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SpaceShipTwo Design and Pics Released 245

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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  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @01:33PM (#22155232) Homepage
    I should add that I'm only criticizing SS1/SS2. I have nothing against WK1 or WK2; they're quite nice carrier aircraft. But SS1 and SS2 are completely meaningless. If you want small companies doing meaningful rocketry, check out SpaceX [spacex.com]. Their Falcon 9, a rocket whose heavy version will carry as much payload as NASA's beleagured (and possibly dead in the water) Ares, including its own spacecraft that can dock with the ISS, will be launching this June [spaceref.com]. The typical launch cost of payloads in the west is $10k/kg. In Russia, China, and India, $7k/kg is the standard. Sometimes you can get discounts down toi as low as $4-5k/kg. The Falcon 9 is $2-3k/kg. And looking over its construction, design, stats, etc, these numbers definitely appear credible.

    Cheer for the rocketry not matters, not the irrelevant joyrides.
  • by TheLazySci-FiAuthor ( 1089561 ) <thelazyscifiauthor@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @01:38PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @02:02PM (#22155646)
    Clearly, they're establishing a space tourism business with the obvious intent and goal of showing enough demand for "merely" sub-orbital flights that investors such as Branson will be willing to pony up the greater amount of money required to overcome the additional challenges of orbital flights.

    Rutan isn't a billionaire like Musk, he has to get the funding however he can, and has to follow a different path. Musk can afford to spend $200 or $300 million without a single successful flight and ever-increasing launch costs. Scaled can't, and has to rely on smaller steps in the hopes of convincing enough people with deep enough pockets that there is a big-enough market, at a low-enough technical risk, for the step to orbital flights.
  • by hador_nyc ( 903322 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @03:59PM (#22157510) Homepage
    Virgin is focusing on a specific limited mission that no one has done in a way as to open it for a large number of people. If Virgin can make money giving people these cannonball shots, then others, if not Virgin itself, will spend the money to research and develop a craft that can do orbital or even lunar missions. There doesn't need to be a linear progression from SS2 to an orbit capable craft. My analogy was fine because I don't think the Buick should be on the racetrack. They are vehicles designed for different tasks; tuned to their specific environments; just as orbital and sub-orbital missions are different. Again, all Virgin needs to do is to make money doing this. Then people will believe that a NGO can do this, and NGO orbital fights will come with a craft properly tuned and designed for that more difficult challenge. When that happens, you will see the new technology.

    As to my understanding of rocket science, well, for starters, maybe you should learn manners before you return to the discussion. You're not going to convince people to agree with your opinion if you insult them first. You only come across as an idiot when you do it; regardless of how smart you may be. You also might try opening your mind to ideas that don't fit with your own narrow view of the world.
  • by STrinity ( 723872 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @04:05PM (#22157608) Homepage
    I don't want cutting edge space technology. I want reliable space technology that won't fail catastrophically 2% of the time.
  • Re:Nose Skid (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @04:32PM (#22158110)
    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 not only reaching out for new things, but includes reaching back to make the old new again.

    NASA, SpaceX, et.al., all have one approach....payload on top of a huge roman candle. Scaled is exploring an alternative approach.

    And doing it with STYLE, I might add.

  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @05:59PM (#22159510) Homepage
    ummm... SpaceX has barely gotten off the pad much less into space.

    ~300km/~5000m/s is "barely off the pad"? In what universe? It'd have easily been 7,800 m/s if they just had an upper stage baffle.

    Who do you think came up with and has built and flown a throttleable solid rocket engine? (I'll give you a hint, It wasn't SpaceX.)

    I'll give you a hint: It wasn't Scaled. They flew a hybrid rocket. One that got them a mere 3% of the energy of an equivalent mass in orbit and cannot scale to orbit.

    They've also come up with some interesting canopy (window) designs that are fairly novel and structurally as well as visually better than what is commonly used today.

    Read: Pretty and unscalable. That won't work with a TPS.

    Oh also there is the little thing I bet you didn't know. Scaled Composites helps build the Pegasus air launched vehicle which regularly puts 1/2 ton satalites into low orbit

    Yes, they make its tail fins. Color me impressed.

    and a few simulated launch videos and a few ground test as achievements.

    Wow, you really know absolutely nothing about SpaceX, don't you?
  • Re:Design Changes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geek2k5 ( 882748 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @06:57PM (#22160302)

    I believe that the corkscrew problem of the first of the two X-Prize flights might have been due to pilot error or something easily correctable.

    The second flight, by the ex-Navy pilot, didn't have the problem. In fact, the pilot broke the unofficial altitude record held by an X15.

    (Of course, on an earlier test flight if my memory is right, the same pilot landed SS2 a bit hard, causing the landing skid to collapse. Embarassing, but not a disaster. But that is what doing test flights is about.)

"What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying." -- Nikita Khrushchev