Fri 5 Mar 2010
Fri 5 Mar 2010
Mon 4 Jan 2010
Aviation week article – Person of the year: The Space Entrepreneur
By Frank Morring, Jr.
Working quietly in the background since the days of viewgraphs, a group of space entrepreneurs has long been pitching far-fetched ideas to skeptical moneymen with the fervor of evangelists. Now their viewgraphs—updated to Powerpoint and CAD/CAM—are becoming reality, and metal and fire are streaking through the upper atmosphere into low Earth orbit.
Collectively, they are in the vanguard of a new industry, poised to transform how humans venture into space in ways that most observers can scarcely imagine today. Space entrepreneurs had a big influence on aerospace in 2009, although it does not begin to compare with the impact they are likely to have in years to come.
That is why Aviation Week chose this intrepid group of engineers and visionaries as the 2009 Person of the Year.
Two developments have set the stage for space entrepreneurs to begin breaking down barriers, financially and otherwise. After investing more than $1 billion in hard-won private capital on hardware, they are finding increased acceptance for their business plans. And they have finally made it to space with humans onboard—three suborbital flights with SpaceShipOne that won Scaled Composites the Ansari X-Prize and launched a fledgling commercial space-tourism business.
Traditionally reluctant to rely on government backing, these brash businessmen now find themselves at the center of the debate on how government astronauts will get to space; the very governments they have often disdained are potentially their biggest customers. NASA already has multi-billion-dollar contracts with two of them to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and is spending big bucks to encourage them to develop more capability.
In the U.S., where almost all of the space entrepreneurs operate, the federal government may wind up relying on them to transport astronauts to the ISS. And, building on the success of the X-Prize Foundation in spurring development of a privately financed human spaceship, NASA and Congress are using a federal prize program to tap into the skills of the growing entrepreneur community.
As Burt Rutan at Scaled Composites was putting the finishing touches on SpaceShipTwo, the commercial version of the vehicle that won the privately backed $10-million X-Prize, another Mojave, Calif.-based company was winning big, too. Masten Space Systems pulled in more than $1 million in federal Centennial Challenge prizes for building a lunar-lander prototype and proving it on a simulated moonscape.
Mojave is a hotbed of the space-entrepreneurial spirit, and Dave Masten—featured on the cover with his prize-winning rocket-powered Xoie lander—epitomizes that zeal. Like some other space entrepreneurs, Masten got his start in information technology, but winning the Centennial Challenge lunar lander prizes make it less likely the longtime rocket buff will ever have to go back to Silicon Valley.
Click here for the full article.
Mon 14 Dec 2009
Mon 7 Dec 2009
Document provided by Virgin Galactic
GALACTIC AT A GLANCE!
The History: The Ansari X Prize
The History: SpaceShipOne
Carrier Aircraft/Mothership (WhiteKnightTwo) Technical Specification
SpaceShipTwo Flight Profile
SpaceShipTwo Flight Stats
Mon 7 Dec 2009
Articles, blogs, and twitter coverage
Jonathan Amos reporting for the BBC.
Mon 7 Dec 2009
Source: Virgin Galactic
SpaceShipTwo (SS2) and its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) herald a new era in commercial space flight with daily space tourism flights set to commence from Spaceport America in New Mexico after test program and all required US government licensing completed.
Mojave Air and Spaceport, California
December 7, 2009
Virgin Founder, Sir Richard Branson and SpaceshipOne (SS1) designer, Burt Rutan, today reveal SS2 to the public for the first time since construction of the world’s first manned commercial spaceship began in 2007. SS2 has been designed to take many thousands of private astronauts into space after test programming and all required U.S. government licensing has been completed.
The unveiling represents another major milestone in Virgin Galactic’s quest to develop the World’s first commercial space line providing private sector access to space using an environmentally benign launch system for people, payload and science. The spaceship draws on the experience developed during the successful flights of SS1 in 2004, which won the Ansari X-Prize for completing the world’s first manned private space flights. The SS2 design will be refined and completed during an extensive test flying program to commence shortly, and it will be an entirely new vehicle capable of carrying up to 6 passenger astronauts and up to 2 pilot astronauts into space on a sub-orbital flight.
