Suborbital Flights Stopped Being So Humdrum in 2018

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo’s first flight above 50 miles on Dec. 13, 2018. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

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by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Throughout the Space Age, suborbital flight has been the least exciting segment of the launch market. Operating in the shadow of their much larger orbital cousins, sounding rockets carrying scientific instruments, microgravity experiments and technology demonstrations have flown to the fringes of space with little fanfare or media attention.

The suborbital sector has become much more dynamic in recent years now that billionaires have started spending money in it. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic both made significant progress last year in testing New Shepard and SpaceShipTwo, respectively. Their achievements have raised the real possibility of suborbital space tourism flights in 2019. (I know. Promises, promises…. But, this year they might finally really do it. I think.)

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ISRO Commissions Advanced Hypersonic Wind Tunnel

Hypersonic wind tunnel (Credit: ISRO)

SATISH DHAWAN, India (ISRO PR) — In the quest to reduce the cost of access to space and to extend the frontiers of space exploration, ISRO has ventured into Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) and Re-entry missions, Air-breathing propulsion technology demonstration and Interplanetary missions. These missions encounter design criticalities at Hypersonic Mach number regime and need rigorous aero-thermodynamic characterisation at these Mach numbers.

In order to cater to the above need, Industrial type Hypersonic Wind Tunnel and Shock Tunnel have been established at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC).

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ISRO Establishes Rocket Nozzle Testing Facility

ISRO_logoBANGALORE, India (ISRO PR) — Performance improvement in propulsion systems is essential towards achieving cost effective launch vehicles. Apart from propellant energetics, the nozzle plays a vital role in improving propulsion system performance. Therefore by improving performance of existing nozzles and by developing new nozzle concepts, which can operate at both low and high altitude regimes, it is possible to obtain significant gains in the delivered specific impulse of rockets. With these objectives, ISRO has established Nozzle Testing Laboratories (NTL) at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre¬†(VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram.

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