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Scaled Composites SpaceShipTwo

Scaled Composites SpaceShipTwo

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The Scaled Composites Model 339 SpaceShipTwo (SS2) is a suborbital, air-launched spaceplane
Spaceplane
A spaceplane is a vehicle that operates as an aircraft in Earth's atmosphere, as well as a spacecraft when it is in space. It combines features of an aircraft and a spacecraft, which can be thought of as an aircraft that can endure and maneuver in the vacuum of space or likewise a spacecraft that...

, designed for space tourism
Space tourism
Space Tourism is space travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. A number of startup companies have sprung up in recent years, hoping to create a space tourism industry...

. It is under development by The Spaceship Company
The Spaceship Company
The Spaceship Company is a spacecraft manufacturing company formed by Burt Rutan and Richard Branson in mid-2005, jointly owned by Virgin Group and Scaled Composites, which will own the technology created by Scaled for Virgin Galactic's Virgin SpaceShip program...

, a California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

-based joint venture
Joint venture
A joint venture is a business agreement in which parties agree to develop, for a finite time, a new entity and new assets by contributing equity. They exercise control over the enterprise and consequently share revenues, expenses and assets...

 between Scaled Composites
Scaled Composites
Scaled Composites is an aerospace company founded by Burt Rutan and currently owned by Northrop Grumman that is located at the Mojave Spaceport, Mojave, California, United States...

 and the Virgin Group
Virgin Group
Virgin Group Limited is a British branded venture capital conglomerate organisation founded by business tycoon Richard Branson. The core business areas are travel, entertainment and lifestyle. Virgin Group's date of incorporation is listed as 1989 by Companies House, who class it as a holding...

, as part of the Tier 1b
Tier 1b
Tier 1b is Burt Rutan's nickname for the suborbital tourist human spaceflight platform in development at Scaled Composites with Mojave Aerospace Ventures by The Spaceship Company for Virgin Galactic...

 program.

SpaceShipTwo is carried to its launch altitude by a mothership, the Scaled Composites White Knight Two
Scaled Composites White Knight Two
The Scaled Composites Model 348 White Knight Two is a jet-powered cargo aircraft which will be used to launch the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft. It is being developed by Scaled Composites as the first stage of Tier 1b, a two-stage to suborbital-space manned launch system...

, before being launched to fly on into the upper atmosphere, powered by a rocket motor. It then glides back to Earth and performs a conventional runway landing. The spaceship was officially unveiled to the public on Monday, 7 December 2009, at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The aircraft is currently undergoing flight-testing, having conducted 16 successful gliding flight tests as of October 2011.

The Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic is a company within Richard Branson's Virgin Group which plans to provide sub-orbital spaceflights to the paying public, along with suborbital space science missions and orbital launches of small satellites...

 spaceline plans to operate a fleet of five SpaceShipTwo spaceplanes in a private passenger-carrying service
Private spaceflight
Private spaceflight is flight above Earth altitude conducted by and paid for by an entity other than a government. In the early decades of the Space Age, the government space agencies of the Soviet Union and United States pioneered space technology augmented by collaboration with affiliated design...

, starting in 2013, and are already taking bookings, with a suborbital flight carrying a ticket price of US$200,000.

Design overview



The SpaceShipTwo project is based in part on technology developed for the first-generation SpaceShipOne, which was part of the Scaled Composites Tier One
Tier One
Tier One is Scaled Composites' program of suborbital human spaceflight using the reusable spacecraft SpaceShipOne and its launcher White Knight. The craft was designed by Burt Rutan, and the project is funded 20 million US Dollars by Paul Allen...

 program, funded by Paul Allen
Paul Allen
Paul Gardner Allen is an American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. Allen co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates...

. The Spaceship Company licenses this technology from Mojave Aerospace Ventures
Mojave Aerospace Ventures
Mojave Aerospace Ventures is a company founded by Paul Allen and Burt Rutan to handle the commercial spinoffs from the Tier One project. It owns the intellectual property arising from Tier One, and it is in turn owned by Paul Allen and Burt Rutan...

, a joint venture of Paul Allen and Burt Rutan
Burt Rutan
Elbert Leander "Burt" Rutan is an American aerospace engineer noted for his originality in designing light, strong, unusual-looking, energy-efficient aircraft...

, the designer of the predecessor technology.

