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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



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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 safely..it'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
quote:
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...


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