Virgin Galactic – VSS Enterprise’s, First Flight
Mojave Air and Spaceport, Mojave, California
Monday 22nd March, 2010
Virgin Galactic announced today that its commercial manned spaceship, VSS Enterprise, this morning successfully completed its first “captive carry” test flight, taking off at 07.05 am (PST) from Mojave Air and Spaceport, California.
The spaceship was unveiled to the public for the first time on December 7th 2009 and named by Governors Schwarzenegger and Richardson. VSS Enterprise remained attached to its unique WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, for the duration of the 2 hours 54 minutes flight, achieving an altitude of 45,000ft (13716 metres).
Both vehicles are being developed for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, by Mojave based Scaled Composites. Founded by Burt Rutan, Scaled developed SpaceShipOne which in 2004 claimed the $10m Ansari X prize as the world’s first privately developed manned spacecraft. Virgin Galactic’s new vehicles share much of the same basic design but are being built to carry six fare paying passengers on sub-orbital space flights, allowing an out-of-the-seat zero gravity experience and offering astounding views of the planet from the black sky of space.
Virgin Galactic has already taken around $45m in deposits for spaceflight reservations from over 330 people wanting to experience space for themselves.
The first flight of VMS Enterprise is another major milestone in an exhaustive flight testing programme, which started with the inaugural flight of VMS Eve in 2008 and is at the heart of Virgin Galactic’s commitment to safety.
Commenting on the historic flight, Burt Rutan said: “This is a momentous day for the Scaled and Virgin Teams. The captive carry flight signifies the start of what we believe will be extremely exciting and successful spaceship flight test program.”
Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic added: “Seeing the finished spaceship in December was a major day for us but watching VSS Enterprise fly for the first time really brings home what beautiful, ground-breaking vehicles Burt and his team have developed for us. It comes as no surprise that the flight went so well; the Scaled team is uniquely qualified to bring this important and incredible dream to reality. Today was another major step along that road and a testament to US engineering and innovation.”
The VSS Enterprise test flight programme will continue though 2010 and 2011, progressing from captive carry to independent glide and then powered flight, prior to the start of commercial operations.
Six months later the 10,000 foot runway has been plowed, graded and concrete is now being finished at Spaceport America. In addition work is proceeding on the 110,000 square foot THF or Terminal Hangar Facility. Back by popular demand here is a repost of Astrocast.TV’s “Breaking New Ground” Reported by Kathleen Koch.
Virgin Galactic Press Release
SpaceShipTwo (SS2) and its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) herald a new era in commercial space flight with daily space tourism flights set to commence from Spaceport America in New Mexico after test program and all required US government licensing completed. Governor Schwarzenegger of California and Governor Richardson of New Mexico will today christen SS2 with the name Virgin Space Ship (VSS) ENTERPRISE
Mojave Air and Spaceport, California
December 7, 2009
Virgin Founder, Sir Richard Branson and SpaceshipOne (SS1) designer, Burt Rutan, today reveal SS2 to the public for the first time since construction of the world’s first manned commercial spaceship began in 2007. SS2 has been designed to take many thousands of private astronauts into space after test programming and all required U.S. government licensing has been completed.
The unveiling represents another major milestone in Virgin Galactic’s quest to develop the World’s first commercial space line providing private sector access to space using an environmentally benign launch system for people, payload and science. The spaceship draws on the experience developed during the successful flights of SS1 in 2004, which won the Ansari X-Prize for completing the world’s first manned private space flights. The SS2 design will be refined and completed during an extensive test flying program to commence shortly, and it will be an entirely new vehicle capable of carrying up to 6 passenger astronauts and up to 2 pilot astronauts into space on a sub-orbital flight.
The unveil itself will take place at Mojave Air and Spaceport as darkness falls on the famous aviation and spaceflight location. Subject to certain U.S. regulatory requirements that will guide the unveiling, SS2 will be attached to her WK2 mothership which was last year unveiled and named EVE after Sir Richard Branson’s mother. In the future, WK2 will carry SS2 to above 50,000 feet (16 kilometres) before the spaceship is dropped and fires her rocket motor to launch into space from that altitude. In honour of a long tradition of using the word Enterprise in the naming of Royal Navy, US Navy, NASA vehicles and even science fiction spacecraft, Governor Schwarzenegger of California and Governor Richardson of New Mexico will today christen SS2 with the name Virgin Space Ship (VSS) ENTERPRISE. This represents not only an acknowledgement to that name’s honorable past but also looks to the future of the role of private enterprise in the development of the exploration, industrialisation and human habitation of space.
The emergence of new commercial space companies like Virgin Galactic will be an engine for employment, growth and the creation of a new technology and science base in the United States. Recent research has indicated that 12,500 jobs have already been created by the new space companies; the Virgin Galactic project alone is creating significant opportunities for employment in both the company itself and with suppliers in both California and New Mexico. Approximately 600 people are now working on activities relating to the project and it is estimated that this figure will rise to over 1,100 jobs during the peak of the construction phase at the space port and through the introduction of the commercial space vehicles into regular astronaut service.
