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New Feather In SpaceShipTwo's Cap 42

Phoghat writes "Early on 4th May 2011, in the skies above Mojave Air and Spaceport CA, SpaceShipTwo, the world's first commercial spaceship, demonstrated its unique reentry 'feather' configuration for the first time. This test flight, the third in less than two weeks, marks another major milestone on the path to powered test flights and commercial operations. SpaceShipTwo (SS2), named VSS Enterprise, has now flown solo seven times since its public roll-out in December 2009 and since the completion of its ground and captive-carry test program."
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New Feather In SpaceShipTwo's Cap

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  • Seriously? SS2's 'Unique feather configuration'? Unique except for the fact that SS1 also used it. Granted it's unique to Virgin Galactic, but not to SS2. /. editor's really should come in from recess....
    • by Teancum ( 67324 )

      Since SS1 is in the Smithsonian, I think the label "unique" still applies..... unless you can name another vehicle using this atmospheric re-entry method.

      • So because it is in a museum it doesn't exist? They didn't say 'unique among active spacecraft'.
        • by khallow ( 566160 )

          They didn't say 'unique among active spacecraft'.

          And why is that an unreasonable implication? You are expected to exert a little brain power when you read stuff. It doesn't have to be precisely true in the way you chose to read it. Keep in mind that there might be living organisms that also use this approach. Do we take away the uniqueness claim because the whatsit tree of Southern Nowheristan has seeds which also use the "feather" configuration to spread themselves by wind?

    • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @01:57PM (#36037762)

      unique (adj)

      Being the only one of its kind;
      Of a rare quality;

      There is more than one definition of unique. Something needs not be the only example of something to be unique.

      • by M8e ( 1008767 )

        MozeeToby is unique like everybody else on /.

      • unique c.1600, "single, solitary," from Fr. unique, from L. unicus "single, sole," from unus "one" (see one). Meaning "forming the only one of its kind" is attested from 1610s; erroneous sense of "remarkable, uncommon" is attested from mid-19c. unique == "only one of its kind" or the word is pointless.
      • What? Unusual does not equal unique, no matter which dodgy dictionary you quoted. The word 'unique' comes from the latin 'unicus', meaning 'only one o' those exists'.
    • It's unique to the ScaledComposite's SpaceShipX series of vehicles, of which this is only the second, you useless pedantards.

  • by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning AT netzero DOT net> on Thursday May 05, 2011 @01:48PM (#36037618) Homepage Journal

    Getting the vehicle to "feather" is perhaps a useful step, but the real issue IMHO is if they are going to get the engine to work out.

    In case anybody is unaware, there have been some gruesome accidents trying to get the motors to work including a couple unfortunate deaths at Scaled Composites. Apparently it is perhaps the one major show stopper to getting the vehicle to work out, as scaling the rocket motor from SpaceShip One to the much larger SpaceShip Two size has been a major hurdle.

    When I mentioned this earlier on Slashdot (for a SS2 related post), I got a couple of private e-mails assuring me that all was OK, but that it still has been problematic. It still is an issue that might hold up the actual launch, and isn't getting much attention in the press. I just hope that it works out, as that seems to be the one major system that isn't really working right now.

    • [Citation Please] (Score:5, Insightful)

      by _bug_ ( 112702 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @04:11PM (#36040250) Journal

      The accident you refer to [] happened four years ago. A little over a year later Scaled Composites released their findings [] into the cause of the accident and shared everything they learned in how to more safely handle the materials they were using with the industry.

      Since then I haven't heard of any accidents. So please inform us what other accidents have occured at Scaled Composites relating to the rocket motors.

      Furthermore, I've love to hear about your sources that characterize the current state of Scaled Composites' rocket motor development as being "problematic".

      I think your information is four years old. Scaled Composites already has a schedule in place that includes, later this year, firing the rocket motor in flight, possibly even putting SpaceShipTwo into space by the end of this year (but that will probably happen in early 2012). And by the end of 2012 we'll probably see the first paid flights.

      The engines are fine.

