Virgin Galactic’s Attenborough Promises Greater Safety on SpaceShipTwo

SpaceShipTwo glides to a landing at Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic Commercial Director Stephen Attenborough was in Australia where he made a presentation in which he promised a greater level of safety for the company’s shrunken base of customers.

“We are a better and safer company as a result of that incident. One of the outcomes of testing is failure. We live in a risk averse world and it can come as a shock when something like that happens,’’ Mr Attenborough told the State Library audience, which included ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott.

“We have (since) looked at every element of the vehicle and every element of the operation.’’

Virgin Galactic is locked in a race with the likes of private firms Blue Origin and billionaire Tesla founder Elon Musk’s Space X to be the first private company to successfully send commercial passengers into space….

Already 650 people have bought tickets to fly, including celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. But if you bought a ticket today, you would get to the front of the queue by around 2021, according to Mr Attenborough.

Virgin Galactic officials had previously stated the number of ticket holders to be around 700. The company had cancellations after the first SpaceShipTwo was destroyed in a test flight on Halloween 2014.

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SpaceShipTwo Flight Test Scheduled for this Morning

SpaceShipTwo glides through the Mojave sky followed by an Extra chase plane. (Credit; Ken Brown)

Word has it that Virgin Galactic has scheduled the fourth glide flight of SpaceShipTwo Unity this morning in Mojave. The test will be the first for Richard Branson’s suborbital space plane in more than two months.

Cell service permitting,  I will be providing coverage of the test at www.twitter.com/spacecom

On the test card for today is deployment of the new spaceship’s redesigned feather system, which re-configures the ship when it returns from space. Unity will be hauled aloft to an altitude of about 50,000 feet by the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft Eve.

The premature deployment of the feather system during powered ascent led to the destruction of the first SpaceShipTwo Enterprise during a flight test on Oct. 31, 2014. Scaled Composites pilot Mike Alsbury died in the accident. Virgin Galactic has added a mechanism to the feather system to prevent premature deployment of the feather.

The weather forecast looks good for the flight, with sunny skies and low surface wind speeds.

There’s a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) for the operation of an unmanned aerial system (UAS) at the spaceport from 6 a.m. to noon. It’s not clear who will be operating the system, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Virgin Galactic is aiming to capture video of the flight from the air.

The six-hour period for UAS operations overlaps with the likely window for a SpaceShipTwo flight test. So, it is unlikely that this is a coincidence.

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Roscosmos: No Immediate Plans to Send Tourists to ISS

Dennis Tito

A top Russian space official has warned not to expect a resumption of space tourist flights to the International Space Station any time soon.

Russia’s Roscosmos state corporation has no plans to send space tourists to the country’s segment of the International Space Station (ISS) before 2020, Roscosmos deputy director general for international cooperation told Sputnik in an interview.

“As for sending tourists to the Russian segment of the ISS, Roscosmos has no plans to implement such flights before 2020 because of the absence of the relevant capabilities,” Sergey Savelyev said.

He added that space tourism was not limited by ISS-related projects and Russia’s corporation was interested in attracting tourists.

Seven space tourists made eight visits to ISS during the 2000’s, beginning with Dennis Tito in 2001 and ending with Guy Laliberte in 2009. The most recent attempt to send a tourist to the station fell through when British singer Sarah Brightman pulled out of a planned trip in 2015.

Video: Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides Interview

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides was interviewed on the TMRO Space show on Saturday. The interview begins at 20:54 in the above video.

Below are the highlights of the interview.

SpaceShipTwo

Whitesides was asked whether SpaceShipTwo could fly above the Karman line at 100 km (62.1 miles), which is the internationally recognized boundary of space. He didn’t provide a yes or no answer.

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SpaceX to Send Two Space Tourists Around the Moon in 2018

SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission.

Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration. We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year.

Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow. Additional information will be released about the flight teams, contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness test results.

