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Space

SpaceShipTwo Design and Pics Released 245

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the stuff-i'll-never-be-able-to-afford dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Designs and photos for Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic's new suborbital spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo, and its carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, have been released." Lots of specs and numbers if you're interested in that sort of thing although nothing hugely detailed.
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SpaceShipTwo Design and Pics Released

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  • Good to see Brian Binnie in the simulator - if I could afford this, I'd want him piloting my flight.
  • by CodeMunch (95290) * on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @12:32PM (#22155208) Homepage
    for SpaceShipXP Service Pack 4.
  • I wish these effort well. We need more celebrities and boy band members in space.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kellyb9 (954229)

      We need more celebrities and boy band members in space.
      Agreed - better having them in space then on earth.
    • Yeah unfortunately none of these damn things crash when useless people are on them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Farmer Tim (530755)
      We need more celebrities and boy band members in space.

      Not on this rocket: it's designed to come back.
  • by TheLazySci-FiAuthor (1089561) <thelazyscifiauthor@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @12:38PM (#22155306) Homepage Journal
    For a bit of perspective I wanted to see what progress looked like back in the early days of aviation.

    http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/history/top10/wright-flyer.jpg [aerospaceweb.org] Here is the wrights' "space ship one"

    http://www.dkimages.com/discover/previews/786/506847.JPG [dkimages.com] Here is what the aircraft started looking like 4 years after the Wright's first flight.

    It took 30 years for Jet technology to appear, I wonder if it will be a similar amount of time before we get private orbital cabability.
    • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @01:00PM (#22155626) Homepage
      First off, almost all orbital launches are private. Most are completely private except for government funding in the development stage and government launch contracts; the launches are run for-profit by companies like Boeing and Lockheed. Even for ones run by NASA, like the shuttle, the craft itself was largely built by private companies. If you want to rule out "large" private companies, there's SeaLaunch, Orbital Sciences, etc, who've developed and run for-profit their own rockets. And if you want rockets developed largely from scratch, look no further than SpaceX and their Falcon rocket (with soon upcoming Dragon spacecraft).

      Why cheer for irrelevance? Cheer for what actually matters.

      By the way -- I'm not sure the analogy with early aircraft is the one you're going for. Just ignoring how little capital it took to build an airplane versus what it takes to make an orbital spacecraft, you should realize that early airplanes suffered major crashes at very regular intervals. The pilots typically survived because the performance of said aircraft was so low. The first cross-country flight took weeks and involved dozens of crashes. For the first around-the-world race, the US strategically placed replacement parts and even entire replacement airplanes for its pilots to use.

      Even if that was an analogy you wanted to use, you should be comparing early aircraft with early rockets (V2, Redstone, etc), not with SS1 and their "repeat what's done decades ago in a way that we know damn well won't scale to anything". SS1 isn't developing new technology or pushing the envelope; they're making craft that don't advance anything except people's ability to have a joyride.

    • by samkass (174571)
      I'm not sure what your second picture is of, but it doesn't look like a Wright flyer to me... here's a pic of the Flyer III about 2-3 years after first flight: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/5/54/Wright_Flyer_III_above.jpg/225px-Wright_Flyer_III_above.jpg [wikimedia.org] . The Flyer III was the first one that had reasonable enough handling that it was really "usable" by a mere mortal, and the design didn't change that much for 5 years after that.

      It was Curtiss that took the Wrights' ideas and extended them
    • by nasor (690345)
      Any comparison of space flight to aircraft flight development is just depressing. It took about 30 years to go from the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk to the DC-3, a commercially-useful passenger aircraft that any reasonable person would feel safe flying in. In rocketry, on the other hand, it's been 50 years and it still costs thousands of dollars to put a kilo in orbit - and you still have something like a 1 in 50 chance of dying in the attempt.

      But of course, there was a readily-apparent market for aircraft
    • Watch these guys:

      Armadillo Aerospace [armadilloaerospace.com]
      Masten Space Systems [masten-space.com]

      Both are working on smaller vehicles right now, but both have their eyes on orbital space.
    • by roystgnr (4015) *
      It took 30 years for Jet technology to appear, I wonder if it will be a similar amount of time before we get private orbital cabability.

      Jet technology was also originally a military technology, but got pushed out to the private sector pretty enthusiastically.

      Orbital rocket technology isn't going to see the same level of cooperation. Where you or I might be interested in "cheap access to space" leading in the longer term to "colonizing the solar system", governments tend to reasonably focus on the more shor
  • More pics here (Score:3, Informative)

    by TappedOut (1185315) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @12:50PM (#22155496)
    More pix: http://www.virgingalactic.com/pressftp/ [virgingalactic.com]
  • , cause that sucker is going down in flames....
  • Have to say (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MacarooMac (1222684) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @01:12PM (#22155780)
    I'm surprised at the amount of scepticism over this project, esp on /. Let's face it, commercial designs such as SS2 are the only way any of us down here will be getting 'up there' in our lifetime.

    FYI, from el Wiki: "More than 65,000 would-be space tourists have applied for the first batch of 100 tickets to be available. The price will initially be US$200,000. However, after the first 100 tickets are sold the price would be dropped to around $100,000. Then deposits after the first year will drop to around $20,000. The duration of the flight will be approximately 2.5 hours, and weekly launches are planned.

