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Virgin Galactic thread 2: powered SpaceShipTwo flights


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#16 OP DocM

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 09:25

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.)


#17 FloatingFatMan

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 10:56

Thanks for the clarification there, Doc.

#18 OP DocM

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 11:38

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


#19 OP DocM

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Posted 05 September 2013 - 14:12

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

#20 OP DocM

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Posted 05 September 2013 - 19:50

https://twitter.com/...648709003857920
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/...648838704324608
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.

#21 IsItPluggedIn

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Posted 05 September 2013 - 23:30

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? 



#22 OP DocM

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Posted 06 September 2013 - 01:31

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.



#23 OP DocM

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 04:49

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.


#24 OP DocM

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 06:18

http://www.newspacej..._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.’”



#25 OP DocM

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 06:27

SS2.jan10-2014.jpg

http://www.virgingal...ic-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...rdpoweredflight




#26 OP DocM

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Posted 23 January 2014 - 18:29

This begs the question of NewtonTwo replacing the hybrid on SS2.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Jan. 23, 2014

VIRGIN GALACTIC ANNOUNCES SUCCESSFUL TEST FIRINGS OF NEW LIQUID ROCKET ENGINES FOR LAUNCHERONE

Company developing rocket engines designed and built in house for its affordable, responsive small satellite launch service

MOJAVE, Calif. Virgin Galactic, the worlds first commercial spaceline, announced today that it has reached a significant milestone in the testing of a new family of liquid rocket engines for LauncherOne, the companys small satellite launch vehicle.  As part of a rapid development program, Virgin Galactic has now hot-fired both a 3,500 lbf thrust rocket engine and a 47,500 lbf thrust rocket engine, called the NewtonOne and NewtonTwo respectively.  Further, the NewtonOne engine has successfully completed a full-mission duty cycle on the test stand, firing for the five-minute duration expected of the upper stage engine on a typical flight to orbit.  These tests are being conducted on two new state-of-the-art test stands that the team designed, assembled and installed internally.

We are proud of the great progress our propulsion team has made in reaching these milestones, said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides.  Combined with parallel progress made by the company in advanced tank and avionics technology, we are now well on our way to providing customers with the lowest cost opportunity for small satellite manufacturers and operators to buy a dedicated ride to space.

The new rocket engines were designed and assembled in-house by Virgin Galactic engineers and technicians, and mark the first firings of engines designed and built by the privately-funded company, owned by Sir Richard Bransons Virgin Group and Abu Dhabis aabar Investments PJS. 

As part of the ongoing test program, the NewtonOne engine has now been fired dozens of times, achieving the target thrust during a full-duration test. The test team has successfully completed as many as six distinct test firings in a single day, as a demonstration of the rapid test-retest capability critical to the liquid engine program. The larger NewtonTwo engine has also been fired multiple times at short duration, with longer duration firings scheduled to occur in the coming months. Additionally, Virgin Galactic engineers and technicians successfully completed a quick turnaround test in which engines were swapped out and fired within 12 hours, an important early demonstration of LauncherOnes responsive, quick call-up capability and of the versatility of both the engines and the test stand.

The unique environment in Mojave enables the team to design, manufacture, assemble and test the engines in a single location, which allows us to make progress swiftly, said Whitesides. 

Both engines were custom-designed by Virgin Galactic to serve as the propulsion system for the LauncherOne satellite launch vehicle, which uses a single NewtonOne on the upper stage and a single NewtonTwo on the main stage. Both engines are simple, pressure-fed LOX/RP-1 systems built with a low part-count design. The NewtonTwo engine is a scaled-up version of the NewtonOne, sized to serve as the first stage engine for LauncherOne, with a nozzle optimized for air-launched performance. Powered by those two engines, LauncherOne will carry small satellites to low-Earth orbit affordably and responsively, enabling a new generation of private and government missions.



#27 OP DocM

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Posted 24 January 2014 - 00:39

From 18 months ago in Aviation Week:

>
LauncherOne will be powered by a two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket, now in initial development by Virgin Galactic. The same rocket also is intended to ultimately replace the non-reusable RM2 hybrid motor that will power the SS2 to suborbit, Virgin says….
>

But today on NBC's Cosmic Log,

http://www.nbcnews.c...gine-2D11922691

>
Ringuette said components for an upgraded NewtonThree engine are already undergoing testing.
>
Pomerantz said there are currently no plans to use the Newtons on SpaceShipTwo. But when it's time to think about point-to-point suborbital space travel on SpaceShipThree, more powerful versions of the Newton propulsion system could well be part of those plans.

"Those kind of future vehicles — the SpaceShipThrees and SpaceShipFours, et cetera — are going to require more advanced propulsion than what we need for SpaceShipTwo," Pomerantz said. "The liquid rocket engines we’re testing now will help us get into service quickly with a great product in the form of LauncherOne, while also helping us get smarter and more capable so that we are ready to power those future vehicles when the time comes."
>

Images of Newton
vg_newton_engine.jpg

2D11401708-140122-coslog-rocket.blocks_d

Test site
2D11401357-140122-coslog-testsite.blocks

#28 OP DocM

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Posted 25 May 2014 - 16:27

Longish Aviation Week article covers the WK2 yearly recertification including a "spar issue" ParabolicArc.com made a big deal about (VG: "extra adhesive"), the new polyamide-based fuel grain (developed by Scaled, less vibration & more power) and the tests before first flight of the new grain. Expecting 110km from it.

And in a statement a couple of weeks ago VG's VP is again talking of using their new Newton liquid rocket engine in SS2. Higher, faster, further.

http://m.aviationwee...t-spaceship-two