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Getting ready for SpaceShipTwo (SS2) powered flights to commence, so it's time for a fresh thread.

Repeating: SS2 is a commercial suborbital spaceplane that will carry a crew of 2, 6 passengers and/or experiments that only need a short period of microgravity. For external experiments there are external payload bays conforming to microsatellite form factors, and it can be fitted with NanoRacks internal bays that conform to Space Shuttle mid-bay locker standards.

SS2 is powered by a Sierra Nevada-SpaceDev RocketMotorTwo (RM2) hybrid rocket engine similar to those that will be used in Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser orbital spaceplane. Hybrid rockets use a solid fuel but a liquid oxidizer, which unlike other solid rockets allows them to throttle, be shut down, and re-started.

SS2 is launched by the WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) mothership at 50,000+ feet, after which it fires its rocket, noses up and flies to over 62 miles (100 km), stays a while, then it re-enters.

On the way down SS2 folds its wing upward into a "feathered" configuration akin to a badminton shuttlecock. This produces both high drag and passive stability until it gets lower into the atmosphere. Then the wing is moved back into its normal flight configuration for a glide landing like the Shuttle.

SS2 #1 will be named VSS Enterprise, and SS2 #2 will be VSS Voyager.

WK2 #1 is named VMS Eve after Richard Branson's mother, a young version of which is depicted as "Galactic Girl" in Virgin Galactic's logo. WhiteKnightTwo #2 will be named "VMS Spirit of Steve Fossett", for reasons explained in the story below.

http://www.parabolicarc.com/2013/04/06/will-spaceshiptwo-fly-under-power-this-month/

The rumor mill in Mojave has it that we will be seeing the first powered test flight of Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo by the end of this month. One specific date that has been rumored is April 22, which would have marked the 69th birthday of the late businessman and adventurer Steve Fossett.

In 2005, Fossett set an aviation record by flying the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer around the world solo without stopping or refueling. That aircraft was built in Mojave by Scaled Composites, the developer of SpaceShipTwo, and backed by the Virgin Group, the company building SpaceShipTwo. Flying the space plane under power on his birthday would be a poignant tribute to Fossett, who died in a plane crash in California?s Sierra Nevada mountains two years after making his solo around-the-world flight.

Meeting that deadline would be tight, but possible. SpaceShipTwo completed the second of three planned glide flights with the engine installed on Wednesday. A third flight would be necessary in the coming weeks with a quick turnaround for a powered test.

Virgin Galactic CEO and President George Whitesides has said the powered flight program will involve firing the ship?s engine for increasingly longer periods of time, culminating in a suborbital flight into space above 100 km (62.5 miles). The company hopes to fly that mission by the end of the year, with commercial flights beginning out Spaceport America in New Mexico in 2014.

SS2 & WK2

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Feathered configuration

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Landing at the Mojave Spaceport

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spaceshiptwo-fourth-drop-test-runway-110113.jpg

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Its a lot smaller than I thought.

This version doesn't have enough power to make it into Orbit does it? Do you know if they have a plan for one that will get further into space? IE to the ISS?

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SS2 is about the size of a Gulfstream jet so it's not that small.

It is suborbital only, but Virgin Galactic has plans for both orbital and transcontinental hypersonic transports. IMO their orbital aspirations could be sped up by simply buying a fleet of Dream Chasers, but it ain't my money.

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OK, the throttle works - LET'S LIGHT THIS CANDLE!!

original.jpg

http://www.virgingalactic.com/news/item/spaceshiptwo-advances-towards-powered-flight-with-spectacular-cold-flow-test/

SpaceShipTwo Advances Towards Powered Flight with Spectacular ?Cold-Flow? Test

History continues to be made in the skies above the Mojave Desert. Hot on the heels of last week?s nitrous venting and feather test, SpaceShipTwo achieved another successful first today with a spectacular ?Cold Flow? flight.

The test objectives were successfully met, advancing another important step towards powered flight.

In preparation for SpaceShipTwo?s first powered flight, the test teams from Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic completed the profile of the upcoming milestone flight ? apart from actually igniting the rocket. 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.

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.

The upcoming first powered flight of SpaceshipTwo is in many ways the most significant milestone to date, being the first time that the spaceship has flown with all systems installed and fully operational. It?s an incredibly exciting stage of the program. Keep tuned in to our Twitter and Facebook accounts for more breaking news from Mojave.

