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Space Ship II, White Knight II - projects, flights, info

FutureSpaceTourist

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Been trying to work out what the alteration is for, but no joy. I believe SS1 had a split rudder but IIRC they didn't use the split in practice and the VG artwork for SS2 doesn't show one, which appears to be borne out by the first picture below from the first flight. So I don't think it's to do with having a clean airflow over different parts of the rudder?

The new strake (I think that's the term?) does appear to be in about the position indicated in the original VG SS2 artwork (second picture), although smaller.

Ideas anyone?!
 

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FutureSpaceTourist

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Scaled have now started a new log for SpaceShipTwo ground tests: http://www.scaled.com/projects/spaceshiptwo_ground_tests
(SpaceShipOne equivalent log is at http://www.scaled.com/projects/tierone/spaceshipone_ground_tests)

First test was yesterday, details as follows:

[quote author=SpaceSpaceTwo ground test log]
Monday was a great milestone for the team. We performed five tests from 25 to 60 mph with two different pilots. All objectives were achieved. They were: condition the brakes and evaluate the landing gear/brake steering/skid shoe performance and general ground handling. The vehicle performed as expected and we're excited to move into the manned phase of the test program.
[/quote]

So SS2 is inching closer to its first free flight ;D Hopefully a manned captive carry flight will happen real soon now ...
 

mz

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Whoa, that's a very big step!

Shows how nice that carried glider concept is for incremental flight testing.

The motor is the biggest question in my mind. Large hybrids and large nitrous oxide systems are relatively unexplored territory AFAIK.
 

Stargazer2006

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My feelings exactly. On seeing the photograph, I thought the same thing: "This is a flying scale model".
 

Stargazer2006

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It's okay, we all make mistakes! This is nonetheless an admirable piece of R/C technology, courtesy of Scaled's Dan Kreigh and his expert team. Don't you think so?

For comparison here is a series of pictures of the Model 316, whixh was the equivalent SpaceShipOne R/C model:



 

FutureSpaceTourist

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SpaceShipTwo is apparently flying with WhiteKnightTwo again as I write this. I'd expect a manned captive carry but rumours hint it could even be a first glide test - we shall see.

It's certainly true that WK2 has done some recent test flights simulating a SS2 glide (as recorded in Sclaed's WK2 flight test log).
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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Scaled's updated log shows that the latest SS2 flight was a manned captive carry. Looks like they're close to a glide test though. If some pictures are released of the latest flight, it'll be interesting to see if there are any further SS2 changes.

[quote author=Scaled WK2/SS2 flight log]
FlightWK2 Flight 33 / CC-03
Date:15 July 10Flight Time:6.2 hr
WK2 Pilot:StuckyWK2 CoPilot:KalogiannisWK2 FTE: Maisler
SS2 Pilot:SieboldSS2 CoPilot:Alsbury

Objectives:
SS2 manned captive carry
Mated flutter evaluation
SS2 systems evaluation
SS2 mission rehearsal

Results:
Objectives achieved. Pilots in SS2 evaluated the systems and procedures for the upcoming glide flights. A simulated SS2 mission was flown from release down to low approach. Performed low approach then full stop on Runway 30.
[/quote]
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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So there's at least one change to SS2 from it's 2nd captive carry flight (see attached).

The new underside paint job is itself a good indication that the first glide test will be soon. Virgin will no doubt look for a bigger media splash for the first free flight, so a good marketing opportunity. Coupled with that, the first of four National Geographic specials on Virgin Galactic will end with the first glide flight - expect lots of footage from chase planes underneath SpaceShipTwo! Some details on the specials at http://www.virgin.com/travel/news/virgin-galactic-for-national-geographic-tv-series.

Update: Virgin have released a video of the July 15th flight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-FeuOvdK0E
 

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FutureSpaceTourist

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Here are a couple of newly released SS2 pictures showing the feather deployed. Pictures appear to have been taken about a week before the recent captive carry flight.

