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Author Topic:   Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America (NM)
Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 45034
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-17-2011 11:40 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
Sir Richard Branson and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez dedicate the 'Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space'

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo soar over Spaceport America

Looking skyward, more than 800 guests marveled at Virgin Galactic's commercial space vehicles as they soared through the skies of southern New Mexico during the dedication ceremonies of Virgin Galactic's new home at Spaceport America.

The flight of WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo was the highlight of a spectacular ceremony which featured the dedication of the Sir Norman Foster-designed building and announcements of new scientific and educational customers for the world's first commercial space line.

"Today is another history-making day for Virgin Galactic," said Sir Richard Branson. "We are here with a group of incredible people who are helping us lead the way in creating one of the most important new industrial sectors of the 21st century. We've never wavered in our commitment to the monumental task of pioneering safe, affordable and clean access to space, or to demonstrate that we mean business at each step along the way."

Branson and his children, Sam and Holly, who will be the first commercial passengers on SpaceShipTwo, brought the event to a spectacular conclusion by officially naming the world's first purpose-built spaceline terminal as the "Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space" while rappelling together from the roof of the striking new building.


Credit: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic

Above: Project Bandaloop dancers based in San Francisco hang and dance on the side window wall of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space Hangar, Monday October 17, 2011 near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

"I trust that will be the first of many safe landings at Spaceport America! What an absolute joy to celebrate the naming of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space with Governor Martinez!" said Sir Richard, as the family touched the ground.

The Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space, a combined terminal and hangar facility, will support up to two WhiteKnightTwo and five SpaceShipTwo vehicles. In addition, The Gateway will house all of the company's astronaut preparation and celebration facilities, a mission control center, and a friends and family area. There is also space committed to public access via the planned New Mexico Spaceport Authority's Visitor Experience.

The iconic 120,000 square-foot building, which meets LEED Gold standards for environmental quality, was designed by world-renowned United Kingdom-based Foster + Partners, along with URS Corporation and local New Mexico architects SMPC. The trio won an international competition in 2007 to build the first private spaceport in the world.

Built using local materials and regional construction techniques, the facility is sustainable with few additional energy requirements due to the use of a range of sustainable features including geothermal heating and cooling.


Credit: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic

Above: Gathered crowds reflect at left and the WhiteKnightTwo with SpaceShipTwo at right. The spaceport runway tarmac reflects thoughout.

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez participated in the dedication ceremony with U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce, representing New Mexico's 2nd District.

"New Mexico has a long tradition of pioneering innovation in aerospace and related technologies," said Governor Martinez. "We already possess an impressive array of facilities and expertise in advanced technologies. Spaceport America and the opening of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space significantly deepen those capabilities and strengthen our global position as a powerhouse supporter of the space industry. Our partnership with Virgin Galactic is a perfect example of how government and private industry can work together to drive economic growth and science education."

Virgin Galactic CEO and President George Whitesides said the company continues to make excellent and unequalled progress, under the motto 'safety is our North Star.' Whitesides remarked, "Flight testing by prime contractor Scaled Composites is progressing very well, with 30 SpaceShipTwo flights and 75 WhiteKnightTwo flights to date. We are also recruiting aggressively and assembling a highly talented and accomplished workforce focused on safe commercial operations led by Vice President of Operations Mike Moses, who will run our efforts at the spaceport."

In addition, the company is taking steps to expand its mission beyond commercial space tourism. The company announced last week that it had been awarded a contract under NASA's Flight Opportunity Program for research flights to a potential value of $4.5m. During the ceremony, it was announced that new flight reservations have been made by research and education institutions to support research initiatives and inspire students. Purdue University, Space Florida, the Challenger Center for Space Science Education and Southwest Research Institute were recognized as the most recent participants in this new growth area for Virgin Galactic.

"For me, my children and our ever growing community of future astronauts, many of whom are with us today, standing in front of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space as it glimmers majestically under the New Mexican sun brings our space adventure so close we can almost taste it," said Sir Richard.


Credit: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic

Above: Sir Richard Branson (r) with legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin hold a street sign replica of where the Virgin Galactic offices are located in London.