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Powered flight #1 on MONDAY!

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2013/apr/23/virgin-atlantics-los-angeles--las-vegas-flight-isn/#ixzz2RKtsmSvU

[Question] That?s your Virgin Galactic project. What?s ahead for that?

[branson's Answer:] We?re hoping to break the sound barrier. That?s planned Monday. It will be a historic day. This is going to be Virgin Galactic?s year. We?ll break the sound barrier Monday and from there, we build up through the rest of the year, finally going into space near the end of the year. I?ll be on the first official flight, which we look to have in the first quarter of next year. We?re doing a number of test flights into space first.

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Ramping up for todays first powered flight of SpaceShipTwo -

@SpaceGurlEvie: Best of Luck to pilots David Mackay WK2 @virgingalactic & Mark Stucky SS2 Scaled Composites on 1st powered flight tomorrow. Safe Landing!

Notice:

!MHV 04/030 MHV Aerodrome AIRPORT Closed TO TRANSIENT Aircraft Except Pilot Permission Required 661-824-2433 EXPECT DELAYS Effective from 1304290100-1304301900

Point of reference;

In its first powered flight SpaceShipOne climbed at a 70? angle, accelerated at 3 g (30 m/s?) at a rate of climb of ~80,000 feet / minute, and peaked at a velocity of Mach 1.2 at 67,800 feet (20.7 km).

SS2 will start higher and has a more powerful engine, so let's see what happens.

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SUCCESS!!

@peterdiamandes Beautiful 16 second engine burn on SpaceShipTwo first powered flight. Perfect performance. Space here we come! @VirginGalactic

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Eh.. Impressive and all, but until they can make it out as far as the ISS, it's not there yet.

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It is suborbital, not orbital, and its full flight profile is enough for NASA and others to fly science missions. Ditto for XCOR's Lynx.

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http://cosmiclog.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/29/17969959-spaceshiptwo-lights-up-its-rocket-for-first-time-and-goes-supersonic

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane lit up its engine for the first time in flight on Monday, taking a giant supersonic leap toward outer space.

The crucial blast took place at about 7:50 a.m. PT (10:50 a.m. ET), high above California's Mojave Air and Space Port. Virgin Group's billionaire founder, Richard Branson, was closely watching the proceedings. "What a feeling to be on the ground with all the team in Mojave to witness Virgin Galactic go faster than the speed of sound," Branson wrote in a blog post.

Branson wasn't the only one watching: Rocket aficionados flocked to viewing areas near the airport to see the blastoff. Until Monday, Mojave-based Scaled Composites, which is building and testing the plane for Virgin Galactic's eventual use, had tested SpaceShipTwo only by dropping it from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane and having its pilots guide the plane back through unpowered glides back to the runway. The engine, powered by a rubber-based solid fuel and nitrous oxide, had been fired only on the ground.

Monday's test was radically different: WhiteKnightTwo released SpaceShipTwo from its traditional drop zone, at an altitude of around 50,000 feet. But after the rocket plane glides clear from the mothership, its pilot lit up the engine and pointed SpaceShipTwo upward into the sky for a roughly 16-second blast. After the engine cutoff, the plane coasted back to its landing back at the Mojave airport.

Test pilots Mark Stucky and Mike Alsbury were at SpaceShipTwo's controls for Monday's flight, Virgin Galactic said. Afterward, the company said in a tweet that the pilots confirmed "SpaceShipTwo exceeded the speed of sound on today's flight!"

Eventually, SpaceShipTwo could break the space barrier as well as the sound barrier ? just as its predecessor, SpaceShipOne, did in 2004. When the single-piloted SpaceShipOne made repeated flights beyond an altitude of 100 kilometers (62 miles), which is the internationally accepted boundary of outer space, it won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for private spaceflight. Ever since then, Virgin Galactic has been funding the multimillion-dollar development effort to create a fleet of passenger space planes.

>

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COOL!! :D

VIRGIN GALACTIC BREAKS SPEED OF SOUND IN FIRST ROCKET-POWERED FLIGHT OF SPACESHIPTWO

Sir Richard Branson witnesses vehicle-proving milestone as company sets year-end goal for spaceflight

MOJAVE, Calif. ? Today, Virgin Galactic, the world?s first commercial spaceline owned by Sir Richard Branson?s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi?s aabar Investments PJC, completed the first rocket-powered flight of its space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2). The test, conducted by teams from Scaled Composites (Scaled) and Virgin Galactic, officially marks Virgin Galactic?s entrance into the final phase of vehicle testing prior to commercial service from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

?The first powered flight of Virgin Spaceship Enterprise was without any doubt, our single most important flight test to date,? said Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson, who was on the ground in Mojave to witness the occasion. ?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. We saw history in the making today and I couldn?t be more proud of everyone involved.?

