October 31st is now a day in history marked by tragedy
Mike’s life and his work were filled with purpose and achievement. His mission was important, and he approached it with discipline and bravery. Our loss is painful, almost unbearable, and his sacrifice unimaginable by so many. Mike pursued his passion and his curiosity of weightless flight by pioneering an industry that will surely one day allow us all to understand the allure of space.
A hero can be described as an ordinary human who chooses or is thrust into a journey that tests and teaches them; one who risks or sacrifices self for the sake of others or a greater good. Like X-15 pilot Mike Adams, the 7 Challenger and 7 Columbia astronauts, and many others, Michael Tyner Alsbury is an American HERO.
Mike Alsbury Memorial Fund
If you would like to support the Alsbury family, please follow the link below.
STATEMENT BY SCALED COMPOSITES ON SPACESHIPTWO – NOV. 1, 2014
Statement by Scaled Composites on SpaceShipTwo – Oct. 31, 2014
MOJAVE, Calif. – This morning SpaceShipTwo, piloted by Scaled Composites under contract to Virgin Galactic, experienced a serious anomaly during a test flight, resulting in the death of one of the test pilots. The second pilot sustained injuries and is currently being treated. We want to express our deepest condolences to the family of the pilot who lost his life today. Our thoughts and prayers are with both families, as well as our other employees.
At this time, we remain focused on supporting the families, as well as the agencies investigating the incident.
Scaled Marks 10th Anniversary of Milestone Spaceflight
Wasabi Air Racing Team Takes Fourth at Reno
2014 Mojave FAI Records Jamboree
Scaled’s Elliot Seguin worked with Brian Utley and the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) to set up an event that tied into the 2014 Mojave Experimental Fly-In where multiple records could be attempted. One week prior to the fly-in, several pilots attempted setting records in Mojave, CA, including Scaled’s Project Engineer Zach Reeder in the Rutan Catbird.
For more detailed information, read Brian Utley’s full account.
Northrop Grumman with Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic Developing XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane
XS-1 has a reusable booster that when coupled with an expendable upper stage provides affordable, available and responsive space lift for 3,000-pound class spacecraft into low Earth orbit. Reusable boosters with aircraft-like operations provide a breakthrough in space lift costs for this payload class, enabling new generations of lower cost, innovative and more resilient spacecraft.
Read the full press release here.
2014 President’s Award Recipients Announced
Northrop Grumman’s President’s Award recognizes exceptional performance and achievement in one of four categories: Operational Excellence, Program Excellence, Customer Excellence, and Innovation-for-Affordability Excellence.
The following individuals at Scaled Composites have been recognized as President’s Award Recipients for Innovation-for-Affordability:
- Robert Morgan
- Joseph Ruddy
- Clint Nichols
- Luke Goossen
- Ben Harvey
- Danielle Semays
- Rick Aldrich
- Mark Minard
- Zack Newman
- Luke Colby
- Brandon Inks
- Brant York
- Jim Tighe
- Chris Higbee
- Mike Vaughan
- Mike Alsbury
We are proud of our team! Congratulations!
Scaled’s Zach Reeder Sets Record in Rutan Catbird
Scaled Participates In The LA County Airshow
Mark “Forger” Stucky Receives 2013 Iven C. Kincheloe Award
Scaled Test Pilots Receive 2013 Ray E. Tenhoff Award
Congratulations on PF02
Congratulations to the Scaled Composites/Virgin Galactic integrated team on another successful rocket powered flight. Today takes us another step closer to realizing our ultimate goal - fulfilling Richard Branson’s vision of entering commercial service.
ARES Airborn Again
After 6 months of down time, the Scaled Composites ARES aircraft returned to the air again on August 21, 2013. After completing several successful check flights, the team transitioned into training flights. The crew demonstrated their pilot proficiency with an FAA representative observing which culminated in the issuance of ARES Experimental Authorization’s for both Mike Alsbury and Clint Nichols. The single seat turbofan powered aircraft will continue to support customer testing for years to come.
Congratulations on PF01 Milestone
“This milestone has been a long time coming and it’s only through the hard work of the team and the tremendous support of Virgin Galactic that we have been able to witness this important milestone. We look forward to all our upcoming tests and successes.”
Read more about the first rocket-powered flight of SpaceShipTwo.
