Virgin Galactic Flies Passenger Spaceship and Mothership for First TimeThe future of public space travel spread its wings for the first time Monday at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California as Virgin Galactic's inaugural SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceship took to the skies attached to its enormous mothership.After rolling down a desert runway, the WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier plane went aloft for the first time while carrying SpaceShipTwo (SS2) – the craft designed to eventually propel two pilots and six passengers to the edge of space.The carrier plane and suborbital spaceship were built for British billionaire Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic spaceliner fleet.According to observers at the site, the aircraft-spaceship combo flew for roughly three hours. Conditions at Mojave for the test flight were described as being a beautiful day with a slight breeze.SpaceShipTwo is the prototype for the world's first commercial passenger spaceship, destined to take private astronauts into suborbital space and paving the way for space transportation.Taking flightThe WK2/SS2 is a space launch system being built by the aerospace company Scaled Composites in Mojave. The company was founded in 1982 by aerospace designer, Burt Rutan, and also built the smaller SpaceShipOne suborbital craft that won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for reusable, manned suborbital spacecraft in 2004.Over the years, Scaled has accumulated broad experience in air vehicle design, tooling and manufacturing, specialty composite structure design, analysis and fabrication, and developmental flight tests of air and space vehicles.The first SS2 sports the name Virgin Space Ship (VSS) Enterprise. The debut WhiteKnightTwo mothership is named Eve after Branson's mother."This is a momentous day for the Scaled and Virgin Teams," Rutan said in a statement after today's successful captive carry flight. "The captive carry flight signifies the start of what we believe will be extremely exciting and successful spaceship flight test program."Many test flights aheadToday's maiden voyage of SpaceShipTwo is to be followed by a number of test hops of the vehicle, eventually leading to drop tests, followed by the craft firing its hybrid rocket motor.In the future, WK2 will carry SS2 to above 50,000 feet (16 km) before the spaceship is dropped and fires its hybrid rocket motor to launch into space from that altitude.SpaceShipTwo was publicly unveiled last December. Throughout the year, an extensive step-by-step test program is planned, leading up to tourism flights from Spaceport America in New Mexico."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," Branson said in a statement. "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."Speaking last month at a suborbital research workshop held in Boulder, Colo., Stephen Attenborough, commercial director for Virgin Galactic made clear that safety is the watchword of the undertaking."You cannot cut corners. Safety has to come first," Attenborough said. "The project has taken longer. It's more expensive...probably more complex than we thought it would be initially. But it's going very well," he said.Attenborough said that the hope is to conduct the first powered test of SpaceShipTwo by year's end. While hesitant to predict the start of commercial operations, he added that if everything went well, paying passengers could be flying to the edge of space by the end of 2011 or early 2012.
Nave espacial turística da Virgin faz voo de teste. Veja as imagensDeserto de Mojave, nos Estados Unidos serviu de palco idealA nave espacial «SpaceShipTwo» (SS2) realizou esta segunda-feira um primeiro voo de testes acoplado sob a asa da nave-mãe White Knight Two (WK2), e prepara-se para ser um marco da popularização do turismo espacial, tal como proposto pelo magnata britânico Richar Branson. Este é o primeiro voo de ambas as naves (sem se soltarem) e foi realizado na base aérea do deserto de Mojave, 130 km a noroeste de Los Angeles, anunciou a Virgin Galactic, segundo a agência AFP. A nave espacial da Virgin Galactic prevê transportar, a partir de 2011, turistas dispostos a pagar 200 mil dólares pela viagem. O SS2 é uma nave branca com janelas circulares na fuselagem, inclusivamente no tecto (como é possível ver nesta galeria de fotos), que viajará suspensa sob as asas de uma nave-mãe chamada inicialmente de White Knight Two («Cavaleiro branco 2»). Segundo Branson, a nave foi desenhada para voltar à Terra «como uma pena gigante», para evitar o aumento da temperatura, que faz com que o reingresso na atmosfera seja uma das etapas mais arriscadas das viagens espaciais.
Pessoalmente dedicaria muito mais atenção ao que a ESA anda a fazer pelos lados de Phobos. Uma obra "curiosa", como muitas outras do Arthur.
As Solar Impulse's first main partner, Solvay announced that Solar Impulse's prototype airplane has performed its first flight in Switzerland. It is the first time in history a manned and exclusively solar-powered airplane has been able to fly over one hour. This is a new breakthrough towards the first non-stop 36 hours flight exclusively on solar power, planned later this year.Besides being the first main partner of this exciting project, Solvay is also aboard the Solar Impulse with 11 products, contributing to 25 different applications and more than 6,000 parts, mainly in the 3 main applications of energy system, structure and weight reduction.Solvay's specialty polymers were instrumental in improving the energy system of the plane. Solef® and F1EC by realizing energy savings and increasing energy density of the Lithium ion batteries and Halar® as ultra-resistant protection film for the ultra thin photovoltaic cells. Solvay high-performance polymers such as Torlon® PAI, KetaSpire® PEEK or PrimoSpire® SRP are used in various applications and devices such as ball bearings, bolts and screws, washers, shafts, hinges, spacers and other mechanical pieces.PVC produced by Solvay's affiliate SolVin is equally used in the moveable and inflatable Solar Impulse shelter which is designed to cover and protect the prototype airplane on the ground. This polymer makes the water ballast tanks, which keep the lightweight hangar firmly fixed on the ground, watertight.Solvay also supplied testing services, consultation and performed the non-linear stress simulations of the polymer assemblies. The results of these simulations were later validated during the stress test of the assemblies. "This is a historical achievement. This successful flight demonstrates that Solvay's innovative materials and solutions play an essential role in technological and human progress. My congratulations to the Solar Impulse and Solvay teams that helped bring this remarkable accomplishment to life", says Christian Jourquin, Solvay's Chief Executive Officer.
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