Feeds

back to article Virgin Galactic's supersonic space ship in 71,000-ft record smash

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo reusable space vehicle completed its third supersonic test flight on Friday, successfully reaching its highest altitude yet. The craft was first lifted to a height of about 46,000 feet (14,021m) by Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft. Once aloft, its rocket motor was fired for 20 …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Silver badge

Still a long way to catch up with SS1

SpaceShipOne hit 112,014m (367,500ft) or over 5x higher, so keep at it, guys!

0
0
Bronze badge
Happy

Re: Still a long way to catch up with SS1

The UK has had a long history of glorious firsts with no following commercial success.

Kudos and congratulations to the SS1 team but the SS1 is now out of the race and Branson seems to be well on the way to commercial success. Kudos and congratulations to him (and his team) also.

4
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Still a long way to catch up with SS1

Shame it's actually a US company that developed this, but with a British companies money...

Usually its the other way around, US money investing in British technologies, or the US partnering with promise of technology sharing and then shafting the British...

5
0
Bronze badge
Trollface

Re: Still a long way to catch up with SS1

You don't suppose British regulations had anything to do with this do you? Just say'n!

0
3

What is the long term goal?

It might be nice to be able to pop up to space and fall back again, but I fail to see the long term advantages of this craft. Without attaining orbital velocities it will never be more than a really expensive roller-coaster ride.

It seems unlikely that the propulsion system being used could reach orbital velocities, and I am fairly sure the design would not survive re-entry at those speeds either.

13
3

Re: What is the long term goal?

There is no long-term advantage to this craft. The well known and stated goal is to be a really expensive roller-coaster ride. People will pay $250,000 per trip on the roller-coaster. They will experience weightlessness at 100km altitude for 1 hour and then come back to earth. This project has no more point than that.

There *could* be some as-yet unknown useful application of this technology, but for now, that's it, they've developed a roller-coaster costing 100's of millions and then they want to recoup that. They have a sister project called Launcher One but that's almost completely unrelated to this, and is intended to launch satellites into orbit.

They've sold about 750 tickets at 1/4 million each and will probably meet their target of 1000 tickets, so that's a guaranteed return of 250 million on this project (that is, if some of the trips don't blow up and people pull out). New Mexico authorities are investing $200 million in building a "space-port" with a 3km runway, in the hope that the world will flock to New Mexico and it will become the space travel center of the world.

8
0
Anonymous Coward

"They will experience weightlessness at 100km altitude for 1 hour"

Certainly not for 1 hour, more like a couple of minutes.

8
0
Silver badge

Re: "They will experience weightlessness at 100km altitude for 1 hour"

You could probably pack a few Marines into it and pop them over the pond for an immediate visit to Islamabad, maybe?

1
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: "They will experience weightlessness at 100km altitude for 1 hour"

Well no. The Shuttle could do Florida to Spain in 45 minutes because it was pushing for orbital velocity and would have been potentially useful for incredibly-rapid-response transfers if money was no object. SS2 has just hit Mach 1.4, which is far short of where the top end of British/European commercial passenger aircraft were in the 1960s (Concorde, cruising speed of mach 2.02 on jet engines @60,000 feet) and way behind the SR-71 which did mach 3.5 at 85000 feet, again on jets.

So Branson is further from space and slower than the early cold war era air force and slower- but slightly closer to space- than those noted space pioneers British Airways.

10
2
Silver badge

Re: "They will experience weightlessness at 100km altitude for 1 hour"

Also slower than the English Electric Lightning, still an amazing aircraft, and one of the few supercruise aircraft ever designed...

I say lets get Skylon built here in the UK, and then the UK can strut its stuff internationally a bit more....

13
0

Re: Skylon

More likely the UK will license the IP, rather than try to build its own space program from scratch, I think. Unless, of course, there's a joint play with Australia (who have the land and the money).

1
1
Silver badge

Re: Skylon

completely agree, the UK government won't start up its own launch capability, well at least not at the government level, although I can see some private companies buying and running Skylons.