Stratolaunch Systems’ Assembly Hangar Opens in Mojave
Scaled Composites Names Kevin Mickey President, Cory Bird Vice President
President of Scaled Composites Awarded Prestigious James H. Doolittle Award
FAA Launch Permit Gives Virgin Galactic’s Space Vehicles the Green Light for Powered Flight
Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, announced today that its vehicle developer, Scaled Composites (Scaled), has been granted an experimental launch permit from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its suborbital spacecraft, SpaceshipTwo, and the carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo.br> br>
Read the full press release here.
Scaled Composites Career Day
On Saturday April 21, 2012, Scaled Composites, LLC will open its hangar doors to give job seekers of all backgrounds the chance to talk to our employees and see some of our unique aircraft. The Career Day and Open House will occur from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM; qualified applicants should come prepared to talk one-on-one with Scaled employees.
This is a chance for us to get to know you, for you to show us what you are passionate about, and for us to learn how you might fit into our company. Fly or drive out with a resume, examples of your work, bottled water, sun protection, and be ready to find out what it means to have “FUN” at work.
Please RSVP with attached resume to “email@example.com,” subject line “Career Day.”
Scaled Composites is looking for qualified applicants in the following categories:
- Avionics Engineer
- Composite Fabricator
- Composite Structural Analyst
- Composites Design Engineer
- Data Analyst Engineer
- Electrical Engineer
- Manufacturing Engineer
- Materials and Process Engineer
- Mechanical Design Engineer
- Program Business Manager (PBM)
- Program Business Analyst (PBA)
- Domain/Software Administrator (IT)
Visit our careers page for further details.
Please note, Scaled Composites, LLC will consider applications and resumes from U.S. Citizens only; Scaled Composites, LLC does not offer foreign employee (H1) visa sponsorship. Scaled Composites, LLC does not offer internships at this time.
Mojave Air and Spaceport
1624 Flight Line
Mojave, CA 93501
April 21, 2012, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
This event coincides with Plane Crazy Saturday Fly-in and Static Display, a Mojave Transportation Museum Event. Please visit the Mojave Museum Website for more information. http://www.mojavemuseum.org/index.html
Paul Allen Announces Revolution in Space Transportation
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Paul G. Allen announced today that he and aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan have reunited to develop the next generation of space travel. Allen and Rutan, whose SpaceShipOne was the first privately-funded, manned rocket ship to fly beyond earth’s atmosphere, are developing a revolutionary approach to space transportation: an air-launch system to provide orbital access to space with greater safety, cost-effectiveness and flexibility.
The space flight revolution Allen and Rutan pioneered in 2004 with SpaceShipOne now enters a new era. Only months after the last shuttle flight closed an important chapter in spaceflight, Allen is stepping in with an ambitious effort to continue America’s drive for space.
Burt Rutan’s Final Design at Scaled Composites
Northrop Grumman Unveils Newest Intel Gathering Aircraft System
Firebird offers a large internal payload bay and an ability to operate multiple intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and communications payloads simultaneously through a universal interface. The system is designed to be flown as a manned or unmanned aircraft.
Read the full press release here.
SpaceShipTwo completes first feather flight
Burt Rutan Announces Retirement Plans
Spaceport Runway Dedication Includes Sir Richard Branson and NM Governor Richardson
A statement from Burt on yesterday’s milestone
I offer my congratulations to all those on our commercial manned sub-orbital spaceship program for yesterday’s milestone first flight of SpaceShipTwo.
Configuration/aerodynamic designer, Jim Tighe got it right the first time; our spaceship demonstrated impressive flying qualities right out of the box. Its flight test-measured stability and gliding performance exceeded the pre-flight predictions.
Systems that usually require post-first flight tweaking, like the unique Michael Fuchs-designed landing gear and the SS1-based flight-director/avionics system, developed by the Pete Kalogiannis-led team, performed to perfection. The flight control, electrical, pneumatic, ECS and launch systems were also flawless on the first flight, giving us confidence that we can move forward with the testing without major modifications. Scot Story’s team also deserves kudos for their work to develop a light, robust all-composite airframe structure.
