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  Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo / WhiteKnightTwo (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo / WhiteKnightTwo
Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-27-2004 09:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Virgin press release
Virgin Group sign deal with Paul G. Allen's Mojave Aerospace; Licensing the technology to develop the world's first commercial space tourism operator

Today, Sir Richard Branson announced that Virgin Group has entered into an agreement to license the technology to develop the world's first privately funded spaceships dedicated to carrying commercial passengers on space flights. The technology is currently owned by a Paul Allen company called Mojave Aerospace Ventures ('M.A.V.') and was originally developed to fulfill Paul Allen's vision of building the world's first privately funded reusable space vehicle (SpaceShipOne), which will undertake its first Ansari X Prize flight later this week. The licensing deal with M.A.V. could be worth up to GBP 14 million ($21.5 million) over the next fifteen years depending on the number of spaceships built by Virgin.

SpaceShipOne, which is solely funded by Paul G. Allen, was designed by aviation legend Burt Rutan and built by his company, Scaled Composites. On June 21st Mike Melvill piloted this unique craft to a height of 100 km (62 miles) and into the history books and record books as the world's first private manned space flight. Separately to Virgin's agreement with M.A.V., the company has also signed a Letter of Intent to agree contract terms with Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites, to utilise the technology in building new spaceships and derivatives thereof, for the purposes of carrying paying passengers on a journey to the stars -- returning to earth as astronauts two hours later.

Virgin has formed Virgin Galactic ('V.G.') a new company, which will become the world's first commercial space tourism operator. It is envisaged that Virgin Galactic will open for business by the beginning of 2005 and subject to the necessary safety and regulatory approvals begin operating flights from 2007. The name was first registered and trade mark protection applied for in the mid 1990s. It is expected that around GBP 60 million ($100 million) will be invested in developing the new generation of spaceships and ground infrastructure required to operate a sub orbital space tourism experience. Over five years Virgin expects to create around 3000 astronauts and the price per seat on each flight, which will include at least three days of pre-flight training, are expected to start at around GBP 115,000 ($190,000). Virgin will reinvest the proceeds in developing a new generation of vehicles for further space ventures. To date the cheapest space tourism experiences in government built and taxpayer funded spaceships cost over $15,000,000 per seat.

As a prelude to these exciting developments Virgin is also very pleased to have agreed terms to sponsor SpaceShipOne on its historic Ansari X Prize flights later this week and in early October.

Commenting on the announcement, Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson said: "We've always had a dream of developing a space tourism business and Paul Allen's vision, combined with Burt Rutan's technological brilliance, have brought that dream a step closer to reality. The deals with both their companies, being announced today, are just the start of what we believe will be a new era in the history of mankind, making the affordable exploration of space by human beings real. We hope to create thousands of astronauts over the next few years and bring alive their dream of seeing the majestic beauty of our planet from above, the stars in all their glory and the amazing sensation of weightlessness. The development will also allow every country in the world to have their own astronauts rather than the privileged few."

Welcoming the deal Paul Allen added: "I backed the development of SpaceShipOne because I saw this as a great opportunity to demonstrate that space exploration could someday be within the reach of private citizens. Today's deal with Virgin represents the next stage in the evolution of the SpaceShipOne concept, and will likely be the first of a number of deals that will utilize the technology developed during its creation. I am very happy to have Virgin and Richard Branson as sponsors of our X-Prize attempt and excited about space tourism."

Burt Rutan, Founder of Scaled Composites, concluded: "Apart from building SpaceShipOne for Paul and then watching it fly to space on June 21st this is one of the most exciting days of my life. Our June space flight was flown with several new technologies that address both the cost and safety of manned space flight. These, combined with the lessons learned from our SpaceShipOne research program, will enable us to develop the finest suborbital operational systems possible. I am looking forward to getting started on the development program and the opportunity to work with Virgin on taking Paul Allen's vision to the next stage."

It is expected that Virgin Galactic will formally commence the contractual and design phase of the project after the conclusion of the Ansari X Prize flights and start construction of the first spaceship, the 'VSS ENTERPRISE' in 2005.

This transaction is subject to all necessary government approvals.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-28-2006 05:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Virgin Galactic and Sir Richard Branson at New York's WIRED NextFest today showcased their first representative mock-up of the passenger interior of SpaceShipTwo (SS2), set in a scaled-up version of a SpaceShipOne (SS1) to reflect the relative larger size of SS2.

SS2 will be three times larger than SS1 (with an interior approximately the size of a Gulf Stream IV corporate jet) and when developed, the carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) will be larger than a Boeing 757. Virgin Galactic's SS2 and WK2 are currently under construction at Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites at the Mojave Spaceport in California. It is expected that SS2 and WK2 will be rolled out of the factory in the latter half of 2007, to begin test flights by early 2008 and with commercial operations to commence in 2009.

Designed by Seymour Powell, whose prior work includes Casio's G-Shock watches, the conceptual interior features six passenger seats with two pilot astronaut' seats forward of the bulkhead. Other features include:

  • fully pressurized cabin at all stages of flight (though Virgin Galactic is currently considering the use of pressure suits and helmets for its passengers);

  • tetherless seating to allow passengers the freedom to float about the cabin during the microgravity phase of flight; if passengers cannot make it back to their seats in the 40 seconds provided, then they may safely reenter lying on the floor;

  • reclining seats to minimize the effects of increased G-forces on reentry (as well as permit more flying room when weightless;

  • access to large windows (approximately 15) strategically placed around the cabin and in the floor;

  • possible wireless data/video recorders for hands-free capture and live streaming to family on the ground and on-board WK2;
Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn also shared details about other aspects of the development of SS2 and WK2, as well as future plans for the company:
  • WK2 will share the same cabin layout as SS2 to allow for pre-space flight parabolic training sessions;

  • Virgin Galactic may sell seats on WK2 to allow spectators to watch a space launch from a unique vantage point, including sales to family members of SS2 crews;

  • The representation of SS2 in animations released today and to support the mock-up interior were purposely designed to be vague as to protect Scaled Composite's intellectual property. The actual appearance of SS2 will not be seen "until it rolls out of the hangar";

  • It is planned that SS2 will fly more unmanned test space flights before carrying paying passengers than all of NASA's manned flights to date;

  • In addition to tourism flights, Virgin Galactic has designed SS2 to accomodate point to point travel, such as trips between London and Australia "in 30 minutes," says Branson;

  • SpaceShipThree (SS3) will be aimed at science and payload delivery;

Sir Richard Branson inside the mock-up cabin:

Sir Richard Branson with Alan Watts, who has traded in two million Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer miles for a ride on SS2:

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-28-2006 07:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Virgin Galactic has made comments about who will pilot SpaceShipTwo. Based on several Virgin press statements:
Approximately 75 pilots will be required to operate the SpaceShipTwo fleet.