SpaceShipTwo is a low-aspect-ratio
Aspect ratio (wing)
In aerodynamics, the aspect ratio of a wing is essentially the ratio of its length to its breadth . A high aspect ratio indicates long, narrow wings, whereas a low aspect ratio indicates short, stubby wings....

 spaceplane
Spaceplane
A spaceplane is a vehicle that operates as an aircraft in Earth's atmosphere, as well as a spacecraft when it is in space. It combines features of an aircraft and a spacecraft, which can be thought of as an aircraft that can endure and maneuver in the vacuum of space or likewise a spacecraft that...

 that will carry passengers to space; the capacity will be eight people: six passengers and two pilots. The apogee
Apsis
An apsis , plural apsides , is the point of greatest or least distance of a body from one of the foci of its elliptical orbit. In modern celestial mechanics this focus is also the center of attraction, which is usually the center of mass of the system...

 of the new craft will be approximately 110 km (68 miles) and in the thermosphere
Thermosphere
The thermosphere is the biggest of all the layers of the Earth's atmosphere directly above the mesosphere and directly below the exosphere. Within this layer, ultraviolet radiation causes ionization. The International Space Station has a stable orbit within the middle of the thermosphere, between...

, 10 km (6 miles) higher than both the SpaceShipOne target (though the last flight of the SpaceShipOne reached 112 km), and the Kármán line
Karman line
The Kármán line lies at an altitude of above the Earth's sea level, and is commonly used to define the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and outer space...

. SpaceShipTwo will reach 4,200 km/h (2,600 mph), using a single hybrid rocket
Hybrid rocket
A hybrid rocket is a rocket with a rocket motor which uses propellants in two different states of matter - one solid and the other either gas or liquid. The Hybrid rocket concept can be traced back at least 75 years....

 motor – the RocketMotorTwo
RocketMotorTwo
RocketMotorTwo is the name given by Scaled Composites to the rocket engine of their SpaceShipTwo spacecraft, to be used for sub-orbital spaceflight...

.
It launches from its mothership, White Knight Two
Scaled Composites White Knight Two
The Scaled Composites Model 348 White Knight Two is a jet-powered cargo aircraft which will be used to launch the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft. It is being developed by Scaled Composites as the first stage of Tier 1b, a two-stage to suborbital-space manned launch system...

, at an altitude of 15,200 m (50,000 ft), and goes supersonic
Supersonic
Supersonic speed is a rate of travel of an object that exceeds the speed of sound . For objects traveling in dry air of a temperature of 20 °C this speed is approximately 343 m/s, 1,125 ft/s, 768 mph or 1,235 km/h. Speeds greater than five times the speed of sound are often...

 within 8 seconds. After 70 seconds, the rocket motor cuts out and the spacecraft will coast to its peak altitude. SpaceShipTwo's crew cabin is 3.66 m (12 ft) long and 2.28 m (7.5 ft) in diameter. The wing span is 8.23 m (27 ft), the length is 18.29 m (60 ft) and the tail height is 4.57 m (15 ft).

SpaceShipTwo uses a feathered reentry system, feasible due to the low speed of reentry by contrast, the Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

 and other orbital spacecraft re-enter at orbital speeds, closer to 25,000 km/h (16,000 mph), using heat shields. SpaceShipTwo is furthermore designed to re-enter the atmosphere at any angle.

SpaceShipTwo will decelerate through the atmosphere
Atmosphere
An atmosphere is a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass, and that is held in place by the gravity of the body. An atmosphere may be retained for a longer duration, if the gravity is high and the atmosphere's temperature is low...

, switching to a gliding position at 80,000 ft and will take 25 minutes to glide back to the spaceport
Spaceport
A spaceport or cosmodrome is a site for launching spacecraft, by analogy with seaport for ships or airport for aircraft. The word spaceport, and even more so cosmodrome, has traditionally been used for sites capable of launching spacecraft into orbit around Earth or on interplanetary trajectories...

. Once the passengers return, their passports will receive a spaceflight stamp and they will be awarded their astronaut
Astronaut
An astronaut or cosmonaut is a person trained by a human spaceflight program to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft....

 wings at an awards ceremony. They will also be able to relive their flight from footage filmed during the spaceflight.