Report at http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/virgin-galactic-spaceshiptwo-fall-test-flight-100720.html strongly suggests that the first SS2 glide flight may still be some months away:

[quote author=Stephen Attenborough, Virgin Galactic commercial director]
"There's a reasonable possibility that we could see the first drop flight in the fall, but as always, everything is predicated on thoroughness and safety."

"No corners will be cut in order to achieve arbitrary deadlines."

"Scaled will need to evaluate the data from this recent captive carry flight before we know [when the next test will be]"
[/quote]

So it appears that although WK2 has had a similar number of flights in its test programme as did WK1, SS2 is going to have rather more flights than SS1. Having said that, the average duration of WK2 flights (at over three hours) is twice that of WK1's average.
 

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FutureSpaceTourist

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The twitter-verse is reporting WK2 as flying today for the first time since the landing gear failure last month. I've not seen any news yet on what caused the failure.
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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Scaled have now posted this message about the August 19th landing gear incident:

[quote author=http://www.scaled.com/news/wk2_takes_to_the_air_just_over_three_weeks_following_gear_incident_on_]
UPDATE: WK2 takes to the air just over three weeks following gear incident on Flight 37

On August 19th the crew of WK2 was performing touch and go’s while training for upcoming spaceship missions. Upon the fifth nominal touchdown, the left hand main gear partially retracted. Flight Test Engineer Marc Zeitlin immediately annunciated the anomaly and Pilot Pete Siebold called for an immediate abort while holding centerline. Meanwhile, Co-pilot Clint Nichols secured the engines and systems.

The occurrence highlighted another positive attribute of the unique design. Because of the twin boom configuration, the vehicle came to rest on the tip of the left vertical tail and left nose gear. This unique balancing act minimized the damage and kept it localized to these two areas. The engines which would have made contact with the ground on a conventional aircraft remained untouched while still feet in the air.

Numerous tests and inspections have taken place in the last several weeks. We have made minor modifications to the gear to add a fail-safe redundancy for any eventualities. Today’s flight 38 was an “FCF” (functional check flight) to shake the cobwebs off after three weeks of downtime and prove-out the newly configured gear. Because our ultimate goal is to keep SS2 flight test schedule progressing forward at pace, the mothership may be flying the next couple flights with the gear down and locked until we can fully test the new gear mechanisms.

We’d like to thank the Mojave Airport; both for their quick response to the Flight 37 incident, and also for their gracious support in helping us get our plane “back to the barn”. There is no place we’d rather be conducting flight test.

T1b team
[/quote]
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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Scaled have updated their flight log for the fourth SS2 captive carry flight last Thursday. I wonder if it'll be the last captive carry before the first drop test? (probably reading too much into their use of 'rehearsal' :))

[quote author=http://www.scaled.com/projects/whiteknighttwo_spaceshiptwo_test_summaries]
FlightWK2 Flight 39 / CC-04
Date:30 Sep 10Flight Time:5 hr
WK2 Pilot:StuckyWK2 CoPilot:KalogiannisWK2 FTE: Persall
SS2 Pilot:SieboldSS2 CoPilot:Alsbury

Objectives:
SS2 systems evaluation
TM performance
SS2 flutter evaluation
Pilot proficiency
SS2 approach evaluation

Results:
All objectives achieved. Rehearsal mission to evaluate team and systems for early glides was performed. Simulated SS2 mission was flown to low approach. WK2 systems functioned as desired to support SS2 glide mission.
[/quote]
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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SpaceShipTwo has indeed now made it's first glide test. Here's the Virgin press release:

VSS Enterprise achieves manned free flight from over 45,000 ft (13,700 metres) and successfully glides in 11 minutes to land at Mojave Air and Spaceport

10th October 2010, Mojave, CA. Virgin Galactic, the US company developing the world’s first commercial manned space flight system and tourism business, is delighted to announce the successful completion today of the first piloted free flight of SpaceShipTwo, named the VSS Enterprise. The spaceship was released from its mothership at an altitude of 45,000 ft
(13,700 metres).

