo of feather system.

This is flight test, and things do go wrong and schedules have been getting repeatedly "pushed to the right," as they say. Apparently one of the founding investors has had enough of the delays, and at age 75, has given up his chance of flying in space.

Robert Pearlman
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Virgin Galactic release
FAA Launch Permit Gives Virgin Galactic's Space Vehicles the Green Light for Powered Flight

SpaceShipTwo Set to Go for Heavy-Weight Glide Tests with Supersonic Flight Targeted for Year End

Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline, announced today [May 30, 2012] that its vehicle developer, Scaled Composites (Scaled), has been granted an experimental launch permit from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its suborbital spacecraft, SpaceshipTwo, and the carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo.

"This important milestone enables our team to progress to the rocket-powered phase of test flight, bringing us a major step closer to bringing our customers to space," said George Whitesides, president and CEO of Virgin Galactic. "We thank the FAA for their timely issuance of this permit, and for their responsible oversight of the test program."

Already, SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo have made significant progress in their flight test program. With 80 test flights completed, WhiteKnightTwo is substantially through its test plan, while the more recently constructed SpaceShipTwo has safely completed sixteen free flights, including three that tested the vehicle's unique "feathering" re-entry system. Additionally, ten test firings of the full scale SpaceShipTwo rocket motor, including full duration burns, have been safely and successfully completed.

With this permit now in hand, Scaled is now authorized to press onward towards rocket-powered test flights. In preparation for those powered flights, SpaceShipTwo will soon return to flight, testing the aerodynamic performance of the spacecraft with the full weight of the rocket motor system on board. Integration of key rocket motor components, already begun during a now-concluding period of downtime for routine maintenance, will continue into the autumn. Scaled expects to begin rocket powered, supersonic flights under the just-issued experimental permit toward the end of the year.

"The Spaceship program is making steady progress, and we are all looking forward to lighting the vehicle's rocket engine in flight for the first time," said Doug Shane, president of Scaled.

Although a handful of experimental launch permits have been granted to other rockets, SpaceShipTwo is the first rocket-powered vehicle that carries humans on board to receive such a permit. SpaceShipOne, the manned spaceship successfully flown to space in 2004 and the basis for the design of SpaceShipTwo, flew before the Experimental Permit regulatory regime was established.

The FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation issues permits after it has determined that the vehicle operator has taken the appropriate steps to protect the public during testing. Permitees must submit detailed plans for vehicle design and operation in order to ensure that all possible scenarios have been addressed.

328KF
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Scaled now has SS2 fitted with rocket motor components and is working toward powered flight in the next few months. This week, they conducted two more glide flights after many months of down time, and performed two ground tests of the motor at a new test facility at Mojave.

The glide flight early this morning was the first by Virgin Galactic's chief test pilot.

Robert Pearlman
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Today during the Farnborough International Air Show 2012, Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson revealed that the company has now accepted deposits for suborbital flights on SpaceShipTwo from 529 future astronauts, a number greater than the total count of people who have been to space throughout human history.

This comes following confirmation that all major components of SpaceShipTwo's rocket system have been qualified for powered flight, which is on track to begin before the year's end.

Robert Pearlman
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Virgin Galactic release
Virgin Galactic Acquires Full Ownership of The Spaceship Company

Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline, today (Oct. 5) announced that it has taken 100% ownership of its sister company, The Spaceship Company (TSC), by acquiring the 30% stake held by Scaled Composites (Scaled) since TSC's formation under a joint venture with Virgin Galactic.

This acquisition, details of which are not being disclosed, marks the successful completion of a long-term strategy and signifies the end of the first phase of TSC's development. During this development phase, TSC completed the build out of manufacturing and assembly facilities in Mojave, CA, established a specialized workforce and transitioned necessary assets from Scaled in order to begin building Virgin Galactic's commercial fleet of WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft and SpaceShipTwo (SS2) manned sub-orbital spacecraft. These vehicles will be utilized for Virgin Galactic's planned spaceline operations which will be based at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico.