The first announcements regarding Virgin Galactic flight personnel were made in late March 2006.

  • Steve Johnson (Virgin Atlantic training captain, ex-Red Arrows pilot): Chief Astronaut Pilot
  • Alastair Hoy (Virgin Atlantic training captain, ex-Red Arrows pilot): Chief Training Astronaut
  • David MacKay (Virgin Atlantic line captain): Test pilot
Virgin Galactic flight training will last 27 months: pilots will receive nine months of aerobatic, fast jet and executive jet training to prepare them for zero gravity flight. The next nine months will be spent in flying the White Knight Two mothership and participating in Mission Control work. The final nine months will be spent flying Virgin Galactic spacecraft into space.

From 2008, Virgin Galactic expects to have around thirty astronaut pilots recruited from the various Virgin Group airlines, trained with NASA assistance.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-23-2008 10:44 AM     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 in flight. Credit: Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic heralds 'The Year Of The Spaceship' with the unveiling of the designs of SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo

Virgin Galactic today unveiled the design of its new, environmentally benign, space launch system based on the X Prize winning technology of SpaceShipOne, which successfully flew into space for the third time in October 2004 and won the $10m Ansari X Prize.

The construction of the White Knight Two (WK2) mothership, or carrier aircraft, is now very close to completion at Scaled Composites in Mojave, CA and is expected to begin flight testing in the summer of 2008. It is the world's largest, all carbon composite aircraft; it has a unique high altitude lift capacity, capable of launching SpaceShipTwo and its eight astronauts into sub-orbital space flight. The WK2 mothership is powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines which are amongst the most powerful, economic and efficient engines available. The WK2 mothership has also been designed to be capable of lifting other payload and launching it into space. Both Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic believe the system has sufficient lifting capability to launch unmanned vehicles designed to carry small satellites and other scientific payload into low earth orbit. While the first priority for Virgin Galactic is developing the market for human spaceflight, the Company is already assessing the potential for unmanned launch capability.

SpaceShipTwo is now nearly 60% complete. It incorporates both the lessons learned from the SpaceShipOne program and the market research conducted by Virgin Galactic into the requirements future astronauts have for their space flight experience. It also has built-in flexibility to encompass future requirements for other scientific and commercial applications.

Whilst the two vehicles comprising the space launch system have been under construction, Virgin Galactic's cadre of future astronauts has continued to grow strongly to well in excess of 200 individuals with around 85,000 registrations of interest to fly. The deposit base now exceeds $30m representing more than $45m of future income to the fledgling spaceline.

Astronaut orientation for spaceflight is progressing well and already 80 of SpaceShipTwo's first passengers have been through medical assessment and centrifuge training at the NASTAR facility in Philadelphia. During their G Force acclimatization program, the participants were spun to 3.5GZ (head to toe) and 6GX (front to back) to simulate the actual flight profile of SpaceShipTwo during a 110km (68 miles) apogee sub-orbital space flight.

Commenting on the unveiling, Burt Rutan, CEO of Scaled Composites, said: "Virgin Galactic produced a demanding output specification for the world's first private human and payload space launch system. This required us to produce a safe but flexible design capable of multiple applications in new market sectors. I am confident that these vehicles, now in an advanced stage of construction, will achieve just that. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the whole team at Scaled Composites. "Looking up - way up!" is an expression we have shared since the X Prize began and now we are all excited that this year the dream will start to become a very tangible reality for everyone involved."

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic, added: "The designs of both the mothership and the new spaceship are absolutely beautiful and surpass any expectations for the future of commercial spaceflight that we had when first registering the name Virgin Galactic in 1999. Burt and his team have done a fantastic job and I am also delighted with the wonderful vision that Foster and Partners, working with URS, have shown in the final designs for Spaceport America in New Mexico. Finally, we are all very excited about the prospect of being able to develop a bio-fuel solution for the space launch system and we are looking forward to working with Pratt and Whitney and Virgin Fuels to trial an appropriate bio mix for the PW308A engines that will be powering our new carrier aircraft."

In addition to the unveil of the space launch system, a model of the final design for Spaceport America was put on public display for the first time. Situated in Sierra County, New Mexico, Spaceport America will be the world's first custom designed private spaceport. It has been designed with environmental considerations to the fore and its highly innovative structure will use a combination of geo-thermal, solar and wind power to create a very low carbon footprint. Virgin Galactic is also looking at the opportunities of operating from other locations worldwide and is already investigating the feasibility of operating from Spaceport Sweden.

Virgin Galactic will make further announcements regarding the progress of the launch system, development of its markets, the test flying program and start of commercial operations at Spaceport America in due course.


WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo in flight. Credit: Virgin Galactic


SpaceShipTwo cabin. Credit: Virgin Galactic


WhiteKnightTwo construction. Credit: Virgin Galactic

More images and photographs can be found on Virgin Galactic's website.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-28-2008 10:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Virgin Galactic release

Virgin Galactic rolls out mothership "Eve"

Virgin Founder, Sir Richard Branson and SpaceShipOne designer, Burt Rutan, today pulled back the hangar doors on the new WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft that will ferry SpaceShipTwo and thousands of private astronauts, science packages and payload on the first stage of the Virgin Galactic sub-orbital space experience.

The rollout represents another major milestone in Virgin Galactic's quest to launch the world's first private, environmentally benign, space access system for people, payload and science.

Christened "EVE" in honor of Sir Richard's mother, who performed the official naming ceremony, WK2 is both visually remarkable and represents ground-breaking aerospace technology. It is the world's largest all carbon composite aircraft and many of its component parts have been built using composite materials for the very first time. At 140 ft, the wing spar is the longest single carbon composite aviation component ever manufactured.