During its first flight the spaceship was piloted by Pete Siebold, assisted by Mike Alsbury as co-pilot. The two main goals of the flight were to carry out a clean release of the spaceship from its mothership and for the pilots to free fly and glide back and land at Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Other detailed objectives of the flight were successfully completed, including; verification that all systems worked prior and following the clean release of Enterprise; initial evaluation of handling and stall characteristics; qualitative evaluation of stability and control of SS2 against predictions from design and simulation work; verification of performance by evaluating the lift-to-drag ratio of the spaceship during glide flight; practice a landing approach at altitude and finally descend and land.

Preparations for the milestone flight were extensive. The WhiteKnightTwo mothership (Eve) flew 40 times including 4 captive carry flights of spaceship and mothership mated together. The most recent captive carry was on Sept 30th. The most recent solo flight was on October 5th and demonstrated that all the systems required for a free flight by the VSS Enterprise were functioning correctly without any safety issues. Commenting on the successful flight Scaled Composites pilot, Pete Siebold, said “The VSS Enterprise was a real joy to fly, especially when one considers the fact that the vehicle has been designed not only to be a Mach 3.5 spaceship capable of going into space but also one of the worlds highest altitude gliders.”

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, who was present during the first successful flight, added “This was one of the most exciting days in the whole history of Virgin. For the first time since we seriously began the project in 2004, I watched the world’s first manned commercial spaceship landing on the runway at Mojave Air and Space Port and it was a great moment. Now, the sky is no longer the limit and we will begin the process of pushing beyond to the final frontier of space itself over the next year.”

Virgin Galactic is now well on the way to becoming the world’s first commercial space line with 370 customer deposits totalling $50 million. Future commercial operations will be at Spaceport America in New Mexico where final preparations are taking place for a finished runway inauguration ceremony on Friday 22nd October 2010. National Geographic channel in the United States will be showing a documentary on the build up and preparation for the first flight of VSS Enterprise on Monday, 18 October at 10.00pm ET/PT.

George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic who was also present at the historic flight, added “To see the world’s first manned commercial spaceship landing on a runway is a sight I always dreamed I would behold. Now, our challenge going forward will be to complete our experimental program, obtain our FAA licence and safely bring the system into service at Spaceport America, New Mexico.”
I expect lots of pictures and videos to follow on the web. For now here's a promo for the first Nat Geo special on Virgin Galactic:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPt_eE8BbyQ
 

Sundog

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WTG VG! That's a nice photo. I'll definitely be setting up my DVR tonight to record the NG program about VG so far.
 

flateric

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDUVe3a496Y
 

Stargazer2006

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This is ever so COOOOOOL!!!!!!!!! I deeply admire the Scaled/Virgin teams for bringing the dream of stratospheric flight closer to reality for ordinary people like us. Though we probably won't have our chance at it in our lifetime, the SS2 will pave the way for future generations to take that leap, something that no governmental agency in any country has ever done nor intends to do, since their goals are mainly military and they are so messed up with red tape.
 

mz

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(I think the government could achieve results something like this too, if the projects were kept small enough.)

Of what we've seen so far on the WK2 / SS2 program, I think any small aerospace company teaming up with a glider manufacturer or composite shop could have reached much of this. It's still nice. A lot of this stuff has probably details that might not be hard to solve in hindsight but that can still cause grief. They have the SS1 experience with them already, and have produced lots of odd aircraft. I think Burt Rutan might have been historically good at making even odd designs actually fly, though I understand that he's more of a background figure nowadays on the engineering side.

I hope many suborbital reusable companies could operate for some time and get a few improvements out so that it would really start to show what the economics of the things are.