      • by Teancum ( 67324 )

        No, this wasn't something from four years ago... it was something much more recent and some serious concerns that it was going to be a hiccup and that there were other issues popping up where the engines weren't working correctly. Mind you this is just pure speculation from some folks who also happen to be at Mojave and are just repeating stuff in the rumor mill... so it isn't anything official. The concern that was expressed was that this particular engine design might just be a dead end in terms of rese

        • I'm intrigued. I've heard of exactly one 'gruesome incident' at Scaled (which is the one four years ago, where there was an explosion involving the N20-based oxidising agent). Has there been another one?
          • by Teancum ( 67324 )

            The accident where there were injuries and deaths did happen four years ago. The problem now is mainly one of performance and getting the system to work. Since it doesn't bleed, it doesn't lead, so this has been mostly a non-issue in terms of press coverage.... noting that Virgin Galactic doesn't seem to be afraid of press coverage when thing seem to be going their way.

            If things are going well, I guess even this is a non-issue. Still, it would be nice to know if the engine development is on-track and if

    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      In case anybody is unaware, there have been some gruesome accidents trying to get the motors to work including a couple unfortunate deaths at Scaled Composites. Apparently it is perhaps the one major show stopper to getting the vehicle to work out, as scaling the rocket motor from SpaceShip One to the much larger SpaceShip Two size has been a major hurdle.

      There was one accident. It was a result of a bad test setup, so I understand. When you use propellants that can explosively decompose as nitrous oxide can (while under enough pressure), you need to put in special protections (such as valves that close under these circumstances) to keep decomposition originating in your test equipment from propagating back into your reservoirs of nitrous oxide. Either they didn't do that, or their valves failed to operate. They were also too close to the test setup.

      If my

      • by Teancum ( 67324 )

        Scaled Composites is working on engine tests, no doubt. That should be expected, but I haven't heard of a full flight simulation test or some other huge milestone about the engines.... which is something worth bragging about if they were able to pull that off. Yes, the N2O is certainly fairly simple to work with and comparatively safe... which is one of the reasons why it is being used instead of Ammonium Perchlorate mixed with Aluminum.... which has some nasty by products and safety concerns (in spite of

        • by khallow ( 566160 )
          Test firings of the engines used is a huge milestone of the sort you are referring to. They don't need to do full flight simulation testing (which might not fit into their budget), they do need to do engine firings.
  • by __aazsst3756 ( 1248694 ) on Thursday May 05, 2011 @01:59PM (#36037800)
    SS1 had the same feature, and flew several flights. Because they are just now getting to this phase of testing with SS2, does not make it unique for the first time. Is this wording possible since they added "Commercial" to the sentence? Lame.

  • It not Unique. Its perhaps unremarkable. Sales staff try to impress, but fail by miss use of the language.

    I made feathering return flying rockets when I was a kid. True, it weighted less then one pound, did not have people as payload, and did not goto space. But It used feathering none the less.

    Its is a nice amusment ride to be sure! The SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo can use feathering due to the fact that they go so slow. Now if they managed to get to orbital velocity feathering as is would not w
  • I wonder how long that paint job [] on the underside of the wings will last? Will the desert sand-blast it away? Or will it be burned on first re-entry?
  • NASA did a sub orbital rocket plane and it first flew over 50 years ago. (The X-15 is anybody cares.)
    • by Teancum ( 67324 )

      Burt Rutan himself acknowledged the X-15 when he built SpaceShip One, and even went so far as to recognize not only the pioneering work of those experiments with the X-15, but that he even used some of the flight data from those experiments and efforts when he built this particular rocket. As a result, it could even be argued that SS1 and SS2 are the "descendants" or at least owe their heritage to the X-15.

      It should also be noted that nobody else ever bothered to do a follow up effort to improve upon the X

  • "SS2 was released cleanly from VMS Eve and established a stable glide profile (before) descending, almost vertically, at around 15,500 feet per minute,"

    aka "we dropped it out of an airplane and it plummeted toward the ground at 176mph"

    Who knew aeronautics had made such leaps and bounds? The skies are yours, my boys, the skies are yours. Now, how are you getting on with "the whole setup only does 2500mph tops so to reach the shuttle's speed and LEO we're going to have to build the largest aircraft the

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham