WhiteKnightTwo took to the air for the 72nd time yesterday (8/31/2011); it was a special flight for Virgin Galactic because at the controls, for the very first time, was our own Chief Test pilot, Dave Mackay. Dave joined Virgin Galactic in 2009 following a high-flying aviation career as an RAF test pilot and a Virgin Atlantic Captain.
BusinessDay.co.nz has a Q&A with Richard Branson in which the British billionaire promotes the “greener” nature of the WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo combo:
We should no longer rely on old, expensive, “dirty” technology to transport satellites into space. The industry must be modernised and made more sustainable, both for financial reasons and for the health of the planet. In response to this challenge, we have been developing a greener solution in Mojave, California — one that will have less impact on the environment and will be more cost effective. Our two-step launch process, which does not employ rockets until the aircraft reaches the stratosphere, uses less energy than other launch systems that rely on rockets to lift off from the ground.
Below is Virgin Galactic’s official press release announcing Will Whitehorn’s departure from the company. With traveling and the holidays, I overlooked it until now.
VIRGIN GALACTIC PRESS RELEASE
Dec. 23, 2010
Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic since the formation of the company in 2004, is to 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.
NASA’s Office of Chief Technologist has published detailed information about suborbital vehicles that will be available beginning in 2011 for researchers to conduct microgravity experiments. The vehicles are being built by Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR.
Today we will look at Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.Â The eight-seat suborbital vehicle built by Scaled Composites is currently being tested in Mojave, Calif.
The Guardian reports that Virgin Galactic’s Will Whitehorn was “hopping mad” over a recent study indicating that SpaceShipTwo might not be as clean as the company claims:
“The research was fundamentally wrong,” he says. “If you had a Virgin Galactic program running for ten years, if you assumed that we weren’t using biobutinol (which we will) we’re talking about less environmental impact over ten years than 1.5 shuttle launches.”
A compilation of my videos showing WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo (VSS Enterprise) flying over Spaceport America during the runway dedication ceremony last month.
Spacecraft factory to break ground in Mojave
Los Angeles Times
A production facility that would build the world’s first fleet of commercial spaceships is set to begin construction Tuesday at the Mojave Air and Space Port.
The 68,000-square-foot facility, one of the first aircraft assembly plants to be built in the region in decades, will be home to the Spaceship Co., or TSC — a joint venture owned by Mojave-based Scaled Composites and British billionaire Richard Bransonâ€™s Virgin Galactic, a space tourism company.
TSC hopes to complete the complex by September 2011. It expects to build three White Knight aircraft, which resemble massive flying catamarans, and five smaller SpaceShipTwo rocket planes.
Read the full story.
Sir Richard Branson’s speech during the Spaceport American Runway Dedication ceremony last Friday. Sorry about the first 20 seconds; I had been taking pictures with the camera vertically and had forgot to change it. His talk is interrupted by the arrival of WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo.
@Virgin_Galactic tweeted this morning: Excited to hear that VSS Enterprise has just landed after a second successful glide flight in Mojave today.