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Spaceship carrying Richard Branson flew off course


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Spaceship carrying Richard Branson flew off course

During the historic spaceflight of Sir Richard Branson in July, near the end of the burn of the VSS Unity spacecraft's engine, a red light appeared on a console. This alerted the crew to an "entry glide-cone warning." Pilots Dave Mackay and Mike Masucci faced a split-second decision: kill the rocket motor or take immediate action to address their trajectory problem.

This scenario is outlined in a new report by Nicholas Schmidle, a writer with more insight into Virgin Galactic than any other journalist, in The New Yorker. For his recently published book Test Gods, Schmidle had unparalleled access to Virgin Galactic and its pilots.

"I once sat in on a meeting, in 2015, during which the pilots on the July 11th mission and others discussed procedures for responding to an entry glide-cone warning," Schmidle wrote in his story, published Wednesday. "C. J. Sturckow, a former marine and NASA astronaut, said that a yellow light should 'scare the sh-- out of you,' because 'when it turns red it's gonna be too late.'"

As they accelerated to Mach 3 in July, the pilots knew that if they cut the motor, VSS Unity would not climb above 80 km and that the founder of Virgin Galactic, Branson, would not beat Jeff Bezos to space. Cutting the motor would be an embarrassment for the company and its founder. They did not abort; instead, they attempted to get the vehicle back on a safe upward trajectory so that it would be in position to safely glide back to the runway in New Mexico.

The pilots succeeded, and Branson's flight landed safely. However, in doing so, Unity flew outside of its designated airspace for 1 minute 42 seconds. That may not sound like much time, but it's more than 10 percent of its flight after being dropped from a carrier aircraft. A Virgin Galactic spokesperson acknowledged that the company did not initially notify the Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating the deviation, Schmidle reports.

The troubles during Branson's flight come as Virgin Galactic is attempting to prepare the spacecraft for its next flight, carrying several members of the Italian Air Force, later this month. It is not clear to what extent the FAA investigation might affect that timeline.

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This spaceflight seems about as safe as Russian roulette, and they expect paying customers to do this.

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2 hours ago, MovieMadness said:

This spaceflight seems about as safe as Russian roulette, and they expect paying customers to do this.

The purpose of the billionaire flights was to showcase safety. No person or small group of people have the wealth to develop meaningful civilian space interests. Such activities need a multitude of investors. Investors are naturally leery of putting money into things which fail spectacularly. 

The wallabies taking joyrides offsets to some extent the tendency of: "successful test flight = thirty seconds in the news; rocket blows up on the pad = sixty-four viral videos, eight days of coverage on every news channel and venture capital disappearing without a trace".

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Any spacecraft by design is not cheap due to the extremes it must face...liftoff, going into a vacuum, returning.  Commercial (not exactly in space) planes will the be better alternative since more passengers will drastically cut cost. These fun flight for a very few which requires either a rocket or secondary craft to reach orbit will remain expensive. 

Virgin Galactic is working on a design that's more practical requiring no secondary liftoff vehicle rocket or a larger craft. Going into orbit makes no sense when traveling across the globe.

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Lets not forget the early days of air travel where is was hard to get the public to trust the new technology and the accidents were considerable.  Cost was also out of the reach of most working people.

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Going to the moon simply will NEVER be economical.

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