Tag: SpaceShipTwo

Southern Road Hits Snag as Spaceport America Seeks More Tenants

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The Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space building with a security fence around it. (Credit: Alex Heard)

The Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space building with a security fence around it. (Credit: Alex Heard)

A couple of updates on Spaceport America.

Southern Road Project Delayed:  A project aimed at turning a 24-mile dirt road to Spaceport America into a “quasi-paved surface” has hit a snag that will delay the project by two to three months. There has been a mismatch between the corridor proposed for the southern road and an environmental review conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Bill Childress, regional BLM director, said the study examined a route originally specified by the county for the proposed road upgrades. But “when we got the final engineering documents from the county, it didn’t match the documents,” Childress said. “We had to inform the county of that.”

Childress said the route distance that didn’t align was “less than a mile,” mainly in one particular location. The route in the engineering plans was offset from that examined in the environmental study by a distance of about “20 to 30 feet.”

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Eleven Years Ago Today…

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White Knight taxis with SpaceShipOne on June 21, 2004.

White Knight taxis with SpaceShipOne on June 21, 2004.

SpaceShipOne became the first private human spacecraft on this day in 2004. Mike Melvill flew the tiny ship to just above 62 miles. SpaceShipOne would fly to space twice more that year to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize before being retired to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic have spent nearly 11 years trying to replicate this feat with the much larger SpaceShipTwo. The results have been a wrecked ship, four dead Scaled Composites employees, and not a single flight anywhere near space. The Mojave Air & Space Port — America’s first inland spaceport — has not seen a human fly into space from it in more than a decade.

I wrote about the Ansari X Prize’s legacy on the eve of SpaceShipTwo’s destruction: Apollo, Ansari and the Hobbling Effects of Giant Leaps

Branson: Virgin Galactic Costing Lots of Money

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Richard Branson speaks to the press at the Mojave Air and Space Port about the crash off SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Richard Branson speaks to the press at the Mojave Air and Space Port about the crash off SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Richard Branson has suggested that Virgin Galactic’s burn rate is $14 million per month (according to an interview with The Independent) or $15 million or month (according to The Express). That would put annual expenses at between $168 and $180 million.

If that’s the burn rate, it will go up quite a bit when flight testing resumes on SpaceShipTwo. Powered flights of the vehicle are reported to cost close to $1 million apiece.

Branson also says he’s trying to raise $400 million for OneWeb, the global satellite Internet program headed by Greg Wyler.  The Virgin Group is an investor in the company and plans to launch a portion of the 900 plus satellites in the constellation with its LauncherOne rocket.

Meet the Virgin Galactic Pilots

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Video Caption: An introduction to our Pilot Corps, narrated by Virgin Galactic’s Chief Pilot, Dave Mackay, including behind the scenes shots of our Spaceship factory.

Videos: SpaceShipTwo Cockpit Nearly Hit Two Truck Drivers

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Following the tragic death of Mike Alsbury in the crash of SpaceShipTwo in October, it was said that  the FAA’s mandate to protect the uninvolved public from harm had been kept. The debris had not injured or killed anyone on the ground.

It was a very near thing, as these two videos I recorded right after the crash demonstrate. Two trucks drivers going in opposite directions were nearly hit by SpaceShipTwo’s cockpit when it slammed into Cantil Road. This was where Alsbury’s body came to rest.

SpaceShipTwo was dropped over the Koehn Lake area because of its low population density. However, the area was unusually crowded because of road construction. The reason we found the cockpit’s impact site is that the Redrock Randsburg Road was being worked on. The site was on the detour route as we tried to reach the site of the largest piece of debris, which had come down on the edge of the lake bed.

The spot where SpaceShipTwo's cockpit crashed. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The spot where SpaceShipTwo’s cockpit crashed. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Apologies for the poor camera work. I was working with a camera with a back display that was hard to see in the bright sunlight.

BBC Newsnight Story on Virgin Galactic

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BBC Newsnight story about Virgin Galactic in which I am interviewed.

There’s also a story by correspondent Mark Urban.  I’m misquoted in the story; there’s been about $600 million  spent on the program as of November, including $390 by the government of Abu Dhabi through Aabar Investments. The story says the Aabar funding is in addition to the $600 million.

Flashback: Virgin Galactic Announces Switch From Rubber to Nylon Engine

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RocketMotorTwo firing. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

RocketMotorTwo firing. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Parabolic Arc Flashback: One year ago, Virgin Galactic announced it changing SpaceShipTwo’s propulsion system from a rubber hybrid to a nylon hybrid engine due to demonstrated better performance. The news was announced on a Friday at the start of long holiday weekends in the U.S. and Britain, a perfect time to dump news when neither reporters nor the public are paying much attention. Sierra Nevada, by the way, was blindsided that their rubber engine was being dropped and their lucrative agreement was going away.

Today, the nylon engine decision is being re-evaluated due to performance. The company recently revealed it is testing both hybid engines again, and it might go back to using the rubber one. That means the company still doesn’t know how its going to power its spacecraft despite being nearly 11 years into the SpaceShipTwo program. That explains why it is taking as long as it is.

MOJAVE, Calif., May 23, 2014 (Virgin Galactic PR) – Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline which is owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS, has selected a polyamide-based fuel grain to power its hybrid rocket motor for the remainder of the test flight program and start of commercial operations. This decision follows numerous ground test firings and is supported by data collected over an extensive development program.

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My Upcoming Talk at ISU-USA Space Cafe in Washington DC

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The International Space University-US Alumni Association’s Washington, DC Chapter presents monthly Space Cafes!  These events bring together prominent experts on space, ISU alumni, the space community, and the interested public in a casual forum that encourages interaction and discussion.

This month’s speaker will be Douglas Messier, managing editor of parabolicarc.com, who will provide an overview of Mojave space activities and discuss the SpaceShipTwo accident.

Please join us on Tuesday, June 2nd at 7 pm to hear what Doug has to say and add your voice to the discussion.  The Space Cafes are hosted by the Science Club, located at 1136 19th Street, NW, Washington, DC on the second floor:  http://www.ScienceClubDC.com/.

There’s no need to RSVP, but if you have questions or suggestions for future speakers, please feel free to contact me at angela.peura@gmail.com.

We’d like to thank the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ National Capital Section for their co-sponsorship of Space Café – we look forward to their participation in this and future events!

See you there!

Virgin Galactic Lowers Second SpaceShipTwo Onto Landing Gear

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Cruz Puts Forth Measure to Extend Commercial Spaceflight Learning Period

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Sen. Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz

Against the wishes of federal regulators, the commercial spaceflight industry would get another five years to learn lessons — and, hopefully, actually fly someone into space — under a bill being sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

That’s the word from SpaceNews, which says it has obtained a draft of the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act set for markup on May 20 by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. The measure would extend restrictions on the Federal Aviation Administration’s authority to regulate the still nascent industry until 2020.

The limits were first put in place in 2004, then extended for three years in 2012. They are due to expire on Sept. 30.

George Nield, who heads up the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, said six months before the fatal SpaceShipTwo crash last year that he wants the quasi-moratorium to end in September. He said that there are safety regulations that can be formulated based on 50 years of human spaceflight. He added that without some basic regulations, irresponsible companies with poor safety practices can enter the industry.

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