Driven by a demanding performance specification set by Virgin Galactic, WK2 has a unique heavy lift, high altitude capability and an open architecture driven design which provides for maximum versatility in the weight, mass and volume of its payload potential. It has the power, strength and maneuverability to provide for pre space-flight, positive G force and zero G astronaut training as well as a lift capability which is over 30% greater than that represented by a fully crewed SpaceShipTwo. The vehicle has a maximum altitude over 50,000 ft and its U.S. coast-to-coast range will allow the spaceship to be ferried on long duration flights.

An all carbon composite vehicle of this size represents a giant leap for a material technology that has already been identified as a key contributor to the increasingly urgent requirement by the commercial aviation sector for dramatically more fuel efficient aircraft. Powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines, which are amongst the most powerful, economic and efficient available, WK2 is a mold breaker in carbon efficiency and the epitome of 21st century aerospace design and technology.

The twin fuselage and central payload area configuration allow for easy access to WK2 and to the spaceship for passengers and crew; the design also aids operational efficiencies and turnaround times. WK2 will be able to support up to four daily space flights, is able to carry out both day and night time operations and is equipped with a package of highly advanced avionics.

Large numbers of VIP's, media and more than 100 fully signed-up future Virgin Galactic astronauts flew into Mojave for the rollout onboard a new Airbus A320 aircraft specially chartered from Virgin America, the youngest and most efficient US domestic airline, which launched to great acclaim in 2007.

Rutan's Scaled Composites facility has been strictly out of bounds whilst design and construction has been underway, but guests today were additionally given a tantalizing preview of SpaceShipTwo, clearly visible but heavily shrouded and well on its way to completion, in the smaller of Scaled's two hangars awaiting its own rollout in 2009. This will be scheduled once WK2 is at the appropriate stage in its extensive test program, which has already begun with ground tests; it is expected to take its first flight in the fall of 2008. The flight test program will be comprehensive even before SpaceShipTwo is carried as a payload for the first time in 2009.

Commenting on the rollout, Burt Rutan, Founder of Scaled Composites said:

"WhiteKnightTwo represents the apogee of the application of carbon composites to aerospace and all of us at Scaled are tremendously excited at the capabilities of the Mothership for SpaceShipTwo. I believe the vehicle will be developed and sold for a variety of launch applications beyond the initial requirements of our launch customer, Virgin Galactic. We have set up a new business jointly with Virgin, The Spaceship Company (TSC), to develop these vehicles and we very much hope that its efficiency will herald a wake up call to the aerospace industry and the necessity of using new materials and technologies in the future."

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic added:

"As usual, Burt and the Scaled team have created a beauty and this is a very proud day for us all. The rollout of WhiteKnightTwo takes the Virgin Galactic vision to the next level and continues to provide tangible evidence that this most ambitious of projects is not only for real but is making tremendous progress towards our goal of safe commercial operation.

Virgin Galactic is central to our ambition at Virgin to become the world's leading group in the operation of energy and environmentally efficient transportation, in the air, on the ground and in space. We arrived here this morning on an aircraft operated by Virgin America, who run the most fuel efficient commercial fleet in the US, to roll out what by most definitions, is the most energy efficient aircraft in history. We are naming it EVE after my Mother, Eve Branson but also because it represents a first and a new beginning, the chance for our ever growing group of future astronauts and other scientists and payload specialists to see our world in a completely new light. I for one can't wait!"

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-28-2008 10:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
These were the comments made today by Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson during the rollout ceremony:
Welcome and thanks again for coming today. This is a big moment for us and I think you will agree that WhiteKnightTwo or "EVE" as we will be able to officially call her soon, is one of the most beautiful and extraordinary aviation vehicles ever developed.

If our new system could carry only people into space, that would be enough for me, because of the transforming effect it will have on the thousands who will travel with us. It is quite clear from every astronaut that I've ever spoken to -- including Buzz Aldrin and Brian Binnie who are both here today amongst several other astronauts -- that seeing the planet from out there, surrounded by the incredibly thin protective layer of atmosphere, helps one to wake up to the fragility of the small portion of the planet's mass that we inhabit, and to the importance of protecting the Earth.

One of our prospective astronauts, Professor James Lovelock, who created Gaia theory in the 1970s after his work for NASA, and who had his Eureka moment seeing an image of the planet Earth taken from space, has told me that he thinks that what we're doing is one of the most important industrial projects of the 21st century .

So before Burt tells you more about how this technology will work, I would like to take a few minutes to talk about why I consider space to be the final frontier that is so essential to the future of civilization on this planet.

It was Stephen Hawking who first got me thinking about this issue, when he explained clearly and concisely to the BBC that mankind had no option but to get to space as quickly as possible and start doing things up there that we have been doing on planet Earth, but in a much more efficient manner.

Our population is now heading to 9 billion people by the middle of this century -- that's three times more than when I was born. With the end of the oil era approaching, and climate change progressing faster than most models have been predicting, the utilisation of space is essential not only for communications but also for the logistics of survival through things such as weather satellites, agricultural monitoring, GPS and climate science.

I also believe that someday we will be able to use space as a source of energy for the planet, through solar power satellites, using the most sustainable source available - our Sun.

In the unscientific view which people unfortunately sometimes take about the problems we face on this planet, aviation has often been singled out as a key component of climate change.

While, as you know, I believe that aviation has to get much more carbon efficient than it is today, it is important that people begin to realize that seemingly benign industries such as IT have in fact overtaken aviation in terms of their CO2 output and seeing WhiteKnightTwo in reality sends the message that aerospace really can become much more efficient than other forms of transport or indeed entire other industries and at the same time, help them improve their environmental footprint.

The explosive growth of the internet has resulted in a world in which we have over half a billion servers, each one consuming hundreds of watts.

Industries like this would benefit enormously from the ability to launch low earth orbit satellites that could literally take some of the heat out of the planet, for example, by serving someday as the repository of our information technology.

So the fact that this system will have the capability to launch small payloads and satellites at low cost is hugely important.

As far as science is concerned, this system offers tremendous potential to researchers who will be able to fly experiments much more often than before, helping to answer key questions about Earth's climate and the mysteries of the universe.

And for applied research, it is currently just too expensive to be able to do most of the things in space from which industries like biotechnology could really benefit. The beauty of WK2 and SS2 is that they can help change the paradigm of our relationship to space, achieving an era where space accessibility becomes a commercial and scientific norm, rather than an exception.