The completion of the acquisition comes as Virgin Galactic and Scaled begin to plan the handover of the SS2 development program to Virgin Galactic, with Scaled remaining fully committed to the final portion of the WK2 and SS2 test flight programs prior to Virgin Galactic commencing commercial operations.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-20-2012 05:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Virgin Galactic release
SpaceShipTwo Completes First Glide in Powered Flight Configuration

SpaceShipTwo undertook its 23rd glide flight Dec. 19 in the pre-powered portion of its incremental test flight program.

This was a significant test flight as it was the first with rocket motor components installed, including tanks. It was also the first test flight with thermal protection applied to the spaceship’s leading edges. It followed an equally successful test flight last Friday which saw SpaceShipTwo fly in this configuration, but remain mated to its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.

All objectives of both flights were successfully met.

SpaceShipTwo is expected to undertake a minimum of two more glide flights in order to complete all remaining preparation for its first powered flight.

Robert Pearlman
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Virgin Galactic release
SpaceShipTwo Advances Towards Powered Flight with Spectacular "Cold-Flow" Test

History continues to be made in the skies above the Mojave Desert. Hot on the heels of last week's nitrous venting and feather test, SpaceShipTwo achieved another successful first today with a spectacular "Cold Flow" flight.

The test objectives were successfully met, advancing another important step towards powered flight.

In preparation for SpaceShipTwo's first powered flight, the test teams from Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic completed the profile of the upcoming milestone flight — apart from actually igniting the rocket. Importantly, and for the first time in the air, oxidizer was flowed through the propulsion system and out through the nozzle at the rear of the vehicle — thus successfully accomplishing the "Cold-Flow" procedure.

As well as providing further qualifying evidence that the rocket system is flight ready, the test also provided a stunning spectacle due to the oxidizer contrail and for the first time gave a taste of what SpaceShipTwo will look like as it powers to space.

The upcoming first powered flight of SpaceshipTwo is in many ways the most significant milestone to date, being the first time that the spaceship has flown with all systems installed and fully operational. It's an incredibly exciting stage of the program.

Robert Pearlman
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Virgin Galactic release
Virgin Galactic Breaks Speed Of Sound in First Rocket-Powered Flight of SpaceShipTwo

Today, Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's aabar Investments PJC, completed the first rocket-powered flight of its space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2). The test, conducted by teams from Scaled Composites (Scaled) and Virgin Galactic, officially marks Virgin Galactic's entrance into the final phase of vehicle testing prior to commercial service from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

"The first powered flight of Virgin Spaceship Enterprise was without any doubt, our single most important flight test to date," said Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson, who was on the ground in Mojave to witness the occasion. "For the first time, we were able to prove the key components of the system, fully integrated and in flight. Today's supersonic success opens the way for a rapid expansion of the spaceship's powered flight envelope, with a very realistic goal of full space flight by the year's end. We saw history in the making today and I couldn't be more proud of everyone involved."

The test began at 7.02am local time when SS2 took off from Mojave Air and Space Port mated to WhiteKnightTwo (WK2), Virgin Galactic's carrier aircraft. Piloting SS2 were Mark Stucky, pilot, and Mike Alsbury, co-pilot, who are test pilots for Scaled, which built SS2 for Virgin Galactic. At the WK2 controls were Virgin Galactic's Chief Pilot Dave Mackay, assisted by Clint Nichols and Brian Maisler, co-pilot and flight test engineer, respectively, for Scaled.

Upon reaching 47,000 feet altitude and approximately 45 minutes into the flight, SS2 was released from WK2. After cross-checking data and verifying stable control, the pilots triggered ignition of the rocket motor, causing the main oxidizer valve to open and igniters to fire within the fuel case. At this point, SS2 was propelled forward and upward to a maximum altitude of 55,000 feet. The entire engine burn lasted 16 seconds, as planned. During this time, SS2 went supersonic, achieving Mach 1.2.

