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New Feather In SpaceShipTwo's Cap

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the looking-forward-to-a-window-seat dept.

Transportation 42

Phoghat writes "Early on 4th May 2011, in the skies above Mojave Air and Spaceport CA, SpaceShipTwo, the world's first commercial spaceship, demonstrated its unique reentry 'feather' configuration for the first time. This test flight, the third in less than two weeks, marks another major milestone on the path to powered test flights and commercial operations. SpaceShipTwo (SS2), named VSS Enterprise, has now flown solo seven times since its public roll-out in December 2009 and since the completion of its ground and captive-carry test program."

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first (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36037338)

got it

Re:first (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36037498)

That's a feather in YOUR cap!

How does a spaceship wear one of those?

This has been a public service message from the Inappropriate Metaphor Alert System.

Re:first (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 3 years ago | (#36049838)

An inappropriate metaphor is like your mum's vah-jay-jay. Irrelevant but fun to mention just to annoy people. xD

paging competent editors... (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 3 years ago | (#36037540)

Seriously? SS2's 'Unique feather configuration'? Unique except for the fact that SS1 also used it. Granted it's unique to Virgin Galactic, but not to SS2. /. editor's really should come in from recess....

Re:paging competent editors... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36037570)

I think the only thing keeping me at /. is the comment section. I think I may be doing it wrong....

Re:paging competent editors... (1)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 3 years ago | (#36037656)

I think the only thing keeping me at /. is the comment section. I think I may be doing it wrong....

That's always been the point of /., so I think you're doing it right. The news blurbs have never been particularly interesting on their own; it's the well moderated, often interesting (I'm not being sarcastic) comments that have been the draw. I posted as an AC since 2000 and read /. on most days since then, and I don't think anything has changed other than the interface getting sort of clunky.

Re:paging competent editors... (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041364)

More to the point, there aren't editors in the traditional sense. There are people who submit stories (ie you and me), people who vote stories up and down (ie you and me) and there are people who sometimes run an eye over things to stop Slashdot getting sued. They seem to comment on things sometimes, but as far as I can tell they just add a tick to stuff to send it from the top of the popular list to the front page, no actual "editing" involved. Yes it's frustrating to read crap, but the point is it's crap that we collectively voted for. From what I can tell from my own account (that I've never paid a penny into), the more modding you do, and the better you do it according to whatever algorithm there is, the more you get. Try it. (And watch my own ranking drop to near-nothing after this!)

Re:paging competent editors... (1)

arbitraryaardvark (845916) | more than 3 years ago | (#36043530)

there is some editing. the posted text is different from the stories as submitted. sometimes better sometimes worse.

Re:paging competent editors... (1)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041918)

Pretty much it. /. seems to be a mix of enthusiasts, professionals and trolls. There's almost always something to learn from the comments, even if it's an article that you're not even interested in. Things sway wildly off-topic but are still interesting and get modded accordingly.

The beauty of /. is the moderation system. Other sites I've read have moved to the /. style moderation system and the sites have almost collapsed over the backlash. It seems that while it's a harsh system that not everyone likes, it's a system that works. You just need to start with a system like /. and not remove features to emulate slashdot.

While this is all massively off topic, it needed to be said.

Re:paging competent editors... (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36037646)

Since SS1 is in the Smithsonian, I think the label "unique" still applies..... unless you can name another vehicle using this atmospheric re-entry method.

Re:paging competent editors... (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 3 years ago | (#36037752)

So because it is in a museum it doesn't exist? They didn't say 'unique among active spacecraft'.

Re:paging competent editors... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041648)

They didn't say 'unique among active spacecraft'.

And why is that an unreasonable implication? You are expected to exert a little brain power when you read stuff. It doesn't have to be precisely true in the way you chose to read it. Keep in mind that there might be living organisms that also use this approach. Do we take away the uniqueness claim because the whatsit tree of Southern Nowheristan has seeds which also use the "feather" configuration to spread themselves by wind?

Re:paging competent editors... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36037678)

NO KIDDING! How could they have not known every little nuanced detail about every little thing no matter how trivial? And these gods of men, these so-called editors, these guys who post neat things for us to read, how can they be so incompetent? Fuck it, I'm canceling my subscription to this drivel.

Re:paging competent editors... (1)

gblackwo (1087063) | more than 3 years ago | (#36037784)

It's kinda their job to know things...

Re:paging competent editors... (3, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#36037762)

unique (adj)

Being the only one of its kind;
Of a rare quality;

There is more than one definition of unique. Something needs not be the only example of something to be unique.

Re:paging competent editors... (1)

M8e (1008767) | more than 3 years ago | (#36037990)

MozeeToby is unique like everybody else on /.

Re:paging competent editors... (1)

jumpinjax (2119050) | more than 3 years ago | (#36047978)

unique c.1600, "single, solitary," from Fr. unique, from L. unicus "single, sole," from unus "one" (see one). Meaning "forming the only one of its kind" is attested from 1610s; erroneous sense of "remarkable, uncommon" is attested from mid-19c. unique == "only one of its kind" or the word is pointless.

