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The Unveiling

The Unveiling

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There's very little news in Virgin's announcement today, except for the pretty picture and the schedule. Many more questions are left unanswered than answered. There's a little more, but not much more info at the New York Times (registration required). The Times piece has an error, calling SpaceShipTwo SpaceShipOne.

Are they really claiming that they're going to start SS2 flights in June? Or just White Knight 2? And if SS2 flies in June, how many flights will there be with ballast for the propulsion system (i.e., simply drop tests) and at what point will it first fire the rocket motor? I ask because, despite Scaled's fine for not properly training its employees in the handling of nitrous oxide, there has been no announcement as to the cause of last July's accident. Do they know? If not, have they moved forward with engine development anyway? Or have they switched gears and gone to a different propulsion system? Seems like a pretty tight schedule, if so.

I think that they could learn a lot and start test flying the airframe this summer, assuming it's well enough along, and perhaps they're betting on the come when it comes to the powerplant to meet that schedule. Finally, I wonder what Burt thinks about the announcement?

Jeff Foust has more thoughts. The dual cabin design of WK2 is interesting. I wonder if that's for additional passenger revenue?

[Update a little later]

A lot of posts and links over at Clark Lindsey's place (not a permalink).

[Update at 5 PM EST]

Alan Boyle has more details, with some comments from Virgin. But none on propulsion. As I suspected, the initial flights for SS2 will be drop tests (naturally), which can go forward without engines.

And Alan has pretty mixed response from his commenters, some of whom sound like morons. At least I don't have to worry about that until I get my comments fixed, which is turning out to be a much bigger deal than I thought it would. Again, if there's an MT doctor in the house, email me at the address in the upper left corner.

[Evening update]

Clark Lindsey has more info. As I was guessing, the flight tests this summer will be WK2, not SS2, and Burt still says they don't know what happened or what they'll do about propulsion. That's not good if they want to be in operations in '09. He surely must have some options in mind. I'd recommend going with a liquid, from XCOR or someone else, and dumping the hybrid, which adds ops cost, and whose safety is overrated. But we'll see.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand published on January 23, 2008 10:58 AM.

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