"We partnered with Virgin Galactic several years ago with the aspiration to transform and commercialize access to space for the broader public," said His Excellency Khadem Al Qubaisi, Chairman of aabar Investments PJC. "Today's test is another key milestone in realizing that aspiration. Our partnership goes from strength to strength, and is an excellent example of aabar's desire to participate in the development of world class technologies that are commercially viable and strategically important, both for the company, its shareholders, and for Abu Dhabi."


Credit: MarsScientific.com / Clay Observatory via Virgin Galactic

The entire rocket-powered flight test lasted just over 10 minutes, culminating in a smooth landing for SS2 in Mojave at approximately 8am local time.

"The rocket motor ignition went as planned, with the expected burn duration, good engine performance and solid vehicle handling qualities throughout," said Virgin Galactic President & CEO George Whitesides. "The successful outcome of this test marks a pivotal point for our program. We will now embark on a handful of similar powered flight tests, and then make our first test flight to space."

In the coming months, the Virgin Galactic and Scaled test team will expand the spaceship's powered flight envelope culminating in full space flight, which the companies anticipate will take place before the end of 2013.

"I'd like to congratulate the entire team," said President of Scaled Kevin Mickey. "This milestone has been a long time coming and it's only through the hard work of the team and the tremendous support of Virgin Galactic that we have been able to witness this important milestone. We look forward to all our upcoming tests and successes."

gliderpilotuk
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Virgin Galactic release
Virgin Galactic Adds Two Pilots to Commercial Flight Team

Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline, announced today that pilots Frederick "CJ" Sturckow and Michael "Sooch" Masucci have been selected to join its commercial flight team. As Virgin Galactic clears its final flight test program milestones with powered flight tests now under way, the necessary addition of new pilots will enable the company to meet the test schedule demands and prepare for subsequent commercial operations.

Sturckow, a veteran of four space shuttle missions and retired U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) Colonel, is the first NASA astronaut to be hired into Galactic's pilot corps. Masucci, a retired U.S. Air Force (USAF) Lieutenant Colonel, joins Virgin Galactic from XOJET Inc, a private airline company where he was a Citation X (CE750) Captain and Check Airman. Masucci and Sturckow will report to Chief Pilot David Mackay and Vice President of Operations Mike Moses at Virgin Galactic's Mojave, Calif., location where they will conduct flight training and testing with Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo vehicles.

Sturckow has more than 26 years of military flight experience and has logged more than 1,200 hours in space. During his flight career, Sturckow logged over 6,500 flight hours, flew more than 60 different aircraft, and was chosen to attend the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN). Selected by NASA to join the astronaut corps in December 1994, Sturckow flew on four space shuttle missions to the International Space Station. In 2009, after 25 years of active duty service, Sturckow retired from the USMC. Sturckow went on to serve as deputy chief of NASA's Astronaut Office for the final shuttle missions, flying weather reconnaissance in the T-38 and Shuttle Training Aircraft for launch and landing.

"Viewing the Earth from space is such a unique and unforgettable experience," Sturckow said. "I'm excited to be a part of the Virgin Galactic team that is revolutionizing access to space, making this opportunity a possibility for all."

Masucci has more than 30 years of civilian and military operational and test flying experience with more than 9,000 flight hours in over 70 different airplane and glider types. A distinguished graduate of USAF pilot training in 1986, he completed USAF Test Pilot School in 1993 and went on to serve as a U-2 combat pilot in several important operations. He instructed in the F-16, T-38 and glider aircraft at the USAF Test Pilot School, while also serving as a Branch Chief. As a U-2 test pilot he was instrumental in the development and testing of the aircraft's glass cockpit and power upgrade programs. In addition, Masucci has commanded USAF developmental and operational test units, as well as combat and training units. - more - "Virgin Galactic is truly a world-class organization with unique flight opportunities that you just won't find anywhere else," Masucci said. "I'm proud to be a part of this team and look forward to contributing to this revolutionary program."

