December 2009

Jeff Foust of The Space Review launched a new blog.

by Robert Talmage of TAAS Company

TAAS  Aircraft Escape Cabin

TAAS Aircraft Escape Cabin

Various NASA spokespersons, astronauts and directors are seeking a tenfold increase in flight safety standards for future astronauts. Many of these comments are referenced in an article,  “NASA Clamors for Safer Launchers”, in Florida Today (November 29, 2009) by Todd Halvorson.

In addition, Wayne Hale, NASA Deputy Administrator for Strategic Partnerships went further speaking to the commercial space industry at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, (ISPCS) in October this year, saying most likely NASA would require a crew escape system on any services they contract for in crew transportation.

Due to the launch dynamics, achieving these new safety levels in vertical launch vehicles will be far more difficult than for horizontal launch vehicles. Crew escape from a vertical launch failure imposes the most significant risks, weight penalties and complexities of the escape system. For instance, the Apollo Command Module (CM) carried three crewmen, at a total mass of 6000 kg. The recovery parachutes and equipment to land the CM, amounted to 250 kg or 4.2 % of the CM’s total mass. The Launch Escape System (LES) necessary to lift the CM away from a launch failure weighed 4200 kg. This adds significant weight penalties to the launch vehicle, complexities and costs since the LES is expendable each flight. Just to protect the crew during launch, the vertical launch vehicle must carry the LES, adding weight penalties sixteen times that of the parachutes and recovery systems.

Utilizing aerodynamics in a horizontal launch vehicle eliminates the need of an escape tower (LES), by employing aircraft style flight safety characteristics. The other risks imposed by rocket propulsion, extreme speeds, altitudes and aerodynamic heating during the flight also warrants an escape system as identified by NASA. Current escape technology for aircraft will not meet the requirements for space flight or accommodate multiple individuals. By satisfying these escape needs for a space plane, we can avoid the severe weight penalties associated with escape towers and fly individuals to space in aircraft style safety and efficiency. Vertical launch vehicles are best suited for un-manned operations.

The Aircraft Escape Cabin (AEC) represents the first new escape technology in a decade. The AEC enables crew escape and recovery from supersonic speeds and extreme altitudes. In an emergency, the AEC separates and glides to the most desirable landing site on water or land. Equipped with light weight, simple devices and parachute technology, the AEC provides safe crew recovery from most any in-flight emergency.

The AEC’s modular feature also satisfies military crew survival needs and offers the economics and versatility of interchangeable modular sections. The primary markets for this modular technology are in new space, military operations and flight test vehicles. In addition, flight research is the first expenditure on new aerospace vehicles. Currently, no manned supersonic, high altitude, rocket powered, flight test vehicles are available. Targeting this market satisfies an urgent need and offers a valuable service for the development of new vehicles and propulsion systems.

The simplicity of the AEC technique enables it to be adapted to an existing aircraft. TAAS Company in Georgia, teamed with other aerospace companies, proposes to demonstrate a prototype AEC. Since it is relatively small, without propulsion or landing gear, the projected cost to fabricate and fly the AEC is less than $350,000. The prototype can subsequently be used with a rocket powered flight test vehicle.

High speed and altitude trajectories will change aviation as we know it. World transportation and access shrinks in time from double digits to two hours. Eventually, with additional speed, crew and passengers will be flying in orbit. Flight testing is the most urgent need and for this we need new escape technology.

TAAS Company

Design & Consulting

PO Box 2325

Acworth,  GA.  30102

Rocket Powered Flight Test Plane with Aircraft Escape Cabin

Source: CNET

by  Chris Matyszczyk

Is all this space travel worthwhile? Will it really contribute to our civilization or our touchingly naive way of life? Will it even lift our spirits?

I cannot be sure about the first two, as I feel these might be permanently floating somewhere out there. But I have some space-sourced spirit lifting to share.

Japan’s Sapporo Breweries, the entity that brings you those large silver tins of beer to complement your rainbow roll, announced this week that it is launching space beer.

According to Reuters, Sapporo “Space Barley”, with its cute outer-space sparkling starred label, has been created using barley grown on the International Space Station.

Full article here

An ad rolls before the newcast footage.

Source: KXTV
Toshiba, the giant electronics manufacturer, had already booked advertising time on television networks in Europe and Japan. Their must-stop-and-watch image commercial would feature an armchair rising from the ground to the edge of space, beautifully shot in high definition. It would be a creative way to market Toshiba’s new line of flat screen televisions. The only thing missing was the “money shot” — an arm chair hovering at the edge of space. Special effects was not an option because viewers would know it was fake. Sort of like the scene of the White House blowing up in the movie Independence Day. Everyone knows it’s not real.