The unveil itself will take place at Mojave Air and Spaceport as darkness falls on the famous aviation and spaceflight location. Subject to certain U.S. regulatory requirements that will guide the unveiling, SS2 will be attached to her WK2 mothership which was last year unveiled and named EVE after Sir Richard Branson’s mother. In the future, WK2 will carry SS2 to above 50,000 feet (16 kilometres) before the spaceship is dropped and fires her rocket motor to launch into space from that altitude. In honour of a long tradition of using the word Enterprise in the naming of Royal Navy, US Navy, NASA vehicles and even science fiction spacecraft, Governor Schwarzenegger of California and Governor Richardson of New Mexico will today christen SS2 with the name Virgin Space Ship (VSS) ENTERPRISE. This represents not only an acknowledgement to that name’s honorable past but also looks to the future of the role of private enterprise in the development of the exploration, industrialisation and human habitation of space.
The emergence of new commercial space companies like Virgin Galactic will be an engine for employment, growth and the creation of a new technology and science base in the United States. Recent research has indicated that 12,500 jobs have already been created by the new space companies; the Virgin Galactic project alone is creating significant opportunities for employment in both the company itself and with suppliers in both California and New Mexico. Approximately 600 people are now working on activities relating to the project and it is estimated that this figure will rise to over 1,100 jobs during the peak of the construction phase at the space port and through the introduction of the commercial space vehicles into regular astronaut service.
Both WK2 and SS2 represent state of the art environmentally sensitive industrial development in their use of carbon composite materials technology, which has now been identified as a key future contributor to the increasingly urgent requirement by the commercial aviation sector for dramatically more fuel efficient aircraft. WK2 is powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines, which are amongst the most powerful. economic and efficient commercial jet engines available making it a mould breaker in carbon efficiency. SS2 will be powered by a unique hybrid rocket motor, which is currently under development.
The twin fuselage and central payload area configuration allow for easy access to WK2 and to the spaceship for passengers and crew; the design also aids operational efficiencies and turnaround times. The mothership has now also completed a year of rigorous and successful first phase flight testing prior to today’s attachment of SS2.
Commenting on the unveiling, Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic said: “This is truly a momentous day. The team has created not only a world first but also a work of art. The unveil of SS2 takes the Virgin Galactic vision to the next level and continues to provide tangible evidence that this ambitious project is not only moving rapidly, but also making tremendous progress towards our goal of safe commercial operation”.
Burt Rutan, Founder of Scaled Composites added: “All of us at Scaled are tremendously excited by the capabilities of both the mothership and SS2. Today is the culmination of a dream that began many decades ago, was stimulated by Paul Allen’s funding of our X-Prize winning SS1 and then moved forward to commercial reality by Sir Richard and Virgin’s visionary investment in a new future for space transportation”.
SpaceShipTwo will be unveiled after darkness has fallen over the Mojave Desert to the sound of a space-themed anthem from Britain’s biggest DJs, Above & Beyond. Fittingly titled “Buzz” the track will sample Buzz Aldrin’s original moon landing dialogue. Following the naming by Governors Richardson and Schwarzenegger, the DJs will also perform an exclusive set at the celebration cocktail party which will follow and feature the first ever IceBar in the desert hosted by Absolut and the world famous Swedish IceHotel. All the guests will be protected from the desert cold by designer space jackets supplied by PUMA. Finally, to close off the celebrations, all the guests will have the opportunity to view the stunning night skies using specialist telescopes supplied by Ron Dantowitz of the Clay Observatory whose unique tracking cameras followed SS1 into space during the epic flights of 2004.
For further information go to www.virgingalactic.com
For downloadable images and graphics go to: www.virgingalactic.com/SS2Unveil
Fri 13 Nov 2009
Source: Popular Mechanics
New Area 51: Mojave’s Desert Outpost Holds Spaceflight’s Future
By Joe Pappalardo
Two technicians in coveralls stoop to push a gleaming white plane through open hangar doors into the bright sunshine of southern California’s Mojave Desert. The tailless aircraft is about 18 ft. long with a rounded fuselage and sweptback wings, tips bent upward in pronounced winglets. A pair of canards stretches 13 ft. across the cone-shaped nose. A two-seat cockpit is slung beneath gullwing doors that look like they belong on a ’54 Benz coupe. Basically, the aircraft is a rocket with wings.