The other thing that I really admire about the system is that it has the architecture that could someday to be developed into a passenger carrying vehicle, able to take people from A to B around the planet, outside of the atmosphere.

That may not happen for some time, but the first generation of space tourists, many of whom are with us today, will be paving the way as they marvel at the beauty of our planet and experience the freedom of weightlessness and the blackness of space.

Finally, I think it's very important that we make a genuine commercial success of this project. If we do, I believe we'll unlock a wall of private sector money into both space launch systems and space technology. This could rival the scale of investment in the mobile phone and internet technologies after they were unlocked from their military origins and thrown open to the private sector.

So, Burt, congratulations on designing and building a system that will allow thousands of people to realize their dreams and that will act as a catalyst to transform human access to space. In your usual way, you have also managed to create something which is breathtakingly beautiful. At this point I would like to hand over to you to tell us a bit more about your baby.

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posted 12-19-2008 04:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space.com: Test Flight Planned for SpaceShipTwo Carrier
WhiteKnightTwo, the mega-carrier plane that will haul Virgin Galactic's suborbital spaceliner SpaceShipTwo to launch altitude, is expected to make its first flight before year's end.

"It will be before Christmas... but this is a test flying program, not a calendar appointment for a celebration dance," Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn told SPACE.com. "So being more precise is difficult."

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-21-2008 11:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SPACE.com: SpaceShipTwo Carrier Craft Makes Successful First Flight
A carrier aircraft designed to be the first stage of a commercial spaceline system made its maiden test flight today at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Designed by Scaled Composites, the huge and unique WhiteKnightTwo mothership rolled down the runway and muscled itself into the air using four Pratt and Whitney PW308A turbofan engines. The WhiteKnightTwo flew for about an hour, departing the runway at roughly 8:17 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, safely touching down at the Mojave Air and Space Port at approximately 9:17 a.m. PST.

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posted 01-07-2009 09:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It seems that White Knight Two had some glitches in the rudder system during the taxi trials and maiden flight. Not uncommon for a new type... White Knight had issues with the spoilers flapping on it's first flight.
Flight International has learned that WK2 prime contractor Scaled Composites' test pilot Peter Siebold was finding it hard to keep the aircraft on the runway during the 20 December high-speed taxi trials preceding its maiden flight the following day. This could be due to inadequate yaw damping.

...Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn told Flight International: "There are no issues we know of at all at this stage which will affect the programme or the overall design [of the WK2]. It is beyond ridiculous. I am afraid to comment on alleged take-off cockpit dialogue during a first flight which then went to 16,000ft [4,880m] and landed without a hitch."

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posted 01-24-2009 12:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The new rocket motor for SpaceShipTwo (dubbed, not surprisingly, Rocket Motor Two) has completed a successful hot-fire test.
Virgin Galactic's Rocket Motor Two (RM2) propulsion system for its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle has successfully completed hot firing tests.

With the SS2 experimental prototype's construction more than 75% complete, Virgin Galactic is planning flight-testing before the end of the year. Trials will begin with carrier flight tests using the rocket glider spacecraft's mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, which made its maiden flight on 21 December 2008.

"There is a programme under way with RM2 to mirror rapid progress on the [WK2] flying programme and SS2 final construction, but we are saying no more than that," Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn told Flight International. The spaceline's latest quarterly newsletter revealed that tests of a rocket motor had taken place.

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posted 02-04-2009 09:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Air & Space has a great article on the new group of pilots selected to fly for Virign Galactic in this month's issue.

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posted 03-27-2009 10:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
WK2 has flown it's third test flight to 18000' and 140 knots with Pete Siebold at the controls.

A VG-produced video includes a brief hint by Whitehorn that SS2 will carry NASA astronauts (?).

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posted 04-22-2009 03:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
WK2 flew again April 20th for 4 hours at 20,000 ft. Some scary moments during a touch and go landing when a crosswind rolled the airplane and apparently led to a tail strike.
A tail strike was suffered by Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnight Two prototype Virgin Mothership (VMS) Eve during its fourth test flight on 20 April.

Coming into land for a touch-and-go VMS Eve's pilot was seen to input full right rudder when a 15kt crosswind lifted the wing's starboard side but the prototype still rolled to the left and with a higher than usual nose pitch up the port boom fin's tail struck the ground. Continuing with the touch and go manoeuvre the aircraft took-off but continued to roll left until the pilot overcorrected and the aircraft rolled back right for a nominal climb attitude.

Pictures were obtained by Flightglobal.com of the touch and go and the moment the tail strike occured.

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posted 04-23-2009 12:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Scaled release
Scaled Composites has historically not released technical status information of its flight test programs while the tests are being conducted. An obvious downside of a public flight test program is that if the team feels like their learning might be taken out of context by the public that they may make decisions that do not properly address test safety instead of public perception.

Accordingly, Scaled has made no comment about the active White Knight Two flight test program. However, several recent published articles have been sufficiently inaccurate and negative that we have decided, with our customer’s approval, to set the record straight and report briefly on key test results to date.

The WK2 has a fully mechanical, reversible control system with no boost or augmentation of any kind. This always represents a challenge from the standpoint of aerodynamic design, since as vehicle size increases, so do control forces. The decision to use a simple, reliable mechanical system on the WK2 is not unusual; aircraft as large as the B-36 and the DC-9 have un-boosted controls for the same reasons. Thus, the WK2 was designed to provide acceptable pilot feel forces without boosted controls. We always expected that the aerodynamics would have to be adjusted as we conducted flight tests in order to optimize the forces (not too heavy, not “overbalanced” and thus too light or unstable. Regardless of aircraft size, it is not unusual to expend a significant portion of the flight tests to optimize pilot feel forces.

The good news from the first WK2 flights is that we only needed to adjust the rudder forces. The first flight, with the gear down, also illuminated that the main landing gear wake significantly affected these forces. As a result, we have made three modifications to the rudder aerodynamic balances, along with adding vortex generators to ensure we achieved the maximum effectiveness of these changes. We concluded the rudder aerodynamic modification tasks following flight 3.

The basic stability of the WK2 about all three axes is strongly positive, and the aerodynamic design predictions match the flight test data very closely.

We have now completed a significant portion of the longitudinal center of gravity envelope expansion with excellent results. Systems development is coming along well, and we will be flying to high altitudes (above 50,000 ft) this summer.

