June 28, 2012

Scaled performs rocket motor test at Mojave

by Raphael Jaffe
Staff Writer

Activities in preparation for a powered flight of SpaceShipTwo are ramping up at Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

The Scaled Composites rocket motor test facility was used June 20 to perform a full-scale rocket motor test firing of Rocket Motor 2, which Sierra Nevada Corp. is providing for SpaceShipTwo.

This was the first full scale firing of a rocket motor at Scaled’s test site under full control of the spaceship’s Rocket Motor Controller. All test objectives were achieved. The difference between Scaled’s site and Sierra Nevada’s site at Lakeside, Calif., is the focus on using SpaceShipTwo flight vehicle hardware. These tests provide an end-to-end test of all the vehicle’s rocket motor systems and additional confidence before committing the vehicle to powered flight test. This was Fire 12 test.

Test objectives included: Perform first full scale rocket motor hot-fire at Scaled’s test facility; Test stand evaluation; Data Acquisition system evaluation; Rocket Motor Controller performance; Pressurization System Controller performance; Rocket system performance; Valve/Injector/Igniter evaluation; Fuel formulation evaluation; and CTN structural evaluation

It is noteworthy that eight years ago, on June 21, 2004, SpaceShipOne reached altitude of over 62 miles on its quest to win the $10 million Ansari prize, which it did on Oct 4, 2004. The June 21 flight test pilot was Mike Melville, and SS1 reached 62.21 miles.

The program was first publicly announced April 18, 2003.

It then went back into secrecy. Burt Rutan issued the following statement at that time, “Sub-orbital manned space flights have been done before by Redstone – Mercury in 1961 and by the B-52 and X-15 in 1963. Even though the experience, as described by Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom and Joe Walker was awe-inspiring, sub-orbital space flights were ignored for the next 40 years. The view from the apex of a sub-orbital flight is similar to being in orbit, but the cost and risk is far less.

“Our goal is to demonstrate that non-government manned space flight operations are not only feasible, but can be done at very low costs. Safety, of course is paramount, but minimum cost is critical. We look to the future, hopefully within ten years, when ordinary people, for the cost of a luxury cruise, can experience a rocket flight into the black sky above the earth’s atmosphere, enjoy a few minutes of weightless excitement, then feel the thunderous deceleration of the aerodynamic drag on entry.”

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