SpaceShipTwo and White Knight Two are, respectively, roughly twice the size of the first-generation SpaceShipOne and mothership White Knight, which won the Ansari X Prize
Ansari X Prize
The Ansari X Prize was a space competition in which the X Prize Foundation offered a US$10,000,000 prize for the first non-government organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks...

 in 2004. SpaceShipTwo will have 43 cm and 33 cm (17 and 13 in) diameter windows for the passengers' viewing pleasure, and all seats will recline back during landing to decrease the discomfort of G-forces. Reportedly, the craft can land safely even if a catastrophic failure occurs during flight. In 2008, Burt Rutan
Burt Rutan
Elbert Leander "Burt" Rutan is an American aerospace engineer noted for his originality in designing light, strong, unusual-looking, energy-efficient aircraft...

 remarked on the safety of the vehicle:

In September 2011, the safety of SpaceShipTwo's feathered reentry system was tested when the crew briefly lost control of the craft during a gliding test flight. Control was reestablished after the spaceplane entered its feathered configuration, and it landed safely after a 7-minute flight.

Fleet and launch site


The launch customer of SpaceShipTwo is Virgin Galactic, who have ordered five vehicles. , only the first two have been named, the VSS (Virgin Space Ship) Enterprise, and the VSS Voyager
VSS Voyager
VSS Voyager is to be the second ship built and used as part of the Virgin Galactic Fleet. It is a SpaceShipTwo-class suborbital manned spaceplane...

. Both are in development.
As of May 2011, only VSS Enterprise
VSS Enterprise
The VSS Enterprise is the first of five commercial suborbital spacecraft being constructed for Virgin Galactic by Scaled Composites....


has made glide flights; VSS Voyager
VSS Voyager
VSS Voyager is to be the second ship built and used as part of the Virgin Galactic Fleet. It is a SpaceShipTwo-class suborbital manned spaceplane...

 has yet to begin flight tests.

The SpaceShipTwo craft will take off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California during testing. Spaceport America
Spaceport America
Spaceport America is a spaceport located in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin in New Mexico, United States. It lies north of El Paso, north of Las Cruces, east of Truth or Consequences...

 – formerly Southwest Regional Spaceport, a US$212 million spaceport
Spaceport
A spaceport or cosmodrome is a site for launching spacecraft, by analogy with seaport for ships or airport for aircraft. The word spaceport, and even more so cosmodrome, has traditionally been used for sites capable of launching spacecraft into orbit around Earth or on interplanetary trajectories...

 in New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

 partly funded by the state government – will become the permanent launch site when commercial launches begin.

Development


On 28 September 2006, Sir Richard Branson
Richard Branson
Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson is an English business magnate, best known for his Virgin Group of more than 400 companies....

 unveiled a mock-up of the SpaceShipTwo passenger cabin at the NextFest exposition, in the Javits Convention Center, New York. The design of the vehicle was revealed to the press in January 2008, with the statement that the vehicle itself was around 60% complete. On 7 December 2009, the official unveiling and rollout of SpaceShipTwo took place. The event involved the first SpaceShipTwo being christened by Governor Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger is an Austrian-American former professional bodybuilder, actor, businessman, investor, and politician. Schwarzenegger served as the 38th Governor of California from 2003 until 2011....

 as the VSS Enterprise.

2007 test explosion


On 26 July 2007, an explosion occurred during an oxidizer flow test at the Mojave Air and Space Port, where early-stage tests were being conducted on SpaceShipTwo's systems. The oxidizer test included filling the oxidizer tank with 4,500 kg (10,000 pounds) of nitrous oxide
Nitrous oxide
Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas or sweet air, is a chemical compound with the formula . It is an oxide of nitrogen. At room temperature, it is a colorless non-flammable gas, with a slightly sweet odor and taste. It is used in surgery and dentistry for its anesthetic and analgesic...

, followed by a 15-second cold-flow injector test. Although the tests did not ignite the gas, three employees were killed and three injured, two critically and one seriously, by flying shrapnel.

Flight test program



In October 2009, Virgin Galactic CEO Will Whitehorn outlined the flight test program for SpaceShipTwo. The test program includes seven phases:
  1. Vehicle ground testing.

  2. Captive carry under White Knight Two.

  3. Unpowered glide testing.

  4. Subsonic testing with only a brief firing of the rocket.

  5. Supersonic
    Supersonic
    Supersonic speed is a rate of travel of an object that exceeds the speed of sound . For objects traveling in dry air of a temperature of 20 °C this speed is approximately 343 m/s, 1,125 ft/s, 768 mph or 1,235 km/h. Speeds greater than five times the speed of sound are often...

     atmospheric
    Atmosphere
    An atmosphere is a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass, and that is held in place by the gravity of the body. An atmosphere may be retained for a longer duration, if the gravity is high and the atmosphere's temperature is low...

     testing.

  6. Full flight into suborbital space.

  7. Execute a detailed and lengthy appraisal process with the FAA/AST to demonstrate the system's robustness and eventually obtain a commercial launch license to begin commercial operations.