Flown by both pilot Pete Siebold and co-pilot Mike Alsbury on the first flight, the test crew opened up two thirds of SS2’s required subsonic speed envelope, maneuvered it above 2-g, checked its dynamic and sideslip handling, exercised its flight-path control system and made a perfect landing; spot-on the runway target.
I congratulate Project Lead Matt Stinemetze, Mission Control Lead Brian Binnie and their team of talented engineers as well as Crew Chief Steve Losey and his team of fabricators who built and maintain the first commercial manned space system. There is not a better group of research and flight test talent in the world.
We at Scaled look forward to an aggressive flight test schedule. The fun started on 10/10/10 and will continue as we reach our goal of passing onto our customer a spaceship capable to provide the space experience to thousands of adventurers.
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Achieves Major Milestone
UPDATE: WK2 takes to the air just over three weeks following gear incident on Flight 37
On August 19th the crew of WK2 was performing touch and go’s while training for upcoming spaceship missions. Upon the fifth nominal touchdown, the left hand main gear partially retracted. Flight Test Engineer Marc Zeitlin immediately annunciated the anomaly and Pilot Pete Siebold called for an immediate abort while holding centerline. Meanwhile, Co-pilot Clint Nichols secured the engines and systems.
The occurrence highlighted another positive attribute of the unique design. Because of the twin boom configuration, the vehicle came to rest on the tip of the left vertical tail and left nose gear. This unique balancing act minimized the damage and kept it localized to these two areas. The engines which would have made contact with the ground on a conventional aircraft remained untouched while still feet in the air.
Numerous tests and inspections have taken place in the last several weeks. We have made minor modifications to the gear to add a fail-safe redundancy for any eventualities. Today’s flight 38 was an “FCF” (functional check flight) to shake the cobwebs off after three weeks of downtime and prove-out the newly configured gear. Because our ultimate goal is to keep SS2 flight test schedule progressing forward at pace, the mothership may be flying the next couple flights with the gear down and locked until we can fully test the new gear mechanisms.
We’d like to thank the Mojave Airport; both for their quick response to the Flight 37 incident, and also for their gracious support in helping us get our plane “back to the barn”. There is no place we’d rather be conducting flight test.
Minor WhiteKnightTwo Incident
A minor incident occurred on the runway at Mojave airport this morning, which involved a mechanical problem with the left hand-side landing gear of WhiteKnightTwo. No injuries were sustained and the incident did not involve the Spaceship which was not attached to WhiteKnightTwo. WhiteKnightTwo was on its 37th test flight, and has been flying since December 2008. Further information will be posted in due course.
Inaugural flight of SpaceShipTwo marks a major milestone
Virgin Galactic Unveils SpaceShipTwo
WK1 & WK2 Participate in Edwards AFB Airshow
Peter Siebold Receives 2009 Iven C. Kincheloe Award
N2O Safety Guidelines
Successful SpaceShipTwo Rocket Motor Testing
WhiteKnightTwo Flight Test Program Update
WhiteKnightTwo Makes First Flight
SpaceDev Joins SpaceShipTwo Team
Accident Investigation Update
Virgin Galactic Rolls Out Mothership “Eve”
Doug Shane Named President of Scaled Composites; Burt Rutan to Continue with Company as
Virgin Galactic Unveils WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo
Virgin Galactic herald's "The Year of the Spaceship" with the unveiling of the designs of SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo.
Virgin Galactic today unveiled the design of its new, environmentally benign, space launch system based on the X Prize winning technology of SpaceShipOne, which successfully flew into space for the third time in October 2004 and won the $10m Ansari X Prize. The construction of the WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) mothership, or carrier aircraft, is now very close to completion at Scaled Composites in Mojave, CA and is expected to begin flight testing in the summer of 2008. It is the world's largest, all carbon composite aircraft; it has a unique high altitude lift capacity, capable of launching SpaceShipTwo and its eight astronauts into sub-orbital space flight.
The WK2 mothership is powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines which are amongst the most powerful, economic and efficient engines available. The WK2 mothership has also been designed to be capable of lifting other payload and launching it into space. Whilst the two vehicles comprising the space launch system have been under construction, Virgin Galactic's cadre of future astronauts has continued to grow strongly to well in excess of 200 individuals with around 85,000 registrations of interest to fly. Astronaut orientation for spaceflight is progressing well and already 80 of SpaceShipTwo's first passengers have been through medical assessment and centrifuge training at the NASTAR facility in Philadelphia.