X-15 had a few airframes that did 200 flights in about a decade with great cost but lots of results too. Let's see what this ship can do. Or in other words, hope that the engine works out to be a safe one, or if it doesn't, then that a good one can be substituted. Swapping rocket engines is easy compared to jets, since they don't weigh anything and they don't need inlets.
 

AeroFranz

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wow...that's quite a towbar they got there
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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Stargazer2006 said:
I deeply admire the Scaled/Virgin teams for bringing the dream of stratospheric flight closer to reality for ordinary people like us.
Some way to go yet but I share the sentiment. I agree with Burt Rutan that there isn't enough out there to inspire kids these days to go and build stuff. For me one of the great things about both SS1 and SS2 is their (relative) simplicity. Similarly what Armadillo, Masten etc are doing. I hope they inspire more people to think that exciting projects (and space in particular) isn't just for governments and multi-nationals.
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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Unusually (for Scaled) quite a lot more detail has been given on SS2's first glide.

The Wired piece at http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/10/test-pilot-describes-first-glide-flight-of-spaceshiptwo/all/1 has an interview with the pilot - Pete Siebold. It contains quotes like:

“We released at 45,000 feet, it was very clean release, much less negative g [force] than we had anticipated, a very comfortable release”

“The roll performance is pretty spectacular, it’s quite agile in roll and allows you to turn pretty rapidly with relatively light stick forces, so it’s a very maneuverable airplane.”
and gives some more technical details and comparisons with SS1.

There's also the following statement from Burt Rutan on VG's facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Virgin-Galactic/51080213587:

"I offer my congratulations to all those on our commercial manned sub-orbital spaceship program for yesterday’s milestone first flight of SpaceShipTwo.

Configuration/aerodynamic designer, Jim Tighe got it right the first time; our spaceship demonstrated impressive flying qualities right out of the box. Its flight test-measured stability and gliding performance exceeded the pre-flight predictions.

Systems that usually require post-first flight tweaking, like the unique Michael Fuchs-designed landing gear and the SS1-based flight-director/avionics system, developed by the Pete Kalogiannis-led team, performed to perfection. The flight control, electrical, pneumatic, ECS and launch systems were also flawless on the first flight, giving us confidence that we can move forward with the testing without major modifications. Scot Story’s team also deserves kudos for their work to develop a light, robust all-composite airframe structure.

Flown by both pilot Pete Siebold and co-pilot Mike Alsbury on the first flight, the test crew opened up two thirds of SS2’s required subsonic speed envelope, maneuvered it above 2-g, checked its dynamic and sideslip handling, exercised its flight-path control system and made a perfect landing; spot-on the runway target.

I congratulate Project Lead Matt Stinemetze, Mission Control Lead Brian Binnie and their team of talented engineers as well as Crew Chief Steve Losey and his team of fabricators who built and maintain the first commercial manned space system. There is not a better group of research and flight test talent in the world.

We at Scaled look forward to an aggressive flight test schedule. The fun started on 10/10/10 and will continue as we reach our goal of passing onto our customer a spaceship capable to provide the space experience to thousands of adventurers."
So looking good for the glide test phase of the programme. I hope apparent delays with the rocket motor don't hold things up too much!
 

mz

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So, what else besides SS1 and SS2 are Jim Tighe designs? Where did he work before Scaled?
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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mz said:
So, what else besides SS1 and SS2 are Jim Tighe designs? Where did he work before Scaled?
A quick Google found this:

[quote author=http://www.colorado.edu/engineering/deaa/cgi-bin/display.pl?id=276]Jim Tighe knew he wanted to be an aerospace engineer by the time he entered the seventh grade. True to course and highly successful early in his career, he is already recognized by his peers as a powerhouse of innovation in the aerospace design industry less than 10 years after graduation.

Tighe worked as a computer programmer and research assistant for the National Institute of Standards and Technology and won the NIST Young Scientist Award in 1997. That same year he earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering sciences with a minor in computer science and began work as a stability and control engineer designing commercial aircraft for The Boeing Company.