Flight 4, conducted on 20 April was very successful, with gear retraction, cg envelope expansion, and systems evaluations. During a touch and go landing, we encountered a significant thrust asymmetry (not a fault of the engines or the design but of an asymmetric idle thrust setting) that resulted in a large yaw upon power-up for the takeoff part of the maneuver. Both rudders were lightly scraped (less than ¼ inch of material) while recovering from this asymmetry. The aircraft behaved extremely well throughout the recovery, and we thoroughly understand the root cause of the asymmetry. Only procedural changes are required to ensure we do not experience it again. This was not a function of the crosswind at landing, which was within previously demonstrated levels.

We appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight. In the mean time, do be cautious of what you read if it does not come from either our flight test team or our customer. Also, to state the obvious, you should question the motivations of a publication that reports design or flight test information that is based only on speculation.

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posted 06-10-2009 04:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Scaled has now completed 7 flights on WK2, the latest on June 7 lasting 6.1 hours. According to the company:
All objectives completed. Pressurization and ECS worked as designed. Speed envelope expanded with the gear up and down to 340 KTAS. Peak altitude increased to 45,000 ft. Wind-up turns were performed to 2.5g's. Engines were shut down and restarted per plan.

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SpaceShipTwo will be unveiled and make its first flight on December 7, reports Jeff Foust in The Space Review:
Whitehorn did provide a bit of news about the test program during a brief Q&A session after the end of the ceremonies. "We'll be flying the WhiteKnightTwo and the spaceship together in December, and we'll be starting the spaceship flights by themselves in the second part of next year, beginning the process of taking the spaceship into space with its rocket motor firing," he said. (At a VIP reception the night before, Whitehorn was more specific, saying that SpaceShipTwo would be "unveiled and flown for the first time" on December 7.)
Also from Foust: WhiteKnightTwo Overflight of Las Cruces International Airport

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Virgin Galactic press release
Virgin Galactic unveils SpaceShipTwo, the world's first commercial manned spaceship

SpaceShipTwo (SS2) and its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) herald a new era in commercial space flight with daily space tourism flights set to commence from Spaceport America in New Mexico after test program and all required US government licensing completed.


Credit: Virgin Galactic

Virgin Founder, Sir Richard Branson and SpaceshipOne (SS1) designer, Burt Rutan, today reveal SS2 to the public for the first time since construction of the world's first manned commercial spaceship began in 2007. SS2 has been designed to take many thousands of private astronauts into space after test programming and all required U.S. government licensing has been completed.

The unveiling represents another major milestone in Virgin Galactic's quest to develop the World's first commercial space line providing private sector access to space using an environmentally benign launch system for people, payload and science. The spaceship draws on the experience developed during the successful flights of SS1 in 2004, which won the Ansari X-Prize for completing the world's first manned private space flights. The SS2 design will be refined and completed during an extensive test flying program to commence shortly, and it will be an entirely new vehicle capable of carrying up to 6 passenger astronauts and up to 2 pilot astronauts into space on a sub-orbital flight.

The unveil itself will take place at Mojave Air and Spaceport as darkness falls on the famous aviation and spaceflight location. Subject to certain U.S. regulatory requirements that will guide the unveiling, SS2 will be attached to her WK2 mothership which was last year unveiled and named EVE after Sir Richard Branson's mother. In the future, WK2 will carry SS2 to above 50,000 feet (16 kilometres) before the spaceship is dropped and fires her rocket motor to launch into space from that altitude. In honour of a long tradition of using the word Enterprise in the naming of Royal Navy, US Navy, NASA vehicles and even science fiction spacecraft, Governor Schwarzenegger of California and Governor Richardson of New Mexico will today christen SS2 with the name Virgin Space Ship (VSS) ENTERPRISE. This represents not only an acknowledgement to that name's honorable past but also looks to the future of the role of private enterprise in the development of the exploration, industrialisation and human habitation of space.

The emergence of new commercial space companies like Virgin Galactic will be an engine for employment, growth and the creation of a new technology and science base in the United States. Recent research has indicated that 12,500 jobs have already been created by the new space companies; the Virgin Galactic project alone is creating significant opportunities for employment in both the company itself and with suppliers in both California and New Mexico. Approximately 600 people are now working on activities relating to the project and it is estimated that this figure will rise to over 1,100 jobs during the peak of the construction phase at the space port and through the introduction of the commercial space vehicles into regular astronaut service.

Both WK2 and SS2 represent state of the art environmentally sensitive industrial development in their use of carbon composite materials technology, which has now been identified as a key future contributor to the increasingly urgent requirement by the commercial aviation sector for dramatically more fuel efficient aircraft. WK2 is powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines, which are amongst the most powerful. economic and efficient commercial jet engines available making it a mould breaker in carbon efficiency. SS2 will be powered by a unique hybrid rocket motor, which is currently under development.

The twin fuselage and central payload area configuration allow for easy access to WK2 and to the spaceship for passengers and crew; the design also aids operational efficiencies and turnaround times. The mothership has now also completed a year of rigorous and successful first phase flight testing prior to today's attachment of SS2.

Commenting on the unveiling, Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic said: "This is truly a momentous day. The team has created not only a world first but also a work of art. The unveil of SS2 takes the Virgin Galactic vision to the next level and continues to provide tangible evidence that this ambitious project is not only moving rapidly, but also making tremendous progress towards our goal of safe commercial operation".

Burt Rutan, Founder of Scaled Composites added: "All of us at Scaled are tremendously excited by the capabilities of both the mothership and SS2. Today is the culmination of a dream that began many decades ago, was stimulated by Paul Allen's funding of our X-Prize winning SS1 and then moved forward to commercial reality by Sir Richard and Virgin's visionary investment in a new future for space transportation".

SpaceShipTwo will be unveiled after darkness has fallen over the Mojave Desert to the sound of a space-themed anthem from Britain's biggest DJs, Above & Beyond. Fittingly titled "Buzz" the track will sample Buzz Aldrin's original moon landing dialogue. Following the naming by Governors Richardson and Schwarzenegger, the DJs will also perform an exclusive set at the celebration cocktail party which will follow and feature the first ever IceBar in the desert hosted by Absolut and the world famous Swedish IceHotel. All the guests will be protected from the desert cold by designer space jackets supplied by PUMA. Finally, to close off the celebrations, all the guests will have the opportunity to view the stunning night skies using specialist telescopes supplied by Ron Dantowitz of the Clay Observatory whose unique tracking cameras followed SS1 into space during the epic flights of 2004.


