Thu, Jun 25, 2009
One of the more stirring presentations at the International
Space Development Conference was the updated briefing on the Virgin
Galactic commercial space program. Virgin Galactic is a company
owned and established by Richard Branson's Virgin Group to
undertake the challenge of making private space travel available to
everyone and by creating the world's first commercial
Virgin will own and operate privately built spaceships, based on
the history making SpaceShipOne. These spaceships, which are
currently under construction, will allow affordable private
sub-orbital space travel for the first time in history and
give you the opportunity of being amongst the very first private
The first part of the two-ship program is now in flight testing.
The "mothership," dubbed VMS Eve is, "both visually remarkable and
represents ground-breaking aerospace technology." According to VG's
Wil Whitehorn, Virgin Galactic plans to conduct test flights of VMS
Eve carrying SpaceShipTwo during the second half of 2009.
The spaceship hitches a ride up to around 50,000 feet attached
to a specially designed carrier aircraft, 'the mothership.' Once at
50,000 feet, the spaceship is released from the mothership and
ignites its hybrid rocket. The spaceship then begins a climb from
50,000 feet to over 360,000 feet. This climb takes about 90 seconds
and will reach a speed of just over 3 times the speed of sound.
Shortly before the apogee (maximum altitude) of its flight path,
the spaceship feathers (folds its wings) in preparation for
re-entry into the earth's atmosphere, drawn by the Earth's
gravitational pull. As the spaceship meets the resistance of the
upper atmosphere, the feathered wings act as air brakes, safely
positioning and decelerating the spaceship allowing for a carefree
re-entry into the earths atmosphere.
At approximately 60,000 feet, the spaceship's wings are
re-configured into their original position allowing for an
unpowered (glide) landing back at the spaceport.
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