We are so close to real space travel
I hope it happens in my lifetime
On Saturday, Virgin Galactic completed another test flight, and the first from its new launch location outside White Sands National Park in New Mexico. VSS Unity, the name given to Virgin Galactic's second spaceplane, took off bolted to Virgin's mothership VMS Eve. After release, it hit Mach 3 and an apogee of 55.45 miles (89km …
This solution has great promise
The problem its solving, of course, is to part really wealthy people from their money!
Space is hard, and this as a future model for LEO is perhaps ultimately the most efficient method for getting junk up there.
While the spaceship One cant do LEO, the techniques might ultimately deliver a truly routine method to do so with Launcher One.
Have they moved the Kármán line?
Should they not have gone another 11km before they proffer these space firsts?
I still think it's great they are doing this. It's just a shame it has taken them so long to get to this point, even if I fully accept that space is hard.
Virgin uses the US definition because the FAA, which issues commercial reusable spacecraft operator’s licenses, uses that definition.
Remember that their current goal is carrying passengers on suborbital trips.
In a more scientific mode, SpaceShipTwo has been selected as one of the providers in NASA's suborbital reusable launch vehicle (sRLV) program where it will reach the Kármán line.
Pints for the boffins. Branson and his 1% passengers can buy their own.
They could have gotten a bit closer. White Sands is at an elevation of about 1900m above sea level. Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico (which I can see from the Mountain Fastness), is at 4000m. Just launch from there and you've made up nearly 20% of the difference!
(No, I'm not seriously suggesting this.)
"The flight also collected data needed for the company to obtain its FAA commercial reusable spacecraft operator’s license"
I suppose it's a sign that space travel is maturing that we now have a commercial reusable spacecraft operator's licence. I recall the good old days when teenagers were free to build an antigrav device in their bedroom and set out for Mars in a well insulated tea chest.(Welcome to Mars, James Blish, 1965)
Tish, you'll be telling me next they got to the moon 50 years ago.
And 70 years ago we got the B-52 with 58 still in active service. Now expected to retire in 2050 after 100 years of USAF service. That is real aeronautical engineering that basically did with the X programme what VSS Unity does with its little hopper now. If only they could spice up those eight engine a little. Yep, I know that would cause an undercarriage issue but if Boeing pushed the engines forward a bit ...
To be fair, I didn't know that was his plan either. But then I also don't particularly care whether he goes or not.
It's nice that we have multiple private firms innovating in this area, and I think it's fine that Branson is trying to use tourism to subsidize and advertise a bit. Not a personal priority for me – research is better done by machines, the long-term survival of H. sapiens is not something I'm invested in, and space travel will never be practical for all but the tiniest fraction of the population – but improving the technology is good.
"Karman himself put his eponymous line at a different height."
Kármán proposed that 100 km be the designated boundary to space, because the round number is more memorable, and the calculated altitude varies minutely as certain parameters are varied.
It's good to hear they have the EMI issues sorted now, but at least to me as an armchair engineer, that seemed like a fairly amateurish mistake to make.
EM Interference is not a new problem. When I was working on semiconductor tools early in my career, one tool design we sold (designed in the 80s) was appalling how overkill they went with the EMI protections. Even the custom drawer (rack-mount) cases that had the bare metal face & back panels attached with metal screws, had at minimum a redundant ground/earth cable, and sometimes also had these flat extruded foam gasket strips, that were wrapped in conductive fabric with conductive adhesive on one side. These foam strips were applied to every edge surface where a panel would meet the case, creating a type of gasket, I guess to make the "EMI seal" essentially "air tight". We regularly had a laugh about how overkill it was, but were told to keep doing it for new tools just in case the customer wanted to install it right next to another gigantic noisy-EMI machine.
For most of us it's so rarely an issue that it's ok to forget it exists until it creates a real problem. But for rocket engineers, I dunno, I guess I expected better.
Ah, those were the days.
I spent a happy couple of years as head of EMC testing at a waferfab manufacturer. Best diagnostic tool was a portable AM radio. Anywhere near a poor Earth connection and it went off hissing and crackling like a pig in a furnace.
But when engineers tried putting those flexible conductive thingies around the doors of the plasma process chambers, the particulate count went off the scale and yields fell to zero. And the price per metre, what a scam!
Then, in a later incarnation, there was the household-name ICT client whose internal wiring standards were so hopelessly outdated the kit had to be bastardised and then put in a special room lined in kitchen foil to meet modern emissions standards.
Yes, Virgin should have known better. But most design engineers do not want to understand EMC and when it bites them in the bum they just learn to be afraid of it and to be stupid more doggedly. And to hire me. Sorry Virgin, I've retired. :-D
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