Commenting on the unveiling, Burt Rutan, CEO of Scaled Composites, said: "Virgin Galactic produced a demanding output specification for the world's first private human and payload space launch system. This required us to produce a safe but flexible design capable of multiple applications in new market sectors. I am confident that these vehicles, now in an advanced stage of construction, will achieve just that. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the whole team at Scaled Composites. "Looking up? way up!" is an expression we have shared since the X Prize began and now we are all excited that this year the dream will start to become a very tangible reality for everyone involved."
Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic, added: "The designs of both the mothership and the new spaceship are absolutely beautiful and surpass any expectations for the future of commercial spaceflight that we had when first registering the name Virgin Galactic in 1999. Burt and his team have done a fantastic job and I am also delighted with the wonderful vision that Foster and Partners, working with URS, have shown in the final designs for Spaceport America in New Mexico. Finally, we are all very excited about the prospect of being able to develop a bio-fuel solution for the space launch system and we are looking forward to working with Pratt and Whitney and Virgin Fuels to trial an appropriate bio mix for the PW308A engines that will be powering our new carrier aircraft."
Virgin Galactic will make further announcements regarding the progress of the launch system, development of its markets, the test flying program and start of commercial operations at Spaceport America in due course.
Branson and Rutan Form ‘The Spaceship Company’
To Jointly Manufacture and Market Spaceships for the new Sub-Orbital Personal Spaceflight Industry
OSHKOSH, Wis.—July 27, 2005— Today, Sir Richard Branson (Founder, Virgin Group of Companies) and Burt Rutan (President, Scaled Composites) announced their signing of an agreement to form a new aerospace production company to build a fleet of commercial sub-orbital spaceships and launch aircraft. The new company will own the designs of the new SpaceShipTwo (SS2) and WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) launch systems that are now in development at Scaled Composites. The SS2/WK2 system will use the ‘Care-free reentry’ and the ‘cantilevered-hybrid’ rocket motor technology developed for the Ansari X prize-winning SpaceShipOne (SS1), and will license that technology from Paul Allen’s Mojave Aerospace company. The Spaceship Company will manufacture the new launch aircraft, spaceships and support equipment and market them to spaceline operators, including the launch customer, Virgin Galactic.
The Spaceship Company will be jointly owned by Virgin and Scaled, and will contract Scaled for the research, development, testing and certification of SS2/WK2. Burt Rutan will head up the technical development team.
Burt Rutan commented: “I am very excited to have agreed the terms on which we can now move forward to develop the world’s-first commercial, passenger-carrying Spaceships. This will truly herald an era of personal spaceflight first described by the visionary science fiction writers of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Richard and I share a vision that commercially-viable and safe space tourism will provide the foundation for the human colonization of space. I am looking forward, (actually looking way up!) to working together with Richard on this next exciting phase.”
Sir Richard Branson added: “I couldn’t be more delighted to announce the formation of this joint venture at the biggest private aviation event in the world. Like many millions of people growing up in the Sixties who witnessed the wonder of man walking on the moon - I dreamt that one day I too would make that ‘one small step…’! Unfortunately though, over the last three decades, many people gave up hope - luckily people like Burt Rutan never did. His vision has allowed people, like me, to dream again. But even I never dreamed as boy, that one day, I would form, with Burt, the company which will build the world’s first commercial passenger spacecraft!”
In 2001, Paul Allen contracted Scaled Composites for the research and development of the SS1 system, to fulfill his vision of flying the world’s first privately-developed, reusable space vehicle. Last year on June 21st, when Mike Melvill flew SS1 above 100 km altitude, Mr Allen forever dispelled the myth that manned space flight was the sole remit of huge Government programs. Then, on September 27th, Virgin announced the launch of Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial space tourism operator and a new era in space travel was born. Virgin Galactic was a sponsor for the two successful X-prize flights completed on October 4th. SpaceShipOne, the historic, record breaking spacecraft, will be installed this fall in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Milestones of Flight Gallery in Washington D C.
The launch customer for this new joint venture between Virgin Group and Scaled Composites will be Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson’s commercial space tourism venture. Virgin Galactic has placed orders for five SS2’s and two WK2’s, with options on further systems, thus securing the exclusive use of the systems for the initial 18 months of commercial passenger operations.