The test began at 7.02am local time when SS2 took off from Mojave Air and Space Port mated to WhiteKnightTwo (WK2), Virgin Galactic?s carrier aircraft. Piloting SS2 were Mark Stucky, pilot, and Mike Alsbury, co-pilot, who are test pilots for Scaled, which built SS2 for Virgin Galactic. At the WK2 controls were Virgin Galactic?s Chief Pilot Dave Mackay, assisted by Clint Nichols and Brian Maisler, co-pilot and flight test engineer, respectively, for Scaled.

Upon reaching 47,000 feet altitude and approximately 45 minutes into the flight, SS2 was released from WK2. After cross-checking data and verifying stable control, the pilots triggered ignition of the rocket motor, causing the main oxidizer valve to open and igniters to fire within the fuel case. At this point, SS2 was propelled forward and upward to a maximum altitude of 55,000 feet. The entire engine burn lasted 16 seconds, as planned. During this time, SS2 went supersonic, achieving Mach 1.2.

?We partnered with Virgin Galactic several years ago with the aspiration to transform and commercialize access to space for the broader public,? said His Excellency Khadem Al Qubaisi, Chairman of aabar Investments PJC. ?Today?s test is another key milestone in realizing that aspiration. Our partnership goes from strength to strength, and is an excellent example of aabar?s desire to participate in the development of world class technologies that are commercially viable and strategically important, both for the company, its shareholders, and for Abu Dhabi.?

The entire rocket-powered flight test lasted just over 10 minutes, culminating in a smooth landing for SS2 in Mojave at approximately 8am local time.

?The rocket motor ignition went as planned, with the expected burn duration, good engine performance and solid vehicle handling qualities throughout,? said Virgin Galactic President & CEO George Whitesides. ?The successful outcome of this test marks a pivotal point for our program. We will now embark on a handful of similar powered flight tests, and then make our first test flight to space.?

In the coming months, the Virgin Galactic and Scaled test team will expand the spaceship?s powered flight envelope culminating in full space flight, which the companies anticipate will take place before the end of 2013.

?I?d like to congratulate the entire team,? said President of Scaled Kevin Mickey. ?This milestone has been a long time coming and it?s only through the hard work of the team and the tremendous support of Virgin Galactic that we have been able to witness this important milestone. We look forward to all our upcoming tests and successes.?

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ss2-first-supersonic-flight-telescope-image-18037-530x330.jpg

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Its a lot smaller than I thought.

This version doesn't have enough power to make it into Orbit does it? Do you know if they have a plan for one that will get further into space? IE to the ISS?

The ISS is at 400km altitude and at 50 odd something inclination. That is a considerably different mission to just performing a parabolic flight at 100km altitude. The ISS also traverses through the SAA every orbit so that would need to be taken into account. Realistically, travelling to ISS will never be possible with the current space vehicle.

"Power" is misleading. I mean, the power for satellites just comes from the rocket launcher. Once its in orbit, it merely has to perform stationkeeping manoeuvres to maintain the orbit. I am not sure of the engines which Virgin Galactic uses, but to work out the calculations are very simple if you know what velocities it can achieve. What is more complicated is the launch site because if the airport is in Mexico, then it will require A LOT more propellent to get into an orbit with medium-high inclinations, for example, the ISS.

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SS2 uses a hybrid rocket - a mix of a solid fuel (a synthetic rubber like compound) and a liquid oxidizer (nitrous oxide - laughing gas.) This gives much of the simplicity of a solid with the ability of a liquid engine to throttle, shut down and re-start at will. There limitation is a relatively low specific impulse (ISP), which is a measure of efficiency. Hybrids are so simple garage rocketeers can build them.

Hybrids have an ISP around 250 while liquids can go as high as 450+. Thrust is about 60,000 lbf, about half that of SpaceX's DragonRider crewed orbital spacecrafts SuperDraco liquid fueled thrusters (for launch escape, retro-burns and landings.)