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Virgin Galactic Rolled Out Unity a Year Ago

Richard Branson rolls out Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship Unity in Mojave. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

One year ago today, Virgin Galactic rolled out the second SpaceShipTwo Unity in a lavish ceremony inside the FAITH hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

The new spacecraft made its first captive carry flight with the WhiteKnightTwo mother ship in September. It has since made three additional captive carry tests and a pair of glide flights in December.

Virgin Galactic has said it plans around 10 glide flights before beginning powered tests later this year. Unity will eventually fly paying passengers from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Richard Branson Returning to Mojave With Brian Cox in Tow

Richard Branson addresses the crowd before SpaceShipTwo’s glide flight. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

A source tells us that Richard Branson is scheduled to return to Mojave next week to lead a tour for some of Virgin Galactic’s roughly 700 ticket holders. Virgin does these trips for ticket holders periodically, but the boss doesn’t always participate, so this is a BFD.

Along for the trip will be Brian Cox, a British physicist and well-known television presenter, the source tells us. We here at ParacolicArc weren’t  sure exactly what that was at first. We initially envisioned someone who shows up at the house along with your new TV to explain its features of your new flast screen, program the remote, hook up the satellite receiver, and do all the rest of it.

That was wrong. It turns out a television presenter is what we Americans call a host. Cox appears to be their version of Neil deGrasse Tyson and/or Bill Nye.

Cox was very vocal in supporting Virgin Galactic after the Oct. 31, 2014 fatal accident that destroyed the first SpaceShipTwo and killed Scaled Composites test pilot Mike Alsbury.

Readers of this blog will recall Branson was here on Dec. 1 to witness the second SpaceShipTwo’s first glide flight. SpaceShipTwo flew again on Dec. 22, but has not done a glide flight since.

With Branson showing up with the ticket holders and Cox in tow, it’s a good bet another glide flight is coming soon. The boss won’t want to explain a two-month gap in flights to folks who have been waiting years for their trip to space.

Update: It’s occurred to me that Virgin Galactic rolled out SpaceShipTwo No. 2 on Feb. 19, 2016. So, the visit next week is coming a year later.

That’s good timing from a PR perspective. There have been only two glide flights to date.  A visit by Branson with Brian Cox and ticket holders in tow is a good distraction for anyone (press, public or customers) who might question the pace of the flight test program.

The timing fits a pattern. WhiteKnightTwo was rolled out a year and two days after the fatal nitrous oxide explosion that killed three engineers. Virgin attempted the first drop test of the second SpaceShipTwo two years and a day after the first spacecraft was destroyed. (It was scrubbed by weather, and the first flight was not completed until a month later.)

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Karlie Kloss: Supermodel, Hacker and Space Tourist?

Karlie Kloss on the runway in 2014. (Credit: Christopher Macsurak)

Supermodel Karlie Kloss has traveled the world, but there’s one place she really to visit.

“I’d love to go to space someday!” she told Marie Claire in an interview.

Kloss has done a photo shoot at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.

Last year, the American model visited Kennedy Space Center with her family.

the only other thing on this runway is rocket ships 😜

A video posted by Karlie Kloss (@karliekloss) on

Virgin Galactic Selects OneStrand LLC To Provide S1000D Technical Documentation Software And Services

SpaceShipTwo glides to a landing at Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
SpaceShipTwo glides to a landing at Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

PORTLAND, January 18, 2017 (OneStrand PR) — After an extensive technical evaluation, Virgin Galactic has selected OneStrand LLC as their preferred supplier of S1000D technical publishing software, services and support. The R4i S1000D product suite will provide the technology required to create, manage and leverage technical information vital to the operation and maintenance of Virgin Galactic’s human spaceflight systems.

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Spaceport America Southern Road Improvements Move Forward

Richard Branson and his children hang out with Project Bandaloop dancers during the dedication of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space facility. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Richard Branson and his children hang out with Project Bandaloop dancers during the dedication of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space facility in October 2011. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

A project to improve a 24-mile dirt road to Spaceport America is moving forward, the Las Cruces Sun-News reports.