Seeking an even more novel and engaging engineering position, Tighe went to work for famed aircraft designer Burt Rutan’s company, Scaled Composites, as an aerodynamicist and design engineer. There he combined engineering science and creative genius as a team member on the SpaceShipOne project, which won the 2004 Ansari X-Prize worth $10 million. [/quote]
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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Those of us who don't have access to the National Geographic channel may be interested in Clark Lindsey's impressions of Monday's documentary:

[quote author=http://www.hobbyspace.com/nucleus/index.php?itemid=24476]
I enjoyed last night's debut episode "Will it fly?" in National Geographic Channel's on-going documentary series Virgin Galactic. (The show will be rebroadcast on Sunday Oct. 24th at 8pm.) There were no big revelations, e.g. nothing about the status of the motor development. But it did give a nice view of what was going on behind the black curtain that has hid development of the WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo vehicles.

Some observations:

/-- The whole project came very close to shutting down after the accident. They didn't say exactly what made the difference but if Burt had not returned from the serious heart ailment that he suffered in the year following the accident, it seems very unlikely that the project would have continued.

/-- He's a no nonsense engineer but Burt sure is passionate and emotional about this project.

/-- Lots of young or young-ish (relative to me anyway) looking people are involved in the project from machinists to managers.

/-- These documentary "real-life" shows certainly exaggerate the drama of events but it was still very clear that everyone involved was really nervous before and during the maiden flight of the WK2 and the first glide flight of the SS2. Calculations, simulations, and throwing models off the Mojave control tower certainly didn't guarantee they would work.

/-- The first WK2 flight was a success, i.e. it took off and landed safely, but it clearly had rudder problems that needed fixing. I remember that Scaled and VG, though, gave Rob Coppinger (then at Flight Global) some grief over breaking the story on this.

/-- I wish they had shown more time-lapse videos of the WK2 and SS2 construction. The brief ones shown were pretty cool.

/-- Both Branson and Rutan are very committed to following SS2 with an orbital system.

I'm looking forward to future episodes as the project moves further along.
[/quote]

I'm sure whatever prompted his last bullet will get some excited on the web ... Still, sounds like a good show - guess I'll have to wait for the DVD :(
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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SpaceShipTwo has had a second successful glide flight in Mojave this morning. I'll add Scaled's log to this post when it's available.

Update: flight log now updated

[quote author=http://www.scaled.com/projects/whiteknighttwo_spaceshiptwo_test_summaries]
FlightWK2 Flight 44 / GF02
Date:28 Oct 10Flight Time:10 min, 51 sec
WK2 Pilot:SieboldWK2 CoPilot:NicholsWK2 FTE: Tighe
SS2 Pilot:StuckySS2 CoPilot:Alsbury
GS Crew:Binnie, Kalogiannis, Persall, Knupp, Inks, Bassett, Cassebeer, Story

Objectives:
Clean release
Evaluate stability and control
Expand flutter envelope
Roll evaluation
Land

Results:
All objectives achieved. Flew to more aggressive stall indication. Evaluated handling and stability through several maneuvers. Expanded envelope to 230 KTAS and 3g's. Roll evaluation. Full stop landing.
[/quote]

There's obviously a typo somewhere, as the first glide test log had 322 KTAS!
 

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Probably KEAS, an envelope is not expressed in KTAS anyway.
--Luc
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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On the back of the latest quarterly update (Q3 2010) on SNC's Dreamchaser CCDev contract, Clark Lindsey notes:

[quote author=http://www.hobbyspace.com/nucleus/index.php?itemid=24853]
I keep wondering to what degree the SNC hybrid motors for their Dreamchaser project are similar to those they are building for SpaceShipTwo. SNC appears to be doing quite a lot of testing for the CCDev contract
[/quote]

One of the comments to Clark's post makes clear that you can't just scale up a hybrid. So it's not at all clear to me whether SNC's two parallel developments helps or hinders!
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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The original WhiteKnightTwo design had a single hull and was basically a scaled-up WhiteKnightOne. Virgin released various artist impressions of it, and it featured in an earlier version of their flight animation movie, but I've only ever seen one image of the actual design (attached).

