Print 38 comment(s) - last by ShieTar.. on Apr 23 at 3:35 AM

Powered flight could be coming soon

It's been a while since we talked about Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two rocket plane, which had its first test flight back in 2010. Last Friday, the spacecraft conducted another successful milestone as it glided during a test flight that had oxidizer flowing through its engine. Some believe that this gliding test with oxidizer flowing to the engine could indicate that the spacecraft's first powered spaceflight could be coming soon.
SpaceShip Two was connected to the bottom of the WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane and it took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port. The carrier aircraft took the spaceship to 50,000 feet where it released the rocket plane for a test flight lasting just under 11 minutes.

So far SpaceShip Two has yet to make a powered flight despite the fact that its hybrid rocket engine has been extensively tested (including multiple test firings on the ground). So far the rocket has never been activated during flight.

All point to April 22 for the first powered test flight for the spacecraft. Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson recently posted a rather teasing comment that read, "I look forward to seeing you all in Mojave soon."

"Importantly, and for the first time in the air, oxidizer was flowed through the propulsion system and out through the nozzle at the rear of the vehicle — thus successfully accomplishing the 'Cold-Flow' procedure," Virgin Galactic said in a news release. "As well as providing further qualifying evidence that the rocket system is flight-ready, the test also provided a stunning spectacle due to the oxidizer contrail, and for the first time gave a taste of what SpaceShipTwo will look like as it powers to space."

Virgin Galactic says that over 500 people have registered to take the $200,000 suborbital space tour.

Sources: Virgin Galactic, NBC News

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Count me in
By BRB29 on 4/15/2013 11:40:44 AM , Rating: 2
If they can do a 2 day trip to orbit/space. I will gladly pay 250k for it.

RE: Count me in
By JesterDay on 4/15/13, Rating: -1
RE: Count me in
By BRB29 on 4/15/2013 11:53:20 AM , Rating: 2
Have some faith in technology. There's one company that already started making a resort in orbit.

RE: Count me in
By jaytronic on 4/22/2013 12:44:57 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, that is Robert Bigelow's company--Bigelow Aerospace. They have already put up several early versions of his inflatable space habitat--check it out !!

RE: Count me in
By jaytronic on 4/22/2013 12:51:36 PM , Rating: 2
"Bigelow Aerospace, LLC/BIGELOW AEROSPACE, LLC - The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, a small inflatable room, will dock with the international space station in 2015 to test the concept for future deep-space missions."

RE: Count me in
By DanNeely on 4/15/2013 11:56:25 AM , Rating: 3
When they fly the rocket at full power they will be in space. This was just a glide test which can only start from as high as the carrier plane can get; and since the plane is an air breather it has to stay where the air is still thick enough to provide an oxidizer.

RE: Count me in
By Hakuryu on 4/15/13, Rating: 0
RE: Count me in
By DanNeely on 4/15/2013 1:36:36 PM , Rating: 2
Correct; but you fail at reading comprehension. They haven't tested the rocket engine in the air yet. Like their X Prize winning design spaceship 2's first stage is an conventional(ish) airplane that uses airbreathing jet engines. As a result the highest they could go for the glide test was the 50k feet level when the air started getting thin for airbreathing flight. When they do a full on test this after being dropped by the plane they'll start the rocket and continue into space.

RE: Count me in
By Hakuryu on 4/15/2013 3:28:44 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps, but the carrier plane does not use an oxidizer, hence my 'reading comprehension'.

While oxygen is an oxidizer, air is not pure oxygen, and hence it not an oxidizer in the sense an engineer would use the word. An oxidizer reacts with fuel, jet engines heat air and expel it with the gasses from combustion.

Anyone a rocket scientist, and can chime in on this?

RE: Count me in
By Bubbacub on 4/15/2013 4:10:00 PM , Rating: 4
the shuttle solid rocket boosters use ammonium perchlorate as an oxidiser.

the x37 uses peroxide (and RP1 as fuel)

theoretically one could use fluorine or something equally nasty - i wouldnt want to be downwind of the exhaust fume of that type of rocket!

air (as a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen) is the oxidiser for a jet engine.

essentially any form of combustion needs fuel and an oxidiser.

whilst oxygen is an oxidiser there are many other agents that can work as an oxidiser

essentially anything with a high electronegativity can work as an oxidiser - it just needs to be able to be more electronegative than the agent being reduced to take away electrons and thus oxidise the agent in question (usually a fuel in the context of jet/rocket propulsion).

RE: Count me in
By Moto7451 on 4/15/2013 9:47:17 PM , Rating: 2
They weren't testing the air plane. That's a known variable and performed its standard job (lift the actual spacecraft to 50K feet). The way SpaceShip Two (SS2) makes it to space is by being lifted to 50K feet by a specialized airplane and being released to fly the rest of the way under its own power.

The oxidizer test performed on the was the rocket engine of SS2. They flowed NO2 through the engine without igniting anything. If they ignited the engine, the SS2 would accelerate and pitch up.