The Spaceship Company plans to make spaceflight affordable for the masses and to demonstrate the commercial viability of manned space exploration. We are dedicated to reaching that goal with the first generation of spaceship systems developed for routine, scheduled flight operations. Those systems will be environmentally friendly and will include new solutions to optimize both safety and the passenger experience. We expect that as the flight hardware matures, and is operated by competing spaceline companies, many thousands of people will experience the wonder of leaving the earth’s atmosphere each year.
Virgin, a leading branded venture capital organization, is one of the world’s most recognized and respected brands. Conceived in 1970 by Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin Group has gone on to grow very successful businesses in sectors ranging from mobile telephony, to transportation, travel, financial services, leisure, music, holidays, publishing and retailing. Virgin has created more than 200 companies worldwide, employing approximately 35,000 people, in 29 countries. Revenues around the world in 2003 exceeded GBP 4.5 billion (US$7.9 billion).
About Virgin Galactic:
The Virgin Galactic name was first registered and trade mark protection applied for in the mid 1990s. As the world’s-first commercial spaceline, Virgin Galactic will be heavily investing to setup a world-class commercial flight operation and to build the ground infrastructure required to create the best possible sub-orbital spaceflight experience for its passengers.
To register your interest in Virgin Galactic please log on to: www.virgingalactic.com
About Scaled Composites:
Scaled Composites was founded in 1982 and immediately became the world’s most prolific developer of new research aircraft types.
Detailed information about Scaled Composites can be found at http://www.scaled.com
+ 44 207 229 4738 / + 44 7940 486567
Cell: + 44 7905 309096
US Inquires: 609-897-7865
GlobalFlyer Completes Solo around the World Flight
Scaled Composites would like to congratulate Steve Fossett and his team on his latest world-record milestone! We are inspired by the incredible stamina exhibited by Steve in enduring 76 hours and 45 minutes in a cramped cabin while circumnavigating the globe and establishing a new aviation long-distance record at 26,389.3 miles. It was indeed an Ultimate Flight!
The GlobalFlyer is a single seat, turbofan powered airplane designed to fly around the world nonstop, unrefueled. It achieved this milestone for the first time on March 03, 2005 after 67 hours and one minute of flying time. With that, Pilot Steve Fossett set the record for fastest time around the world unrefueled. The GlobalFlyer took off and landed in Salina, Kansas.
The second world-record flight was completed on February 11, 2006 when Pilot Steve Fossett made an emergency landing at Bournemouth Airport in England. Kennedy Space Center was chosen for the takeoff, which took place on February 8. The flight had many stressful moments. Despite this, Steve was able to accomplish the goal of the "Ultimate Flight" by breaking the previous world distance record for an airplane, which was set by the Voyager in 1986 (24,987 miles), as well as the aviation long-distance record set by the Breitling Orbiter Balloon in 1999 (25,361 miles).
The 'Voyager' aircraft which took Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager around the world non-stop could well be considered GlobalFlyer's 'big sister', but evolution and invention on the part of Burt himself and Jon Karkow has certainly played its part in making this aircraft unique.
Aerodynamics are key to this aircraft, and its configuration is optimized for range and fuel efficiency. The aircraft's shape has been designed using computational fluid dynamics to predict how the aircraft's surfaces will behave in flight. The aircraft is so aerodynamically efficient that the only practical way to descend is using drag parachutes. As the aircraft is only required to land once, these aren't detachable and take time to reset.
The aircraft is a trimaran-like construction with two huge external 'booms' which hold the landing gear, and 5,454 pounds of fuel on either side of the pilot's cockpit in the center on top of which is the single Williams turbofan jet engine. The construction materials used for the structure of this aircraft are all graphite/epoxy. The stiffest carbon fibers are used in the construction of the wings, and the skin is a sandwich of graphite/epoxy and Aramid honeycomb.
The aircraft doesn't have what is known as 'deicing' or 'anti-ice' measures. This means that it is not able to fly in 'icing' conditions. In addition, it does not cope with turbulence very well in the early part of the flight when the aircraft is heavy and structural margins low; so weather will be an important factor in choosing when and where to take off from.