Present for the dedication ceremony were over 150 Virgin Galactic customers from 21 countries who have already made deposits to fly to space. A total of over 450 future astronauts worldwide have signed on to join Virgin Galactic for a voyage into space.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 45034
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 05-10-2019 12:02 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
Sir Richard Branson Announces Virgin Galactic Move to Spaceport America this Summer, as Company Readies for Commercial Service

At a press conference today at the New Mexico State Capitol Building in Santa Fe, hosted by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Virgin Founder Sir Richard Branson announced that Virgin Galactic's development and testing program had advanced sufficiently to move the spaceline staff and space vehicles from Mojave, California to their commercial operations headquarters at Spaceport America, New Mexico. The move, which involves more than 100 staff, will commence immediately and continue through the summer, to minimise schooling disruption for families.

Virgin Galactic partnered with New Mexico in an agreement which saw the state complete construction of Spaceport America, the world's first, purpose-built commercial spaceport, and Virgin Galactic committing to center its commercial spaceflight activities at the facilities once its vehicles and operations were ready for service.

This announcement signals the final countdown to a regular commercial spaceflight service for paying passengers and science research from Spaceport America. It follows the great progress in operational readiness at Spaceport, including the completion of the hanger, offices, fuel farm, warehouse and antenna for telemetry and communications, as well as interior fit-out. It also positions New Mexico on the frontline of technological innovation and, as one of the very few places on Earth that plays host to regular human spaceflight launches, a magnet for inward investment.

Virgin Galactic will reposition its space system consisting of carrier aircraft VMS Eve and spaceship VSS Unity from Mojave, California to Spaceport America over the summer months once cabin interior and other work has been completed by Virgin Galactic's sister manufacturing organisation, The Spaceship Company (TSC). It will complete its final test flights from New Mexico for commencing a full commercial service for passengers and research payload. TSC will remain based in Mojave where it will continue building Virgin Galactic's planned fleet of SpaceShipTwo and carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo vehicles.

Commenting on the announcement, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said: "Virgin Galactic's announcement today is an incredibly exciting development for both our state's economic future and the future of aerospace in general. With these workers here and with these plans firmly in place, I'm certain New Mexico will serve as the launchpad for the rapid industry growth we've been expecting for so many years. Today marks the beginning of the next chapter of aerospace in New Mexico."​

Sir Richard Branson said: "Our Virgin Galactic adventure has been intertwined with New Mexico and Spaceport America right from the start and our stories have unfolded together. New Mexico delivered on its promise to build a world-first and world-class spaceport. Today, I could not be more excited to announce, that in return, we are now ready to bring New Mexico a world-first, world-class spaceline. Virgin Galactic is coming home to New Mexico where together we will open space to change the world for good."

George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company said: "The first photograph of Earth from space was taken over New Mexico in October of 1946. How inspiring and appropriate that the state will soon host the first regular commercial spaceflight service, which will enable thousands of people to see Earth from space with their own eyes. We are deeply grateful to the citizens and leadership of New Mexico for having the vision to create a better future for their children and all of humanity."

Dan Hicks, CEO of Spaceport America added, "Going to space and exploring the universe is a team effort. It takes strong partnerships that are courageous and also vulnerable. Sir Richard's visionary leadership to take meaningful risks along with New Mexico leadership's far-sighted commitment - epitomizes the successful partnerships that are truly needed for the space industry. I and the rest of the Spaceport America staff are extremely excited to support Virgin Galactic's continued growth and future success here in New Mexico."

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 45034
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-15-2019 11:25 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
VMS Eve arrives home to Spaceport America

A View From Chief Pilot Dave Mackay

This week our mothership VMS Eve arrived home at Spaceport America in New Mexico. It's another exciting step, bringing Virgin Galactic closer to starting commercial service.

New Mexico is on track to become one of the very few places on this beautiful planet which regularly launches humans to space.

We made the decision to move spaceline operations to Spaceport America after two successful spaceflights, which also created five new commercial astronauts. The most recent spaceflight in February saw Chief Astronaut Instructor, Beth Moses, become the first commercial astronaut to unstrap and float free in the cabin of a commercial spaceship.

This week, the mothership left The Spaceship Company headquarters in Mojave, California, piloted by Kelly Latimer and myself. In the vicinity of Spaceport we carried out a number of tests of the communications systems, and coordination with the FAA at Albuquerque Center, White Sands Missile Range, Holloman AFB and NMSA, before landing at Spaceport. VMS Eve has become the first Virgin Galactic flight vehicle to permanently call the Land of Enchantment its home.

