SpaceShipTwo to Fly Under Power on Thursday

SpaceShipTwo in powered flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
SpaceShipTwo in powered flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Sources report that SpaceShipTwo will make a powered flight early Thursday morning from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The space plane and its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft have been outside on the ramp all day. Final preparations will begin later tonight.

During its first powered flight on April 29, the vehicles took off after 7 a.m. PDT, with SpaceShipTwo landing just after 8 a.m. PDT after a short flight. The spacecraft fired its engine for 16 seconds. Sources report the burn will be slightly longer this time.

I will be covering the test. Follow my updates here on Parabolic Arc and live @spacecom

  • therealdmt

    Alright. Finally a little dang progress! [well, at least progress we can read about]

    I’ll be looking forward to a successful test and checking out the reports and video.

    Even if the motor eventually has to be swapped out for a different model to carry passengers, it’ll be great to see the craft get tested throughout its flight envelope — remember, only one manned private spacecraft has gone to space and returned back to Earth _ever_ before. That of course was this craft’s predecessor, Spaceship One.

    While definitely not the ultimate objective, merely putting SoaceshipTwo through its paces will be historic. It will be interesting to see how much farther they go in this upcoming flight than what was done on the first powered flight.

  • This test will expand the flight envelope with a longer burn and show progress for the investors and future astronauts. The rubber/nitrous oxide system they’re using doesn’t have enough thrust to get them into space. Unless by some miracle they can somehow change this fact, it’s a dead end.

    Scaled and Virgin been developing alternative hybrid and liquid systems on parallel paths for the last couple of years. One of the promising hybrids was a nitrous oxide/nylon system that they tested back in May. That suffered a hard start and blew up. The explosion wrecked the nitrous tank and test stand and threw the engine casing and nozzle across the desert floor. The pictures of the aftermath are quite startling. Scaled claimed it was intentional, but that was a cover story. The nylon engine burns better, but it clearly has some issues in development and questions on viability.

    Given the engine problems SS2 continues to have, I have no idea where the estimates came from that had them flying the ship into space by the end of the year and beginning commercial service in 2014. The most charitable interpretation was that people were overly optimistic. The least charitable is spin. (I make no judgments here.) The amazing thing is that they thought nobody would ever figure this out.

  • Andy

    How long does it take WK2/SS2 to reach drop altitude?

  • Nickolai

    Woot, go VG!

    Edit: Just saw your tweet on the safe landing. Glad everything went well.

  • therealdmt

    Thanks for the blogging, Doug. Can’t wait for the details.