Re:paging competent editors... (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 3 years ago | (#36049924)

Compare 'unicus' - a single distribution of Unix. Also, 'unicus', 'one with no testicles.'

Re:paging competent editors... (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 3 years ago | (#36049890)

What? Unusual does not equal unique, no matter which dodgy dictionary you quoted. The word 'unique' comes from the latin 'unicus', meaning 'only one o' those exists'.

Re:paging competent editors... (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040186)

It's unique to the ScaledComposite's SpaceShipX series of vehicles, of which this is only the second, you useless pedantards.

Re:paging competent editors... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36045240)

Article mentions this, Nobody Actually RTFA., Never Change /.

VSS Enterprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36037602)

I wonder if Paramount will sue

Re:VSS Enterprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36037716)

I think we can find some prior art [] .

Re:VSS Enterprise? (2)

AikonMGB (1013995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36037750)

For what would they sue? There are already a number of real vessels [] (water, air, and space) that share that name.

What about the engines? (3, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36037618)

Getting the vehicle to "feather" is perhaps a useful step, but the real issue IMHO is if they are going to get the engine to work out.

In case anybody is unaware, there have been some gruesome accidents trying to get the motors to work including a couple unfortunate deaths at Scaled Composites. Apparently it is perhaps the one major show stopper to getting the vehicle to work out, as scaling the rocket motor from SpaceShip One to the much larger SpaceShip Two size has been a major hurdle.

When I mentioned this earlier on Slashdot (for a SS2 related post), I got a couple of private e-mails assuring me that all was OK, but that it still has been problematic. It still is an issue that might hold up the actual launch, and isn't getting much attention in the press. I just hope that it works out, as that seems to be the one major system that isn't really working right now.

[Citation Please] (5, Insightful)

_bug_ (112702) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040250)

The accident you refer to [] happened four years ago. A little over a year later Scaled Composites released their findings [] into the cause of the accident and shared everything they learned in how to more safely handle the materials they were using with the industry.

Since then I haven't heard of any accidents. So please inform us what other accidents have occured at Scaled Composites relating to the rocket motors.

Furthermore, I've love to hear about your sources that characterize the current state of Scaled Composites' rocket motor development as being "problematic".

I think your information is four years old. Scaled Composites already has a schedule in place that includes, later this year, firing the rocket motor in flight, possibly even putting SpaceShipTwo into space by the end of this year (but that will probably happen in early 2012). And by the end of 2012 we'll probably see the first paid flights.

The engines are fine.

Re:[Citation Please] (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36048236)

No, this wasn't something from four years ago... it was something much more recent and some serious concerns that it was going to be a hiccup and that there were other issues popping up where the engines weren't working correctly. Mind you this is just pure speculation from some folks who also happen to be at Mojave and are just repeating stuff in the rumor mill... so it isn't anything official. The concern that was expressed was that this particular engine design might just be a dead end in terms of research. That happens when you are doing something different, and the SS2 design is nearly the very definition of something different. It is still in the R&D stage of development and isn't in production, so almost anything can happen.

Perhaps those concerns are a bit overblown, and if so I hope the best for Scaled and Virgin Galactic to be able to get everything going. I am excited to see this company get stuff into the air, and certainly this test flight is precisely the incremental design and testing routine typical for engineering but seldom applied to spaceflight. The reason it isn't used for spaceflight is that usually the cost for each flight is prohibitive unless you are using very small vehicles.... which really doesn't tell you much about scaling issues of the technologies. Different kinds of problems show up when you are working with big stuff that simply isn't a problem for small devices, and rocketry is certainly no exception.

Re:[Citation Please] (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 3 years ago | (#36049974)

I'm intrigued. I've heard of exactly one 'gruesome incident' at Scaled (which is the one four years ago, where there was an explosion involving the N20-based oxidising agent). Has there been another one?

Re:[Citation Please] (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050870)

The accident where there were injuries and deaths did happen four years ago. The problem now is mainly one of performance and getting the system to work. Since it doesn't bleed, it doesn't lead, so this has been mostly a non-issue in terms of press coverage.... noting that Virgin Galactic doesn't seem to be afraid of press coverage when thing seem to be going their way.

If things are going well, I guess even this is a non-issue. Still, it would be nice to know if the engine development is on-track and if it will be ready in time for the flight trials that supposedly will happen later on this year. It is sort of a critical component to be left for the last minute.

Re:What about the engines? (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041878)

In case anybody is unaware, there have been some gruesome accidents trying to get the motors to work including a couple unfortunate deaths at Scaled Composites. Apparently it is perhaps the one major show stopper to getting the vehicle to work out, as scaling the rocket motor from SpaceShip One to the much larger SpaceShip Two size has been a major hurdle.

There was one accident. It was a result of a bad test setup, so I understand. When you use propellants that can explosively decompose as nitrous oxide can (while under enough pressure), you need to put in special protections (such as valves that close under these circumstances) to keep decomposition originating in your test equipment from propagating back into your reservoirs of nitrous oxide. Either they didn't do that, or their valves failed to operate. They were also too close to the test setup.