But still having developed the first successful SSTO HTOL craft in the UK would be a pretty good endorsement of the UK as a place for investment!

I just hope the ESA go ahead with Skylon themselves, it makes perfect sense to keep Big Dumb Rockets, for interplanetary robotic launches and use Skylon for LEO and precious fleshy cargo (i.e. Humans).

4
1
Gold badge
WTF?

Re: Skylon

"More likely the UK will license the IP, rather than try to build its own space program from scratch, I think. Unless, of course, there's a joint play with Australia (who have the land and the money)."

Reaction Engines Ltd is a private company.

"The UK" by which I think you mean the British Government neither own the IP nor provide more than 25% of the funding.

They will therefor do nothing with the IP as they do not own it.

REL plans to sell Skylons. If you want one it's yours if you have a)About one billlllion dollars to spend and b)Not on the UN "bad boys" list.

3
1

Re: "They will experience weightlessness at 100km altitude for 1 hour"

"Well, no". You are 100% wrong and should maybe do some research. You are just reading this article and have no idea about the history here. SS1 got to 100km and this is what they intend to do with SS2. Mach 1.4 is the test that this article is on, but it is just one test for this project. The goal (as already achieved by SS1) is a clearly mapped out schedule for them, but they are testing as they go. The SS2 is intended to go to 100km and take passengers. They might not keep people up there for 1 hour, probably will be more like a few minutes, but basically everything you said "Well, no" to, you are wrong on. No, Branson is not further from space and slower than early cold war era (i.e. see SS1) and this is one test in a well planned out engineering project. Pretty shocked that you'd post something when you are so clueless on this. Please learn to use the internet for finding out information; are you American by any chance?

9
3

Re: What is the long term goal?

They do have a neat side line in the launcher business...

1
1

Re: What is the long term goal?

Yeah, it's just a big buzz-trip. If it makes a profit, it will provide the basis for further expansion of the technology.

There are plans for Virgin to go orbital, they have an adaptation called Launcher One for small orbital payloads which essentially launches a rocket from the top of their White Knight Two spaceplane.

It's certainly an exciting time to be a space nerd, like me!

1
0

Re: What is the long term goal?

Surely the most obvious, if it proves to be a success commercially, is to look at the next version that is capable of sub-orbital long distance. Even if it is only US coast-to-coast, or Europe to New York, I can envisage a sizeable market for such a product. Say such a journey was priced at $10k, how many would use it?

In many ways this is a proof of concept for the idea of sub-orbital flight, but done via a private company not a Government organisation. Just as HS2 will mean senior decision makers could get from Birmingham to London much more easily (or more accurately the other way as business needs to move away from the SE) so much swifter connections for the magic few across the US or to Europe may well have long term effects on the growth of the economy.

Nobody knows the future, but life was transformed when someone started to build railways just less than 200 years ago. Look what that did.

2
0
Bronze badge
Happy

Re: What is the long term goal?

Branson is a businessman, I suspect he has no long term goals just medium term business plans.

I wish him (and his team) great success in this particular business venture, not for any scientific progress reasons but just for the aesthetic pleasure of watching a fun idea being expertly and profitably executed.

5
0

Re: What is the long term goal?

"There is no long-term advantage to this craft. "

SS2 possibly not but they do intend to use what they have learnt to launch satellites cheaper.

http://www.virgingalactic.com/launcherone

0
0

Re: "They will experience weightlessness at 100km altitude for 1 hour"

Pah, I thought the only thing the UK still made was debt...

1
1

Re: What is the long term goal?

Imagine telling Branson he has no long term goals lol

0
0

Re: What is the long term goal?

Ostensibly it's a rollercoaster.

It's also mostly a technology demonstrator - Scaled and Virgin have always been clear that they have an SS1 / SS2 / SS3 plan in mind, with each model proving stuff for the next step up. Sky-launched re-entering rocket rollercoaster is preamble for something with beefier engines and actual LEO capacity.

0
0

Re: What is the long term goal?