On 22 March 2010, the SpaceShipTwo vehicle VSS Enterprise
VSS Enterprise
The VSS Enterprise is the first of five commercial suborbital spacecraft being constructed for Virgin Galactic by Scaled Composites....

 underwent a captive carry test flight, with the parent White Knight Two aircraft, VMS Eve
VMS Eve
VMS Eve is a carrier mothership for Virgin Galactic and launch platform for Scaled Composites SpaceShipTwo-based Virgin SpaceShips....

, performing a short flight while carrying the Enterprise.
A second test flight was made on 16 May 2010, reaching SS2's launch altitude (51,000 feet) and lasting nearly five hours, in order to facilitate "cold soak" testing of SS2's avionics and pressurization system. Thereafter, "a simulated spaceship descent/glide mission was made from [launch] altitude."
Between these two flights, the SpaceShipTwo airframe was modified by the addition of two interior fins, with one fin being added to the inside (rocket-side) of each of the craft's twin vertical stabilizer
Vertical stabilizer
The vertical stabilizers, vertical stabilisers, or fins, of aircraft, missiles or bombs are typically found on the aft end of the fuselage or body, and are intended to reduce aerodynamic side slip. It is analogical to a skeg on boats and ships.On aircraft, vertical stabilizers generally point upwards...

s.

On 15 July 2010, VSS Enterprise made its first crewed flight. The craft remained attached to VMS Eve as planned, and underwent a series of combined vehicle systems tests. The flight lasted a total of 6 hours and 21 minutes. A second, similar crewed flight of VSS Enterprise and VMS Eve was carried out on 30 September 2010, lasting approximately 5 hours. Among the objectives of these flights was the improvement of pilot proficiency, and the results of the flights were deemed to show that the systems were capable of supporting future glide missions.

On 10 October 2010, VSS Enterprise made its first manned gliding test flight. It was released from VMS Eve at 45,000 feet and glided to a safe landing at the Mojave Air and Spaceport. A second gliding test flight took place on 28 October 2010 and a third on 17 November 2010. , Scaled reported that the flight test program is exceeding expectations. The fourth test flight took place on 13 January 2011, with the fifth and six glide flights were on the 22 and 27 of April 2011, respectively. Following this, the feathered reentry configuration was tested in flight on 4 May 2011, with weekly test flights continuing through the end of May.
On the 9th of June 2011, the release of the SS2 failed during its 11th planned glide flight due to a technical problem. Testing resumed with five successful glide flights in June 2011.

In July 2011, after 15 successful glide flights, flight testing of SS2 was halted for two months while planned revisions to the spaceplane were made. Flight tests resumed in late September 2011, although the 16th glide flight - on 29 September - was marred by a brief loss of control aboard SS2, forcing the crew to utilise the feathered wing configuration to land safely.

SpaceShipTwo test flights


Source:
Flight Date Duration Altitude Top speed Pilot / co-pilot
73 / GF16 29 September 2011 7 min 15 sec ? ? Stucky / Nichols
68 / GF15 27 June 2011 7 min 39 sec ? ? Siebold
Peter Siebold
Peter Siebold is a member of the Scaled Composites astronaut team and was one of the test pilots for SpaceShipOne, the experimental spaceplane developed by Scaled Composites...

 / Binnie
67 / GF14 23 June 2011 7 min 33 sec ? ? Stucky / Nichols
66 / GF13 21 June 2011 8 min 55 sec ? ? Siebold / Nichols
65 / GF12 15 June 2011 10 min 32 sec ? ? Stucky / Nichols
64 / GF11 14 June 2011 13 min 18 sec ? ? Siebold / Shane
62 / (CC12) 9 June 2011 N/A (release failure) Planned glide test flight Siebold / Shane
61 / GF10 25 May 2011 10 min, 14 sec above 50,000 ft ? Stucky / Binnie
60 / GF09 19 May 2011 11 min, 32 sec ? ? Siebold / Binnie
59 / GF08 10 May 2011 13 min, 2 sec ? ? Stucky / Shane
58 / GF07 4 May 2011 11 min, 5 sec 51,500 ft 15,500 ft per min Siebold / Nichols
57 / GF06 27 Apr 2011 16 min, 7 sec ? ? Stucky / Alsbury
56 / GF05 22 Apr 2011 14 min, 31 sec ? ? Siebold / Shane
47 / GF04 13 Jan 2011 11 min, 34 sec ? 250 kn EAS
Equivalent airspeed
Equivalent airspeed is the airspeed at sea level in the International Standard Atmosphere at which the dynamic pressure is the same as the dynamic pressure at the true airspeed and altitude at which the aircraft is flying. In low-speed flight, it is the speed which would be shown by an airspeed...

