Tag: Federal Aviation Administration

Virgin Galactic Opens LauncherOne Facility in Long Beach ~ Schedules March 7th Job Fair


 


Excerpt from spacenews.com
by Jeff Foust 

Virgin Galactic announced Feb. 12 that the company is opening a new facility in Long Beach, California, devoted to development of its small satellite launch vehicle.  Virgin Galactic said that it is leasing a 13,900-square-meter building at the Long Beach Airport that it will use for the design and manufacturing of LauncherOne.

The company did not disclose the terms of the lease.  “The technical progress our team has made designing and testing LauncherOne has enabled a move into a dedicated facility to produce the rocket at quantity,” Virgin Galactic chief executive George Whitesides said in a statement announcing the new facility. 

LauncherOne work has been based to date in Mojave, California.  LauncherOne is an air-launch system for satellites weighing up to 225 kilograms. The system will use the same aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, as the company’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle, but replaces SpaceShipTwo with a two-stage launch vehicle using engines fueled by liquid oxygen and kerosene.  At the Federal Aviation Administration Commercial Space Transportation Conference Feb. 4, William Pomerantz, vice president of special projects for Virgin Galactic, said the company has already tested engines and other “core infrastructure” of LauncherOne. 

“We are a fairly vertically-integrated team,” he said. “We really do control a lot of the production in house.”  Pomerantz said that about 60 of the 450 employees of Virgin Galactic and its wholly-owned subsidiary, The Spaceship Company, are currently dedicated to the LauncherOne program.  Virgin Galactic said it will hold a job fair at its new Long Beach facility March 7, but did not disclose how many people it plans to hire there. The Virgin Galactic website lists approximately 20 job opening related to the LauncherOne program as of Feb. 12.  When Virgin Galactic announced the LauncherOne program in 2012, it said it had signed up several companies as initial customers, including Planetary Resources, GeoOptics, Spaceflight Inc., and Skybox Imaging, since acquired by Google.  

In January, the Virgin Group announced it was investing in OneWeb, a venture that plans a constellation of nearly 650 satellites in low Earth orbit to provide broadband communications, with at least some of those satellites to be launched by LauncherOne. 

Virgin Galactic Opens LauncherOne Facility in Long Beach

by — February 12, 2015
Virgin Galactic LauncherOne
Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne. Credit: Virgin Galactic
WASHINGTON — Virgin Galactic announced Feb. 12 that the company is opening a new facility in Long Beach, California, devoted to development of its small satellite launch vehicle.
Virgin Galactic said that it is leasing a 13,900-square-meter building at the Long Beach Airport that it will use for the design and manufacturing of LauncherOne. The company did not disclose the terms of the lease.
“The technical progress our team has made designing and testing LauncherOne has enabled a move into a dedicated facility to produce the rocket at quantity,” Virgin Galactic chief executive George Whitesides said in a statement announcing the new facility. LauncherOne work has been based to date in Mojave, California.
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LauncherOne is an air-launch system for satellites weighing up to 225 kilograms. The system will use the same aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, as the company’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle, but replaces SpaceShipTwo with a two-stage launch vehicle using engines fueled by liquid oxygen and kerosene.
At the Federal Aviation Administration Commercial Space Transportation Conference Feb. 4, William Pomerantz, vice president of special projects for Virgin Galactic, said the company has already tested engines and other “core infrastructure” of LauncherOne. “We are a fairly vertically-integrated team,” he said. “We really do control a lot of the production in house.”
Pomerantz said that about 60 of the 450 employees of Virgin Galactic and its wholly-owned subsidiary, The Spaceship Company, are currently dedicated to the LauncherOne program.
Virgin Galactic said it will hold a job fair at its new Long Beach facility March 7, but did not disclose how many people it plans to hire there. The Virgin Galactic website lists approximately 20 job opening related to the LauncherOne program as of Feb. 12.
When Virgin Galactic announced the LauncherOne program in 2012, it said it had signed up several companies as initial customers, including Planetary Resources, GeoOptics, Spaceflight Inc., and Skybox Imaging, since acquired by Google.
In January, the Virgin Group announced it was investing in OneWeb, a venture that plans a constellation of nearly 650 satellites in low Earth orbit to provide broadband communications, with at least some of those satellites to be launched by LauncherOne.
- See more at: http://spacenews.com/virgin-galactic-opens-launcherone-facility-in-long-beach/#sthash.sxcVmjTW.dpuf

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Excerpt from space-travel.comWashington DC (Sputnik) Feb 09, 2015Bigelow Aerospace plans to test a space habitat at the International Space Station this year, and then operate free-flying orbital outposts for customers, including government agencies...