I think you missed the point of the feathered tail design. That is the whole reason for this craft. By feathering the tail it avoids high re-entry speeds and the associated heat. I think Branson has messed up Rutan's idea though, by making it into a joyride machine for his rich and famous buddies. Burt Rutan is a genius and he was hoping for applications that were more serious.

Still as they say, money talks bullshit walks.

1
0
Alien

I'm amazed this has taken so long. I drove to Mojave Spaceport for the launch of the X2 flight, october 2004. nearly 10 years ago. at the time it seemed like they were just a couple years from scaling it up.

btw, the X2 flight reached nearly 112000km (69000 miles). afaik that was the last and highest flight of SpaceShipOne.

1
0
Silver badge

"btw, the X2 flight reached nearly 112000km (69000 miles)."

That figure is VERY wrong - by 1000 fold. presumably from translating m -> km & then converting to miles.

From Wikipedia :

"The spacecraft coasted to apogee at an altitude of 367,442 feet (111.996 km), well in excess of the X PRIZE target altitude. It also broke the record altitude of 354,200 feet (107.96 km) for a rocket plane, set by the X-15 in 1963.

After apogee, SpaceShipOne reentered the atmosphere in its feathered configuration, and then changed to gliding configuration at 07:57. SpaceShipOne then glided back to the spaceport, deployed landing gear at 4,200 feet (1.28 km), and landed safely at 08:13. White Knight then landed at 08:19."

5
0
Silver badge

I'm amazed this has taken so long...

Conforming to regulations, dear boy! And passing H&S standards....

1
0
Bronze badge

USCF Standards?

USCF Standard (taking a little license in the humor department, mind you....)

The US ChAir Force mission includes orbital vehicle destruction and monitoring domination, among myriad other things Virgin Galactic is not even remotely interested in sniffing. Well, unless VG aircraft will carry hostile weapons or other payloads in secret for the USCF.

Anyway, I imagine the stocks/investment value of Depends will increase 10-fold when this aircraft takes on its first paying customers unless Virgin has passenger preflight training flights or complimentary thrill rides at airports basing the Virgin Galactic Spaceship take-off sites.

2
0
Silver badge

Well done and all that

But what record has been smashed - the altitude record for SpaceShipTwo ('smashed' by a few percent)?

2
1

Research

There must be some research that can be done in 5 minutes of zero g. The alternatives I can think of are 30 second bursts on the vomit comet, or full blown orbital flight. One may be too short, while the other may be too expensive. I expect this would hit the sweet spot for something, I just can't think what.

Just remembered drop towers, but they give really short times at zero g, comparatively cheap though.

2
2
Gold badge
Happy

Re: Research

"There must be some research that can be done in 5 minutes of zero g. "

Actually quite a lot of research is done on sub orbital vehicles.

They are called "sounding" rockets. They can 5-20 minutes of near zero g but with a takeoff pulling possibly 18gs.

Quite a lot of researchers would pay for SS2 flights if they could have one of the crew twiddle some of the knobs as well.

2
0

Re: Research

"if they could have one of the crew twiddle some of the knobs as well"

Ahh, so they want to enter the mile-high (maybe now it's the 100-mile high) club?

0
0
Silver badge
Boffin

Nice to see....

... the old-fashioned aerodynamics coming back into style.

Back around WW2, model aeroplane builders were just about able to make their rubber powered planes and gliders perform long, high flights - flights high enough to get them caught by thermals. And if that happened, the plane would be carried away, high in the air, like a kite, and probably never seen again.

To address this problem, modelers developed ways of collapsing the lift and getting the model to fall slowly to the ground in a stable configuration after a set period of time. There were several techniques - one common one was to arrange for the tailplane to tilt up 60deg or so, putting the aircraft into a deep stall. Here is an illustration from a modeling magazine in 1948:

Dethermaliser plan

You can see that the system is called a 'De-Thermaliser', and is precisely the same as the Virgin Design.

11
0

Re: Nice to see....

I built gliders when I was a lad that used this technique.