    In December 2007 Virgin Galactic had 200 paid-up applicants on its books for the early flights, and 95% were passing the necessary 6-8 g centrifuge tests"
    • Not really (Score:4, Insightful)

      by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @01:34PM (#22156114) Journal
      Probably half or more of the posters here are from America. If you check a number of polls, many Americans believe that NASA has been a waste. Sadly, they also believe that Science is a waste. It comes down to the more that politicians declare that science projects like Genetic Engineering, Stem Cell research, Global Warming Research, etc is bad for the world (and America), then by extension, then RD efforts like NIH, CDC, and even NASA must be worthless. Out politicians are killing us. It is no wonder that we see our RD labs torn down.
      • Probably half or more of the posters here are from America. If you check a number of polls, many Americans believe that NASA has been a waste. Sadly, they also believe that Science is a waste. It comes down to the more that politicians declare that science projects like Genetic Engineering, Stem Cell research, Global Warming Research, etc is bad for the world (and America), then by extension, then RD efforts like NIH, CDC, and even NASA must be worthless. Out politicians are killing us. It is no wonder that
        • Well, I am also from America, and have worked for NASA (on MGS), CDC(in early 80s) and a few RD labs in the USA. In what way have I bashed NASA, or America? I point out what is happening in America ACCORDING to polls ( as well as what I have seen), and you say that it is bashing America? I guess that is simply shoot the messenger?
        • by hondo77 (324058)

          ...and the "feather", while useful for suborbital reentry is useless for a hypersonic orbital re-entry.

          Um, so it's a good thing it's being used for suborbital re-entry, eh? Hello?

    • I'm surprised at the amount of scepticism over this project, esp on /. Let's face it, commercial designs such as SS2 are the only way any of us down here will be getting 'up there' in our lifetime.

      Folks are skeptical because they are looking at the hard numbers, rather than cheerleading because SS2 et al are the 'only way'.

      It's not how many people who sign up in advance that matters - it's how many actually show up at the counter and plunk down cold hard cash, and having people continue to do so on

  • and build Spaceball 1?
  • Article (Score:3, Informative)

    by llZENll (545605) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @01:35PM (#22156132)
    For those who can't connect...

    PICTURES: Virgin Galactic unveils Dyna-Soar style SpaceShipTwo design and twin-fuselage White Knight II configuration
    By Rob Coppinger
    Virgin Galactic has unveiled a SpaceShipTwo (SS2) design, created by Scaled Composites, that harks back to the NASA/USAF Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar glider of the 1960s, while Scaled's carrier aircraft, White Knight II (WK2) has been given a twin-fuselage configuration.

    To be launched on a Lockheed Martin Titan III rocket, Dyna-Soar was for hypersonic flight research but the programme was cancelled before the first vehicle was completed. Some of its subsystems were used in later X-15 flight research and Dyna-Soar became a testbed for advanced technologies that contributed to projects, including the Space Shuttle.

      Above: SpaceShipTwo is carried between the two fuselages of White Knight II

    Virgin Galactic's commercial operations will now start from New Mexico's Spaceport America in 2010 and not from Mojave air and space port in California, as originally planned, but the WK2, SS2 launch system will be test flown by Scaled at the Californian port.

    At its 23 January press conference at the American Museum of Natural History in New York city Virgin Galactic described SS2 as using the same basic technology, construction and design as its predecessor SpaceShipOne (SS1), as 100% composite and twice as large as the $10 million X-Prize winning vehicle, SS1.

      Above: SpaceShipTwo transitions into feathering mode for its reentry

    The SS2 is 18.3m (60ft) long, has a wingspan of 12.8m, a tail height of 4.5m with a passenger cabin that is 3.66m long and 2.28m in diameter. Despite being so much larger than SS1, SS2 will still use a front nose skid, and not nose gear. Released at 50,000ft (15,200m) by WK2, the rocket glider's apogee is expected to be up to 110km (68 miles).

      Above: SpaceShipTwo is under construction at Scaled Composites

    The carrier aircraft, WK2, is now 23.7m-long, it still has a wingspan of 42.7m, with a tail height of 7.62m and its integration is now 80% complete - with the assembly of the wing underway in preparation for its mating with the twin fuselages.

    The WK2 will have four Pratt and Whitney PW308 engines, as revealed by Flight in September last year. And as Flight has also reported WK2's crew and passenger cabin will be the same; for training purposes.

      Above: White Knight II under construction with its twin fuselages being fitted with their tail fins at Scaled Composites

    Virgin Galactic also announced that the SS2 simulator is now operational, ahead of the previous March 2008 date that had been given. It is already being used for pilot training.

      Above: Brian Binnie, Scaled Composites pilot, sits in the SpaceShipTwo simulator

  • Despite being so much larger than SS1, SS2 will still use a front nose skid, and not nose gear.
    Can someone please explain what a "Front nose skid" is and how it might differ from "nose gear"?
    • by phrostie (121428)
      typical nose gear includes a wheel which gives you more control but adds weight.

      a skid just keeps the nose off the ground and is probably replaced after each flight.
      if you need to turn or adjust course on landing, you would probably use differencial braking or flight controls.
    • Re:Nose Skid (Score:4, Informative)

      by everphilski (877346) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @02:00PM (#22156550) Journal
      Imagine a ski, versus a wheel.

      It's simpler and more lightweight. Less moving parts. Also probably a lot easier to package.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Shotgun (30919)
        And if the main gear are moved very close to the center of gravity (CG), more than sufficient, and will reduce the need for high power breaks. Many airplanes still fly with a tailSKID, and many gliders still use skids.

        This flies directly in the face of the early poster that claims SS2 doesn't push the state of the art. SOA applies not only to new materials or designs that have never been seen before. It also applies to using old techniques in new ways, or in places that they weren't used before. It's no

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