Doña Ana County commissioners in mid-December OK’d an agreement with several government entities involved in the southern-road project that spells out its parameters and how historical and cultural sites will be protected during construction.
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Will Whitehorn Dissembles About Virgin Galactic’s Risk Management

Will Whitehorn gives a pat on the back to Richard Branson as he greets Virgin Galactic ticketholders during the Oshkosh air show in 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Will Whitehorn gives a pat on the back to Richard Branson as he greets Virgin Galactic ticketholders during the Oshkosh air show in 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

This interview with Virgin Galactic’s first president, Will Whitehorn, sums up pretty much everything that went wrong with Virgin’s approach to safety as it relates SpaceShipTwo and human spaceflight.

It’s one thing to embrace risk and see it as necessary cost of innovation when you’re dealing with 747’s, passenger trains, cell phones and the myriad other ventures the Virgin Group has pursued. These are mature technologies; most of the technical risks have been ironed out. The main concern is the business will fail and Virgin would lose money.

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Japanese Space Tourism Company Receives Investments

A planned suborbital space plane. Credit: (PD AeroSpace Ltd. / Koike Terumasa Design and Aerospace)
A planned suborbital space plane. Credit: (PD AeroSpace Ltd. / Koike Terumasa Design and Aerospace)

A Japanese company hoping to build a suborbital tourism vehicle has received an investment from ANA Holding and a Japanese travel agency.

The airline, Japan’s largest by sales, invested ¥20.4 million ($179,000) into PD Aerospace in October, while H.I.S. Co., the nation’s largest publicly listed travel agent by sales, invested ¥30 million [$264,390] at the same time, the companies said in a joint statement with PD Aerospace Thursday.

PD Aerospace, founded in 2007, is vying with billionaire Branson’s commercial space company Virgin Galactic and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin to ferry individuals to the edge of space in reusable craft. The Japanese company is first developing a smaller unmanned craft and will then build a ship capable of carrying as many as eight people 100 kilometers above the Earth.

“We need bigger investments in the future,” PD Aerospace President Shuji Ogawa told reporters in Tokyo. Creating a space craft is “taking longer than planned because we didn’t have the funds,” he said.

The company is aiming to start commercial flights with a manned craft in December 2023, it said in the statement. Its website listed 2020 as the targeted year.

Read the full story.

Photos Gallery: SpaceShipTwo Unity’s First Glide Flight

Richard Branson addresses the crowd before SpaceShipTwo's glide flight. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)
Richard Branson addresses the crowd before SpaceShipTwo’s glide flight. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)
SpaceShipTwo glides over the Mojave Desert after being released from its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship. (Credit; Virgin Galactic)
SpaceShipTwo glides over the Mojave Desert after being released from its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship. (Credit; Virgin Galactic)
SpaceShipTwo glides to a landing at Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
SpaceShipTwo glides to a landing at Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
SpaceShipTwo glides through the Mojave sky followed by an Extra chase plane. (Credit; Ken Brown)
SpaceShipTwo glides through the Mojave sky followed by an Extra chase plane. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)
SpaceShipTwo comes in for a landing at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)
SpaceShipTwo comes in for a landing at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)
SpaceShipTwo rolls to a stop on the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)
SpaceShipTwo rolls to a stop on the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)
Richard Branson and George Whitesides gaze out at SpaceShipTwo after it came to a stop on Runway 12. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Richard Branson and George Whitesides gave out at SpaceShipTwo after it came to a stop on Runway 12. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Richard Branson moves to embrace SpaceShipTwo pilots David Mackay and Mark Stucky. To Branson's right in Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)
Richard Branson moves to embrace SpaceShipTwo pilots David Mackay and Mark Stucky. To Branson’s right is Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)
Richard Branson (l) and George Whitesides (r) walk with SpaceShipTwo pilots David Mackay and Mark Stucky after a successful glide flight. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)
Richard Branson (l) and George Whitesides (r) walk with SpaceShipTwo pilots David Mackay and Mark Stucky after a successful glide flight. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)
SpaceShipTwo being towed back to Virgin Galactic's FAITH hangar after a successful glide flight. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
SpaceShipTwo being towed back to Virgin Galactic’s FAITH hangar after a successful glide flight. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

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