Tag: SpaceShipTwo

The Year Ahead in Space

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Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.

A New Direction for NASA?

NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.

Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.

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Blue Origin Soared, Virgin Galactic Glided & XCOR Stumbled in 2016

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It was a busy year in the development of suborbital human spacecraft, with Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic both taking to the sky and XCOR putting its Lynx space plane on hold.

Continue reading ‘Blue Origin Soared, Virgin Galactic Glided & XCOR Stumbled in 2016’

Will Whitehorn Dissembles About Virgin Galactic’s Risk Management

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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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SpaceShipTwo Glides Again

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SpaceShipTwo being towed back to Virgin Galactic's FAITH hangar after a successful glide flight on Dec. 3, 2016. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

SpaceShipTwo being towed back to Virgin Galactic’s FAITH hangar after a successful glide flight on Dec. 3, 2016. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Virgin Galactic conducted a second glide flight of SpaceShipTwo here in Mojave this afternoon.

The vehicle was piloted by David Mackay and Mark Stucky.  The WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft was piloted by C.J. Sturkow and Nicola Pecile with flight test engineer Dustin Mosher.

This is the second of about a dozen glide flights scheduled for the second SpaceShipTwo. Word is that Virgin Galactic is looking to conduct powered flights by next June.

NASA Will Take 2 Years to Complete Investigation into 2015 Falcon 9 Failure

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Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

NASA’s investigation into the Falcon 9 launch failure that destroyed a Dragon cargo ship in June 2015 keeps getting more and more interesting.

I checked in again last week with the space agency about when it would be releasing a public report on the 18-month old accident. This is what a NASA spokesperson told me (emphasis mine):

NASA’s final report on the SpaceX CRS-7 mishap is still in work. While the report is important in providing NASA historical data of the mishap, the accident involved a version of the Falcon 9 rocket that is no longer in use. Furthermore, while the public summary itself may only be a few pages, the complete report is expected to exceed several hundred pages of highly detailed and technical information restricted by U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations and company-sensitive proprietary information. As a result, NASA anticipates its internal report and public summary will be finalized in the summer 2017.

That is a rather long time, even for a sometimes pokey government agency investigating the failure of a booster variant no longer in use.
Continue reading ‘NASA Will Take 2 Years to Complete Investigation into 2015 Falcon 9 Failure’

Virgin Galactic Video of SpaceShipTwo Glide Flight

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Video Caption: On December 3, 2016, our new SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, flew freely for the first time. This important test marks the first time that a vehicle built by our manufacturing organization, The Spaceship Company, has flown fully under its own control.

In this video, Lead Test Pilot, Mark “Forger” Stucky, explains what it’s like flying VSS Unity for the first time.

Photos Gallery: SpaceShipTwo Unity’s First Glide Flight

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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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Video: Richard Branson Addresses Crowd Before SpaceShipTwo Glide Flight

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Sir Richard Branson ventured out to Mojave Air & Space Port in California for the first glide flight of Virgin Gaalctic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity on Saturday, Dec. 3.

He addressed a crowd of a couple of hundred Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company employees who had gathered near the base of the Mojave control tower to witness the test.

It was the first flight of a SpaceShipTwo vehicle since the first spacecraft Enterprise was destroyed during a powered flight test on Halloween 2014. Unity will undergo a series of glide flights in the months ahead before powered flights begin sometime in 2017.

Keep up with Virgin Galactic and all the latest space news at http://www.parabolicarc.com and http://www.twitter.com/spacecom.

Video: A Festive Atmosphere in Mojave Before SpaceShipTwo Glide Flight

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Recorded at the base of the Mojave Air & Space Port’s control tower about 10 minutes before the drop of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.

It was a festive atmosphere as Sir Richard Branson joined employees of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company and their families to watch the flight test.

This was the first flight test of a SpaceShipTwo in more than two years since the first spacecraft broke up during a flight test on Halloween 2014. Virgin Galactic will conduct a series of these tests before moving on to powered flights sometime in 2017.

Keep up with Virgin Galactic and all the latest space news at http://www.parabolicarc.com and http://www.twitter.com/spacecom.

SpaceShipTwo Glide Flight Scheduled for This Morning

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Good morning from Mojave!

We’re hearing that Virgin Galactic will attempt a glide flight of the SpaceShipTwo Unity later this morning. A Saturday flight test is fairly rare for Mojave.

We also hear that a special guest have ventured all the way from the Caribbean to witness the test. Dress warmly, Richie; it’s 28 F (-2 C) out there.

