Virgin Galactic abandons the air launch test of its tourist transport space plane | Scientific and technical news

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Virgin Galactic has halted a historic test flight of its rocket-powered spaceplane, despite everything being clear a minute before launch.

Although the air-launched spacecraft was successfully brought to an altitude of around 15 km, it did not decouple from its mothership as expected.

The launch was not broadcast live, as the company said it was “saving this moment for a special flight in the future” with no guests or media on site under strict conditions. COVID-19[feminine[feminine protocols, which had also seen the launch date delayed.

Virgin Galactic instead tweeted live about the mission, but more than eight minutes after announcing that there was less than a minute of decoupling, it announced that the spacecraft was returning home. The crew landed safely.

In a subsequent tweet, the company explained, “The rocket engine ignition sequence did not complete. The vehicle and crew are in great shape. We have several engines ready for Spaceport America. We will check the vehicle and resume the flight soon. ”

The mission’s cancellation follows a tragedy that struck during the company’s first test launch in 2014, when the SpaceShipTwo vehicle shattered during flight and crashed, killing a pilot while the another was seriously injured after a parachute drop.

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Many successful tests have been carried out since the redesign following the 2014 disaster.

Although several test flights took place, this was the very first launch from the Spaceport America runway in New Mexico, “the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport.”

The mission would have made New Mexico the third US state, behind California and Florida, to launch a spacecraft.

SpaceShipTwo works by decoupling from its mothership before its rocket fires it into sub-orbital space 80 km above Earth, exposing crew and cargo to more than two minutes of microgravity.

There are arguments as to whether the 50-mile elevation qualifies as outer space, with the US government declaring it to be the outer space border, although some standards identify the border with 100 km.

Virgin Galactic is ultimately aiming to operate space tourism flights from next year and already has over 600 customers for the $ 250,000 (£ 189,000) seats – including Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Saturday’s launch would have been the first of the last three test flights to take place before the company’s business operations begin properly.

Sir Richard Branson, who founded the company, will test the service himself on the third of those flights – 11 years after he intended to deliver them for the first time.

The second phase of testing would include the flight of four mission specialists into the cabin “to test and refine equipment, procedures, training and overall experience,” according to the company statement.

The company ultimately aims to operate a fleet of five space planes that will carry tourists into sub-orbital space, as well as science payloads for NASA and similar organizations.

NASA conducted an electromagnetic field experiment aboard Saturday’s flight, as well as a dust collision experiment – both of which have been tested in different forms on other test flights previously.



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