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Freitag, 23. Dezember 2016 - 08:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Virgin Galactic´s neues SpaceShipTwo -Update

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19.02.2016

Virgin Galactic will roll out a new version of its SpaceShipTwo space tourism rocket Friday as it prepares to return to flight testing for the first time since a 2014 accident destroyed the original, killed one of its pilots and set back the nascent industry.
The space line founded by Sir Richard Branson will unveil the craft at California's Mojave Air & Space Port, where it was assembled.
SpaceShipTwo is designed to be flown by a crew of two and carry up to six passengers on a high-speed suborbital flight to the fringes of space. At an altitude above 62 miles, passengers will experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the Earth below.
After years of development, Virgin Galactic appeared to be nearing the goal of turning ordinary civilians into astronauts when the first SpaceShipTwo broke apart on Oct. 31, 2014, during its fourth rocket-powered flight. Wreckage fell to the Mojave Desert floor.
"When we had the accident, for about 24 hours we were wondering whether it was worth continuing, whether we should call it a day," Branson told The Associated Press. He said engineers, astronauts and members of the public helped convince him that space travel is too important to give up on.
The crash investigation found that co-pilot Michael Alsbury prematurely unlocked the so-called feathering system that is intended to slow and stabilize the craft as it re-enters the atmosphere. Alsbury was killed, but pilot Peter Siebold, although seriously injured, parachuted to safety.
The "feathers" — a term derived from the design of a badminton shuttlecock — are tail structures that extend rearward from each wingtip. They are designed to swivel upward at an angle to create drag, preventing a buildup of speed and heat, and then rotate back down to normal flying position as the craft descends into the thickening atmosphere.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that Scaled Composites, a company that was developing SpaceShipTwo with Virgin Galactic and was responsible for its test program, should have had systems to compensate for human error. The NTSB chairman, Christopher Hart, said it wasn't a matter of shortcuts but of not considering a crew member would make the mistake that occurred.
Virgin Galactic subsequently assumed full responsibility to complete the test program.
The company stressed in a statement Thursday its commitment to testing from the level of individual parts on up to the complete craft.
"Our team's job is to plan out not just the obvious tests but also the strange and inventive ones, to conduct those tests, and to use the data from those tests to re-examine everything about our vehicle to ensure we can take the next step forward," it said.
The company did not project a timeline for actually carrying space tourists, noting that "our new vehicle will remain on the ground for a while after her unveiling, as we run her through full-vehicle tests of her electrical systems and all of her moving parts."
SpaceShipTwo is the successor to SpaceShipOne, the winged rocket plane that won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004 by demonstrating a reusable spacecraft capable of carrying three people could make two flights within two weeks to at an altitude of least 62 miles.
The prize announced in 1996 was intended to spur the development of private manned spaceflight in the same way the Orteig Prize offered in 1919 fostered trans-Atlantic aviation. Charles Lindbergh won that prize with his nonstop flight from New York to Paris in 1927.
Like SpaceShipOne, SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft beneath the wing of a mother ship — a special jet aircraft that releases it at an altitude of about 45,000 feet. After gliding for a few moments, SpaceShipTwo's pilots ignite the rocket engine to send the craft hurtling toward space.
After reaching the top of its suborbital trajectory, the spacecraft begins falling back toward Earth and glides to a landing on a runway.
Quelle: The San Diego Union-Tribune
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Virgin Galactic returns with SpaceShipTwo test flight
Sir Richard Branson's project to send passengers into space is looking to get back on track after a fatal accident in 2014 killed a test pilot
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What SpaceShipTwo’s Rollout Milestone Means — And What’s Next.
Very soon, Virgin Galactic will introduce our new spaceship to our customers, our partners, and the world. We’ll celebrate the hard work our engineers and technicians have poured into making each of SpaceShipTwo’s parts, testing each one of them, and assembling them together into our beautiful new vehicle. As we celebrate the end of one critical phase of work, we also mark the start of a new phase, one focused on further testing and, ultimately, the first commercial human spaceflight program in history.
In recent years, Virgin Galactic has built up a truly world class operations organization to match our manufacturing and testing teams. We’ve pulled in experienced leaders from NASA’s mission control and astronaut corps, from the militaries of three nations and from leading aviation and transportation companies, and we’ve charged them with developing a plan to safely test and operate a reusable spacecraft. They have done their homework and subjected their processes to expert external reviews, and they are eager to take the proverbial keys to SpaceShipTwo.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Testing
When we talk to our customers, partners, and supporters about our mission of opening space to all, they often express both a desire for the future to arrive quickly and also a profound sense of amazement that commercial space travel is finally something real, not just science fiction. Managing that transition from fiction to reality requires clever ideas, lots of hard work, and above all else, lots and lots of testing.