"I am pleased to have these two incredibly accomplished pilots join us during this important time as we embark on a series of important rocket-powered flight tests for SpaceShipTwo, ultimately testing the vehicle in space," said Virgin Galactic President and CEO George Whitesides. "Their collective experience and outstanding performance in various demanding environments will make them invaluable assets to the Virgin Galactic team."

Company continues to hire for ramp-up of commercial operations and spaceship manufacturing

If you have the passion to open commercial space travel to all, then Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company (TSC) want to hear from you. With open positions in production, engineering and more, TSC is looking for qualified applicants to build the Virgin Galactic fleet in Mojave, Calif. Virgin Galactic has technician and engineering openings, working at Spaceport America in New Mexico, as well as in Mojave and Pasadena, Calif. Qualified applicants should visit the careers section of both companies' websites - Virgin Galactic careers and The Spaceship Company careers - to learn about these opportunities and submit applications.

Robert Pearlman
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WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo took off Thursday morning (Sept. 5) from Mojave Air and Space Port in California on the second powered test flight for the suborbital rocketplane.

This is WhiteKnightTwo's 132nd flight and SpaceShipTwo's 29th flight overall as part of Virgin Galactic's test flight program.

Updates from Virgin Galactic on Twitter:

SpaceShipTwo has successfully completed another supersonic rocket-powered test flight! Hit our planned duration, altitude, and speed.

Pilots Mark Stucky and Clint Nichols have landed SpaceShipTwo safely after another great test flight.

SpaceShipTwo has successfully tested its feather system for carefree re-entry. Fire time that's happened on a rocket powered flight.


Credit: Virgin Galactic

Robert Pearlman
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Virgin Galactic release
Virgin Galactic Flexes SpaceShipTwo's Unique Feather Mechanism In Second Supersonic Flight

Company Demonstrates All Technical Mission Phases in Single Flight for the First Time, Confirms On Track to Commence Commercial Service in 2014

Today, Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's aabar Investments PJS, successfully completed the second rocket-powered, supersonic flight of its passenger carrying reusable space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2). In addition to achieving the highest altitude and greatest speed to date, the test flight demonstrated the vehicle's full technical mission profile in a single flight for the first time, including a high altitude deployment of the unique wing "feathering" re-entry mechanism. All of the test objectives were successfully completed.

At approximately 8 a.m. local time from the Mojave Air and Space Port, the company's WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft took off carrying SS2 to an altitude of 46,000 feet. Virgin Galactic Chief Pilot Dave Mackay was at the WK2 controls, assisted by Scaled Composites (Scaled) co-pilot Mike Alsbury and The Spaceship Company Flight Test Engineer Scott Glaser. Upon release from WK2, SS2 pilots Mark Stucky and Clint Nichols, both of Scaled, ignited the rocket motor for the planned 20-second burn propelling the spaceship to 69,000 feet. During this time, SS2 achieved a maximum speed of Mach 1.43. SS2 landed in Mojave at 9:25 a.m. local time completing the flight test with the pilots reporting a flawless flight.

Chairman of aabar Investments PJS, H.E. Khadem Al Qubaisi, commented: "This flight milestone represents a key step forward for the Virgin Galactic team. The successful completion of all major aspects of the flight mission demonstrates that we are very close to achieving one of Galactic's key goals: commercialising access to space for the broader public. I would like to congratulate the whole team on their continued success."

"We couldn't be more delighted to have another major supersonic milestone under our belts as we move toward a 2014 start of commercial service," said Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson. "It was particularly thrilling to see for the first time today the whole elegant system in action during a single flight, including the remarkable feathering re-entry system. It was this safety feature more than anything else thatoriginally persuaded us that the overall design of the system was uniquely fit for purpose. Everything we have seen today just confirms that view. Congratulations to all involved!"

