Tag: Richard Branson

BREAKING NEWS: Jim Tighe to Depart Scaled Composites — UPDATED

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SpaceShipTwo on a glide flight with WhiteKnightTwo above it. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

SpaceShipTwo on a glide flight with WhiteKnightTwo above it. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Updated with statement from Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The chief aerodynamicist credited with designing SpaceShipTwo is departing the program on the eve of a crucial series of flight tests designed that Virgin Galactic hopes will lead to the start of commercial suborbital space tourism operations early next year.

Multiple sources have confirmed that Jim Tighe announced on Thursday that he would be leaving his position as chief aerodynamicist at Scaled Composites in two weeks for a job at an unnamed aerospace company. It is not clear what prompted the move.

Update: Reports indicate Tighe will be working for an aviation start-up based in Silicon Valley.

Continue reading ‘BREAKING NEWS: Jim Tighe to Depart Scaled Composites — UPDATED’

Branson Says First Flight From New Mexico in February or March

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In this clip from “The Late Show With David Letterman,” Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson says he will be on the first flight of SpaceShipTwo from New Mexico in February or March 2015.

Mojave Watch: Suborbital Space Planes Prep for Flights

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Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Here’s some Saturday morning reading for all of you on suborbital vehicles now being assembled and tested here in Mojave:

  • P.J. O’Rourke has an entertaining account of his recent visit to visit XCOR, where he likes what he finds;
  • Private Eye takes a look at 15 years worth of unfulfilled promises by Richard Branson to send tourists to space; and,
  • Pat Hynes believes that regular flights of Branson’s SpaceShipTwo from Spaceport America in New Mexico are, at best, about a year away.

Up to a Point: A ‘Space Corvette’ in Every Garage
The Daily Beast

“The Lynx’s 30-foot fuselage and 24-foot wingspan would fit in a McMansion garage. And it’s as prettier than anything a rich car collector has in there now.”

Beam us up, Beardie!
Private Eye

“WHEN will Sir Richard Branson launch himself into space? ‘What people forget is that it is rocket science,’ he quipped in February. ‘It is complicated. But now every box has been ticked and we’re nearly there.’ Er, how nearly? ‘We have a launch date this summer… By September, I hope to have gone to space.’

“September is upon us, so presumably Beardie Lightyear is now aboard his rocket, preparing to slip the surly bonds of earth with a cry of ‘To infinity and beyond!’ Or, on past form, perhaps not…”

Private space taking shape: Virgin Galactic delays not fatal
Las Cruces Bulletin

“Creating a time line based on past tests of the of its spaceliner, Hynes said a more realistic time line to expect seeing Spaceport America become a frequent destination for those who have $200,000 to $250,000 to spare for a thrill ride is, at best, a year away.

“’That means we can prepare,’ she said. ‘We have time.’”

Promotional Video for Land Rover’s Win a Trip to Space Contest

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Video Caption: This is your chance to go on the ultimate adventure. You and your friends could win a trip to space on a Virgin Galactic commercial flight, courtesy of Land Rover.

Editor’s Note: It’s interesting the competition has one winner and three friends. This is what sources tell me that capacity has been reduced to in the passenger cabin due to changes to SpaceShipTwo. Nobody has acknowledged this officially, but this is a clue that the reports are true.

On a related note, it’s good to see Spaceport America finally being used for something other than the occasional sounding rocket launch. The place has a definite future for cool commercials.

Holly Branson Likely Out of First SpaceShipTwo Commercial Flight

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 Sir Richard Branson and daughter, Holly, look through the window of a SpaceShipTwo shell. (Photo credit: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic)

Sir Richard Branson and daughter, Holly, look through the window of a SpaceShipTwo shell. (Photo credit: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic)

Editor’s Note: It’s official. Sir Richard has been reassuring the British media that Holly will not be the first person to give birth in space — a rather outlandish idea that some in the press corps over there seem strangely fixated on. Welcome to the world, twins! Now get ready for the 6G re-entry. Bizarre.

It would seem that Richard Branson’s daughter Holly will not be joining her famous father and brother Sam on the first SpaceShipTwo commercial flight, which is scheduled for the end of the year from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

“Freddie and I are delighted to share the happy news that we are expecting twins!” Holly Branson announced on Tuesday in a blog post on the Virgin Group’s website.

Passengers aboard SpaceShipTwo are expected to briefly experience up to six times the force of normal gravity during the suborbital flight.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides has said the company plans to conduct a “handful” of additional SpaceShipTwo test flights at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California before moving operations to New Mexico later this year.

The Branson flight is set to kickoff commercial service of the vehicle, for which about 700 people have signed up. Tickets cost $250,000 each.

Virgin Galactic Promotes Doug Shane to TSC President

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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.

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Virgin Galactic Gears Up for Resumption of Flight Tests

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WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo on the tarmac on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo on the tarmac on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Update: No flight on Friday, but there was a hybrid engine test of about 60 seconds on one of the test stands that reportedly went well.

After a six-month gap in flights, it looks as if SpaceShipTwo will once again fly in the Mojave sky, possibly as early as Friday morning.

On Wednesday, SpaceShipTwo was outside on the tarmac underneath its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship for what Virgin Galactic described as a “dry run” for upcoming test flights. There is a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) indicating that the Mojave Air and Space Port’s tower will be open early on Friday morning. It’s possible this is being done to accommodate a SpaceShipTwo test flight, although sometimes the tower opens early for other reasons.

If there is a flight tomorrow, my best guess is it will involve a captive carry or un-powered drop test to evaluate modifications that have been made to SpaceShipTwo. But, perhaps they will surprise us with something more ambitious.

Continue reading ‘Virgin Galactic Gears Up for Resumption of Flight Tests’

SpaceShipTwo Outside on Tarmac Again

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Editor’s Note: SpaceShipTwo hasn’t been seen outside for months now. Its last powered flight was on Jan. 10. A week later, it made a glide flight. That was the last time it was seen in the skies over Mojave.

Sources tell Parabolic Arc that the suborbital ship has been modified with wing tanks. One tank will hold methane that will be used along with nitrous oxide to burn the plastic fuel. The other tank will include helium used to smooth out the end of the motor’s burn.

Company officials have said they expect to conduct a series of powered flights over the summer leading up to the first commercial flight from Spaceport America in New Mexico at the end of the year. That flight will carry Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson and his children.

UAE to Create Space Agency, Send Spacecraft to Mars in 2021

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UAE_Coat_of_ArmsThe United Arab Emirates plans to establish a space agency and to launch for the first Arab spacecraft to Mars by 2021 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the nation’s founding.

“The UAE Mars probe represents the Islamic world’s entry into the era of space exploration,” said President Sheikh Khalifa, according to state news agency WAM.

“We will prove that we are capable of delivering new scientific contributions to humanity.

Continue reading ‘UAE to Create Space Agency, Send Spacecraft to Mars in 2021′

Spaceport America Seeks Loan for Visitors Center as Road Project Progresses

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The mission control room at Spaceport America. (Credit: Alex Heard)

The mission control room at Spaceport America. (Credit: Alex Heard)

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) has approved borrowing $6.5 million to build a Spaceport America visitors center in Truth or Consequences. Meanwhile, Dona Ana County officials are preparing to bid out a contract to pave a southern road that leads to the remote spaceport.

However, the projects won’t measure up to the original plans for them due to funding limitations. The budget squeeze is a result of years of delay in the start of commercial operations by Spaceport America’s anchor tenant, Virgin Galactic.

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