On the future flight manifest is a test run using a hybrid motor mounted within SpaceShipTwo. That powerhouse engine is being crafted by Sierra Nevada Corp. Short bursts to ever-longer burns of the motor in-flight are being planned, with the date of the first in-flight firing of the motor still to be determined.
The VSS Enterprise test flight program will continue through 2011.
MOJAVE, 15 JUNE 2011: More exciting news from the Mojave Desert this morning with confirmation that SpaceShipTwo, VSS Enterprise, had completed two successful glide flights within 24 hours.
This was the quickest turnaround time yet between VSS Enterprise solo flights, reinforcing the unique and transformational ability of Virgin Galactic’s spaceflight system to undertake daily flights to space.
Both flights saw early morning take-offs for VSS Enterprise, in mated configuration with the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, followed by high altitude releases at around 52,000ft and glides back to smooth touch-downs on the Mojave Air and Spaceport runway. Both flights were part of a continuing program of envelope expansion, specifically focussing on speed and susceptibility for flutter.
This morning’s flight was the 12th solo flight for SpaceShipTwo since its inaugural glide flight on 10th October 2010, including two successful “feather” flights which demonstrated the spaceship’s unique re-entry configuration.
The quick turnaround between the latest two flights demonstrates an important factor in Virgin Galactic’s planned commercial operations, which will see daily flights of both carrier aircraft and spaceship to accommodate the fast growing demand from both space tourists and researchers.
Congratulations to the whole team at Scaled Composites and particularly to SpaceShipTwo test pilots Pete Siebold, Doug Shane, Mark Stucky and Clint Nichols.
More exciting news from Mojave this morning! At 7am, SpaceShipTwo touched down safely having completed a second “feather” flight.
One further glide flight, potentially within the next week or so, will see the completion of an unprecedented period of successful test flight activity (six flights in around a month) and herald the start of a couple of months of slightly less visible activity.
Scaled has amassed a wealth of data and experience from the recent flurry of test flights which is now undergoing thorough analysis. Engineers will be addressing any issues arising from this, as well as performing detailed vehicle checks as they prepare the spaceship and carrier aircraft for the next phase of flight testing.
Congratulations to the whole team at Scaled for the dedication and hard work that has made so many flights possible in such a short time period.
Rocketeer comments: There is speculation as to whether the 'couple of months of ... less visible activity' involves integration of the hybrid motor, so that the 'next phase' of flight tests will be powered flights.