"Today, we expanded the SpaceShipTwo rocket-powered flight test envelope with a longer burn duration and robust testing of the feather mechanism, supersonic aerodynamics and wing lift structure," said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. "Each powered flight of SpaceShipTwo yields cumulative progress that builds the fondation for safe and exciting commercial space flights."

Robert Pearlman
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Virgin Galactic video release
Virgin Galactic's Second Rocket Powered Test Flight

Virgin Galactic's Second Rocket Powered Flight Tail Footage

Robert Pearlman
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Virgin Galactic pilots Mark Stucky and Mike Masucci flew SpaceShipTwo today for a glide test.

The flight marked SpaceShipTwo's 30th free flight and 49th time airborne, as well as WhiteKnightTwo's 145th flight.

Of note, SpaceShipTwo was sporting a new livery — specifically, silver kapton-lined rudders to better manage temperatures during powered flight.

Robert Pearlman
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Virgin Galactic release
Virgin Galactic Reaches New Heights in Third Supersonic Test Flight

Chief Pilot Proves Space Systems

Today, Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline, which is owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's aabar Investments PJS, successfully completed the third rocket-powered supersonic flight of its passenger carrying reusable space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2). In command on the flight deck of SS2 for the first time under rocket power was Virgin Galactic's Chief Pilot Dave Mackay. Mackay, along with Scaled Composites' (Scaled) Test Pilot Mark Stucky, tested the spaceship's Reaction Control System (RCS) and the newly installed thermal protection coating on the vehicle's tail booms. All of the test objectives were successfully completed.

Today's flight departed Mojave Air and Space Port at approximately 7:22 a.m. PST with the first stage consisting of the WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft lifting SS2 to an altitude around 46,000 ft. At the controls of WK2 were Virgin Galactic Pilot Mike Masucci and Scaled Test Pilot Mike Alsbury. On release, SS2's rocket motor was ignited, powering the spaceship to a planned altitude of 71,000 ft. - SS2's highest altitude to date - and at a maximum speed of Mach 1.4. SS2's unique feather re-entry system was also tested during today's flight.

Two important SS2 systems, the RCS and thermal protection coating, were tested during today's flight in preparation for upcoming full space flights. The spaceship's RCS will allow its pilots to maneuver the vehicle in space, permitting an optimal viewing experience for those on board and aiding the positioning process for spacecraft re-entry. The new reflective protection coating on SS2's inner tail boom surfaces is being evaluated to help maintain vehicle skin temperatures while the rocket motor is firing.

SS2's propulsion system has been developed by Sierra Nevada Corp and is the world's largest operational hybrid rocket motor. Although today's flight saw it burn for a planned 20 seconds, the system has been successfully tested in ground firings to demonstrate performance characteristics and burn time sufficient to take the spaceship and its private astronauts to space.

Commenting on the successful test flight, Sir Richard Branson said: "I couldn't be happier to start the New Year with all the pieces visibly in place for the start of full space flights. 2014 will be the year when we will finally put our beautiful spaceship in her natural environment of space. Today, we had our own Chief Pilot flying another flawless supersonic flight and proving the various systems required to take us safely to space, as well as providing the very best experience while we're up there."

This flight was the third opportunity to see a supersonic, rocket-powered test of the Virgin Galactic system after dozens of successful subsonic test flights. "Today's flight was another resounding success," said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. "We focused on gathering more transonic and supersonic data, and our chief pilot, Dave, handled the vehicle beautifully. With each flight test, we are progressively closer to our target of starting commercial service in 2014."

For Mackay, the flight was a "dream come true."

"I have watched SS2 evolve over the years into an incredible vehicle that is going to open up space to more people than ever before," he said. "To be behind the controls and fly it as the rocket ignited is something I will never forget. She flew brilliantly. All the tests went really well and generated vital data that will be used to further fine-tune our operations."