NASA could probably put Toshiba’s little orange armchair in space, but that would take years of planning and cost millions of dollars. And their ad campaign was set to air in just weeks. The production company in charge of creating the ad is based in London, England. But even across the Atlantic Ocean, they had heard of a man who works out of a small warehouse in Rancho Cordova, a man who has flown science projects under helium balloons to the edge of space more than 100 times. When John Powell received the first email asking if he could fly a light-weight chair high above the Earth, his first reaction was “no one is going to be sitting in the chair, right?” Correct. Powell’s second reaction: “Yeah, we can do that. It sounds like a really fun mission.”

Below is a  gallery of photos of the recent SS2 rollout from our friend Sam Coniglio.

The Best:

…and the rest:

My website also has the best images on it:

Source: Virgin Galactic

SS2 out of hangar for first time

SS2 out of hangar for first time

VG Press Conference at Mojave Spaceport

VG Press Conference at Mojave Spaceport

Virgin Galactic's roll out event of SS2

Virgin Galactic's roll out event of SS2

Rollout of VSS Enterprise

Rollout of VSS Enterprise

Governors schwarzenegger and Richardson name SpaceShipTwo

Governors schwarzenegger and Richardson name SpaceShipTwo

Document provided by  Virgin Galactic


The History: The Ansari X Prize

  • Objective: to provide the catalyst for private sector innovation in the field of manned space exploration
  • Rules: private funding, design and manufacture of a vehicle capable of delivering the weight of 3 people including one actual person to sub-orbital space defined as an altitude of at least 100kms. The vehicle had to be 80% reusable and fly twice within a two week period
  • Winner: Mojave Aerospace Ventures a Paul G Allen company with Burt Rutan and SpaceShipOne on October 4th 2004. Pilot Brian Binnie (see

The History: SpaceShipOne

  • Project funded by Paul Allen – co founder of Microsoft; at an cost of approx $26m
  • Designed and built by Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites in Mojave CA
  • Flew to space 3 times in 2004
  • The world’s first private manned space vehicle
  • Now displayed in the Milestones of Flight Gallery at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, DC between Charles Lindbergh’s  Spirit of St Louis and Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1

The Technology

  • A completely new approach to space access for people, science and payload
  • Air (horizontal) launch from the “WhiteKnight” purpose built aircraft not ground (vertical) launch – intrinsically safer and more environmentally friendly
  • All carbon composite construction (light, strong, resilient and fuel efficient)
  • Hybrid rocket motor uses benign fuel and oxidizer (same rubber and nitrous oxide used for SpaceShipOne) and is controllable – can be shut down at any time during boost phase of flight
  • Re-entry controlled aerodynamically by unique wing feathering design – heat free and carefree
  • Un-powered (glide) runway landing

Virgin’s Involvement

  • Seeking investment opportunities since late 90’s when Galactic name was registered
  • Knew of Burt Rutan’s credentials through sponsorship of the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer – world’s most fuel efficient powered aircraft
  • Agreed with Burt Rutan and Paul Allen to invest in development and construction of second generation vehicle for commercial venture – the world’s first commercial spaceline
  • Intending to order 5 SpaceShipTwo’s and 3 WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft to be manufactured by The SpaceShip Company (TSC) (a Joint Venture between Scaled Composites and Virgin)
  • Mission to create environmentally benign, safe and commercially viable access to space for people, science and potential for payload.  Space tourism early adopters provided vital proof of first available market and made project possible.


  • SpaceShipTwo unveiled on 7th December 2009 immediately prior to start of its test flight program
  • Uses all the same basic technology, construction and design as SpaceShipOne prototype
  • Is around twice as large as SS1 and will carry 6 passengers and 2 pilots
  • Cabin approx the size of a Falcon 900 exec jet
  • Whole fuselage used for passenger cabin – no raised “floor”
  • Large windows positioned throughout the cabin to afford maximum viewing potential for passengers
  • Planning for reclining seats to maximize cabin space in zero g and for re-entry
  • Dimensions:  Wing span: 42ft.  Length: 60 ft.  Tail height: 18 ft (Feather down)
  • Cabin details:    6 passenger seats.  90” diameter x 12 ft long
  • Construction:  100% carbon composite
  • Propulsion: hybrid rocket motor uses benign fuel and oxidizer (the same means of propulsion as SpaceShipOne) and is controllable – can be shut down at any time during boost phase of flight
  • Power: after release from carrier aircraft, operates on internal power supply
  • Feathering wings for re-entry: same technology as SS1; improved aerodynamics
  • Flight simulator operational and already being used as pilot training and design refinement tool