Sadly it never reached high enough or long enough flight for it to really be needed ;-(

1
0
Gold badge
Meh

Re: Nice to see....

"You can see that the system is called a 'De-Thermaliser', and is precisely the same as the Virgin Design."

Not so surprising.

WK2/SS2 was Burt Rutan 's last design and I guess he started aircraft modelling around the late 40's.

All that is old is new....

1
0

Sure you won't achieve orbit, but it is probably the closest thing to being in space for normal(by normal i mean rich) people in their lifetime.

I would love to go on this flight personally, no way am I paying 250k for it though. I could just about manage it if I sold my house, then I wouldnt have anywhere to live.

1
0
Bronze badge

At the time they announced all this, they did mumble under their noses something about only the initial flights costing so much, with the ticket price hopefully getting significantly reduced as they pick up speed. Sadly, none of that makes any difference to me - I fly exclusively low-costs, that should clue you in...

0
1
Silver badge

Improving by 2000 feet a pop is going to take a long long time.

Only another 260 test flights to go!

4
1
Silver badge

Re: Improving by 2000 feet a pop is going to take a long long time.

If it this was intended to be unmanned it would already be through it's testing and in service by now although a bit useless. But it has to be man-rated and that means lots and lots and lots of testing under supervision of Govt. inspectors. Not just small increments but many repeatable and demonstrabley "safe" tests.

Unlike with SpaceX though, the Virgin plan doesn't have anything productive they can do as part of the testing since sending a tourist trip up without tourists doesn't really work since they can't even send a wheel'o'cheese to the ISS.

0
0
Gold badge
Joke

M3 at most and sub orbital but imagine the kudos

Of the highest fastest (and first) jumper wearing beardie in the world.

1
0
Bronze badge

Marvelous

They can fly to the edge of space at supersonic speeds but still haven't figured out how to answer a customer services call in less than 50 minutes.

7
2
Silver badge

Re: Marvelous

Sadly, i am only allowed one upvote, else your post would be the highest upvote grossing comment ever.

Only yesterday, i wanted to confirm a flight upgrade as THEY hadn't taken the £ i had paid for said upgrade some 72hours earlier so wanted to confirm. I set out to walk to my local shops, say half a mile at a sedentry pace. I dialled as i left the house, went to the shop, queued, set of back home, got 1/3rd of the way, had the music change to a "ring ring" then still had time to walk back home, go upstairs, vent my spleen at 'er indoors about how bloody long i've been waiting etc to finally get a human. Fucking farce of a CS dept.....

3
2
Anonymous Coward

That's nice, how about Virgin Media lets me get to Ebay? sort your shitty routing out before you waste money on space travel.

0
2

Not Even Close to NASA

NASA's X-15 program in the early 1960's makes this accomplishment seem like a joke. The X-15 reached a height of 67 miles and a top speed of 4,519 mph.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_X-15

0
3
Silver badge

Re: Not Even Close to NASA

Remind me, how many paying passengers did it carry?

4
0
Bronze badge

Re: Not Even Close to NASA

AFAIR only one. But they paid the passenger rather than the other way round. Virgin take note ...

1
0
Bronze badge
Coat

Re: Not Even Close to NASA

Or the fact that private money financed it?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Launched at 45,000 ft

Why not launch a bit higher and add those couple of thousand ft to SS2's peak.

(They could get to 45,000 during the Second World War.)

0
1

Re: Launched at 45,000 ft

White Knight 2 is a very much skin and structure layout. Too much turbulence is bad news.

0
0

space ship in natural environment

perhaps it's too early on Monday morning, but there is nothing 'natural' about a spaceship in orbit. It's man-made, and we chucked it up there. If left to natural things, it would fall to earth and burn up.

Even the moon's orbit is not stable, given a very long time to spin, and it's much more natural than a space craft

0
2
Boffin

The heat is not from friction

AFAIK and I'm not a rocket scientist or a physicist, I think you'll find that the heat on re-entry is generated by compression of the air in front of the aircraft, and not from anything to do with friction.

5
2

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.