RE: Count me in
By delphinus100 on 4/17/2013 7:07:10 PM , Rating: 2
We do call jet engines (as opposed to rockets that bring their own oxidizer) 'airbreathing' engines for a reason...

RE: Count me in
By Dukeajuke on 4/15/2013 12:38:47 PM , Rating: 2
This was a test flight. The live flights will reach an altitude of 333,000 feet which is considered space by almost everyone's standards. Is it worth the money? I would have to say no, but right now there are the only game in town for most of the rich astronaut wannabees.

RE: Count me in
By Hammer1024 on 4/15/2013 1:55:47 PM , Rating: 1
Um, yeah... You do realize that WhiteKnight Two carries SpaceShip Two to 50,000 ft. to LAUNCH it right? Guess, not, "right"...

At 50,000 feet they separate; WhiteKnight Two turns and pulls up and away, SpaceShip Two falls.

At 47,000 ft., or there abouts, SpaceShip Two IGNITES its rocket motor and heads for space. The apogee is between 53 and 56 miles in altitude for SpaceShip Two.

50 miles, by treaty, is the definition of space.

I know it's a stretch for most people in this country to educate themselves, but really? Get a frigging clue.

RE: Count me in
By BRB29 on 4/15/2013 12:42:24 PM , Rating: 2
lol did i just get voted down for my willingness to pay for a flight?

RE: Count me in
By topkill on 4/15/2013 12:57:20 PM , Rating: 2
I guess someone on here thinks it's some kind of commie plot and you're really looking to get a subsidy???


RE: Count me in
By Redwin on 4/15/2013 1:20:37 PM , Rating: 3
No, you were voted down because your comment betrays a misunderstanding of the subject at hand, though I'd like to point out that the guy who responded to you about space being 50 miles, not 50k ft, has an even worse misunderstanding.

The Virgin Galactic spaceplane is a suborbital flight. This means it goes up to the edge of space (About 68 miles IIRC) and then falls back down, gliding to a landing. This gets you about 5 min of weightlessness at the peak of the trajectory, and you can see the curvature of the earth and blackness of space above you.

To go up for "a couple days" you would need to reach orbital velocity. While doing its up-down suborbital flight the Virgin Galactic spaceplane accelerates to a bit above Mach 3. This is quite fast, but nowhere near orbital speed, which is somewhere around mach 25. So... SpaceShip2 could never take you to orbit, and would not be able to survive re-entry even if it could.

The 50k ft drop was just a glide test simulating the end of a real flight, with the oxidizer (but not the fuel) running through the engine.

RE: Count me in
By Amiga500 on 4/15/2013 1:37:35 PM , Rating: 3
Indeed. This sub-orbital space-tourism stuff is as far from pukka space-flight as a Prius is from a Formula 1 car.

Not that it isn't a worthwhile business venture as it is the most efficient way to get money from those with the cash to burn who want to say "I've been to space".

RE: Count me in
By BRB29 on 4/15/2013 2:31:59 PM , Rating: 2
I know bro, but you're reading way too much into a comment. I am not here to elaborate or rewrite an article.

all i said was if they can give me a 2 day trip for 250k then I'm game. I don't want to pay 200k for 5 mins of weightlessness. It may not happen for another 20-30 years but this is progress to a reliable affordable space launch. It will get there soon.

RE: Count me in
By JesterDay on 4/16/2013 2:54:55 AM , Rating: 2
I understand just fine. What I'm saying just as MrBlastman said from the original 2010 article is ..until it actually goes into space and returns's just a concept, nothing more. A way to get funding. Most likely this "spacecraft" will never make it into space. Possibly a few revised versions later in the future..but I don't think this one will safely hit space and return.

RE: Count me in
By delphinus100 on 4/17/2013 7:13:37 PM , Rating: 2
The Virgin Galactic spaceplane is a suborbital flight. This means it goes up to the edge of space (About 68 miles IIRC)

100km, or 62.5 miles, or 328,000 feet. Also known as the 'VonKarman line' At that altitude or greater, the air is so thin that in order to get enough lift to avoid stalling, a plane would have to be moving at orbital velocity, anyway...

However, NASA/USAF did give astronaut wings to test pilots who flew the X-15 (or anything else that can) above 50 miles.

And for nuclear detonation purposes, it's considered to be a 'space burst' (as opposed to 'airburst') above 100,000 feet...

RE: Count me in
By fteoath64 on 4/16/2013 1:40:45 AM , Rating: 2
You are not gonna get strapped into place for 48 hours!. With a few hours of "play" floating in that miniscule space inside the craft. This craft is too small for prolonged stay in space. It is potentially good for 2 persons but it seats 6 persons in total in this configuration.

RE: Count me in
By 91TTZ on 4/17/2013 3:33:42 PM , Rating: 2
No you won't. Who on this forum has $250,000 to throw around on a short zoom climb?

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller
Related Articles

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki