Virgin Galactic handed one other important milestone at this time in the flight check program for VSS Unity, its upgraded SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, by bending its wings right into a “feathered” place for the first time in the air.
The corporate hailed the gliding check as successful in a series of tweets. Check pilots Mark Stucky and Mike Masucci had been at VSS Unity’s controls, whereas Nicola Pecile and CJ Sturckow piloted the White Knight Two service airplane. Flight check engineer Dustin Mosher rode in the mothership as effectively.
The wing-feathering system is an important aspect for SpaceShipTwo, because it was for SpaceShipOne’s prize-winning spaceflights again in 2004.
The flight profile requires a slowdown from supersonic speeds in the course of the descent from the sting of space. To do this, SpaceShipTwo has to angle its wings for a braking impact, just like the floating impact produced by the feathers on a shuttlecock throughout a badminton sport.
Picture from at this time: VSS Unity in the air after a profitable in-flight check of the ‘feather’ re-entry system. Extra photos coming quickly. pic.twitter.com/wuwnsaElz0
Aerospace designer Burt Rutan got here up with the design as a solution to assure a “carefree re-entry,” however the know-how turned out to be something however carefree in 2014.
That October, the wing-feathering system was deployed prematurely throughout a rocket-powered ascent of VSS Enterprise, the first SpaceShipTwo plane. That resulted in the catastrophic breakup of the craft, which in flip led to the demise of co-pilot Mike Alsbury and a harrowing fall for check pilot Pete Siebold. Siebold’s parachute deployed as he fell, however he however suffered severe accidents.
Within the wake of the accident, investigators recommended changes in the wing-feathering system to protect towards untimely deployment, and Virgin Galactic integrated these modifications into the design for the second SpaceShipTwo.
Testing the rebuilt system was a main goal for at this time’s flight on the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. Earlier than this morning’s takeoff, Virgin Galactic said the wings can be feathered shortly after Unity was dropped from the service plane for a gliding flight again to the runway:
“The feather will likely be raised at decrease altitudes — and consequently thicker ambiance — than can be the case throughout a full mission to space. It will present a rigorous check of the feather system in the air, complementing in depth testing already accomplished on the bottom.”
If all goes effectively, Virgin Galactic and its sister subsidiary, The Spaceship Company, are anticipated to start rocket-powered check flights by the tip of this yr, climaxing with ascents to outer-space altitudes. Final week, Galactic Ventures CEO George T. Whitesides stated throughout a Senate subcommittee listening to that the corporate was on monitor to start out flying passengers to space from Spaceport America in New Mexico by the end of next year.
About 700 clients, together with celebrities corresponding to Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, have signed up for spaceflights at a value of as a lot as $250,000 per ticket.