A Look at the History of Suborbital Spaceflight

Neil Armstrong with the X-15 on the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

With Richard Branson once again predicting that Virgin Galactic will fly SpaeShipTwo into space before the end of the year, it seems like a good time to take a look at the history of suborbital spaceflight.

The number of manned suborbital flights varies depending upon the definition you use. The internationally recognized boundary is 100 km (62.1 miles), which is also known as the Karman line. The U.S. Air Force awarded astronaut wings to any pilot who exceeded 80.5 km (50 miles).

(more…)

Dodging Disaster: A Fire, the North Star and the Mojave Code

Fire at a Spaceship Company hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Fire outside of The Spaceship Company hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port on June 5, 2014. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MOJAVE, Calif. – Luke Colby was horrified.

A fire had erupted outside the old Derringer hangar. Pallets of rubber fuel grain were burning, sending a thick cloud of black smoke into the blue sky over the Mojave Air and Space Port. Firefighters from Kern County Fire Station 14 were doing their best to put out the fire by spraying it down with water.

It seemed like the logical thing to do. And it would have been, if the fire had been located almost anywhere else.

(more…)

Year in Review: A Look at Virgin Galactic Developments in 2014

WhiteKnightTwo visited Spaceport America for the first time in three years on Wednesday. Below, you can see a full-scale model of SpaceShipTwo on the ramp. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
WhiteKnightTwo visited Spaceport America for the first time in three years on Wednesday. Below, you can see a full-scale model of SpaceShipTwo on the ramp. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Continuing our look back at 2014, we review progress at Virgin Galactic. While the loss of SpaceShipTwo on Oct. 31 understandably dominated the headlines, there were a number of other newsworthy developments at the company last year.

(more…)

Virgin Galactic Promotes Doug Shane to TSC President

Doug_Shane
Doug Shane

MOJAVE, Calif. – July 29th, 2014 – The Spaceship Company (TSC), the space manufacturing venture owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS, announced today that Doug Shane has been named President. TSC, the sister company of Virgin Galactic, is responsible for manufacturing the full fleet of Galactic’s innovative SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo space vehicles and has built extensive capabilities in all aspects of aerospace vehicle design, analysis, fabrication and test.

Shane will continue to report to George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company.

(more…)

Ex-Scaled Composites Boss Doug Shane Moves Over to The Spaceship Company

Doug_Shane
Doug Shane

MOJAVE, Calif. (VG PR) — Virgin Galactic today announced the appointment of Doug Shane as Executive Vice President and General Manager of The Spaceship Company (TSC). Shane joins the company after a 31 year career at Scaled Composites LLC (Scaled), where he served as that company’s President for five years. He will report directly to George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and TSC.

As the company progresses through its successful test flight program and approaches the start of commercial service with SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic has tapped Shane to oversee its manufacturing company, TSC, which has already begun the construction of the second set of SpaceShipTwo spaceships and WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft. TSC began as a joint venture between Virgin and Scaled, until 2012, when Virgin Galactic acquired full ownership of the venture.

(more…)

Scaled Composites Names Kevin Mickey President, Cory Bird Vice President

Kevin Mickey
Kevin Mickey

FALLS CHURCH, Va., Jan. 31, 2013 (Scaled Composites PR) — Scaled Composites, a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corporation, announced today that it has named Kevin Mickey president and Cory Bird vice president, effective immediately.

“Kevin and Cory have been instrumental in keeping the trains of innovation moving for over 20 years,” said Paul Meyer, vice president and general manager of Advanced Programs Development at Northrop Grumman. “I am confident in their ability to continue the great work that started it all, bringing ingenuity and perseverance to realize concepts never before thought possible.”

(more…)

Scaled President Doug Shane Honored with Prestigious Doolittle Award

REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Oct. 22, 2012 (Northrop Grumman PR) — Doug Shane, president of Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Scaled Composites business, was presented the prestigious 2012 James H. Doolittle Award by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) on Sept. 29 in recognition of his outstanding accomplishments and engineering achievements in aerospace technology.

“Doug has been a force of innovation and leadership in aerospace design and test for over 30 years,” said Paul Meyer, vice president and general manager of advanced programs and technology for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. “His ability to think outside the box and pull forward revolutionary ideas through test and operation has directly influenced the current and future state of the aerospace industry. We are fortunate to have Doug’s leadership on our team.”

(more…)

FAA Grants Launch Permits as SpaceShipTwo Ready to Fly Again

SpaceShipTwo glides downward on its first test flight. (Photo: Mark Greenberg)

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

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

(more…)