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Safety Board Cites Improper Pilot Command in Virgin Galactic Crash



Excerpt from

wsj.com By Andy Pasztor


Accident Sets Back Ambitious Timetables for Space Tourism and Other Commercial Ventures.

MOJAVE, Calif.—An improper co-pilot command preceded Friday’s in-flight breakup of Virgin Galactic LLC’s rocket, according to investigators, when movable tail surfaces deployed prematurely.

Two seconds after the surfaces moved—with SpaceShip Two traveling faster than the speed of sound—“we saw disintegration” of the 60-foot-long experimental craft, according to Christopher Hart, acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
The co-pilot died in the accident, and the other pilot was severely injured.

The sequence of events released by the NTSB indicates that the rocket ship separated normally from its carrier and the propulsion system worked normally until the tail surfaces, called feathers, deployed.

The disaster, coupled with the explosion earlier last week of an unmanned Orbital Sciences Corp. cargo rocket destined for the international space station, has set back the ambitious timetables embraced by space-tourism proponents and other commercial ventures seeking to get beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Some in the industry predict difficulties obtaining additional private-equity funding for startup ventures, while others worry about nagging propulsion problems and public confidence. 

“Recent events bring home the reality that we’re in a very dangerous phase” of pursuing space activities relying on the private sector, said Howard McCurdy, a space history expert at American University. Launching rockets and vehicles “is always a very risky business,” he said, and no amount of ground tests “can duplicate the aerodynamic stresses and other conditions” of actual space flight.

Virgin Galactic had initially hoped to start commercial service by 2008, but persistent development and testing challenges have repeatedly pushed back the date. Before the accident, company officials were talking about inaugurating service by early 2015, with company founder Sir Richard Branson and members of his family slated to take the first ride. Now, the initial launch date is uncertain because the probe is likely to stretch for many months.

How much the fledgling industry is set back may depend on what investigators determine caused the two accidents. Some industry officials and analysts predict that Virgin Galactic’s fatal mishap may have a long-term residual impact as dramatic as the fallout from the 2003 in-flight breakup of the space shuttle Columbia, which killed all seven crew members. 

“It’s clearly bad news for commercial space,” said one veteran industry official affiliated with another commercial space company. “But from the beginning, people recognized a fatal event on some spacecraft was inevitable.” 

Earlier Sunday, George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic’s chief executive, defended the company’s safety procedures and indicated that the rocket motor on the craft that crashed was a derivative of a design that had been successfully tested on the ground and in the air for years.

“At the end of the day, safety of our system is paramount,” he said in an interview. “The engineers and the flight-test team have the final authority” to determine when and how experimental flights are conducted.

Virgin Galactic has pledged to cooperate fully with the probe, which also includes experts from the Federal Aviation Administration and Scaled Composites, a Northrop Grumman Corp. unit that designed and is testing the Virgin crafts—SpaceShip Two and its carrier aircraft, dubbed WhiteKnight Two. The pilots on Friday’s test flight were Scaled Composites employees.

Mr. Whitesides, a former senior NASA official, is in charge of the roughly $500 million project intended to take passengers on suborbital flights for more than $200,000 each. He said last week’s test flight wasn’t rushed. “I strongly reject any assertion that something pushed us to fly when we weren’t ready,” he said.

SpaceShip Two’s fuel tanks and engine were recovered largely intact. The hybrid motor fueled by nitrous oxide and a plastic-based compound was found some 5 miles from where large sections of the tail first hit the ground. Sections of the fuselage, fuel tanks and cockpit were located some distance from the engine itself.

The condition and location of various pieces of the wreckage suggest there was no propulsion-system explosion before the craft started coming apart miles above California’s Mojave Desert, according to air-safety experts who have reviewed the images.

“It’s hard to figure how an engine explosion” could produce such a debris field, said John Cox, an industry consultant and former accident investigator for the Air Line Pilots Association.

The rocket ship was equipped with six onboard video cameras and many sensors feeding data to the ground. The flight also was followed by radar, and was filmed from the ground and by a plane flying close by.

SpaceShip Two’s rocket motor received considerable attention immediately after the accident. Industry officials and news reports concentrated on the fact that it was burning a new type of plastic-based fuel for the first time in flight.

The new engine-fuel combination was tested on the ground about a dozen times in the months leading up to Friday’s flight.