The pilot sits in the main fuselage, the center pod, just behind the nose landing gear and below the engine. he also sits in front of the main fuel header tank which feeds the engine. Early on in the project, there were huge obstacles to overcome caused by engine noise levels, but those were quickly overcome with the addition of insulation. The cabin is pressurized because of the altitude ,which gives a 'cabin altitude' of 10,000 feet at the 45,000 feet the plane actually flys at.
There are thirteen fuel tanks all in all, and on take-off, it is expected that this aircraft will be 83% fuel by weight. Getting fuel to where it's needed whilst maintaining the balance and stability of the aircraft is a feat that will require constant supervision and monitoring. The fuel itself is a special fuel that has a much lower freezing point than regular aviation fuel.
Some facts and figures:
* Wing Span: 114ft
* Wing Area: 400ft squared
* Length: 44.1ft
* Height: 13.3ft
* Gross Weight: 22,000 lbs
* Empty Weight: 3,350 lbs
SpaceShipOne Flies Again Within 14 Days - Wins $10M X PRIZE
On October 4, 2004, SpaceShipOne rocketed into history, becoming the first private manned spacecraft to exceed an altitude of 328,000 feet twice within the span of a 14 day period, thus claiming the ten million dollar Ansari X-Prize.
A second record shattered
In addition to meeting the altitude requirement to win the X-Prize, pilot Brian Binnie also broke the August 22, 1963 record by Joseph A. Walker, who flew the X-15 to an unofficial world altitude record of 354,200 feet. Brian Binnie’s SpaceShipOne flight carried him all the way to 367,442 feet or 69.6 miles above the Earth’s surface.
The Ansari X-Prize was founded in 1996, modeled after the Orteig Prize that Charles Lindbergh won in 1927 by flying solo across the Atlantic Ocean. The October 4, 2004 SpaceShipOne flight was timed partially to coincide with the 47th anniversary of the Soviet launch of Sputnik.
- Our Photo Gallery contains complete coverage of X-Prize flight #2!
- Here is a fantastic multi-camera video experience: “The Ansari X-Prize Mission Control” at America Online. This page allows you to see the complete footage of each on board camera and a chase camera, while switching angles in real time. Broadband required.
- There is a high quality 3 minute 5MB streaming / downloadable clip in our video section featuring on board camera and chase footage of X-Prize flight 2.
- A video is playable from an MSNBC Article
- space.com: “SpaceShipOne captures X Prize - Privately funded craft reaches altitude requirement”
- msnbc.com: “SpaceShipOne Wins $10 Million Ansari X Prize in Historic 2nd Trip to Space”
SpaceShipOne Surpasses 100 Km on First X PRIZE Flight
September 29, 2004: At 8:13 this morning PDT, SpaceShipOne (SS1) coasted above the 100 km altitude point and successfully completed the first of two X-Prize flights. The peak altitude reached was 337,500 ft. The motor was shut down when the pilot, Mike Melvill, noted that his altitude predictor exceeded the required 100 km mark. The motor burn lasted 77 seconds – 1 second longer than on the June 21st flight. Melvill was prepared to burn the motor up to 89 seconds, which indicates significant additional performance remains in SS1.
Update: Burt clarifies the rolling motion during ascent.
Update: X-Prize Flight #1 preliminary altitude data from multiple sources:
|Ellipsoid HGT, ft||MSL ALT, ft|
High Quality 3 minute video of flight available in our video section.
SpaceShipOne Makes History: First Private Manned Mission to Space
Multimedia from June 21 Flight:
Videos | Photos
21 June 2004
The world witnessed the dawn of a new space age today, as investor and philanthropist Paul G. Allen and Scaled Composites launched the first private manned vehicle beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. The successful launch demonstrated that the final frontier is now open to private enterprise.
Under the command of test pilot Mike Melvill, SpaceShipOne reached a record breaking altitude of 328,491 feet (approximately 62 miles or 100 km), making Melvill the first civilian to fly a spaceship out of the atmosphere and the first private pilot to earn astronaut wings.
This flight begins an exciting new era in space travel,” said Paul G. Allen, sole sponsor in the SpaceShipOne program. “Burt Rutan and his team at Scaled Composites are part of a new generation of explorers who are sparking the imagination of a huge number of people worldwide and ushering in the birth of a new industry of privately funded manned space flight.”