The team has been busy getting Spaceport America ready for commercial service, installing the ground infrastructure and then conducting ground tests of all the systems to ensure they are flight-ready. The arrival of VMS Eve in New Mexico signifies the start of the next important phase – mothership operations prior to SpaceShipTwo's own flight operations.

In the coming days, the team will use VMS Eve to fly simulated spaceship launch missions, with pilots and Mission Control ensuring that all in-flight communications and airspace coordination work as planned. The pilots will replicate some of SpaceShipTwo's low altitude flight profile and familiarize themselves with the New Mexico airspace and landmarks.

VMS Eve will return to Mojave later this year to pick up Spaceship Unity. When both vehicles are in place in New Mexico, we will continue Unity's flight test program. Following the completion of that program, we will move to the start of commercial service and begin flying our future astronauts into space.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 45034
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-15-2019 11:25 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 Opens the Doors to the 'Gateway to Space'

Virgin Galactic today (Aug. 15) revealed the first look at the interior fit-out of its "Gateway to Space" building at Spaceport America in New Mexico. The work completed showcased two floors of the building primarily focused on spaceflight operations, which also incorporates communal spaces designed for use in the future by Virgin Galactic customers, along with their friends and families. Completion of this interior work means the spaceport facility is now operationally functional and able to support Virgin Galactic's flight requirements.

One of the hallmarks of the Virgin brand for over nearly half a century has been the use of inspired and bold design to transform customer experiences. It is an ethos that has been successfully applied across industrial sectors and design disciplines. From aircraft cabins to hotel bedrooms and from fitness classes to bank accounts.

Virgin Galactic has striven to remain faithful to that tradition by choosing an elegant, experience-focused concept for the space launch system itself. Similarly, the company's choice to operate from Spaceport America in New Mexico was due in no small part to the state's decision to commission landmark architecture for the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport. The Foster + Partners Gateway to Space facility pays homage to the past in its respect for the ancient surrounding landscape while powerfully embracing the future through energy efficiency and sustainability. It was also specifically designed to enable Virgin Galactic to create an unparalleled experience as its customers prepare for journeys of a lifetime before graduating as astronauts.

The first floor is focused on our home planet, and is named Gaia, representing the point of departure and return, as well as the purpose of each astronaut's journey. The color palettes and the use of natural materials aims to bring the stunning landscape which surrounds Spaceport inside. The floor design, furniture and fittings promote social interaction and human discourse – a sense of togetherness and unity. An elevated, interactive digital walkway will heighten the departure experience for the Future Astronauts and their friends and family as they set out from Spaceport to VSS Unity on the day of flight. The Earth-focused design will provide a fitting welcome to those newly-graduated astronauts returning from space with a new appreciation and understanding of our home planet.

Gaia is subtly and unobtrusively zoned into practical, formal and informal spaces which will host the space operations team, Future Astronauts and their family and friends. It serves as the social hub of the building, where everyone is part of the Virgin Galactic family; Future Astronauts will share breakfast with spaceship pilots, grab coffee with rocket engineers and pass the time of day with the team from Mission Control.

The focal point of Gaia is the Barista Island, a central bar made of back-lit Italian marble hovering above hand-crafted oak providing a social hub for our hospitality team to engage with guests and staff. Spaceflight preparation will unite our teams with our Future Astronauts in the pursuit of a common purpose. The Barista Island within Gaia will help to foster that sense of camaraderie and the determination to deliver each Future Astronauts' personal mission.

The second floor is named Cirrus, representing light, air and flight. It is the beating heart of spaceflight operations, and is connected to the community hub of Gaia below through a double height atrium. The color palette graduates from the earthy tones below in Gaia to lighter white and grey shades, reflecting the skies beyond and providing a clean environment supporting operational focus.

This area is home to Mission Control, the Mission Briefing Room, the Pilot Corps and the rest of the Flight Operations team.

Mission Control enjoys a dedicated space which allows focus on flight operations. Outside this space, the Flight Operations team and the pilots are positioned to give an unrestricted view of ground operation areas including the apron and runway.

