Virgin Galactic Unveils SpaceShipTwo

December 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

Commercial Spaceflight Federation, December 7, 2009

SpaceShipTwo, intended to carry passengers and scientific payloads into suborbital space, is being unveiled today by Virgin Galactic in Mojave, California. SpaceShipTwo was developed for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic by the engineering firm Scaled Composites, a team that includes aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan.

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Sir Richard Branson with SpaceShipTwo: courtesy Virgin Galactic

This reusable spacecraft will take two pilots and six passengers to space after first being carried aloft by the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, which has already been undergoing test flights for a year. SpaceShipTwo will conduct flights of passengers and science payloads to space from Spaceport America near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, stated, “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.”

Bretton Alexander, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, commented, “Just a few years ago, SpaceShipOne became the first new U.S. human spacecraft to be unveiled since the Space Shuttle over twenty years ago. Today’s rollout of SpaceShipTwo, the first human spacecraft built for routine commercial operations, is an even more exciting milestone for the commercial spaceflight sector.”

Alexander added, “SpaceShipTwo marks the start of a new wave of commercial spacecraft that will provide frequent and low-cost access to space for people and science payloads.”

According to Virgin Galactic, “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… 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.”

The precursor vehicle to SpaceShipTwo, the SpaceShipOne vehicle unveiled in 2003, became the first private human spacecraft to reach space in 2004 and won the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for commercial spaceflight.

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SpaceX Training NASA Space Station Astronauts

December 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

Hawthorne, CA (December 3, 2009) – Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) recently conducted its first Dragon spacecraft operations training for a group of NASA astronauts and personnel at its corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, CA.  The October training focused on how the crew will interface with the Dragon spacecraft while it is approaching and berthed to the International Space Station (ISS).  Three of the participating astronauts—Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Shannon Walker and Douglas Wheelock—will be on board the ISS when Dragon makes its first visit under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.

The astronauts were briefed on vehicle ingress and egress, habitability of the spacecraft, payload handling and commanding through SpaceX’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Communication Unit.  The training was a key step in SpaceX’s progress towards providing NASA an alternative for cargo transport to and from the ISS when the Space Shuttle retires.

“This was the first time the NASA astronauts who will interact with Dragon during its early missions were actually inside a Dragon flight vehicle” said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO, SpaceX.  “SpaceX was honored to host the ISS crew for this preliminary training exercise, and we look forward to serving NASA further under the COTS program and CRS contracts.”

Also in attendance were NASA astronauts Marsha Ivins and Megan McArthur, as well as other key NASA personnel from the NASA Astronaut Office and Mission Operations Directorates.

Under the COTS program, SpaceX will execute three flights of the Dragon spacecraft. Dragon will pass in close proximity to, and berth with, the ISS as part of the second and third COTS missions, respectively. Upon completion of these demonstration flights, SpaceX will begin to fulfill the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract for 12 cargo flights between 2010 and 2015 and represents a guaranteed minimum of 20,000 kg to be carried to the ISS.

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