The techs remove the cowling that covers the plane’s engine, exposing slender helium tanks and intricate connections of frosted liquid oxygen fuel lines. Two engineers in jeans and sneakers emerge from the hangar. Brandon Woodworth, 26, clipboard in hand, begins a brisk 100-item-plus diagnostic rundown.
“Check switch number nine to check thermocouples on the LOX tank,” Woodworth says. “Any gripes?”
In tandem, the techs answer “no”—the temperature sensors on the liquid oxygen tank are functioning.
Woodworth nods. “Check switch number 10.”
And so it goes through six pages of procedures. Then the crew tests the igniter, which emits a throaty burp, calibrates the fuel flows and tops off the tank with liquid oxygen cooled to minus 297 F. White mist curls from the nozzle as the gas boils off in the hot sun.
Meanwhile, an interloper on a Harley-Davidson pulls up on the road that parallels the chain-link fence along the airport perimeter.
Standing on tiptoe, he holds a digital camera above the fence and begins squeezing off shots of the exotic rocket plane 15 yards away. The crew ignores him. “He probably couldn’t recognize anything proprietary even if he could get a picture of it,” says Reuben Garcia, 34, crew chief and composite materials ace.
The shooter stows the camera, mounts his Harley and roars off. Whether tourist or aviation paparazzi, he has come to the right place to capture images from the cutting edge of aerospace. The city of Mojave—a low-rise community of 3800 people, 100 miles north of Los Angeles—doesn’t look like much. The dusty main drag has two traffic lights, a cluster of fast-food franchises and one decent roadhouse, Mike’s, where a mix of miners, bikers and pilots drink, shoot pool and watch motor sports on ESPN. The desert winds blow tirelessly.
Click here for full article.
Tue 10 Nov 2009
By Michael Belfiore
In the old days it was straightforward enough. The planet had two corps of astronauts, Soviet and U.S., and to join one, you had to be a military test pilot. But now the rules have changed. You don’t have to be an American or a Russian anymore, and you don’t even have to be a government employee.
In 2004, Burt Rutan and his small company in Mojave, California, Scaled Composites, broke the government monopoly on human spaceflight. The company built SpaceShipOne using the same carbon fiber molding techniques used by airplane homebuilders everywhere, at the ridiculously paltry cost of $25 million. At the controls on its first flight into space sat not a steely-eyed missile man forged in the cold war but a 63-year-old high school dropout from South Africa. “I’m just a guy,” Mike Melvill exulted after SpaceShipOne’s inaugural flight into space. “An old guy!” The implication was inescapable. If he could drive a spaceship, so could anyone.
Of course, Melvill wasn’t just any guy. He had spent the previous 25 years studying at the school of experience, flying one quirky experimental airplane after another. During his tenure with Scaled and its predecessor company, Melvill had made the first flights in nine other airplanes, among them the California Microwave, a reconnaissance aircraft designed to fly equally well with a pilot or without; and a self-powered sailplane called the Solitaire, with a propeller and engine that could retract into the fuselage to reduce drag.
Read the full article here.
Sat 17 Oct 2009
Thank you to Scott Farr for the pics below. He had to battle 3 hours of traffic to get into the airshow at Edwards AFB earlier today . Thank you Scott!
Thu 16 Apr 2009
Parabolic Arc points out this funny but telling piece on Rutan at a recent speech at a university in Turkey. I recall seeing Rutan speak at UCLA to a group of engineers. He more or less had the same advice then and referred to his employees at Scaled Composites as having skills that go beyond the classroom. I recall his saying that if he had two applicants, one with straight A’s from UCLA who didn’t have any hands on skills and the other who was a high school dropout who loved to work on engines in his parents’ garage…well, you can guess whom he would hire. For those of you who doubt his words, you might consider the lack of formal training two guys named Wilbur and Orville had. Way to go, Burt.