If my understanding is incorrect, then feel free to correct.

Food manufacturers use nitrous oxide in such things as whipped cream spray cans and it's apparently still occasionally used in medical anesthesia (such as in dentistry), so it's not a particularly hard to handle chemical.

As another replier noted, it's been four years or so. Googling around, I see that they had successful engine fire tests [] in 2009.

Re:What about the engines? (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36048706)

Scaled Composites is working on engine tests, no doubt. That should be expected, but I haven't heard of a full flight simulation test or some other huge milestone about the engines.... which is something worth bragging about if they were able to pull that off. Yes, the N2O is certainly fairly simple to work with and comparatively safe... which is one of the reasons why it is being used instead of Ammonium Perchlorate mixed with Aluminum.... which has some nasty by products and safety concerns (in spite of its use by NASA for manned spaceflight).

This particular engine system is nice in part because it can be aborted mid-flight if there are some problems that develop.... something typically not possible with a solid fuel core. It also doesn't require cryogenic systems to work like most liquid fueled rockets.

There may not be any sort of problem, and if so I am hoping for the best with SS2. It really is an amazing rocket concept and something that would prove to be genuinely ground breaking.... if they can pull if off. My question is the "If" that is happening.

Re:What about the engines? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050090)

Test firings of the engines used is a huge milestone of the sort you are referring to. They don't need to do full flight simulation testing (which might not fit into their budget), they do need to do engine firings.

Unique... Only for SS2! (3, Informative)

sunfly (1248694) | more than 3 years ago | (#36037800)

SS1 had the same feature, and flew several flights. Because they are just now getting to this phase of testing with SS2, does not make it unique for the first time. Is this wording possible since they added "Commercial" to the sentence? Lame.

Perhaps Unremarkable. (1)

bobs666 (146801) | more than 3 years ago | (#36037950)

It not Unique. Its perhaps unremarkable. Sales staff try to impress, but fail by miss use of the language.

I made feathering return flying rockets when I was a kid. True, it weighted less then one pound, did not have people as payload, and did not goto space. But It used feathering none the less.

Its is a nice amusment ride to be sure! The SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo can use feathering due to the fact that they go so slow. Now if they managed to get to orbital velocity feathering as is would not work. I am not about to say some other method perhaps called feathering could work.

Given how much faster you need to go to get to orbital velocity, it's no wounder NASA and others use a heat shield. Air-breaking is a cheap and effective way to slow down from a much greater speeds.

Re:Perhaps Unremarkable. (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050040)

I think you meant "misuse". ;)

Paint Job (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 3 years ago | (#36040318)

I wonder how long that paint job [] on the underside of the wings will last? Will the desert sand-blast it away? Or will it be burned on first re-entry?

Re:Paint Job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36044310)

SS2 will not travel fast enough to be experience any re-entry burn it's just going to fly very very high and then go into free fall for a while until there's enough air to glide home.

Re:Paint Job (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#36045776)

Some surfaces on SS1 got quite hot during re-entry. They were coated with a special paint and it was re-coated for every flight. I would not be surprised if the paint job lasts just one flight.

OMG we should warn the universe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36040342)

The humans are coming! The pathetically weak short-lived apes are coming in their paper-thin suborbital cans, powered by kerosene! Watch out! We might blast a course-correction motor at you!!

I would have been impressed except (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042076)

NASA did a sub orbital rocket plane and it first flew over 50 years ago. (The X-15 is anybody cares.)

Re:I would have been impressed except (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36052964)

Burt Rutan himself acknowledged the X-15 when he built SpaceShip One, and even went so far as to recognize not only the pioneering work of those experiments with the X-15, but that he even used some of the flight data from those experiments and efforts when he built this particular rocket. As a result, it could even be argued that SS1 and SS2 are the "descendants" or at least owe their heritage to the X-15.

It should also be noted that nobody else ever bothered to do a follow up effort to improve upon the X-15 until the original space X-Prize was created. It was precisely because this was a research area that was left unexplored that something else could have been created.... like SpaceShip One. SS2 is clearly the successor to that line of vehicles, where the X-15 certainly was not capable of carrying passengers. SS2 can carry 6, plus a crew consisting of a pilot and co-pilot.

well done, however hyperbole aside... (1)

jumpinjax (2119050) | more than 3 years ago | (#36048186)

"SS2 was released cleanly from VMS Eve and established a stable glide profile (before) descending, almost vertically, at around 15,500 feet per minute,"

aka "we dropped it out of an airplane and it plummeted toward the ground at 176mph"

Who knew aeronautics had made such leaps and bounds? The skies are yours, my boys, the skies are yours. Now, how are you getting on with "the whole setup only does 2500mph tops so to reach the shuttle's speed and LEO we're going to have to build the largest aircraft the world has ever seen to just get a large enough orbiter off the ground"?


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