Has anyone seen (or even have) any others? TIA.

Source: http://pmchallenge.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/2008/Presentation/Jonathan.Firth.pdf (slide 25)
 

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Stargazer2006

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FutureSpaceTourist said:
Has anyone seen (or even have) any others? TIA.
I think I used to have more but this is the only one I was able to find on my hard disk...
 

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FutureSpaceTourist

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Stargazer2006 said:
I think I used to have more but this is the only one I was able to find on my hard disk...
Thanks, that's the same design as the attached which I had assumed to just be an artist's impression. However, looking at it again I'm beginning to think they may just be different versions of the same design. The slide from the 2008 presentation I suspect is the more recent; note the lower wing position on SS2 (as on the real SS2) to address the roll issue Mike Melvill had with SS1.
 

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Stargazer2006

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GREAAAAT PIC! Had never seen this single fuselage carrier aircraft design before... Any idea what Scaled model number this could be?
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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Stargazer2006 said:
Any idea what Scaled model number this could be?
No sorry. We previously talked about the model numbers here but it's speculation without more data to go on.
 

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SS2 has had its third glide test:

[quote author=http://www.scaled.com/projects/whiteknighttwo_spaceshiptwo_test_summaries]
FlightWK2 Flight 45 / GF03
Date:17 Nov 10Flight Time:2 hr / 11 min, 39 s
WK2 Pilot: StuckyWK2 CoPilot:AlsburyWK2 FTE: Morgan
SS2 Pilot: SieboldSS2 CoPilot:Nichols
GS Crew:Binnie, Persall, Knupp, Inks, Bassett, Y. Fuchs, Maisler,Verderame, Zeitlin

Objectives:
Clean release
Evaluate stability and control
Stall expansion
Expand flutter envelope
Aft CG expansion with water ballast tank
Pilot proficiency

Results:
All objectives achieved. Flew to a more aggressive stall indication. Expanded envelope to 246 KEAS and 3.5 g's.
[/quote]

BTW the first glide log has now been corrected to 180 KEAS.
 

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Leonard David has a piece about VG's on-going plans, which includes the following:

[quote author=http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/virgin-galactic-spaceshiptwo-update-101118.html]
Whitehorn said more SpaceShipTwo glide tests are in the offing. Those tests will include a high-altitude drop of the craft that will allow the pilots to feather and unfeather the SpaceShipTwo's novel, care-free tail section used during the fall back into Earth's atmosphere. This configuration allows a "hands-off" re-entry to Earth and greatly reduces aerodynamic and thermal loads on the craft.

These tests will be followed by attachment of the spaceplane's hybrid rocket motor.

"There will be very short firings of the motor, and then we'll extend those burns and we'll start climbing into space," Whitehorn told SPACE.com. "I think we can pretty safely say now that we'll be in space in 2011. It's taken a little bit longer. But the point is that it has been done safely."
[/quote]

The SS2 glide tests have been going very well, but it's hard to reconcile the above confidence about powered flights with the apparently slow progress of rocket motor development. May be there's been progress in the last few months that hasn't been announced?
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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The Guardian space tourism piece here has an interesting quote:

[quote author=Will Whitehorn, Virgin Galactic president]
"We are not allowed to discuss because of ITAR rules exactly what the rocket motor was. But we're not using rubber. We're using a form of recycled nylon."
[/quote]

He was quoted at the recent Spaceport America runway ceremony as saying VG were looking into using nylon for SpaceShipTwo, but this latest quote is much more definitive. I have no idea what the relative merits of rubber and nylon as a fuel are; any one here know?
 
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