Both WK2 and SS2 represent state of the art environmentally sensitive industrial development in their use of carbon composite materials technology, which has now been identified as a key future contributor to the increasingly urgent requirement by the commercial aviation sector for dramatically more fuel efficient aircraft. WK2 is powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines, which are amongst the most powerful. economic and efficient commercial jet engines available making it a mould breaker in carbon efficiency. SS2 will be powered by a unique hybrid rocket motor, which is currently under development.
The twin fuselage and central payload area configuration allow for easy access to WK2 and to the spaceship for passengers and crew; the design also aids operational efficiencies and turnaround times. The mothership has now also completed a year of rigorous and successful first phase flight testing prior to today’s attachment of SS2.
Commenting on the unveiling, Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic said: “This is truly a momentous day. The team has created not only a world first but also a work of art. The unveil of SS2 takes the Virgin Galactic vision to the next level and continues to provide tangible evidence that this ambitious project is not only moving rapidly, but also making tremendous progress towards our goal of safe commercial operation”.
Burt Rutan, Founder of Scaled Composites added: “All of us at Scaled are tremendously excited by the capabilities of both the mothership and SS2. Today is the culmination of a dream that began many decades ago, was stimulated by Paul Allen’s funding of our X-Prize winning SS1 and then moved forward to commercial reality by Sir Richard and Virgin’s visionary investment in a new future for space transportation”.
SpaceShipTwo will be unveiled after darkness has fallen over the Mojave Desert to the sound of a space-themed anthem from Britain’s biggest DJs, Above & Beyond. Fittingly titled “Buzz” the track will sample Buzz Aldrin’s original moon landing dialogue. Following the naming by Governors Richardson and Schwarzenegger, the DJs will also perform an exclusive set at the celebration cocktail party which will follow and feature the first ever IceBar in the desert hosted by Absolut and the world famous Swedish IceHotel. All the guests will be protected from the desert cold by designer space jackets supplied by PUMA. Finally, to close off the celebrations, all the guests will have the opportunity to view the stunning night skies using specialist telescopes supplied by Ron Dantowitz of the Clay Observatory whose unique tracking cameras followed SS1 into space during the epic flights of 2004.
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LAS CRUCES, NM – The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) has selected a New Mexico contractor to provide construction services for Spaceport America’s Terminal Hangar Facility (THF). The facility will house the operational offices of Virgin Galactic’s world headquarters.
After reviewing proposals from several contractors, the NMSA Board of Directors awarded construction of the 110,152-square foot THF to Summit West of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The THF was designed by URS/Foster + Partners and is to be built in accordance with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. It will set the standard for environmentally sound design for similar structures worldwide, and will employ up to 600 New Mexicans during its construction phase.
Summit West has a strong history of construction in New Mexico and throughout the southwest. Since 1987, Summit West’s New Mexico headquarters have been located in Albuquerque. The company has completed large-scale public and private construction projects from California to New Mexico, and supplied the most competitive bid for the THF project.
Steve Landeene, Executive Director for the NMSA, is excited about the board’s decision to work with Summit West. “This marks the beginning of construction on the signature building of one of the most unique economic development projects in history, creating the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport,” he said. “URS/Foster + Partners has designed an iconic, energy-efficient, state-of-the-art facility, and Summit West will help bring it to life.”
New Mexico Cabinet Secretary of Economic Development Fred Mondragón is pleased with the Spaceport progress and said, “This award is the latest in a series of Spaceport America construction bids which have been to New Mexico based contractors. This means hundreds of jobs for New Mexicans that will help our state bridge the gap to brighter economic times.”
Landeene says there is still a lot of work to be awarded for Spaceport America. “NMSA will continue to issue Request for Proposals (RFPs) and Invitations to Bid (ITB) for more services and construction at the spaceport, and award contracts to the best qualified contractors.” The latest RFP/ITB information can be found online at www.spaceportamerica.com
Spaceport America is the world’s first purpose-built commercial space facility. Spaceport America has been working closely with leading aerospace firms such as Virgin Galactic, Lockheed Martin, Moog-FTS, UP Aerospace, and Armadillo Aerospace to develop commercial spaceflight. Spaceport America’s 10,000-foot long runway is now under construction and is expected to be complete by summer 2010 with the Terminal Hangar Facility projected to be complete by early 2011.
Kathleen Koch reports from Las Cruces New Mexico and the International Symposium Personal & Commercial Spaceflight. Their slogan is “Spaceflight for all Mankind”.
-Pat Hynes, Director ISPCS
- Steve Landeene, Executive Director Spaceport America
- Annousheh Ansari, Ansari X Prize
- Ken Bowersox, Vice President SpaceX Technologies
- Wayne Hale, Deputy Associate Administrator for Stategic Partnerships
- Johanna Bergström-Roos, Spaceport Sweden
- Jeff Foust, Senior Analyst Futron Corp.
TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, NM – The Board of Directors of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) has voted to establish a welcome center for Spaceport America in downtown Truth or Consequences (T or C), New Mexico. With the support of local residents who want the center to be located downtown, the NMSA has agreed to lease an old fire station from the T or C city government. A welcome center is also planned for the village of Hatch, NM, which is on the southern approach to Spaceport America. “We budgeted $500,000 for the Sierra County/T or C welcome center, and we will review renovating the approximately 6,000-square foot firehouse if we can,” said Steve Landeene, Executive Director of the NMSA. If the building can’t be renovated economically, other options for the site may need to be explored. The city of T or C will invest $175,000 to grade and construct parking facilities capable of supporting a minimum of fifty spaces for the welcome center. The fire station location is highly visible in the downtown area. “The people of T or C are doing a great job reviving their downtown, and we’re excited that Spaceport America can be a part of it by making this long-term investment,” said Landeene. Currently under construction, Spaceport America is the world’s first purpose-built commercial space facility. Spaceport America has been working closely with leading aerospace firms such as Virgin Galactic, Lockheed Martin, Moog-FTS, UP Aerospace, and Armadillo Aerospace to develop commercial spaceflight. Spaceport America’s 10,000-foot long runway is now under construction and is expected to be complete by late summer 2010 with the Terminal Hangar Facility projected to be complete by early 2011.
WK1 and WK2 Participate in Edwards Air Force Base “Flight Test Nation 2009” Airshow on October 17, 2009
Scaled Composites’ White Knight One and White Knight Two aircraft will be making a rare public appearance at the Edwards Air Force Base “Flight Test Nation 2009” Air Show and Open house on October 17, 2009. The White Knight One, renowned for its role as the mothership for SpaceShipOne, the first civilian reusable suborbital spacecraft, is back in the air, this time as a high altitude aerodynamic test bed in support of the Air Force Research Lab and Northrop Grumman Corporation. The aircraft will be on static display during the airshow.
The airliner-sized White Knight Two – painted in the livery of Virgin Galactic and dubbed VMS Eve – was built under contract for Virgin Galactic and will serve as a high-altitude mothership — not just for the commercial passenger-carrying SpaceShipTwo but also potentially for unmanned rockets carrying orbital satellites. This versatile aircraft is capable of flying the steep approach and landing profile of SpaceShipTwo and is designed to handle flight loads approaching those of a modern fighter aircraft while also being capable of flying “zero-G” parabolas to simulate the weightlessness of space for astronaut trainees, micro-gravity science experiments, and space instrument proving applications. VMS Eve will arrive at 11:00 am and perform a brief aerial display with a spaceship-style approach and landing, and then park adjacent to its sister ship for public display.
UPHAM, NM – The construction of a new runway is well underway at Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport. New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) officials have released new aerial photos taken on September 13, 2009, of the 10,000-foot runway project, which is designed to accommodate horizontal launch space and air operations at the spaceport. The runway is expected to be complete by late Summer 2010.
Measuring 10,000 feet long by 200 feet wide, the runway is designed for day-to-day space tourism and payload launch operations like those anticipated for Virgin Galactic, the anchor tenant for Spaceport America. The large concrete runway will also be able to accommodate returning launch vehicles, fly-back rocket boosters and other space launch and training vehicles.
David Montoya Construction, Inc., of Alameda, NM, is building the airfield at Spaceport America. After successfully completed an RFP process, this contractor was selected to provide construction services of the airfield by the NMSA Board of Directors. David Montoya Construction, Inc., has provided construction services on many large-scale projects since being established in 1985. The company has provided similar concrete paving services for Albuquerque International Airport and Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo. David Montoya Construction, Inc., is recognized by the Hispanic Business Magazine as one of the top 500 Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States.
The Terminal Hangar Facility at Spaceport America is projected to be complete by early 2011. The NMSA has been working closely with leading aerospace firms such as Virgin Galactic, Lockheed Martin, Moog-FTS, UP Aerospace and Microgravity Enterprises to develop commercial spaceflight at the new facility.
October 4, 2009 marks the 5th Anniversary of the Ansari X PRIZE winning flight of SpaceShip One, which launched the beginning of a new era in which private human space flight became a reality. The X PRIZE Foundation is commemorating this incredible accomplishment by telling the personal stories of the visionaries and heroes who made it all possible, as well as the transformative impact these individuals had on lives around the globe through a 6 part blog series.
“Launching Commercial Space Flight: Part Two – Dumitru Popescu Builds His Dream Rocket” posted today.
· Anousheh Ansari – The Ansari X PRIZE $10 Million Title Sponsor, who realized her lifelong dream of going to space when she became the first woman to privately go into orbit.
· Will Whitehorn – The President of Virgin Galactic, the private space travel company which is utilizing the technology developed in the Ansari X PRIZE to usher in a new era of commercial space tourism.
· Lori Garver – The NASA Deputy Administrator and “Astro Mom” who has been a longtime supporter of opening the gates of space to the public.
· Brian Binnie – The Astronaut who flew SpaceShipOne in the Ansari X PRIZE winning flight and who holds the world altitude record for private space flight.
Please tune in to read the remarkable story of the Ansari X PRIZE!