Watch Spaceship Two's first feathered flight

May 20, 2011 By Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today

On May 4, 2011 Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo achieved a major milestone by flying for the first time using its “feathered” configuration, and the company has now released a close-up video of the flight. Feathering is designed to create drag and slow the ship down after it reenters the atmosphere from eventual suborbital flights taking tourists into space. This flight confirmed the feathering design should work.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Now we now have an entry vehicle – now we can come back from space,” said Matt Stiemetze, Program Manager at Scaled Composites

SpaceShipTwo went airborne attached to WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft, and after a 45 minute climb to 51,500 feet, SS2 was released from VMS Eve and established a stable glide profile before deploying. The feathering configuration is achieved by rotating the tail section of the vehicle upwards to a 65 degree angle to the fuselage. During the test , it remained in this configuration with the vehicle’s body at a level pitch for approximately 1 minute and 15 seconds while descending, almost vertically, at around 15,500 feet per minute, slowed by the powerful shuttlecock-like drag created by the raised tail section. At around 33,500 feet the pilots reconfigured the spaceship to its normal glide mode and executed a smooth runway touchdown, approximately 11 minutes and 5 seconds after its release from VMS Eve.

On return trips from space, the tail will lower at around 70,000 feet.

Explore further: Sir Richard Branson All Fired Up With Latest Rocket Motor Test

Related Stories

Virgin Galactic unveils commercial spaceship

December 7, 2009

SpaceShipTwo (SS2) and its mothership, VMS Eve (WhiteKnightTwo) 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 ...

Space tourism craft reaches glide-test milestone (Update)

May 4, 2011

High over the Mojave Desert, the stubby-winged SpaceShipTwo bent itself into a near-right angle shape and plunged nearly straight downward for more than a minute before unfolding and gliding to a runway landing before an ...

Recommended for you

Dense star clusters shown to be binary black hole factories

July 29, 2015

The coalescence of two black holes—a very violent and exotic event—is one of the most sought-after observations of modern astronomy. But, as these mergers emit no light of any kind, finding such elusive events has been ...

Image: Hubble sees a dying star's final moments

July 31, 2015

A dying star's final moments are captured in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The death throes of this star may only last mere moments on a cosmological timescale, but this star's demise is still quite ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

spectator
not rated yet May 20, 2011
One of the things that bothers me about this design is the problem whereby increased complexity increases the likelihood of a component malfunctioning.

The crew would be in a terrible fix if the system became jammed in the feathered position.

Something that my mind goes back to is the old Model Rocketry concept of a gyrocopter descent phase.

It seems practically fool proof, with the possible exception of potential dizziness or vertigo...

I am wondering whether any of these large rocket companies or NASA has ever experimented with a full scale gyrocopter descent phase.
nygiantsrobert
not rated yet May 20, 2011
I Agree ...This Seems Like An Inherently Dangerous Manoeuvre During Re-entry ...All It Would Take Would Be One Major Component Failure To Doom Everyone Aboard ...I Hope I'm Wrong ...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.