Even before we unveil this brand new vehicle—indeed, even before we’d assembled the parts together into something that looked like a spaceship—we had begun a rigorous test campaign patterned off the relevant industry standards. Starting at the level of individual pieces and components, we poked, prodded, stretched, squeezed, bent, and twisted everything used to build these vehicles. We’ve run a spaceship cabin through thousands of pressure cycles simulating the flight from ground level to space and back; we’ve conducted nearly one hundred full-scale tests of our rocket motor system; we’ve bent and torqued our megastructures in ways significantly exceeding what they’d see in flight.
This type of testing isn’t complete yet—because it will never be complete. As a manufacturing organization, we will always do this sort of testing on parts. But we are now entering a phase where instead of just testing pieces and subsystems, we test the vehicle as a whole.
We are not starting from scratch even in that respect. Because our new vehicle is so similar to its predecessor, we benefit from incredibly useful data from 55 successful test flights as well as the brutal but important lessons from one tragic flight test accident. And so, we will begin our full vehicle tests by validating and calibrating that existing data set by running tests similar to what you’ve seen before. But there is still much more to test.
Some aspects of testing are likely obvious to the layperson; for example, while we’ve built an in-house rocket team that quite possibly has the most experience of any group in the world with hybrid rocket motors of this class, that experience in ground testing has be validated, repeatedly, with performance in the air. There are other equally important tests that aren’t obvious to the casual observer, or perhaps even to experienced rocketeers and aviators who haven’t worked with our unique vehicle design. Our team’s job is to plan out not just the obvious tests but also the strange and inventive ones, to conduct those tests, and to use the data from those tests to re-examine everything about our vehicle to ensure we can take the next step forward.
What To Expect When You’re Space Testing
If you are expecting SpaceShipTwo to blast off and head straight to space on the day we unveil her, let us disillusion you now: this will be a ground-based celebration. Indeed, our new vehicle will remain on the ground for a while after her unveiling, as we run her through full-vehicle tests of her electrical systems and all of her moving parts. We already know these things work individually, but one can’t simply assume they will all work together—that must be tested and verified. We’ll do so quickly, but we won’t cut corners.
Once that is done, we’ll be eager to get air under the wings of our new spaceship. We’ll begin first with captive carry flight, during which SpaceShipTwo stays firmly mated to her mothership, WhiteKnightTwo. Once that is completed, we’ll move to glide testing, where our new spaceship flies freely for the first time as a glider coming home from an altitude of 45,000+ feet (14 km) while our incredible pilots test out her handling.
After several glide flights have been completed and we are satisfied with the results, rocket-powered test flights are next. We will execute a thoughtful and steady progression of flights. Each mission will be designed to test something important: how the heat from the rocket motor dissipates in the rear of the vehicle, how the vehicle behaves when breaking the sound barrier on both ascent and descent, how closely our models of forces on the vehicle match reality.
Each flight will generally fly a little higher, a little faster, and sometimes we may need to repeat a test point to get additional data or confirm a result. When she first crosses 100,000 feet (31 km), SpaceShipTwo will already be above 99% of the atmosphere, and the pilots will experience true weightlessness while surrounded by a sky that has noticeably begun turning black. When she eventually reaches 50 miles (80 km), her pilots will have met NASA and the US Air Force’s requirements for official astronaut status, and they will be recognized by our team and by the US government as bonafide space travelers; when she crosses 62 miles (100 km) sometime later, they will also be recognized by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.
When we are confident we can safely carry our customers to space, we will start doing so. We feel incredibly honored that our earliest paying customers already number more than the total number of humans who have ever been to space. Our first spaceflight with paying customers; our first flight full of research experiments; our first flight with a full complement of eight (a feat that has only been accomplished once before in all of history, by the Space Shuttle on mission STS-61A); the dozens of times we will fly the first ever astronaut from a given nation — each of these will be exciting milestones in the history of space exploration.
No one is more eager than us to complete those milestones—nor to share this journey, with all its challenges and triumphs, with a global public that craves inspiring and ambitious stories to balance out the daily barrage of the 24 hour news cycle. But this isn’t a race. We have shown we are committed to being thorough in our testing: it is the right thing to do and it is essential to our ultimate success. As a thousand year old saying goes, there is no easy way from the Earth to the stars. But finally, there is a way, and through steady testing, we will find it.
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Quelle: Virgin Galactic
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Quelle: Virgin Galactic
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Update: 2.11.2016
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VIRGIN GALACTIC CALLS OFF SPACESHIPTWO'S GLIDE TEST

