Find us on Google+

Virgin Galactic’s second spaceship aces first glide flight

by
Virgin Galactic’s second spaceship aces first glide flight
Virgin Galactic's second SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, christened VSS Unity, glided to a runway landing after dropping from its carrier aircraft over California's Mojave Desert on Saturday. Credit: Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, christened VSS Unity, glided to a runway landing after dropping from its carrier aircraft over California’s Mojave Desert on Saturday. Credit: Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo rocket plane glided to a runway landing after dropping from its carrier aircraft over California’s Mojave Desert on Saturday.

With two pilots at the controls, the VSS Unity spaceship’s first glide flight went well, returning Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo vehicles to standalone sorties for the first time since a fatal accident on a test flight in October 2014 set back the company’s plans to start commercial service with passengers on brief suborbital trips into space.

VSS Unity is Virgin Galactic’s second rocket plane, and the first manufactured by a Virgin subsidiary named The Spaceship Company. Saturday’s test came after a series of flights with the new SpaceShipTwo vehicle remaining attached to its huge carrier plane, dubbed WhiteKnightTwo.

Veteran test pilots Mark Stucky and Dave Mackay flew VSS Unity from its release from the WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane at an altitude of 50,000 feet to a smooth unpowered landing on a runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California.

“As expected, for this first gliding test flight, VSS Unity was flying light and slow, achieving a maximum speed of approximately Mach 0.6 while gliding home from an altitude of 50,000 feet,” Virgin Galactic said in a statement. “An initial look at the data as well as feedback from our two pilots indicate that today’s flight went extremely well, but we’ll take the time to properly and thoroughly analyze the vehicle’s performance before clearing the vehicle for our next test.”

Saturday’s glide test was the fifth flight of VSS Unity since it first took to the skies in September.

“We’re looking forward to getting back into the skies as soon as the engineers say we are ready to do so,” Virgin Galactic said.

More glide flights are planned before Virgin Galactic officials give the green light to begin rocket-powered tests on VSS Unity.

“We have not yet reached the rocket powered phase of the test flight program — first we need to gather test flight data to confirm our analyses and calculations about how VSS Unity will perform in a wide variety of real-world flight conditions,” the company said.

The glide flights will test the vehicle’s performance at a range of weights, from a light load to a heavy spacecraft simulating a mission with full fuel tanks and passengers. The tests will also wring out VSS Unity’s performance at different airspeeds and flight angles.

Pilots and engineers will also demonstrate SpaceShipTwo’s abort modes during the glide flights, according to Virgin Galactic, part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.

On full-up suborbital missions, SpaceShipTwo vehicles will drop from the bottom of its mothership at 50,000 feet, fire an aft-mounted hybrid rocket motor and accelerate past the speed of sound, heading for a peak altitude of more than 60 miles (100 kilometers), the internationally-recognized boundary of space.

Passengers aboard the rocket plane will experience several minutes of microgravity, and enjoy expansive views of Earth below the blackness of space.

During the next phase of the flight, the spaceship will re-orient its twin tail booms to stabilize itself for re-entry, then glide to a runway landing like the space shuttle.

Virgin Galactic officials have set requirements VSS Unity needs to meet during the craft’s glide flight test program before proceeding to rocket-powered tests. The company said it will conduct as many flights as needed to meet the requirements.

The first SpaceShipTwo test vehicle, named VSS Enterprise, was on its fourth powered test flight when it broke apart shortly after igniting its rocket motor in October 2014. Co-pilot Michael Alsbury was killed in the accident — lead pilot Peter Siebold survived — 10 miles over the Mojave Desert.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators blamed the crash on Alsbury’s premature unlocking of the craft’s rotating tail booms.

The pilots did not send commands to deploy the re-entry feathering system, but strong aerodynamic forces in the lower, denser part of the atmosphere pushed the unlocked tail booms upward into their re-entry positions, leading to loss of control and the disintegration of the rocket plane.

VSS Unity has an electronic mechanism to prevent pilots from prematurely unlocking the feathering system.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Source: You’ll find lots of information about the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Also we have facts about the space station, ISS, SpaceX launch, space program, and outerspace. Space Flight


Posted in Space Flight and tagged by with no comments yet.

