Virgin Galactic Rocket-Plane Makes it to Space

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Yazata, Dec 14, 2018.

  1. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    5,119
    Spaceship Two, Virgin Galactic's space-tourism rocket plane had another test flight this morning. They ran the engine for 60 seconds and the vehicle reached 51.4 miles/82.68 km/271,000 feet. (100,000 ft higher than last flight.) The target altitude for this test was 50 miles. It's now safely back on the ground.

    That's technically space as defined by NASA and the US Air Force. So this is the first manned spaceflight launched in a US vehicle from US territory since the last Shuttle flight in 2011. It's also the first private manned spaceflight since Burt Rutan's little Spaceship One flew three times in 2004. (This vehicle is the direct descendant of that vehicle.) The two test pilots on this flight will be recognized as commercial astronauts by the FAA.

    One of today's two pilots is a former NASA astronaut who flew in the shuttle. So he becomes the only person to receive astronaut wings from both NASA and the FAA.

    https://twitter.com/virgingalactic/status/1073251588523712513

    https://www.virgingalactic.com/articles/first-space-flight/

    https://twitter.com/planet4589

    https://twitter.com/NASA/status/1073272440703328258

    https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/s...Four_NASA_Sponsored_Experiments_Set_to_Launch

    Virgin Galactic photo:

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    Here's Virgin Galactic's two new astronauts:

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DuTgeBVVAAAB_qM.jpg

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DuTgXS_U0AA-cx-.jpg
     
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  3. TheFrogger Valued Senior Member

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    Congratulations!
     
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  5. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Actually, just by US Air Force.
    NASA defines space as 62 miles (100km). I think that's the more widely accepted value.

    But great nonetheless!
     
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  7. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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    space vs outer space
    ?
    It seems that virgin flight is still within the atmosphere?
     
  8. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Well the atmosphere extends hundreds of miles out, it just gets rarer and rarer.

    The edge of space is pretty arbitrary (which is why it is at such conveniently round numbers).
     
    Yazata likes this.
  9. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    My understanding is that NASA has come around to using 80 km/50 miles. They belatedly awarded astronaut status to their civilian NASA pilots of the X-15 rocketplane that flew the aircraft above 80 km (after the USAF had done so for its own military X-15 pilots years earlier). And NASA certainly seem to have accepted this Virgin Galactic flight as being a suborbital spaceflight.

    https://twitter.com/NASA/status/1073272440703328258

    https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/s...Four_NASA_Sponsored_Experiments_Set_to_Launch

    The FAA has announced that the two Virgin Galactic pilots will receive commercial astronaut' wings. (The FAA are the ones who award astronaut recognition to non-NASA civilian commercial space pilots. Presumably whenever SpaceX orbits a company astronaut, this is the recognition that individual would receive.)

    https://www.faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm?newsId=23395

    It's what is widely celled the "Karman line", even though von Karman himself apparently originally favored something closer to the 80 km figure for physical reasons. He was trying to determine the altitude at which aerodynamic control surfaces on aircraft stop exerting useful forces and the behavior of the aircraft becomes ballistic. That's somewhere in the 70-90 km range. What seems to have subsequently happened is that Karman's number got rounded up to the 100 km number for convenience sake and his name continued to be stuck to it.

    The always-interesting Jonathan McDowell (if you want to be up to date on everything happening in space you have to read his twitter account and his 'Jonathan's Space Report') writes (in the paper mentioned below): "The 'official' status of the von Karman line, such as it is, comes from the undated paper '100 km Altitude Boundary for Astronautics' on the web site of the Astronautics Records Commission (ICARE) of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), which certifies world records for aeronautics and astronautics." More recently, the FAI has decided to revisit the subject. See their statement here:

    https://www.fai.org/news/statement-about-karman-line

    Here's Jonathan's recent paper on the subject from Acta Astronautica.

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0094576518308221?via=ihub

    And here's an article from Science magazine that discusses it.

    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/07/outer-space-may-have-just-gotten-bit-closer

    Jonathan's twitter page

    https://twitter.com/planet4589

    Jonathan's Space Report

    https://www.planet4589.org/space/jsr/jsr.html
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2018
  10. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Despite quibbles about the Karman line, the view from Spaceship Two was still pretty spectacular.

    See a short video of the flight here

     
  11. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    If we are going to talk about not-quite-space, here's an Austrian guy who went up in a balloon and reached 39 km (~23 miles) over Roswell New Mexico, about as high as a balloon will typically go, then jumped out wearing a pressure suit and skydived back down in 2012. While free-falling for more then four minutes he reached mach 1.25.

     
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  12. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 69 years old Valued Senior Member

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    Only way to better such a challenge would be to do it with a Bungy Cord

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  13. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    While it's a reasonable achievement, I'm still relatively unconvinced by VG. I know it is focussing on sub-orbital flights, but in the time it has taken them to go from Rutan's first effort to this latest, SpaceX have delivered a Tesla to orbit, supplies to the space station, satellites to orbit, demonstrated the ability to autonomously land the booster stages for reuse (and on a remote floating platform) AND reused them. By the time VG have their first fee-paying customer on a sub-orbital jaunt, Musk may well have sent the first payload toward Mars! (Although that may be doing VG a disservice on time scales).

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    I'm hoping that VG really is the dawn of more than just an expensive hobby, or a means of transport reserved for the rich, but at the moment I'm skeptical.
     
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  14. Gawdzilla Sama Valued Senior Member

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    So, he was an IFO?
     
  15. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    IPO.

    Identified Plummeting Object.
     
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  16. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I agree with you, Sarkus.

    Their little sub-orbital rocketplane is a very cool piece of engineering in my opinion, but they don't seem to plan to use it for anything more than rich-people's joyrides.

    As you say, SpaceX is an entirely different kind of vision.
     
  17. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    And making lots of money doing so.

    It's almost as if they're generating international interest and seed-cash to fund more ambitious projects...
     
  18. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Quite. This is Beardie on a publicity stunt, really. He's been knocked into a cocked hat by Musk, who is obviously a far more serious operator. I still like the idea of getting into space from a plane, but the problem is you need a hell of lot more fuel than Beardie's system can lift, to achieve orbit.
     
  19. Gawdzilla Sama Valued Senior Member

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    Potayto, potahto, splat.
     

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