VSS UNITY SPENDS ITS FLIGHT CLINGING TO ITS MOTHERSHIP DUE TO HIGH WINDS

 
Unity And Eve In Flight

Virgin Galactic

Unity And Eve In Flight

Underneath the broad wings of WhiteKnightTwo Eve, the new SpaceShipTwo Unity took flight for the second time.

It is harder to learn to fly a second time. Virgin Galactic, the private spaceflight firm headed by billionaire Richard Branson, lost its first SpaceShipTwo in a pilot-caused crashed in 2014, setting back dreams of passenger spaceflight. The new SpaceShipTwo, named VSS Unity (and not SpaceShipThree), was unveiled in February. Today, slung beneath the wing of its WhiteKnightTwo mothership Eve, Unity took to the sky for its second-ever flight.

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The mothership is an essential part of Virgin Galactic’s space program. Carried aloft under the mothership's wing, the smaller, space-bound craft can just focus on rocketing beyond the atmosphere and then gliding back to Earth. Today, Virgin Galactic was set to test Unity’s ability to glide, but high, gusty winds over the Mojave scratched that plan, and Unity remained attached to Eve throughout the flight.

There is still a long road to space ahead for the craft. After glide tests, it will need to demonstrate that it can rocket itself into the void, and then safely return to Earth. And it will need to demonstrate this many times, for a class of customers paying $250,000 apiece for a shot at 4 to 6 minutes beyond the bounds of the Earth.

 

Still, it’s good to see progress. Much of Virgin Galactic’s enterprise after the crash has continued in a state of weird limbo, like a harbor without any ships.

Quelle: PS

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Update: 5.11.2016

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Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity took to the skies for their 3rd carry test this morning.
Virgin Galactic Looks to Next SpaceShipTwo Flight Test 

After Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, dubbed VSS Unity, took to the skies for its third-ever test flight on Thursday — and again had to scrub a “glide test” at the last minute — the aerospace company is now looking ahead to its next test run.

The glider remained attached to its WhiteKnightTwo mothership, and the highly anticipated glide test was delayed yet again. Another test flight has not been announced.

On Tuesday, heavy crosswinds forced Virgin Galactic to call a scrub for the gliding test, with the pair of planes landing safely in the Mojave desert about an hour and a half after takeoff.

During the glide test, the two vehicles take off as a mated pair, with the SpaceShipTwo detaching from its mothership during flight and gently gliding back to the runway. Following a successful capture carry test, this is the next step before resuming rocket-powered flights.

 

Even though the glide tests are not designed to go into space, they are a major step towards Virgin Galactic’s ultimate goal of launching people into space. However, the aerospace company must first prove its vehicles are safe to carry human passengers. In order to do so, the company has to complete a lengthy testing process that includes glide tests and free-flight tests.