Live coverage: Turkish reconnaissance satellite set for launch on Vega rocket

by
Live coverage: Turkish reconnaissance satellite set for launch on Vega rocket

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a Vega rocket rocket with the Gokturk 1 Earth observation satellite. Text updates will appear automatically below; there is no need to reload the page. Follow us on Twitter.

Source: You’ll find lots of information about the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Also we have facts about the space station, ISS, SpaceX launch, space program, and outerspace. Space Flight


Posted in Space Flight and tagged by with no comments yet.

Favorable weather forecast for Wednesday’s Delta 4 launch from Florida

by
Favorable weather forecast for Wednesday’s Delta 4 launch from Florida
The Delta 4 will launch from Complex 37. Credit: ULA
The Delta 4 will launch from Complex 37. Credit: ULA

CAPE CANAVERAL — Air Force meteorologists are expecting good weather to launch the Delta 4 rocket with a military communications satellite Wednesday evening from Cape Canaveral.

Liftoff of the United Launch Alliance booster carrying the Wideband Global SATCOM 8 spacecraft is scheduled to occur at 6:53 p.m. EST (2353 GMT). The launch window will remain open for 49 minutes.

The chances of allowable weather stand at 80 percent, with only a slight concern for cloud thickness during the launch opportunity.

“An upper-level low over northwest Mexico is causing a surface low to develop over Texas. This system will move across eastern Texas Monday, and then Tuesday will increase in speed and move through Louisiana to Virginia, dragging a cold front into northern Florida. This weather will bring showers and possibly thunderstorms across the Space Coast Tuesday through the day,” forecasters at the 45th Weather Squadron say.

“The front will pass through Central Florida overnight Tuesday night and cause morning fog Wednesday morning as it moves to the south. Weather will improve Wednesday, and winds will be light from the northwest. With the upper-level support moving off to the northeast, there is a chance the front will stall just to the south. If this occurs, cloud cover will increase causing concern for thick cloud layers. Still, this will likely be more of a factor Thursday in the event of a 24-hour delay.”

The launch time conditions are expected to include a broken layer of cirrus clouds at 25,000 feet, good visibility, ground winds from the northwest at 8 knots, a relative humidity of 68 percent and a temperature of 69 degrees F.

In the event of a 24-hour launch delay, the chance of thick cloud layers increases and the odds of acceptable weather fall to 60 percent on Thursday evening, when the window opens at 6:54 p.m.

The WGS 8 satellite will be the highest-capacity communications satellite ever fielded by the U.S. military. It features technological advancements in its internal electronics that nearly double the available bandwidth the craft will provide to soldiers, ships, aircraft and drones compared to earlier WGS satellites.

The Flight Readiness Review was passed last Wednesday and the Launch Readiness Review will occur on Tuesday. The final closeouts of vehicle compartments are underway ahead of the countdown starting Wednesday morning.

Here’s a look at some stats about the mission. This will be:


  • The 376th Delta rocket launch since 1960
  • The 34th Delta 4 rocket mission since 2002
  • The 6th Medium+ (5,4) configuration to fly
  • The 52nd main engine from RS-68 family used
  • The 10th RS-68A main engine flown
  • The 52nd-53rd-54th-55th GEM-60 solid rocket motors flown
  • The 475th production RL10 engine to be launched
  • The 37th RL10B-2 engine launched
  • The 28th Delta 4 rocket launch from Cape Canaveral
  • The 36th launch from Pad B at Complex 37
  • The 19th use of Delta 4 by the Air Force
  • The 101st Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle flight
  • The 114th United Launch Alliance mission since 2006
  • The 82nd ULA launch from Cape Canaveral
  • The 45th ULA launch for the Air Force
  • The 27th Delta 4 under the ULA banner
  • The 11th ULA launch this year
  • The 4th launch of the Delta family in 2016
  • The 8th Wideband Global SATCOM satellite
  • The 2nd Block 2-Follow On WGS satellite
  • The 6th WGS on Delta 4

See earlier Delta 376 coverage.

Our Delta archive.

Source: You’ll find lots of information about the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Also we have facts about the space station, ISS, SpaceX launch, space program, and outerspace. Space Flight


Posted in Space Flight and tagged by with no comments yet.