Virgin Galactic's space fleet will be housed in the Gateway to Space hangar which is already home to VMS Eve. This huge expanse in the middle of the building is large enough to accommodate two carrier aircraft, each with a wingspan of 140 ft along with five SpaceShipTwo vehicles.

The unveiling of Gaia and Cirrus brings to life a beautiful, world-first and world-class facility and means that Spaceport America's Gateway to Space is now functionally operational – ready to host the remaining portion of Virgin Galactic's test flight program before welcoming its very first Future Astronauts.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 45034
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 02-13-2020 05:44 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
Virgin Galactic Welcomes SpaceShipTwo Unity to Spaceport America, New Mexico

Virgin Galactic Captive Carry Test Flight Marks Relocation of Spaceflight Operations to Spaceport America

Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc., a vertically integrated aerospace company, has successfully completed another vital step on its path to commercial service, relocating SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, to its commercial headquarters at Spaceport America's Gateway to Space building.

VSS Unity, attached to the carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, made the journey from Mojave, California, where the Company's manufacturing facilities are based. The vehicle landed at 15.49 MT, where it was greeted by an enthusiastic group of teammates who will operate the spaceship in New Mexico.

This captive carry flight provided an opportunity for engineers to evaluate VSS Unity for over three hours at high altitude and cold temperatures, a longer period of time than is experienced during missions to space. These environmental evaluations of system performance are difficult to replicate at ground level, making captive carry missions a vital component of VSS Unity's flight test plan.

The flight also provided a valuable opportunity to conduct pilot training and familiarization, with veteran Italian Air Force Test Pilot Nicola 'Stick' Pecile joining Chief Pilot Dave 'Mac' Mackay in the cockpit of the spaceship for the first time. Nicola is the fifth pilot to complete a flight in VSS Unity. VMS Eve was piloted by Mike 'Sooch' Masucci and Frederick 'CJ' Sturckow.

The move of the spaceship to Spaceport America marks a key step in the relocation of Virgin Galactic's to the state of New Mexico. In May 2019, Virgin Galactic announced that as part of this move, approximately 100 teammates would move to New Mexico from Mojave, California, Spaceport America would become operational and the vehicles would be transferred to the Gateway to Space. Today, nearly all of those team members have relocated, the spaceport is operationally ready, and both VMS Eve and VSS Unity have now arrived. Of Virgin Galactic's total current New Mexico work force, more than 70 team members have been hired locally, the result of a conscious effort to attract New Mexico-based talent.

"New Mexico is going to be the world's launchpad for commercial spaceflight," New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. "Today marks another step closer: We will have a genuine Space Valley in Southern New Mexico, a hotbed of innovation and achievement and space tourism development. I congratulate Virgin Galactic's workers, George Whitesides and Sir Richard Branson on today's successful flight – and once again I say to them: Welcome to New Mexico, we're very glad to have you!"

"When Virgin Galactic started moving to New Mexico last year, everyone felt the sheer magnitude of the task ahead, but we were encouraged and excited by the team's confidence and strong vision for the future," said George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic. "Today we realized the next step in that dream by bringing our beautiful spaceship to New Mexico. We still have significant work ahead, but we are grateful to all our teammates who have made this day a reality."

The relocation of VSS Unity to Spaceport America enables the Company to engage in the final stages of its flight test program. This will begin with a number of initial captive carry and glide flights from the new operating base in New Mexico, allowing the spaceflight operations team to familiarize themselves with the airspace and ground control. Once these tests are complete, the team will carry out a number of rocket-powered test flights from Spaceport America to continue the evaluation of VSS Unity's performance. During this phase, the final spaceship cabin and customer experience evaluations will also be concluded in preparation for the start of commercial spaceflight operations.

The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic's design, testing and manufacturing arm, remains firmly rooted in Mojave, California. While VMS Eve and VSS Unity are now based in New Mexico, they will make periodic journeys back to Mojave to support ground and flight tests of new spaceships, as well as for vehicle maintenance and upgrade activities. There is significant progress being made on the next two spaceships, including achieving the Weight on Wheels milestone for the second spaceship and completing over 50% of the structural and system part fabrication for the third spaceship, which were announced in January.

Dan Hicks, Spaceport America's Executive Director, congratulated the Virgin Galactic team, saying "This truly is the dawn of a new era for the commercial space sector. We are tremendously proud of our foundational partner Virgin Galactic - as we see and support their historic progress in making human space flight a reality for our beautiful world. The New Mexico and Spaceport America leadership will continue our strong support for our visionary Virgin Galactic teammates; and we are looking forward to an exciting 2020!"