Credit: Virgin Galactic

Robert Pearlman
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Photographs from tonight's Mojave desert reveal of SpaceShipTwo VSS Enterprise with WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve (click on photos to enlarge):


Credit: Robert Pearlman/collectSPACE.com

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks at a press conference before the SpaceShipTwo reveal as Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn, Scaled Composites' Burt Rutan, Virgin CEO Richard Branson and Stephen Attenborough, commercial director of Virgin Galactic, look on.

Robert Pearlman
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Credit: Robert Pearlman/collectSPACE.com
Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn, Scaled Composites' Burt Rutan and Virgin CEO Richard Branson.

Credit: Robert Pearlman/collectSPACE.com
"Rock stars of new space age" SpaceShipTwo development team with Burt Rutan.

Credit: Robert Pearlman/collectSPACE.com
SpaceShipOne pilot Brian Binnie, WhiteKnightTwo pilot Peter Siebold and Burt Rutan.

Robert Pearlman
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Credit: Robert Pearlman/collectSPACE.com
Scaled Composites' Burt Rutan.

Credit: Robert Pearlman/collectSPACE.com
Virgin CEO Richard Branson.

Credit: Robert Pearlman/collectSPACE.com
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

Robert Pearlman
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From Virgin Galactic's press release:
All the guests will be protected from the desert cold by designer space jackets supplied by PUMA.


Credit: Robert Pearlman/collectSPACE.com

The PUMA jacket features the Virgin Galactic logo with "SS2 Unveil" on its upper right front chest; an illustration of WhiteKnightTwo with SpaceShipTwo and the words "VSS Enterprise Unveil" on its left shoulder; and Virgin Galactic's "DNA of Flight" centered on its back.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-09-2009 09:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Virgin Galactic video news release


Credit: Virgin Galactic

Robert Pearlman
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According to XCOR chief mechanic Mike Laughlin, SpaceShipTwo is right now making its first captive flight attached to WhiteKnightTwo.

Update: Virgin Galactic has now confirmed the report on Twitter.

VSS Enterprise has taken off from Mojave Air and Spaceport for her inaugural flight attached to VMS Eve!

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Virgin Galactic release
World's first commercial spaceship takes inaugural flight

Virgin Galactic announced today that its commercial manned spaceship, VSS Enterprise, this morning successfully completed its first "captive carry" test flight, taking off at 7.05 am (PST) from Mojave Air and Spaceport, California.


Credit: Virgin Galactic/Mark Greenberg

The spaceship was unveiled to the public for the first time on December 7th 2009 and named by Governors Schwarzenegger and Richardson. VSS Enterprise remained attached to its unique WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, for the duration of the 2 hours 54 minutes flight, achieving an altitude of 45,000ft (13716 metres).

Both vehicles are being developed for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, by Mojave based Scaled Composites. Founded by Burt Rutan, Scaled developed SpaceShipOne which in 2004 claimed the $10m Ansari X prize as the world's first privately developed manned spacecraft. Virgin Galactic's new vehicles share much of the same basic design but are being built to carry six fare paying passengers on sub-orbital space flights, allowing an out-of-the-seat zero gravity experience and offering astounding views of the planet from the black sky of space.


Credit: Virgin Galactic/Mark Greenberg

Virgin Galactic has already taken around $45m in deposits for spaceflight reservations from over 330 people wanting to experience space for themselves.

The first flight of VMS Enterprise is another major milestone in an exhaustive flight testing programme, which started with the inaugural flight of VMS Eve in 2008 and is at the heart of Virgin Galactic's commitment to safety.

Commenting on the historic flight, Burt Rutan said: "This is a momentous day for the Scaled and Virgin Teams. The captive carry flight signifies the start of what we believe will be extremely exciting and successful spaceship flight test program."


Credit: Virgin Galactic/Mark Greenberg

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic added: "Seeing the finished spaceship in December was a major day for us but watching VSS Enterprise fly for the first time really brings home what beautiful, ground-breaking vehicles Burt and his team have developed for us. It comes as no surprise that the flight went so well; the Scaled team is uniquely qualified to bring this important and incredible dream to reality. Today was another major step along that road and a testament to US engineering and innovation."

The VSS Enterprise test flight programme will continue though 2010 and 2011, progressing from captive carry to independent glide and then powered flight, prior to the start of commercial operations.

Credit: Virgin Galactic/Mark Greenberg

Robert Pearlman
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More photographs from today's captive carry first flight of VSS Enterprise.


Credit: Virgin Galactic

Robert Pearlman
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Video of VSS Enterprise's first captive carry flight:


Credit: Virgin Galactic

Robert Pearlman
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According to Virgin Galactic, VSS Enterprise completed its second successful captive carry flight under WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve on Sunday, May 16. Details for both test flights to date can be accessed on Scaled Composites' website.

gliderpilotuk
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Virgin Galactic release
Virgin Galactic appoints its first Chief Executive

Virgin Galactic, the US based and regulated Space Tourism Company, is delighted to announce the appointment of George T. Whitesides as its first Chief Executive Officer.

Virgin Galactic, the US based and regulated Space Tourism Company, is delighted to announce the appointment of George T. Whitesides as its first Chief Executive Officer. In this role, Whitesides will guide the business through its transition from a development project to a commercially operational business.

Whitesides joins Virgin Galactic from his recent role as Chief of Staff of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). At NASA, Whitesides was responsible for working to implement the NASA Administrator's policy agenda and staffing decisions.

Prior to his role as NASA Chief of Staff, Whitesides served as a member of the NASA Presidential Transition Team, Executive Director of the National Space Society, and Chair of the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. Whitesides' earlier career experience in the aerospace industry took place at Orbital Sciences Corporation, Blastoff Corporation and the Zero Gravity Corporation. A licensed private pilot and certified parabolic flight coach, Whitesides is a graduate of Cambridge and Princeton Universities and a former Fulbright Scholar.

