Virgin Galactic Continues Engine Testing in Mojave

mojave_tower_sunset_smI received a reliable report of another SpaceShipTwo engine test in Mojave on Thursday. It took place at the so-called Whittinghill test stand.

Judging from the dark plume of smoke, my source believes is it was a rubber/nitrous oxide that Virgin Galactic’s subsidiary, The Spaceship Company, is reportedly working on.

The source reports the engine ran pretty roughly toward the end, as tends to happen with rubber hybrid motors.

As you might recall, the rubber hybrid appears to be an alternative to the alternative nylon/nitrous oxide engine that Virgin Galactic switched to when Sierra Nevada’s rubber/nitrous oxide engine failed to perform as needed.

A second source says work on the rubber engine is continuing because Virgin Galactic has a great deal of money tied up in tooling for producing that type of engine. It would be expensive to switch over for another type of hybrid.

There are still plans to use the nylon/nitrous oxide engine for SpaceShipTwo flight tests, which are believed to restart soon. On Oct. 4, Virgin Galactic Vice President Mike Moses said powered flight were  “going to start imminently, literally very imminently.” That was three weeks ago.

SNC Abandons Own Hybrid Motors on Dream Chaser

Dream Chaser Main Propulsion System Test. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)
Dream Chaser Main Propulsion System Test. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Sierra Nevada Corporation won’t be using its own hybrid rockets for its Dream Chaser space shuttle, making it the second company in recent months after Virgin Galactic to dump the nitrous oxide-rubber motors.

Kathy Lueders, program manager for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), revealed the change in an update during the third quarterly meeting of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) on July 24.

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SpaceDev wins contract for NASA Hybrid Rocket Motors

SpaceDev Press Release

POWAY, CA – March 3, 2008 – SpaceDev, Inc. (OTCBB: SPDV) announced today that it has been awarded a contract by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center for the research and development of its next generation proprietary annular hybrid rocket motors. The contract work will be performed over a six-month period, during which SpaceDev is expected to conduct development testing with the objective of validating performance parameters. This technology could provide significant improvements to hybrid rockets in terms of both performance and packaging efficiency that could significantly broaden their overall applicability and value.

“We’ve been continuing our development of advanced rocket motors for spacecraft and this is a strong next step in that process. Our cooperation with NASA and specifically with the Marshall Space Flight Center is of major importance to us. Their experience and knowledge will provide considerable added value to the important work being conducted by our propulsion team,” said Mark N. Sirangelo, SpaceDev’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “This technology could allow hybrid rocket motors to establish a presence in areas they have not been historically considered in commercial, civil space and military applications.”