Of course DragonRider gets into orbital space using the Falcon 9 v1.1 booster, which has about 1,500,000 lbf of thrust plus a 147,000 lbf second stage, which SS2 does not have. Beyond Earth orbit it'll use Falcon Heavy: 3,800,000 lbf + the same (or larger) second stage. Getting into or beyond orbittakes a LOT of energy

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This may be really naive, and somewhat off topic, but can anyone explain why they can't fit jet engines to a shuttle type craft so it can fly itself to high enough altitude to switch to rockets, and then make a powered landing later? Sure, they'd have to protect such engines during re-entry, but is this not feasible for other reasons?

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This may be really naive, and somewhat off topic, but can anyone explain why they can't fit jet engines to a shuttle type craft so it can fly itself to high enough altitude to switch to rockets, and then make a powered landing later? Sure, they'd have to protect such engines during re-entry, but is this not feasible for other reasons?

I would think the result would be too heavy, requiring more powerfull rocket engines which in turn make the craft heavier....

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Weight is always a really big issue, and getting above the atmosphere and its drag uses most of a launchers resources.

Those jets can be provided by a large mothership like what StratoLaunch is building - the largest aircraft ever built with a 385 foot wingspan and 6 large 747 grade engines. XCOR will do something similar with its orbital spaceplane system. In both cases the mothership acts as the first stage, a liquid rocket as the second stage, and the spacecraft itself or a third stage does orbital insertion.

An alternative is the UK's Reaction Engines Skylon spaceplane and its SABRE engine. SABRE is a dual-mode rocket; air breathing like a jet in the atmosphere, condensing air into a liquid on the fly, but running on stored liquid oxygen outside the atmosphere. Liquid hydrogen is the fuel in both cases. In doing this Skylon acts as its own mothership. The SABRE engine is getting rather far along and getting support from the UK govt. and ESA.

SpaceX is going another way: re-usable fly-back rocket stages, eventually using cheap methane as fuel. This is what the Grasshopper project is all about (see dedicated threads.)

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Thanks for the clarification there, Doc.

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No prob.

All this flyback work by private industry and what does the US do? Cancel the USAF's flyback booster program. Probably a good idea in the long run - being a govt. program it would cost 10x as much and take 5x as long as letting the commercial outfits do it. You also get more than one system, which provides redundancy in case one has to be grounded for a while.

New multi-angle video

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WK2 / SS2 are.on the ramp at Mojave Spaceport. Rumors are a rocket powered flight today.

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https://twitter.com/virgingalactic/status/375648709003857920

SS2?s pilots have just given the ?release? command, and SpaceShipTwo is now flying freely for the 29th time. Photos and details to come

https://twitter.com/virgingalactic/status/375648838704324608

SpaceShipTwo has once again lit her rocket motor in flight! We can see and hear it from the ground. Photos and video coming soon

Update: SS2 has safely landed after hitting its target numbers: Mach 1.4 and 69,000 feet.

They will continue ramping up incrementally until they hit their operational altitude of ~100 kilometers/62 miles.

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Im just putting it out there, the imperial system sucks. Trying to figure out that 69,000 feet is 13 Miles is way too much effort. Why is there 5280 feet in a mile, that just makes things difficult.

 

Ok so they went up 21 km this time and they need to get to 100 so they are about the 5th of the way.

 

Doc do you know what the planned progression is? Are they going to go up an extra 21 each time till they get to 100 or skip a few? 

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Their increment plan hasn't been published, but it could be similar to that of the SS1 X-Prize bird; 15km, 32km, 64km, 100km - a fairly rapid progression in just a few flights barring problems. This would fit rumors that the plan is to hit operational altitude by the end of the year.

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A better version of the video showing RocketCam views.

LOTS of leaked info that the liquid fueled rocket engine for their LauncherOne orbital launcher is nearing completion and will be installed in SpaceShipTwo. Reason: faster turnarounds and more power.

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http://www.newspacejournal.com/2013/10/20/next-spaceshiptwo-powered-test-flight-coming-very-soon/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

The next powered test flight of Virgin Galactic?s SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle is coming up ?very soon,? a top company executive said at a conference Thursday, as some observers continue to speculate about the reasons for the extended test program.

Virgin Galactic president Steve Isakowitz discussed the company?s test plans in response to a question during a panel session at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on Thursday. (Disclosure: I moderated the panel; the question came from the audience.) ?We have a series of them coming up very shortly,? he said of upcoming test flights. ?We don?t normally announce our dates ahead of time, but I can tell you we have one that?s very soon that will also, again, incrementally build us up? to the point where SpaceShipTwo can fly into space.

