Space

August 18, 2012

SpaceShipTwo glide flight envelope cleared

by Raphael Jaffe
staff writer

In the last month and a half, SpaceShipTwo has had six consecutive successful glide tests.

Starting June 26, there have been about weekly droop tests from its mother ship, WhiteKnightTwo. The flight durations have ranged from about 8 to 11 minutes.

The Scaled Composites flight log report, usually just the bare facts, states that after the Aug. 11 flight “With this latest round of six flights we have cleared the full glide-flight envelope for airspeed, angle-of-attack, CG and structural loads!” This was glide flight 22 for SS2.

Objectives for these last tests included: maximum glide flight Mach and airspeed envelope expansion; horizontal tail load expansion; heavy weight aft and forward cg landing; strake evaluation; and control surface flutter data collection.

There was pause in testing after the Sept. 29, glide flight 16 test. For that test, the log states: “Test card called for releasing the Spaceship from WhiteKnightTwo and immediately entering a rapid descent. Upon release, the Spaceship experienced a downward pitch rate that caused a stall of the tails. The crew followed procedure, selecting the feather mode to revert to a benign condition. The crew then defeathered and had a nominal return to base. Great flying by the team and good demo of feather system.” The log for test 17 indicates “Great return to flight.”

The next step in the test program would evidently be to fire the rocket motor. Scaled and Virgin Galactic have previously indicated that there will first be short firings of the rocket motor. Schedules have never been openly discussed.

A new name appears as copilot for SS2 for the Aug. 7 test. Keith Colmer has become the second pilot selected by Virgin Galactic. Colmer is a former U.S. Air Force test pilot. He was the first Air National Guard pilot ever selected to attend the USAF Test Pilot School, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. He served as operations officer for the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards where he led F-16, F-15 and T-38C flight test operations, specializing in high angle of attack flight test and training on the F-16. Colmer was copilot on glide flight 21.

 




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