Ken Brown and I will be out covering the test. I will be tweeting it at http://www.twitter.com/spacecom.

The flight comes just over two years and one month after the destruction of the first SpaceShipTwo Enterprise during its fourth powered flight test. The accident killed Scaled Composites test pilot Mike Alsbury.

The second SpaceShipTwo has made four captive carry flights, one in September and three in November. Two of the November flights were scrubbed drop tests, the first on Nov. 1 due to weather and the second two days later due to an unspecified technical problem.

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WhiteKnightTwo & SpaceShipTwo Conduct Fourth Captive Carry

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The second SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by WhiteKnightTwo on its first captive carry flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

The second SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by WhiteKnightTwo on its first captive carry flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo were back in the sky over Mojave on Wednesday for a captive carry flight of about 2.5 hours.  It was a rare afternoon flight test for the vehicles, which are usually flown in the morning.

Virgin Galactic tweeted that the company had made a few tweaks in the spaceship. Richard Branson’s space line did not provide a schedule for the next flight.

The flight test came nearly three months after the pair’s first captive carry on Sept. 8. Virgin Galactic attempted to perform glide flights on Nov. 1 and Nov. 3. The first was canceled after takeoff by high winds at the Mojave Air and Space Port landing site. The second was scrubbed just prior to release by an unspecified technical problem.

Virgin Galactic Outlines SpaceShipTwo Flight Test Program

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Credit: Virgin Galactic

Credit: Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic has published a blog post outlining the upcoming series of glide flights.

These flights will cumulatively allow us to test and prove the performance of the vehicle in a variety of conditions: both heavy (e.g. simulating the full weight of a load of fuel, oxidizer, and people) and light (with empty tanks) and in between, at a variety of flight path angles and airspeeds, and so forth.

This testing of the “corners of the box” is designed to demonstrate how VSS Unity will perform as it returns from space, after the feather system is retracted and the vehicle becomes a glider and lands on the runway like an airplane. In addition, this phase of flight will also demonstrate and test our abort modes – which culminate in a safe glide back to the runway.

Our first glide flight will be focused on testing the fundamental performance and handling qualities of VSS Unity. For this first test, we will keep the vehicle at a light weight and will place a “speed limit” on the pilots (Mach 0.6). Once we analyze the results from this test, we will be cleared to go faster on subsequent tests.

Read the full post.

A Halloween Nightmare in Mojave

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It was raining in the desert. It was coming down in buckets.

A cold, hard rain was slamming against the windows of the house. The first real rain since….I couldn’t even remember. That’s how rare rain is out here. Months and months go by with little or no rainfall.

Continue reading ‘A Halloween Nightmare in Mojave’

SpaceShipTwo Drop Test Set for Tuesday

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SpaceShipTwo glides toward a landing with its chase plane close behind at lower right. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

SpaceShipTwo glides toward a landing with its chase plane close behind at lower right. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Virgin Galactic plans to conduct the first glide test of the second SpaceShipTwo on Tuesday, Nov. 1. It will be the first flight of the spaceship and its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft since a captive carry test on Sept. 8.

The flight, which will take place from the Mojave Air and Space Port, will come two years and 1 day after the first SpaceShipTwo broke up during a powered test flight, killing Scaled Composites pilot Mike Alsbury and injuring pilot Pete Siebold.

Virgin Galactic pilot C.J. Sturckow confirmed the date of the flight test during an event on Saturday at the Explorers Club in New York City, according to SpaceNews reporter Jeff Foust.

Sturckow told attendees Virgin Galactic plans “‘spot check’ the glide flight envelope of SS2 and move into powered flight tests in early 2017,” according to a tweet posted by Foust.

Program Updates from ISPCS

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The second SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by WhiteKnightTwo on its first captive carry flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

The second SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by WhiteKnightTwo on its first captive carry flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

NASA and various commercial companies gave updates on their programs during the International Symposium on Commercial and Personal Spaceflight this week in Las Cruces, NM.

What follows are summaries that include:

  • suborbital programs (Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin)
  • commercial cargo (SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Corporation)
  • commercial crew (NASA, Boeing, ULA).

The summaries are based on Twitter posts from attendees. A big thanks to Thanks to Tanya Harrison (‏@tanyaofmars), Frank Slazer ‏(@FSlazer), Jeff Foust (‏@jeff_foust), Michael Simpson ‏(@SpaceSharer), and Melissa Sampson (‏@DrSampson) for the coverage.

Continue reading ‘Program Updates from ISPCS’