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Posted

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 [i]VSS Enterprise[/i], and SS2 #2 will be [i]VSS Voyager[/i].

WK2 #1 is named [i]VMS Eve[/i] 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 "[i]VMS Spirit of Steve Fossett[/i]", for reasons explained in the story below.

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

[quote][b]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.[/b]

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
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Posted

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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Posted

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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Posted

OK, the throttle works - [b][i]LET'S LIGHT THIS CANDLE!![/i][/b]

[img]http://www.virgingalactic.com/uploads/136579791699636/original.jpg[/img]

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

[quote][b]SpaceShipTwo Advances Towards Powered Flight with Spectacular

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Posted

Powered flight #1 on MONDAY!

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

[quote][Question] That

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Posted

Ramping up for todays first powered flight of SpaceShipTwo -

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

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

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Posted

SUCCESS!!

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

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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Posted

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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Posted

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

[Quote]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

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Posted

COOL!! :D

[Quote][b]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[/b]

MOJAVE, Calif.

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Posted

[quote name='IsItPluggedIn' timestamp='1365392208' post='595623624']
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?
[/quote]

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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Posted

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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Posted

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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Posted

[quote name='FloatingFatMan' timestamp='1367310512' post='595665000']
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?
[/quote]

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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Posted

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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Posted

Thanks for the clarification there, Doc.

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Posted

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
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1GiAOzKz4k

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Posted

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

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Posted

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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Posted

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.

[Youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqYAQdNWQjQ[/youtube]

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Posted

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.
[video]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vh7HOu5-o10[/video]

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Posted

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


[Video]http://youtu.be/YNsxfYml-dc[/video]

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