Welcoming Whitesides, Virgin Galactic President, Will Whitehorn, said: 'We are delighted that George has agreed to become our first Chief Executive to guide the Galactic project as it transitions into a fully fledged operating business. George brings with him a wealth of experience in space business, policy and regulation. He joins Virgin Galactic at a momentous moment in the development of the company. Test flying of the first SpaceshipTwo (VSS Enterprise) has commenced and our future home at Spaceport America in New Mexico is at an advanced stage of construction. In addition our commercial team has accepted over $65m worth of reservations from 335 future astronauts and the Company is holding deposits of over $45 million."

Commenting on his appointment, George Whitesides added: "I am honored to be given the opportunity to lead this historic business which will open the experience of space travel to people around the world. There is much to achieve at Virgin Galactic over the coming years as the company moves from the extensive test flying program and FAA licensing process into commercial operation of frequent spaceflights from our new home at Spaceport America in New Mexico. There is a great team at Virgin Galactic and I'm greatly looking forward to growing the business and establishing operations at the Spaceport."

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Virgin Galactic release
VSS Enterprise Makes First Crewed Flight

15th July was a significant milestone for Scaled Composites as the team march towards the first solo flights of VSS Enterprise.

For the first time VSS Enterprise flew with crew on board. As planned, the spaceship remained attached to VMS Eve (captive) for the duration of the flight and numerous combined vehicle systems tests were conducted. In addition and for the first time, the two crew members on board VSS Enterprise, evaluated all of the spaceship’s systems and functions from end to end in the air. Objectives achieved.

Congratulations to the whole team!

Mission Details:

  • WhiteKnightTwo (VMS Eve) flight number 33
  • SpaceShipTwo (VSS Enterprise) flight number three in captive carry configuration.
  • Flight Time: 6 hours 12 minutes
  • VMS Eve crew: Mark Stucky, Peter Kalogiannis, Brian Maisler
  • VSS Enterprise crew: Peter Siebold, Michael Alsbury

Robert Pearlman
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Virgin Galactic video release
VSS Enterprise Makes First Crewed Flight

Robert Pearlman
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Scaled Composites:
RocketMotorTwo Hot-Fire Test Summaries

Many subscale hot-firings were performed at Scaled Composites, LLC between Jun 05 and April 09 to evaluate several different fuels, igniters, injectors, insulators and nozzle configurations, as well as other components and parameters.

Based on the results of those subscale firings, the Scaled/SNC team chose a full-scale rocket motor system design and began testing in April 2009.

The following list includes summaries of the hot-fire activity of the RocketMotorTwo rockets.

[via HobbySpace]

Robert Pearlman
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Scaled Composites statement:
Minor WhiteKnightTwo incident

A minor incident occurred on the runway at Mojave airport this morning, which involved a mechanical problem with the left hand-side landing gear of WhiteKnightTwo. No injuries were sustained and the incident did not involve the Spaceship which was not attached to WhiteKnightTwo.

WhiteKnightTwo was on its 37th test flight, and has been flying since December 2008.

Further information will be posted in due course.

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Virgin Galactic release
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Achieves Major Milestone

VSS Enterprise Achieves Manned Free Flight from Over 45,000 ft (13,700 metres) and Successfully Glides to Land in 11 Minutes at Mojave Air and Space Port

10th October 2010, Mojave, CA. — Virgin Galactic, the US company developing the world's first commercial manned space flight system and tourism business, is delighted to announce the successful completion today of the first piloted free flight of SpaceShipTwo, named the VSS Enterprise. The spaceship was released from its mothership at an altitude of 45,000 ft (13,700 metres).


Credit: Virgin Galactic/ Mischa Varmuza

During its first flight, the spaceship was piloted by Pete Siebold, assisted by Mike Alsbury as co-pilot. The two main goals of the flight were to carry out a clean release of the spaceship from its mothership and for the pilots to free fly and glide back and land at Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Other detailed objectives of the flight were successfully completed, including; verification that all systems worked prior and following the clean release of Enterprise; initial evaluation of handling and stall characteristics; qualitative evaluation of stability and control of SS2 against predictions from design and simulation work; verification of performance by evaluating the lift-to-drag ratio of the spaceship during glide flight; practice a landing approach at altitude and finally descend and land.


Credit: Virgin Galactic/Mark Greenberg

Preparations for the milestone flight were extensive. The WhiteKnightTwo mothership (Eve) flew 40 times including 4 captive carry flights of spaceship and mothership mated together. The most recent captive carry was on Sept 30th. The most recent solo flight was on October 5th and demonstrated that all the systems required for a free flight by the VSS Enterprise were functioning correctly without any safety issues. Commenting on the successful flight Scaled Composites pilot, Pete Siebold, said "The VSS Enterprise was a real joy to fly, especially when one considers the fact that the vehicle has been designed not only to be a Mach 3.5 spaceship capable of going into space but also one of the worlds highest altitude gliders."

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, who was present during the first successful flight, added "This was one of the most exciting days in the whole history of Virgin. For the first time since we seriously began the project in 2004, I watched the world's first manned commercial spaceship landing on the runway at Mojave Air and Space Port and it was a great moment. Now, the sky is no longer the limit and we will begin the process of pushing beyond to the final frontier of space itself over the next year."


Credit: Virgin Galactic/Mark Greenberg

Virgin Galactic is now well on the way to becoming the world's first commercial space line with 370 customer deposits totalling $50 million. Future commercial operations will be at Spaceport America in New Mexico where final preparations are taking place for a finished runway inauguration ceremony on Friday 22nd October 2010. National Geographic channel in the United States will be showing a documentary on the build up and preparation for the first flight of VSS Enterprise on Monday, 18th October at 10.00pm ET/PT.

George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic who was also present at the historic flight, added "To see the world's first manned commercial spaceship landing on a runway is a sight I always dreamed I would behold. Now, our challenge going forward will be to complete our experimental program, obtain our FAA licence and safely bring the system into service at Spaceport America, New Mexico."

Robert Pearlman
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Painted on WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve's attach point for SpaceShipTwo:


Credit: Virgin Galactic/Mark Greenberg

Virgin Galactic has posted the above photo, among others, on its website.

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SS2's second glide test flight has been successfully completed with pilot Mark Stucky and copilot Mike Alsbury at the controls.

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VSS Enterprise (SpaceShipTwo) made its third glide flight today with pilots Peter Siebold and Clint Nichols.

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Virgin Galactic announced today that Will Whitehorn, president of the company since its formation in 2004, will retire from that role in January 2011. George Whitesides, who was appointed as the first full time CEO in May 2010, assumes the title of President and CEO.

