Tag: SpaceShipTwo

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)

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.

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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.

A Closer Look at the UK’s Commercial Space Review

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Earth_from_space_graphic
Following the release of the document, “UK Government Review of Commercial Spaceplane Certification and Operations: Summary and Conclusions,” almost all media attention focused on one element of the report: the 8 candidate sites for the nation’s first spaceport.

This laser focus is easy to understand. The fierce, tooth-and-nail competition to land some big government project will be fun to watch. And spaceports are super cool. Well, they are when space planes are actually flying to space. When like a decade goes by with people promising imminent spaceflights without a single one taking place, spaceports become a lot less cool.  (I’m looking at you…everybody in Mojave!)

But, I digress. I went through the 80-page document and the 321-page technical report its based on so you don’t have to. Why would I do this? Because you guys are the best! You’re very welcome.

Key excerpts follow with commentary as appropriate. Read away!

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XCOR, Virgin Galactic Respond to UK Spaceport Plan

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Credit: CAA

Possible UK spaceports (Credit: CAA)

BBC News science correspondent Jonathan Amos has some reactions from XCOR and Virgin Galactic to the UK’s plan to construct a spaceport:

“We expect to start our flight test programme in Q1 of 2015 and be taking people up at the end of 2015 or the beginning of 2016,” said Xcor president Andrew Nelson.

“We could fly out of Scotland, but we like the look particularly of Newquay. It’s excellent that the UK is investigating this because it can only help the market to grow.”

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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.

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Virgin Galactic Launch License on Hold While Legislative Fix is Sought

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SpaceShipTwo on final approach during a glide flight on Jan. 17, 2014. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

SpaceShipTwo on final approach during a glide flight on Jan. 17, 2014. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic’s application for a launch license for SpaceShipTwo has been on hold since January while legislators in Washington attempt to fix a quirk in the Federal Aviation Administration’s regulations governing licenses and experimental permits, the company said.

The specific issue involves a provision in the law that makes an experimental permit invalid once a launch license is issued for a vehicle, according to Will Pomerantz, Virgin Galactic’s vice president for special projects. Flight testing of SpaceShipTwo and its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship is continuing at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

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Virgin Galactic Selects Official Hotel in Las Cruces

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SpaceShipTwo on final approach during a glide flight on Jan. 17, 2014. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

SpaceShipTwo on final approach during a glide flight on Jan. 17, 2014. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

LAS CRUCES, NM, July 7, 2014 (Virgin Galactic PR) – Virgin Galactic, the privately-funded space company owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS, announced today that it has awarded hospitality contracts to two local New Mexico businesses as part of its commitment to invest in the local community.

Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces and World Class Gourmet were carefully selected by Virgin Galactic to be its first official hotel and catering partners, serving the needs of its Future Astronauts who will travel to space from Spaceport America. The New Mexico community and its businesses will be integral to the on-the-ground experience and Virgin Galactic is now starting to select and work with local partners to ensure an authentic, high quality experience.

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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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Ten Years Later, the Future Just Ain’t What It Used to Be

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WhiteKnight with SpaceShipOne on the taxiway prior to the first commercial spaceflight. I'm on the right filming. To my left, Eric Dahlstrom and Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom. (Credit: John Criswick)

WhiteKnight with SpaceShipOne on the taxiway prior to the first commercial spaceflight. I’m on the right filming. To my left, Eric Dahlstrom and Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom. (Credit: John Criswick)

Ten years ago, I was right here in Mojave — not far from where I sit writing this now — watching Mike Melvill make history. He flew Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne to just over 100 km, becoming the first private astronaut of the Space Age.

After gliding to a landing at the Mojave Air and Space Port, Melvill stood triumphantly atop SpaceShipOne before a cheering crowd holding a sign that one of the spectators had made that read: “SpaceShipOne Government Zero.”

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Video of George Whitesides Appearance on the John Batchelor Show

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A video of Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides appearance on the John Batchelor Show on Wednesday. David Livingston of The Space Show co-hosts.