Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Takes A Big Step Towards Space

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Takes A Big Step Towards Space

Sir Richard Branson's passenger spaceship broke a few barriers during its short flight.

During a ten minute flight, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo successfully fired its rocket motor and boosted for 16 seconds, blowing past the sound barrier and making it to Mach 1.2. At the conclusion of its ten minute flight, SpaceShipTwo (SS2) touched down in New Mexico at Virgin Galactic's Spaceport America. The flight was a test exercise aimed at getting SS2 ready for space flights by the end of the year. Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo is the model for their commercial spaceline business, where customers will pay a premium price to take flights out into near space. SS2 makes it into the sky using an assist craft, called WhiteKnightTwo, to get up to about 47,000 feet. Once there, SS2 releases and takes over powered flight on its own.

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic's founder, was on the ground in the Mojave when SS2 landed. "The first powered flight of Virgin Spaceship Enterprise was without any doubt, our single most important flight test to date," he said, "For the first time, we were able to prove the key components of the system, fully integrated and in flight. Today's supersonic success opens the way for a rapid expansion of the spaceship's powered flight envelope, with a very realistic goal of full space flight by the year's end."

Branson has been saying that we're going to space with him since about 2004, and his first goal was 2008. Currently, Branson is predicting that we'll enjoy commercial space tourism flights in 2014. Let's hope he gets it done before a decade passes.

Source: Virgin Galactic

If you're into rockets, robots, and the like, you might like the Geekend Update, our weekly science show. It's posted fresh every Saturday.

Permalink

No Sonic boom? Mics or it didn't happen.

I don't know, but who ever is in charge of naming these things has done an awful job. The "WhiteKnightTwo"? What, did you post a "trips names my carrier craft" on /b/? Especially when you consider that the WhiteKnightTwo will most likely also sport at least one big "Virgin".

If I ever win the lottery(which I won't) I'll be booking a flight on this, make my dream come true!

It's not "orbital" nor "into Earth's orbit". The best it will do is "sub-orbital", but it will take people far enough above the Earth's atmosphere to count as "being in space". There's no way the engines on SSII can get the plane up to the 16,000 mph minimum needed to achieve orbit. Put it this way, they got up to Mach 1.2 on this flight, to get to orbit they'd need to go about Mach 23 at minimum. Still a great next step, and the more people work on this, the more competitors they have, and the more often they make flights, the cheaper it will get. Like flying back in 1913, not many people were doing it then, and it was a lot riskier than it is now.

This is their new Launch Platform

It's called the Roc and it's wingspan is bigger than any other aircraft's in history.

My Aunt does a lot of work with Scaled Composites, and their facility is an hour drive from my place. I've seen their old launch platform fly, and for what it is, it's pretty damn maneuverable.

Quaxar:
I don't know, but who ever is in charge of naming these things has done an awful job. The "WhiteKnightTwo"? What, did you post a "trips names my carrier craft" on /b/? Especially when you consider that the WhiteKnightTwo will most likely also sport at least one big "Virgin".

Their new platform is called the Roc.

Andrew Diseker:
It's not "orbital" nor "into Earth's orbit". The best it will do is "sub-orbital", but it will take people far enough above the Earth's atmosphere to count as "being in space". There's no way the engines on SSII can get the plane up to the 16,000 mph minimum needed to achieve orbit. Put it this way, they got up to Mach 1.2 on this flight, to get to orbit they'd need to go about Mach 23 at minimum. Still a great next step, and the more people work on this, the more competitors they have, and the more often they make flights, the cheaper it will get. Like flying back in 1913, not many people were doing it then, and it was a lot riskier than it is now.

I don't think their goal is to get into orbit with it. I'm pretty sure they just want to get high enough to achieve weightlessness for a few minutes then come back down. That doesn't stop this from being a fairly large stepping stone for privatized flight though. Hopefully, in twenty years, it won't cost much more for a ticket to space than an airplane ticket. In fact, we might even see sub orbital flights take over for traditional flights for very long distance voyages. How cool would that be?

On a kind of related note, that drop it takes when it separates from "White Knight Two" would suck. That's at least a good five-hundred feet. Talk about stomach churning.

I wonder what the price of a ticket is. Probably about the equivalent of 50 years pay for me.

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here