Carrier Aircraft/Mothership (WhiteKnightTwo) Technical Specification

  • Status: first flight 21st December 2008. Test flight program substantially complete with a total of 22 successful flights including high altitude and long duration
  • Largest 100% carbon composite plane in service (Boeing 787 Dreamliner uses composite materials for about 50% of its primary structure)
  • Twin boom / fuselage construction
  • Propulsion & Power: 4 X Pratt & Whitney PW308 engines. Member of PW300 series engines
  • Dimensions: Wing span: 140ft (only 16 ft less than Boeing 767-300).  Length: 78 ft.  Tail height: 25ft
  • Performance: SS2 ferry range: U.S. coast to coast
  • Capability:  A training vehicle for SS2 spaceflight – can simulate SpaceShipTwo g force profile.  Both fuselages replicate SS2 and right hand cabin interior will also be identical allowing for passenger training.  Unique high altitude lift aircraft potentially suitable for various payloads

SpaceShipTwo Flight Profile

  • G-Forces:  max gx (front to back): 6g.  max gz (head to toe): 3.8g
  • SS2 release: 50,000 ft
  • Planned apogee of spaceflight: at least 110 km
  • Zero-g phase –out of seat
  • Total flight time:  all told approximately 2.0 hrs


  • WhiteKnightTwo commenced test program during the summer of 2008 with first flight 21 December 2008. Test program continued through 2009 and was substantially completed by the end of the year
  • Spaceship Two roll-out December 7th 2009. Test flight program will commence early 2010
  • Test flight period envisaged 18 – 24 months or longer if safety dictates.  Building of first commercial vehicles will commence whilst test program is underway
  • Safety first, we are not in a race, we will launch only when we are content that it is safe to do so
  • We aim to fly 500 people in the first year and 50,000 in the first 10 years, subject to our first obtaining all necessary regulatory approvals
  • First commercial flights are planned to operate from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

SpaceShipTwo Flight Stats

  • Total flight time around 2.0 hours
  • G forces: rocket boost max 3.8 g (x and z); re-entry max 6 g (x only whilst reclined)
  • Speed: supersonic within 8 seconds of rocket ignition and faster than Mach 3 within 30 seconds of rocket ignition
  • Achieving an apogee of at least 110 kms

The Experience

  • Plan for 3 days of preparation, medical checks, bonding, and g force acclimatization as part of flight cost
  • Carrier aircraft is able to act as a training platform with passenger cabins that replicate the spaceship
  • All passengers will be able to leave their seats and float in zero G should they wish and enjoy view of space and the earth stretching for around 1000 miles in every direction


  • Accepted Deposits from over 300 individuals who have made deposits from between $20 and $200k
  • Total deposits received over $40m.  Flight cost US$200k
  • Over 85,000 people from 125 countries have registered their interest in becoming a Virgin Galactic astronaut at
  • A specialist network of Virgin Galactic Accredited Space Agents has been set up around the world to accept deposits for seats on future space flights (ASA details can be found on


  • US regulatory framework established by 2004 Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act which empowered the Office of Commercial Space Transportation within the Federal Aviation Administration to regulate and license commercial space launch vehicles and operators.
  • Enshrined the principle of Informed Consent for space flight participants, permitting a licensed operator to carry passengers on space flights once the passengers are informed of and accept a comprehensive explanation of the risks involved.
  • Company also is committed to complying with other U.S governmental regulations, including export provisions administered by the State Department

Environmental Credentials

  • Air launch means short rocket burn
  • Reusable spaceship – no space debris
  • The carrier aircraft uses latest highly efficient turbo fan jet engines
  • SpaceShipTwo re-entry and landing are unpowered
  • CO2 emissions per passenger on a spaceflight will be equivalent to approximately 60% of a per passenger return commercial London/New York flight.  Around 70% of the spaceflight CO2 emissions come from the carrier aircraft. This is a clean spaceship!
  • SpaceShipTwo and its carrier aircraft will provide space access, to paying tourism passengers and to scientists for research, with an incomparably smaller environmental impact, lower cost and greater flexibility than anything that has gone before. We need space but we need better access to it.


  • Pics from our friend, Sam Coniglio whose probably going to provide the bulk of the New Space community with first pics.
  • Twitpic feed courtesy  of Jeff Foust from The Space Review and The New Space Journal.
  • NPR

Articles, blogs, and twitter coverage

Jonathan Amos reporting for the BBC.

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Source Virgin Travel

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