The last time Virgin Galactic performed a free-flight of its SpaceShipTwo vehicle was two years ago, when the vehicle — dubbed the VSS Enterprise — broke apart in-flight, injuring the pilot and killing the co-pilot.

The company is taking a cautious approach to testing and decided to pull the plug on today’s test after seeing something in the data they didn’t like. 

 

Virgin Galactic controllers are combing over the data collected and will be ready to try again in the near future.

Quelle: INVERSE

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Update: 4.12.2016

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New SpaceShipTwo Flies Free for the First Time

Dozens more test flights will follow for the Virgin Galactic spaceplane "Unity" before paying passengers are aboard.

 
 
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Virgin Galactic's new six-passenger SpaceShipTwo made its first glide test over Mojave, California on Saturday. 

The ship is the second in a series of commercial spaceships built for Richard Branson's space company, which is selling tickets to ride for $250,000.

The first ship, manufactured and tested by contractor Northrop Grumman's Scaled Composites, was destroyed during a fatal test flight on Oct. 31, 2014.

The new ship, named Unity and built by Virgin's The SpaceShip Company, previously made four flights attached to its carrier aircraft.

On Saturday, SpaceShipTwo and its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, took off at 6:49 a.m. from California's Mojave Air and Space Port, located in the Mojave Desert about 200 miles northwest of Los Angeles. 

"We've got an exciting year ahead and this is just the start of it," Branson told a small group braving the 28-degree Fahrenheit temperature to watch the spaceship fly. 

"I'm afraid you're going to see a lot of me these next few months," Branson said in a video from the spaceport's runway posted by Douglas Messier at ParabolicArc.com. 

With Virgin Galactic pilots Mark Stucky and David Mackay at the helm, Unity separated from WhiteKnightTwo at an altitude of just over 50,000 feet, said Virgin Galactic President Mike Moses.

"She looked beautiful," Moses said in a telephone interview after the flight. 

Unity flew at Mach 0.6 for an initial check of handling characteristics and vibration tests, then landed on the spaceport runway. 

"Next time we'll fly faster," Moses said, adding that the 15-minute flight flight marked a major milestone for the program.

"Flying captive is great, but there is nothing like a free flight when it's a true airplane," Moses said. "We got a glider today, but it's well on its way to becoming a spaceship."

WATCH VIDEO: Will We Ever be Able to Vacation in Space?

Quelle: Seeker
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SpaceShipTwo Completes its First Successful Free-Flight

Virgin Galactics SpaceShipTwo, dubbed the VSS Unity, took to the skies over Mojave, California this morning to complete the craft’s first ever free-flight test. And preliminary data shows it was a huge success.

Today’s flight marked the fifth overall flight for the VSS Unity, which has the distinction of being the only spacecraft built by the company’s in-house manufacturing team — TheSpaceshipCompany — and the 218th flight for its mothership, the WhiteKnightTwo.

 

Earlier in the week, the duo joined forces to complete a fourth captive carry test. Following the pair’s second captive-carry test in September, engineers decided that all systems were performing as expected and the crew could move onto free-flight testing. The first two attempts (both in November) were thwarted due to weather and an unexpected anomaly, which prevented the crew from separating the two vehicles. 

That was not the case today. Following takeoff, the pilots of both vehicles tested multiple on board systems, ensuring they were ready (and able) to release the spacecraft. Once they received the green light from the control room, the VSS Unity was set free, and coasted down to a gentle landing. 

 

During free-flight (also known as a glide test) testing, the two vehicles take off as a mated pair, with the SpaceShipTwo detaching from the WhiteKnightTwo during flight before gently gliding back to the runway. In-flight testing allows engineers thoroughly study how various systems on board the vehicles perform during flight.

The glide tests are not designed to go into space; however, they are a major step towards Virgin Galactic’s ultimate goal: launching people into space. Before that can happen, the aerospace company must first prove its vehicles are safe to carry human passengers. In order to do so, the company has to complete a lengthy testing process that includes captive-carry, free-flight, and rocket-powered tests.

