First Feathered Flight for SpaceShipTwo

SpaceShipTwo, British billionaire Richard Branson’s spaceship and part of his commercial space venture Virgin Galactic, is now one step closer to fulfilling the dream of private manned mission to space after a successful test conducted earlier this week.
 
First Feather Flight of SpaceShipTwo.
Photo by Clay Center
Observatory/Virgin Galactic

On the 5/3/2011 for the first time, Virgin Galactic’s rocket plane – SpaceShipTwo deployed its twin tail sections designed to allow the craft to gently return to the Earth. The twin tail sections is a unique feature important in reducing the enormous stress inflicted on the craft’s body when returning to earth from space. In the case of SpaceShipTwo the twin tail sections is even more important as the spaceship will be used to ferry passengers to and from space many times in a short period of time – something no space vehicle to date had been required to do.

The test flight Tuesday took place from the Mojave Air and Space Port. SpaceShipTwo was carried to an altitude of about 50,000 feet by a carrier plane (known as WhiteKnightTwo) and dropped to the ground. During the fall back to earth SpaceShipTwo test pilot conducted what is known as feathering – rotating the tail section upward at a 65-degree angle to increase aerodynamic drag and allowing the spaceship to lend more gently.

According to Virgin Galactic  the current test flight was SpaceShipTwo’s third in 12 days, “reinforcing the fast turnaround and frequent flight-rate potential of Virgin Galactic’s new vehicles. We have also shown that the unique feathering reentry mechanism, probably the single most important safety innovation within the whole system, works perfectly”.

The first commercial flight of the SpaceShipTwo should take place in about a year according to Virgin Galactic and will be launched from Spaceport America currently under construction in New Mexico.

 
The 400 plus people who already booked their 200,000 dollar flight to space with SpaceShipTwo will be taken to a suborbital altitude (about 60 miles above ground) where they will feel a short period of  weightlessness before getting back to earth.
 
TFOT covered several important millstones in the privatization of space including: Virgin Galactic’s view on space tourism, one ticket to space, please, first commercial spaceport unveiled and a room with a view of mars, please.
 
More information can be found on Virgin Galactic’s website.