 3.8 g
Stucky / Nichols
45 / GF03 17 Nov 2010 11 min, 39 sec ? 246 kn EAS 3.5 g Siebold / Nichols
44 / GF02 28 Oct 2010 10 min, 51 sec ? 230 kn EAS 3 g Stucky / Alsbury
41 / GF01 10 Oct 2010 13 min 46,000 ft 180 kn EAS 2 g Siebold / Alsbury
GFxx=Glide Flight
CCxx=Captive Carry Flight

Commercial operation


The duration of the flights will be approximately 2.5 hours, though only a few minutes of that will be in space. The price will initially be $200,000. More than 65,000 would-be space tourists applied for the first batch of 100 tickets. In December 2007 Virgin Galactic had 200 paid-up customers on its books for the early flights, and 95% were passing the 6-8 g centrifuge tests. By the start of 2011, that number had increased to over 400 paid customers.

Following 50–100 test flights, the first paying customers are expected to fly aboard the craft in 2013. Refining the projected schedule in late 2009, Virgin Galactic declined to announce a firm timetable for commercial flights, but did reiterate that initial flights would take place from Spaceport America
Spaceport America
Spaceport America is a spaceport located in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin in New Mexico, United States. It lies north of El Paso, north of Las Cruces, east of Truth or Consequences...

. Operational roll-out will be based on a "safety-driven schedule".
In addition to making suborbital passenger launches, Virgin Galactic will market SpaceShipTwo for suborbital space science
Space science
The term space science may mean:* The study of issues specifically related to space travel and space exploration, including space medicine.* Science performed in outer space ....

 missions.

NASA sRLV program


, Virgin Galactic has submitted SpaceShipTwo as a reusable launch vehicle for carrying research payloads in response to NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

's suborbital reusable launch vehicle (sRLV) solicitation, which is a part of NASA's Flight Operations Program. Virgin projects 110 km (68.4 mi) altitude in flights of approximately 90 minutes duration, while carrying a research payload. Flights will provide approximately four minutes of microgravity. Payload mass and microgravity levels have not yet been specified. The NASA research flights could begin during the test flight certification program for SpaceShipTwo.

Future spacecraft


In August 2005, the president of space tourism company Virgin Galactic stated that if the suborbital service with SpaceShipTwo is successful, the follow-up SpaceShipThree will be an orbital craft. In 2008, Virgin Galactic changed their plans and decided to make it a point-to-point vehicle. This vehicle will offer transportation through point-to-point suborbital spaceflight.

Specifications


Source:

See also

  • SpaceShipOne
  • White Knight Two
  • Virgin Galactic
    Virgin Galactic
    Virgin Galactic is a company within Richard Branson's Virgin Group which plans to provide sub-orbital spaceflights to the paying public, along with suborbital space science missions and orbital launches of small satellites...

  • Scaled Composites
    Scaled Composites
    Scaled Composites is an aerospace company founded by Burt Rutan and currently owned by Northrop Grumman that is located at the Mojave Spaceport, Mojave, California, United States...

  • Burt Rutan
    Burt Rutan
    Elbert Leander "Burt" Rutan is an American aerospace engineer noted for his originality in designing light, strong, unusual-looking, energy-efficient aircraft...

  • Spaceport America
    Spaceport America
    Spaceport America is a spaceport located in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin in New Mexico, United States. It lies north of El Paso, north of Las Cruces, east of Truth or Consequences...

  • Ansari X Prize
    Ansari X Prize
    The Ansari X Prize was a space competition in which the X Prize Foundation offered a US$10,000,000 prize for the first non-government organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks...

  • Spaceplane
    Spaceplane
    A spaceplane is a vehicle that operates as an aircraft in Earth's atmosphere, as well as a spacecraft when it is in space. It combines features of an aircraft and a spacecraft, which can be thought of as an aircraft that can endure and maneuver in the vacuum of space or likewise a spacecraft that...

  • Space Shuttle program
    Space Shuttle program
    NASA's Space Shuttle program, officially called Space Transportation System , was the United States government's manned launch vehicle program from 1981 to 2011...

  • SpaceX
    SpaceX
    Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or more popularly and informally known as SpaceX, is an American space transport company that operates out of Hawthorne, California...

  • Commercial spaceflight

External links