Robert Pearlman
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Virgin Galactic video release

Robert Pearlman
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SpaceShipTwo flew today for a glide test, its 32nd free flight.

The pilots were Scaled Composites' Pete Siebold and Virgin Galactic's Frederick "CJ" Sturckow. It was Struckow's first SpaceShipTwo flight, who previously flew four times to space as a NASA astronaut.

In this photo, released by Virgin Galactic, Sturckow gets "splashed" after his first flight of SpaceShipTwo. His previous spaceship landing was in 2009 (STS-128).

Robert Pearlman
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Virgin Galactic release
Virgin Galactic Rocket Motor Milestone

Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline which is owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's aabar Investments PJS, has selected a polyamide-based fuel grain to power its hybrid rocket motor for the remainder of the test flight program and start of commercial operations. This decision follows numerous ground test firings and is supported by data collected over an extensive development program.

In 2008, Scaled Composites, Virgin Galactic's primary contractor, appointed rocket propulsion specialist, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to develop the basic hybrid rocket motor design for SpaceShipTwo. As a part of the program, Virgin Galactic has been developing two variants of this motor using two types of solid fuel grain: HTPB, a type of rubber (the fuel used in the SpaceShipOne rocket motor) and polyamide, a category of benign thermoplastic using Scaled engineering. Both fuel grains were designed to be interchangeable with the hybrid motor, and both have been tested extensively.

Virgin Galactic has now determined it will use the polyamide version for its space flights. Both industrial partners will continue to support the motor program as the company progresses toward commercial service.

"Of the numerous challenges Virgin Galactic has faced and overcome in our unprecedented mission to create the world's first spaceline, the greatest engineering challenge has been to develop the world's largest operational hybrid rocket motor to power SpaceShipTwo and its occupants safely, regularly and efficiently to space," said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. "It is a great credit to the work of our partners Scaled and SNC that we have completed this important milestone."

Robert Pearlman
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Virgin Galactic release
Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America Sign Key Agreement for Access to Airspace for Spaceflights from New Mexico

Agreement between Virgin Galactic, Spaceport America, and the Federal Aviation Administration is the first to cover a commercial spaceline

Virgin Galactic, the privately-funded space company owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's aabar Investments PJS, and Spaceport America announced today that they have signed a joint agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that helps clear the path for commercial flights of SpaceShipTwo.

The historic agreement sets out the parameters for how routine space missions launched from Spaceport America will be integrated into the National Airspace System. Specifically, the agreement spells out how the FAA's Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority will work with Virgin Galactic to smoothly and safely provide clear airspace for SpaceShipTwo.

"Our team is working hard to begin routine and affordable space launches from Spaceport America and this agreement brings us another step closer to that goal," said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. "We are grateful to the FAA and New Mexico for their partnership to achieve this milestone."

The agreement provides procedures for the safe integration of commercial, licensed space launch operations into the National Airspace System from Spaceport America. The New Mexico Spaceport Authority also has an agreement in place with the US Army's White Sands Missile Range to support space launch activities within WSMR airspace.

In addition, Virgin Galactic now has agreements in place with Edwards Air Force Base and the FAA's Joshua Control Facility to cover spaceflights in California. As a whole, these agreements provide coverage for the company's airspace needs through the remainder of the test flight program in California and into commercial service in New Mexico.

Last year, Virgin Galactic began paying rent on a 20-year lease to conduct space missions from the 110,000 square foot "Gateway to Space" building at Spaceport America, which was recently awarded Gold Status under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification process. NMSA already holds a Launch Site Operator License issued by the Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST).

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-03-2014 02:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Virgin Galactic release
NASA, Virgin Galactic Announce Payloads for SpaceShipTwo Flight

NASA has selected 12 technology experiments to fly on the first commercial research flight on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo.

