Tag: virgin galactic

The Second Space Age is Beginning…and It’ll Be Awesome

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Video Caption: Will Pomerantz, Virgin Galactic’s VP of Special Projects, explains how the second space age promises to open up a new world of exciting opportunities.

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)

Update: No flight on Friday, but there was a hybrid engine test of about 60 seconds on one of the test stands that reportedly went well.

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.

Stu Witt to Remain Head of Mojave Spaceport for Extra 6 Months

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Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)

Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)

Mojave Air and Space Port CEO/General Manager Stu Witt is postponing his retirement by six months.

Witt had planned to step down no later than July 1, 2015. However, last week the Mojave Spaceport Board of Directors approved a six month extension until January 2016.

The extension is apparently related to the board’s meandering effort to replace Witt, who announced his intention to step down last year. Board President JoAnn Painter told the Antelope Valley Press the board is still working on a “template for managing the succession” that would be put into place six months before Witt departs.

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A Closer Look at the UK’s Commercial Space Review

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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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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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Boeing, Northrop and Masten Get Funding for DARPA’s XS-1 Space Plane

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WASHINGTON (DARPA PR) — In an era of declining budgets and adversaries’ evolving capabilities, quick, affordable and routine access to space is increasingly critical for both national and economic security. Current satellite launch systems, however, require scheduling years in advance for a handful of available slots. Launches often cost hundreds of millions of dollars each, in large part to the massive amounts of dedicated infrastructure and personnel required.

DARPA created its Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program to help overcome these challenges and create a new paradigm for more routine, responsive and affordable space operations. In an important step toward that goal, DARPA has awarded prime contracts for Phase 1 of XS-1 to three companies:

  • The Boeing Company (working with Blue Origin, LLC)
  • Masten Space Systems (working with XCOR Aerospace)
  • Northrop Grumman Corporation (working with Virgin Galactic)

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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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