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 45034
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-14-2020 12:38 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 Prepares For First Spaceflight From New Mexico

We are currently preparing for the first spaceflight from our operational base at Spaceport America in New Mexico, which will occur later this fall. The flight will be crewed by two of our pilots and will carry several research payloads in the cabin of VSS Unity.

In these final preparations we are working through a number of rigorous steps to prepare the vehicles, pilots, teams and facilities, ensuring that we remain focused on safety as our top priority.

Pre-flight preparation and objectives

One of the steps along the path to be ready for a spaceflight is to ensure that our pilots are well prepared for the flight test objectives that they are about to conduct. A significant amount of training occurs in our ground-based simulator, both with the pilots on their own, as well as in sessions that are linked to the mission control room. We also have another powerful training tool for the pilots – our mothership vehicle, VMS Eve. Our Chief Pilot, Dave Mackay explains:

"VMS Eve has the ability to test pilot proficiency by simulating the glide and approach-to-land phase of flight for SpaceShipTwo pilots. The cockpit structure of Eve is almost identical to that of Unity: the same pilot seats and windows, as well as very similar flight controls and instruments. This, coupled with the fact that with Eve's landing gear down, and one set of speed brakes out, it descends on the same flight path angle as SpaceShipTwo, means that the crew can practice the identical approach and landing pattern to the one they will fly in Unity – with much of the same information displays, and the same view out the window. This makes Eve a very valuable in-flight simulator for the spaceship's final approach and landing phases.''

Preparing VSS Unity for flight also includes a "practice run" for the spaceship, as well as the pilots and teams in mission control. We put Unity through its paces on the ground, testing all systems prior to flight to ensure functionality – including raising the feather, swinging the landing gear, firing the reaction control thrusters, and sweeping the flight control systems through full range of motion. Pre-flight vehicle checks are designed to functionally verify that all systems are working as they should be, prior to the take-off.

With this flight being our first spaceflight from our home at Spaceport America, we have planned a full rehearsal of our spaceship propellant loading procedures. During this rehearsal, we will perform a full tanking test, loading high-pressure helium and nitrous oxide into their respective spaceship tanks on-board VSS Unity. This rehearsal will give the teams the opportunity to review the end to end execution of every step in the flight process at Spaceport.

We are excited to announce that this upcoming spaceflight will be carrying research payloads in the cabin, as we have done on our previous spaceflights. For this flight, we have three payloads that are part of the NASA Flight Opportunities Program

Consistent with how we conducted VSS Unity glide flights earlier this year at Spaceport America, all operations are following a set of stringent operational protocols that include changes to the work areas and procedures to enforce social distancing and universal mask usage, as advised by state guidelines.

We expect our first spaceflight from Spaceport America to occur later this fall and we are pleased to confirm that we are still on track to meet this timeframe. In September we disclosed, via our application for a multi-year Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license, that October 22, 2020 would be the opening of our flight planning window. We also included preliminary test flight dates for our mothership, VMS Eve. Although preparations are going well, we are not quite at the stage where we can confirm specific planned flight dates for either our VSS Unity or VMS Eve test flights.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 45034
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-16-2020 11:48 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 Adjusts Test Flight Schedule in Response to New State Government COVID-19 Restrictions

Virgin Galactic Holdings, in accordance with new guidelines from the New Mexico Department of Health to disrupt the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the state, today (Nov. 16) announced that it will be minimizing its operational footprint at its New Mexico facilities.

In consultation with government officials, and as a result of these new operations restrictions, the space flight that was planned to occur between November 19-23, 2020 will be rescheduled.

Michael Colglazier, CEO, Virgin Galactic said: "With the health and safety of our team members in mind, and in accordance with the recent direction from the New Mexico Department of Health, we will be minimizing our New Mexico operations to the greatest degree possible. While these new restrictions cause us to adjust our flight schedule, we take this pause in stride and will be prepared to resume our pre-flight procedures and announce a new test flight window as soon as we can. Our team members at Virgin Galactic, our Future Astronauts, and our fans around the world remain incredibly excited for our upcoming spaceflight."

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