From: Virgin Galactic
Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012
MOJAVE, Calif. - Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline, today announced that its passenger-carrying suborbital space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2), successfully completed its first glide flight test on June 26 since a recent integration period for rocket motor systems and maintenance. Also, on June 26, the spaceship's engine, RocketMotorTwo (RM2), underwent another successful full duration test fire, marking the first time the company and its partners have undertaken test flight and test firing on the same day. Both milestones prime Virgin Galactic to reach powered flight by the end of the year.
"Since receiving an experimental launch permit from the Federal Aviation Administration in May for SpaceShipTwo and its carrier vehicle, WhiteKnightTwo, there has been a rapid escalation of test activity," said George Whitesides, CEO and president of Virgin Galactic. "In that timeframe, we've had seven successful test flights and three full-scale rocket motor tests. We are on track for powered flight by the end of 2012."
The glide flight was performed by Scaled Composites, the prime contractor for the spaceflight system. To perform the flight, SS2 was air-released from WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) at an altitude of 51,000 feet. At the SS2 controls were Scaled pilots Pete Siebold and Mike Alsbury. In the carrier aircraft were Scaled test pilot Mark Stucky and David Mackay, Virgin Galactic's Chief Pilot. Flying in the chase plane for the test were Mike Melvill, who piloted the first private flight to space, and Virgin Galactic pilot Keith Colmer.
The rocket motor firing was performed by Sierra Nevada Space Systems, the prime contractor for the RM2 system. The 55-second test was the thirteenth full-scale flight design RM2 hot fire. All objectives were completed. In addition to this test, on June 20 a full-scale RM2 test firing took place for the first time at Scaled Composites' test site in Mojave, Calif., under full direction of the spaceship's Rocket Motor Controller. This firing provided an end-to-end test of the rocket motor systems - a critical step in preparation for powered flight.
This intense period of activity comes just weeks before Virgin Galactic, along with its Mojave-based sister manufacturing organization, The Spaceship Company, will gather customers and VIPs at the Farnborough International Air Show 2012. Guests will attend a special briefing from company founder Sir Richard Branson and other company executives.
About Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic, owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and aabar Investments PJS, is on track to be the world's first commercial spaceline. The new spaceship (SpaceShipTwo, VSS Enterprise) and carrier craft (WhiteKnightTwo, VMS Eve) have both been developed for Virgin Galactic by Mojave-based Scaled Composites. The Spaceship Company, a new aerospace production company founded by Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites, is building the fleet of vehicles for Virgin Galactic. Founded by Burt Rutan, Scaled developed SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 claimed the $10m Ansari X Prize as the world's first privately developed manned spacecraft. Virgin Galactic's new vehicles share much of the same basic design, but are being built to carry six customers, or the equivalent scientific research payload, on sub-orbital space flights, allowing an out-of-the-seat, zero-gravity experience and offering astounding views of the planet from the black sky of space for tourist astronauts and a unique microgravity platform for researchers. The VSS Enterprise and VMS Eve test flight program is well under way, leading to Virgin Galactic commercial operations, which will be based at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
About Scaled Composites
Northrop Grumman Corporation, through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Allied Holdings, Inc., acquired Scaled Composites in 2007. Reporting into the corporation's Aerospace Systems Advanced Programs and Technology division, Scaled Composites operates as a separate company supporting Northrop Grumman and other customers. Providing a level of expertise second-to-none in rapid design, innovation and prototyping, Scaled Composites is strongly aligned with Northrop Grumman on designing innovative solutions with outside-the-box thinking for game-changing results.
About Sierra Nevada Corporation's Space Systems
Sierra Nevada Corporation's Space Systems business area headquartered in Louisville, Colorado, designs and manufactures advanced spacecraft, space vehicles, and spacecraft subsystems for commercial and government customers. Space Systems (SS) has more than 20 years heritage in space, successfully delivering over 400 subsystems for 300+ satellite missions. Current key programs include NASA's Commercial Crew Development program where we are developing our Dream Chaser(R) 7 passenger vehicle to take astronauts to the International Space Station; the ORBCOMM Generation 2 program; the SpaceShip2 program where we are developing a non-toxic "green" rocket engine for Virgin Galactic's suborbital space vehicle to carry tourists to space; and the Modular Space Vehicle program for the DoD's Operationally Responsive Space Office. For more information about SS, visit www.sncspace.com.
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