SpaceShipTwo has performed two powered test flights to date. The first powered SS2 flight took place on April 29, when the vehicle fired its hybrid rocket engine for 16 seconds, achieving a top speed of Mach 1.3 and peak altitude of 16,800 meters (55,000 feet). SS2 made its second powered flight on September 5, firing the engine for 20 seconds, going to Mach 1.43 and 21,000 meters (69,000 feet) while also testing the vehicle?s feathering system needed for suborbital reentries. The long gap between those flights (and the lack of powered flights since then) has fueled in the space industry an undercurrent of rumors of issues with the vehicle?s engine.

Isakowitz, speaking at ISPCS, gave no hint of any issues with the engine, and noted that company?s customer base, now at 650 people, have been patient with the vehicle?s development delays. ?We?ve generally found with our customers that they?re a heck of a lot more patient than the media or those in the industry,? he said. ?From our customers, we really haven?t had anybody who?s said, ?Forget it, you guys are taking too long.? In fact, I don?t think we?ve lost a single person who?s said, ?You?re simply taking too long.??

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SS2.jan10-2014.jpg

http://www.virgingalactic.com/news/item/virgin-galactic-reaches-new-heights-in-third-supersonic-test-flight/

10.01.14

VIRGIN GALACTIC REACHES NEW HEIGHTS IN THIRD SUPERSONIC TEST FLIGHT

CHIEF PILOT PROVES SPACE SYSTEMS

MOJAVE, Calif. Today, Virgin Galactic, the worlds first commercial spaceline, which is owned by Sir Richard Bransons Virgin Group and Abu Dhabis aabar Investments PJS, successfully completed the third rocket-powered supersonic flight of its passenger carrying reusable space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2). In command on the flight deck of SS2 for the first time under rocket power was Virgin Galactics Chief Pilot Dave Mackay. Mackay, along with Scaled Composites (Scaled) Test Pilot Mark Stucky, tested the spaceships Reaction Control System (RCS) and the newly installed thermal protection coating on the vehicles tail booms. All of the test objectives were successfully completed.

Todays flight departed Mojave Air and Space Port at 7:22 a.m. PST with the first stage consisting of the WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft lifting SS2 to an altitude around 46,000 ft. At the controls of WK2 were Virgin Galactic Pilot Mike Masucci and Scaled Test Pilot Mike Alsbury. On release, SS2s rocket motor was ignited, powering the spaceship to a planned altitude of 71,000 ft. SS2s highest altitude to date and at a maximum speed of Mach 1.4. SS2s unique feather re-entry system was also tested during todays flight.

Two important SS2 systems, the RCS and thermal protection coating, were tested during todays flight in preparation for upcoming full space flights. The spaceships RCS will allow its pilots to maneuver the vehicle in space, permitting an optimal viewing experience for those on board and aiding the positioning process for spacecraft re-entry. The new reflective protection coating on SS2s inner tail boom surfaces is being evaluated to help maintain vehicle skin temperatures while the rocket motor is firing.

SS2s propulsion system has been developed by Sierra Nevada Corp and is the worlds largest operational hybrid rocket motor. Although todays flight saw it burn for a planned 20 seconds, the system has been successfully tested in ground firings to demonstrate performance characteristics and burn time sufficient to take the spaceship and its private astronauts to space.

Commenting on the successful test flight, Sir Richard Branson said: I couldnt be happier to start the New Year with all the pieces visibly in place for the start of full space flights. 2014 will be the year when we will finally put our beautiful spaceship in her natural environment of space. 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 were up there.

This flight was the third opportunity to see a supersonic, rocket-powered test of the Virgin Galactic system after dozens of successful subsonic test flights. Todays flight was another resounding success, said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. We focused on gathering more transonic and supersonic data, and our chief pilot, Dave, handled the vehicle beautifully. With each flight test, we are progressively closer to our target of starting commercial service in 2014.

For Mackay, the flight was a dream come true.

I have watched SS2 evolve over the years into an incredible vehicle that is going to open up space to more people than ever before, he said. To be behind the controls and fly it as the rocket ignited is something I will never forget. She flew brilliantly. All the tests went really well and generated vital data that will be used to further fine-tune our operations.

For related materials, including images and video, please visit http://www.image.net/thirdpoweredflight

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