The road to space.
The road to space. 

Rocket-powered testing was suspended following a tragic accident in 2014, when the first SpaceShipTwo crashed as a result of pilot error. The accident resulted in the death of one pilot, leaving a second injured.

Today’s successful free-flight test, was a crucial step to resuming rocket-powered flights.

 

Both vehicles are reported to have landed safely, and the team will now begin the tedious process of analyzing all the data collected during the test.

Quelle: INVERSE

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Photos Gallery: SpaceShipTwo Unity’s First Glide Flight

SpaceShipTwo glides over the Mojave Desert after being released from its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship. (Credit; Virgin Galactic)

SpaceShipTwo glides over the Mojave Desert after being released from its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship. (Credit; Virgin Galactic)

SpaceShipTwo glides to a landing at Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

SpaceShipTwo glides to a landing at Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

SpaceShipTwo glides through the Mojave sky followed by an Extra chase plane. (Credit; Ken Brown)

SpaceShipTwo glides through the Mojave sky followed by an Extra chase plane. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

SpaceShipTwo comes in for a landing at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

SpaceShipTwo comes in for a landing at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

SpaceShipTwo rolls to a stop on the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

SpaceShipTwo rolls to a stop on the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Richard Branson and George Whitesides gaze out at SpaceShipTwo after it came to a stop on Runway 12. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Richard Branson and George Whitesides gave out at SpaceShipTwo after it came to a stop on Runway 12. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Richard Branson moves to embrace SpaceShipTwo pilots David Mackay and Mark Stucky. To Branson's right in Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Richard Branson moves to embrace SpaceShipTwo pilots David Mackay and Mark Stucky. To Branson’s right is Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Richard Branson (l) and George Whitesides (r) walk with SpaceShipTwo pilots David Mackay and Mark Stucky after a successful glide flight. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Richard Branson (l) and George Whitesides (r) walk with SpaceShipTwo pilots David Mackay and Mark Stucky after a successful glide flight. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

SpaceShipTwo being towed back to Virgin Galactic's FAITH hangar after a successful glide flight. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

SpaceShipTwo being towed back to Virgin Galactic’s FAITH hangar after a successful glide flight. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Quelle: PARABOLIC ARC

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Update: 23.12.2016

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Virgin Galactic sneaks in just one more SpaceShipTwo glide test to cap off 2016

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Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity glides through the skies over California’s Mojave Desert. (Virgin Galactic Photo)

 

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo craft, VSS Unity, took its second free-flying test run today, closing off a rebuilding year for the space venture.

At the start of the year, the company was still finishing up work on its second SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, incorporating the lessons learned from the breakup of the first SpaceShipTwo in October 2014.

That accident occurred during a rocket-powered test, killing co-pilot Mike Alsbury and severely injuring pilot Pete Siebold. Investigators blamed pilot error as well as a host of other contributing factors.

VSS Unity rolled out this February amid a burst of Virgin-style hoopla, and since then the SpaceShipTwo team has been conducting a low-profile series of tests. The 27-foot-wide plane was released from its WhiteKnightTwo mothership for its first unpowered glide flight on Dec. 3.

Today’s flight from California’s Mojave Air and Space Port followed a similar profile, with the aim of checking the craft’s aerodynamics under a variety of conditions. Virgin Galactic’s Dave Mackay and Mark Stucky repeated their roles as SpaceShipTwo’s pilots.

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If all goes well, Virgin Galactic and its manufacturing subsidiary, The Spaceship Company, could begin rocket-powered tests by mid-2017, leading up to crewed flights that hit outer-space altitudes. Once the testing team is satisfied with VSS Unity’s performance, operations will shift from Mojave to Spaceport America in New Mexico.

About 700 customers have paid as much as $250,000 each for suborbital space rides on VSS Unity. The schedule for commercial operations depends on how the test program goes, but it’s not out of the question for the first of those customers to climb on board by this time next year.

Quelle: GeekWire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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