Through NASA's Flight Opportunities Program within the Space Technology Mission Directorate, officials have been working with commercial companies, universities and government organizations to coordinate testing of innovative space technologies on research flights through the use of commercial suborbital flight platforms.

"Regular, commercial access to space will change how we approach technology development by allowing us to invest in early research validation," said Christopher Baker of NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center. "The payloads on this flight represent a cross section of promising space exploration technologies that could benefit future NASA missions."

"Virgin Galactic is thrilled to be working with NASA and researchers at such a range of prestigious institutions, and we look forward to flying these research payloads into space," said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. "Our team is working hard to increase access to the space frontier so that many more payloads and people have a chance to experience spaceflight directly."

The technology payloads scheduled for testing on the first SpaceShipTwo research flight include eight from academic and research institutions:

  • The On-Orbit Propellant Storage Stability investigation by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Florida, continues a microgravity research program to determine stability data for a prototype orbiting fuel depot that could enable future long duration space missions.

  • The Electromagnetic Field Measurements payload from John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, will characterize the electromagnetic field environment inside the spacecraft. This payload will serve as an integration platform for scientific research and instrument development while providing insight into interference from the spacecraft.

  • The Collisions Into Dust Experiment from the University of Central Florida, Orlando, will fire an impactor into simulated regolith to observe the subsequent behavior of the fine particles ejected in microgravity. The knowledge of this behavior can help in understanding future operations on asteroids or low gravity moons for scientific study or resource collection.

  • The Validating Telemetric Imaging Hardware for Crew-Assisted and Crew-Autonomous Biological Imaging project from the University of Florida, Gainesville, will test biological fluorescent imaging instrumentation for suborbital applications. Fluorescent protein-based, gene-expression techniques allow direct observation of how biological entities react to the stresses of spaceflight.

  • The Variable Radiator demonstration from Texas A&M University, College Station, partnering with Advanced Cooling Technologies and Jet Learning Laboratory, will test a modulating fluid-based spacecraft thermal energy rejection solution. Fluids behave differently in microgravity; understanding that behavior is critical to the operation of spacecraft radiators and other systems that transfer fluids.

  • A Micro Satellite Attitude Control System from the State University of New York, Buffalo, will test the application of a carpal wrist joint to the momentum management and control of small satellites. Use of the wrist joint to articulate a reaction-control gyroscope should enable precision pointing of a small satellite on multiple axes.

  • The Saturated Fluid Pistonless Pump Technology Demonstrator from the University of Colorado, Boulder, is a cryogenic fuel pump system developed by Flometrics, Inc, which can pump fuel without turbo machinery. This potential advancement for in-space and rocket propellant propulsion would reduce the weight, complexity and cost of spacecraft fuel systems.

  • The Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) transmitter is an experimental payload sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation and based on aviation equipment designed by MITRE Corp. and modified by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Florida. ADS-B technology will enable integration of suborbital reusable launch vehicles and stratospheric balloons into the FAA’s next-generation air traffic control system.
Two industry-developed technology payloads were also selected for testing on the research flight:
  • Made in Space, Inc., Moffett Field, California, has designed an advanced manufacturing experiment intended to feed the development of future 3D printers customized for use in space.

  • Controlled Dynamics, Inc., Huntington Beach, California, has built a Facility for Microgravity Research and Submicroradian Stabilization that is a prototype system using active vibration suppression to increase the quality of microgravity experienced by an attached payload.
The first SpaceShipTwo research flight will also provide an opportunity to fly two payloads from NASA centers:
  • Ames Research Center's Suborbital Flight Environment Monitor is a suite of sensors designed to measure the flight accelerations and microgravity quality achieved.

  • Johnson Space Center's Microgravity Multi-Phase Flow Experiment for Suborbital Testing will assess the sustained microgravity operation of a two-phase flow system with a passive gas and liquid separator. This technology is applicable to a number of space applications including water purification.
See here for discussion of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo.


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