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Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Crashes: 1 Dead, 1 Injured

Image: Wreckage from Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo is shown in this still image captured from KNBC video footage from Mojave California
Crash site of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo





Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane exploded and crashed during a test flight on Friday, killing one crew member and seriously injuring another, authorities said.
The explosion came after the plane dropped away from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane and fired up its hybrid rocket engine, said Stuart Witt, CEO and general manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The blast scattered debris across a two-mile swath of the desert floor north of Mojave, which is about 95 miles (150 kilometers) outside Los Angeles.
One of the two test pilots aboard the plane was killed, said Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, who was among the officials dealing with the crash's aftermath.
The other parachuted to the ground and was injured. That pilot was transferred to Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, California, according to Kern County Deputy Fire Chief Michael Cody. 

"We hope that the survivor will be just fine," Youngblood said during a news briefing.
The pilots have not yet been identified, but both of them worked for Mojave-based Scaled Composites, according to Scaled's president, Kevin Mickey. Scaled has played a key role in developing and testing SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic.
Virgin Galactic had planned to use this SpaceShipTwo to fly passengers on suborbital trips to the edge of space, beginning as early as next year. A nearly identical rocket plane is already under construction inside a Mojave hangar. More than 700 customers, including celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber, have paid as much as $250,000 to take a ride.
George T. Whitesides, Virgin Galactic's CEO, said the company would press on despite the setback.
"Space is hard, and today was a tough day," Whitesides told reporters. "We are going to be supporting the investigation as we figure out what happened today, and we're going to get through it. The future rests in many ways on hard, hard days like this. But we believe we owe it to the folks who were flying these vehicles as well as the folks who are working so hard on them to understand this and to move forward."
Witt said Mojave's close-knit aviation community was hit hard by the tragedy.
"When we have a mishap from the test community, we find that the test community is very small," he said. "We are human, and it hurts." 

View image on Twitter

First powered flight in months

SpaceShipTwo's crew was testing the rocket engine in flight for the first time in more than nine months. The plane was slung beneath WhiteKnightTwo for takeoff from the Mojave Air and Space Port at about 9:20 a.m. PT (12:20 p.m. ET). When the paired planes reached a height of about 50,000 feet, about 40 minutes later, SpaceShipTwo was released for the test.
Witt said the anomaly occurred about two minutes after SpaceShipTwo dropped away and fired the rocket engine, but he didn't see any explosion. "It wasn't because something did happen. It was what I was not hearing and not seeing," Witt said.
Photographer Ken Brown, who was covering the test flight, told NBC News that he saw an explosion high in the air and later came upon SpaceShipTwo debris scattered across a small area of the desert. The WhiteKnightTwo plane and its pilots, meanwhile, landed safely.
Authorities cordoned off the crash site pending an investigation. A National Transportation Safety Board team was expected to get to the crash site Saturday morning. The Federal Aviation Administration said it was also investigating the incident. 

New kind of fuel tested

During the nine months since the previous rocket-powered test in January, Virgin Galactic switched SpaceShipTwo's fuel mixture from a rubber-based compound to a plastic-based mix — in hopes that the new formulation would boost the hybrid rocket engine's performance.
Mickey said engines using the new type of fuel had been thoroughly tested on the ground. The final pre-flight qualification engine firing took place earlier this month. Friday's test marked the first time the new fuel was used in flight, but Mickey said "we expected no anomalies with the motor today."
Before Friday's flight, the most recent aerial outing was on Oct. 7, when SpaceShipTwo took an unpowered, gliding flight back to the Mojave runway.
The fatal flight was part of SpaceShipTwo's years-long test program, following up on the successful suborbital spaceflights of the smaller SpaceShipOne rocket plane in 2004. Virgin Galactic had said SpaceShipTwo's first test flight to an outer-space altitude — usually defined as 100 kilometers, or 62 miles — could have taken place before the end of the year.
The company's billionaire founder, Richard Branson, was hoping to ride on the first commercial flight next year. Over the past decade, he and his investment partners have put hundreds of millions of dollars into the Virgin Galactic venture. After Friday's crash, Branson said in a Twitter update that he was "flying to Mojave immediately to be with the team."
Image: SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwoJason DiVenere / Scaled Composites
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane is slung beneath the WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane before Friday's takeoff.
NBC News' Julianne Pepitone and James Eng contributed to this report. NBCUniversal has established a multi-platform partnership with Virgin Galactic to track the development of SpaceShipTwo and televise Branson's spaceflight.

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