Virgin Galactic Takes Spaceflight To New Heights

Virgin Galactic Takes Spaceflight To New Heights

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo spacecraft reached 71,000 feet in its third successful and very beautiful test flight.

Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic took a big step toward its plan of making private, "routine" spaceflight a reality last week with the third successful test flight of SpaceShipTwo, a rocket-powered, six-passenger ship that flies like a conventional glider in atmosphere but also employs a small thruster setup known as the Reaction Control System to allow for maneuverability while in space. SS2 flew to 71,000 feet during the test flight, well below its designed maximum altitude of 361,000 feet but more than enough demonstrate the viability of its systems.

"2014 will be the year when we will finally put our beautiful spaceship in her natural environment of space," Virgin mastermind Sir Richard Branson said. "Today, we had our own Chief Pilot flying another flawless supersonic flight and proving the various systems required to take us safely to space, as well as providing the very best experience while we're up there."

Unlike conventional rockets, SS2 is carried into the air by WhiteKnight2, a dual-fuselage aircraft that flies to approximately 46,000 and then releases its payload. After a few seconds of freefall, SS2's rocket engines ignite, powering the craft to its apogee. "Drop launches" like this are actually a fairly common system for testing experimental aircraft; Chuck Yeager became the first man to break the sound barrier with the Bell X-1, which was launched in the same fashion from a B29 bomber.

I don't mind admitting that I get goosebumps watching this video. It took thousands of years of technological evolution to achieve powered flight, yet in just the past hundred we've gone from the flimsiest and most primitive of aircraft to these magnificent machines. For all that's wrong with the world today, it's good to have a reminder now and then that we truly do live in a remarkable and wonderful time.

Source: Virgin Galactic

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As awesome as it'd be to pilot a spaceplane, the concept of "Private, 'routine' spaceflight" isn't and won't be a viable industry until there were actual places for people to go to in space on a routine basis.

I blame the politicians.

That brought a tear to my eye. Wow. I haven't actually seen the plane in flight yet. I'm floored. It's so damn beautiful. I wonder if the cockpit is soundproofed. If I were the pilot I'd be screaming out "WOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!" every time the ship dropped from her escort and fired that friggin' beautiful rocket off. Might scare the passengers.

This still hasn't gone as high as an SR-71. It's great for a six passenger commercial vehicle, but I thought they were moving fast on the project a few years ago. Still, it's just a tourist attraction. Most of the data gathered won't be useful for decades until they can dock a plane like these to a space port or drop off supplies at their flight's apex for rendezvous with a space station in low orbit

It almost looks like CGI! That's the most beautiful rocket exhaust I've ever seen.

What did that trailer for the movie interstellar say? "We're pioneers. And our greatest achievements can't be behind us." Well, if we keep making stuff like this...they won't have to be.

Hairless Mammoth:
This still hasn't gone as high as an SR-71. It's great for a six passenger commercial vehicle, but I thought they were moving fast on the project a few years ago.

You don't test your new design to the limits right out of the gate. Besides, Space Ship One, the predecessor to this, already made it over 367,000 feet before. And this one was designed for 361,000 feet. There's little reason to doubt it will get there in good order.

So how many monies does Branson have anyway, an Infinillion?

That's really cool though, things like this just makes me feel all good and stuff.

I'm with you, Andy. I fully admit this made me get all giddy.

I know, I know, not economically viable, blah blah blah.

I don't care. It's the future and it is awesome.

On the topic of not having anywhere for something like this to go... Give Branson and people like him time and they will put somewhere up there to go. The governments won't do it, we have seen that. No matter how much we might actually want to. Might as well let those who want to do so... well... do so at this point.

Grenge Di Origin:
As awesome as it'd be to pilot a spaceplane, the concept of "Private, 'routine' spaceflight" isn't and won't be a viable industry until there were actual places for people to go to in space on a routine basis.

I blame the politicians.

Baby steps.
Fly anywhere in the world in less then an hour now, Eating Dinner on the moon 100 years from now.

Vivi22:

Hairless Mammoth:
This still hasn't gone as high as an SR-71. It's great for a six passenger commercial vehicle, but I thought they were moving fast on the project a few years ago.

You don't test your new design to the limits right out of the gate. Besides, Space Ship One, the predecessor to this, already made it over 367,000 feet before. And this one was designed for 361,000 feet. There's little reason to doubt it will get there in good order.

Whoops. I just realized this isn't the original Virgin Galactic vehicle I read about years ago. I guess I haven't been paying attention enough because they market these mostly as tourist attractions for the stinking rich instead of the useful space planes they could become in a few decades.

direkiller:

Grenge Di Origin:
As awesome as it'd be to pilot a spaceplane, the concept of "Private, 'routine' spaceflight" isn't and won't be a viable industry until there were actual places for people to go to in space on a routine basis.

I blame the politicians.

Baby steps.
Fly anywhere in the world in less then an hour now, Eating Dinner on the moon 100 years from now.

That's just it; I have too short a life to live to have my society fuck around so much that by the time I can finally realize my dream of going to space/the moon publicly that I'd be dead. Sure, I can donate my life's savings to NASA, but in the end the power of the individual can't do a damn bit of good. That's just how powerless and hopeless the reality of living in today's world is. For all the potential we have as a species, we've frozen time and progress itself into a slow, grueling crawl, our negligence and refusal to grow turning our world into a medieval version of itself.
And before you say "technological singularity," I listen to proven theories/concepts, or examples, at the very least.

 

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