Antares explodes following a loss of thrust – Photo: NASA
The last week of October, 2014 was not a good one for commercial space flight. The week started with Orbital Sciences (OSC) attempting to launch their Antares rocket, carrying their unmanned Cygnus cargo vessel to the International Space Station. After a cancelled launch on Monday for a boat in the safety zone, the second attempt on Tuesday ended in failure.
Seven seconds after liftoff, a catastrophic failure in one or both of the engines caused the rocket to lose all thrust and fall back onto the launch pad, with a large explosion. OSC had launched the Antares four times previously with success, three of those times carrying a Cygnus craft. The company has been a major player in the spaceflight industry for over 30 years, having proven themselves with their unique Pegasus rocket, and a wide range of commercial satellites that they produce for various customers.
WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo togther – Photo: Virgin Galactic
With the failure of the Antares still fresh in everyone’s mind, on the following Friday, Virgin Galactic prepared for a test flight of their private space passenger vehicle, SpaceShipTwo. Shortly after 10:00AM PST, Virgin sent out a cryptic tweet: “#SpaceShipTwo has experienced an in-flight anomaly.” That anomaly turned out to be a worst-case scenario, with the craft breaking up 55,000 ft above the Mojave Desert for still-unkown reasons. With one pilot in serious condition, the other was not as lucky. Mark Alsbury was the latest test pilot to pay the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of pushing aviation to the limits. Over the past 70 years, hundreds of brave pilots gave their all for the same purpose, and it has not been in vain.
VSS Enterprise glides fantastically back towards Mojave Space Port. Photo by Mark Greenberg
Hold on to your hats boys and girls, we are one step closer to space tourism.
Remember back in the early days of air travel; it was new, exciting and only for the wealthy. Today, we take it for granted and complain if we don’t get free peanuts. Today, private space travel is still in its pre-infant stage and hopefully will blossom into a very popular and successful venture.
On Sunday the 10th, the VSS Enterprise achieved manned flight at over 45,000 feet and then glided successfully to the Mojave Air and Spaceport.
The VSS Enterprise (or called SpaceShipTwo) was flown up by its mother ship (or called WhiteKnightTwo or “Eve”) to 45,000 feet, when the VSS Enterprise was released.
Commenting on the successful flight Scaled Composites pilot, Pete Siebold, said “The VSS Enterprise was a real joy to fly, especially when one considers the fact that the vehicle has been designed not only to be a Mach 3.5 spaceship capable of going into space but also one of the worlds highest altitude gliders.”
So far 370 potential customers have placed deposits to get a ride on a future space flight. $20,000.00 will save you a seat and a total of $200,000.00 will get you a ride. Not too bad of a deal when you think about how few people have traveled into space.
Learn and see more:
* Video of VSS Enterprise first glide
* Learn more about the aircraft and space ship used
* A few more photos from Virgin Galatic
* Take a look at plans for the world’s first public space port
* Get your own space ticket
* Video interview with Virgin Galactic President William Whitehorn