Whitehorn is retiring from Virgin Galactic to concentrate on other business interests. He is currently Chairman of Next Fifteen Communications and Loewy Group Ltd.

In addition he sits on the boards of the SECC in Glasgow and ILN Group in London. He is a member of the British Government's Science and Technology Facilities Council and The Space Leadership Council.

In December 2010 he is also being awarded the Royal Aeronautical Society Space Medal for his services to the industry.

328KF
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Glide flight no. 4 is in the books.
  • Flight: 47 / GF04
  • Date: 13 Jan 11 Flight Time: 11 min, 34 sec
  • SS2 Pilot: Stucky SS2 CoPilot: Nichols
  • GS Crew: Binnie, Kalogiannis, Verderame, Maisler, Persall, Bassett, Zeitlin, Reid, Tighe, Inks

  • Objectives:

    • Clean release
    • Evaluate stability and control
    • Stall expansion
    • Continued flutter envelope expansion
    • Aft CG expansion with water ballast tank
    • Window heater evaluation
    • Pilot proficiency

  • Results: All objectives achieved. Stall at aft CG. Evaluated flutter modifications to 250 KEAS. Envelope expanded to 3.8 g's. As part of the test objectives, the SS2 pilots vented water ballast just before coming in to land, which produced a visible contrail.
Space.com: Virgin Galactic's Private Spaceship Aces Another Glide Test
"We had another great flight today, piloted by Mark Stucky and co-pilot Clint Nichols, a good start for what will be a busy year of flight tests," said George Whitesides, CEO and president of Virgin Galactic.

Lewis007
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SpaceShipTwo made its fifth glide test on April 22 (mission GC-05). Test pilot Peter Siebold and co-pilot Doug Shane, who is the president of Scaled Composites, flew SpaceShipTwo through the skies over the Mojave Air and Space Port during the test, which lasted 14 minutes and 31 seconds; the longest glide flight to date.

The glide tests typically have a checklist of items that range from evaluating stability and control of SpaceShipTwo to maintaining pilot proficiency.

Shortly after tarmac touchdown, a debriefing was held involving personnel involved in the glide flight.

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Virgin Galactic release
SpaceShipTwo's First "Feathered" Flight

Early on Wednesday 4th May 2011, in the skies above Mojave Air and Spaceport CA, SpaceShipTwo, the world's first commercial spaceship, demonstrated its unique reentry 'feather' configuration for the first time. This test flight, the third in less than two weeks, marks another major milestone on the path to powered test flights and commercial operations.


Credit: Clay Observatory/Virgin Galactic

SpaceShipTwo (SS2), named VSS Enterprise, has now flown solo seven times since its public roll-out in December 2009 and since the completion of its ground and captive -carry test program.

This latest flight saw a 6:43AM (local) runway take off for VSS Enterprise, attached to its WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft, VMS Eve. At the controls of the of the spaceship were Scaled Composites' test pilots Pete Siebold and Clint Nichols whilst Mark Stucky, Brian Maisler and Brandon Inks crewed the purpose built, all composite, twin fuselage WK2.

After a 45 minute climb to the desired altitude of 51,500 feet, SS2 was released cleanly from VMS Eve and established a stable glide profile before deploying, for the first time, its re-entry or "feathered" configuration by rotating the tail section of the vehicle upwards to a 65 degree angle to the fuselage. It remained in this configuration with the vehicle's body at a level pitch for approximately 1 minute and 15 seconds whilst descending, almost vertically, at around 15,500 feet per minute, slowed by the powerful shuttlecock-like drag created by the raised tail section. At around 33,500 feet the pilots reconfigured the spaceship to its normal glide mode and executed a smooth runway touch down, approximately 11 minutes and 5 seconds after its release from VMS Eve.

All objectives for the flight were met and detailed flight data is now being analysed by the engineers at Scaled Composites, designers and builders of Virgin Galactic's sub-orbital spacecraft.

George Whitesides, CEO and President of Virgin Galactic, said: "This morning's spectacular flight by VSS Enterprise was its third in 12 days, reinforcing the fast turnaround and frequent flight-rate potential of Virgin Galactic's new vehicles. We have also shown this morning that the unique feathering re-entry mechanism, probably the single most important safety innovation within the whole system, works perfectly. This is yet another important milestone successfully passed for Virgin Galactic, and brings us ever closer to the start of commercial operations. Credit is due to the whole Scaled team, whose meticulous planning and great skill are changing the course of history."

Pete Siebold, who along with Clint Nichols piloted the spaceship added: "In all test flight programs, after the training, planning and rehearsing, there comes the moment when you have to go up there and fly it for real. This morning's flight was a test pilot's dream. The spaceship is a joy to fly and the feathered descent portion added a new, unusual but wonderful dynamic to the ride. The fact that it all went to plan, that there were no surprises and that we brought VSS Enterprise back to Mojave safe and sound is a great testament to the whole team."

Wing Feathering for Re-Entry

Perhaps the most innovative safety feature employed by SpaceshipOne and now SpaceShipTwo is the unique way it returns into the dense atmosphere from the vacuum of space. This part of space flight has always been considered as one of the most technically challenging and dangerous and Burt Rutan was determined to find a failsafe solution which remained true to Scaled Composite's philosophy of safety through simplicity. His inspiration for what is known as the feathered re-entry was the humble shuttlecock, which like SpaceShipTwo relies on aerodynamic design and laws of physics to control speed and attitude.

Once out of the atmosphere the entire tail structure of the spaceship can be rotated upwards to about 65o. The feathered configuration allows an automatic control of attitude with the fuselage parallel to the horizon. This creates very high drag as the spacecraft descends through the upper regions of the atmosphere. The feather configuration is also highly stable, effectively giving the pilot a hands-free re-entry capability, something that has not been possible on spacecraft before, without resorting to computer controlled fly-by-wire systems. The combination of high drag and low weight (due to the very light materials used to construct the vehicle) mean that the skin temperature during re-entry stays very low compared to previous manned spacecraft and thermal protection systems such as heat shields or tiles are not needed. During a full sub-orbital spaceflight, at around 70,000ft following re-entry, the feather lowers to its original configuration and the spaceship becomes a glider for the flight back to the spaceport runway.


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Ultimate Bulletin Board 5.47a





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