The historic flight also marks the first time an aerospace program has successfully completed a manned mission without government sponsorship. “Today’s flight marks a critical turning point in the history of aerospace,” said Scaled Composites founder and CEO Burt Rutan. “ We have redefined space travel as we know it.”
“Our success proves without question that manned space flight does not require mammoth government expenditures,” Rutan declared. “It can be done by a small company operating with limited resources and a few dozen dedicated employees.”
A large crowd watched the momentous flight live from the grounds of the Mojave Airport, joining millions of others around the world who tuned in by television, radio, and the internet. Dignitaries attending the event included U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher, the Commanding Officer of Edwards Air Force Base, General Pearson and the China Lake Naval Air Warfare Center, Admiral Venlet; former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and Konrad Dannenberg, one of Werner Von Braun’s lead scientists on this country’s original space development effort. Hundreds of media representatives were also on hand to record history in the making.
SpaceShipOne Breaks the Sound Barrier
17 December 2003
For Immediate Release
Today, a significant milestone was achieved by Scaled Composites: The first manned supersonic flight by an aircraft developed by a small company's private, non-government effort.
In 1947, fifty-six years ago, history's first supersonic flight was flown by Chuck Yeager in the Bell X-1 rocket under a U.S. Government research program. Since then, many supersonic aircraft have been developed for research, military and, in the case of the recently retired Concorde, commercial applications. All these efforts were developed by large aerospace prime companies, using extensive government resources.
Our flight this morning by SpaceShipOne demonstrated that supersonic flight is now the domain of a small company doing privately-funded research, without government help. The flight also represents an important milestone in our efforts to demonstrate that truly low-cost space access is feasible.
Our White Knight turbojet launch aircraft, flown by Test Pilot Peter Siebold, carried research rocket plane SpaceShipOne to 48,000 feet altitude, near the desert town of California City. At 8:15 a.m. PDT, Cory Bird, the White Knight Flight Engineer, pulled a handle to release SpaceShipOne. SpaceShipOne Test Pilot, Brian Binnie then flew the ship to a stable, 0.55 mach gliding flight condition, started a pull-up, and fired its hybrid rocket motor. Nine seconds later, SpaceShipOne broke the sound barrier and continued its steep powered ascent. The climb was very aggressive, accelerating forward at more than 3-g while pulling upward at more than 2.5-g. At motor shutdown, 15 seconds after ignition, SpaceShipOne was climbing at a 60-degree angle and flying near 1.2 Mach (800 mph). Brian then continued the maneuver to a vertical climb, achieving zero speed at an altitude of 68,000 feet. He then configured the ship in its high-drag "feathered" shape to simulate the condition it will experience when it enters the atmosphere after a space flight. At apogee, SpaceShipOne was in near-weightless conditions, emulating the characteristics it will later encounter during the planned space flights in which it will be at zero-g for more than three minutes. After descending in feathered flight for about a minute, Brian reconfigured the ship to its conventional glider shape and flew a 12-minute glide to landing at Scaled's home airport of Mojave. The landing was not without incident as the left landing gear retracted at touchdown causing the ship to veer to the left and leave the runway with its left wing down. Damage from the landing incident was minor and will easily be repaired. There were no injuries.
The milestone of private supersonic flight was not an easy task. It involved the development of a new propulsion system, the first rocket motor developed for manned space flights in several decades. The new hybrid motor was developed in-house at Scaled with first firings in November 2002. The motor uses an ablative nozzle supplied by AAE and operating components supplied by SpaceDev. FunTech teamed with Scaled to develop a new Inertial Navigation flight director. The first flight of the White Knight launch aircraft was in August 2002 and SpaceShipOne began its glide tests in August 2003.
Unveiling of the Tier One program
April 18th 2003 Unveiling of the Tier One program
Flight research has always been Scaled Composites’ forte. For the 21 years since Scaled’s founding, we have designed, built and flight tested 23 unique manned research aircraft types and developed over 40 unmanned products. Counting the homebuilt and milestone aircraft developed earlier by Rutan Aircraft Factory, 38 different types of Rutan-designed manned aircraft have flown research test programs. None have had a significant accident or pilot injury during flight test activity. Our flight safety approach of “question, never defend” has allowed us to take courageous steps by safely flying new ideas and new performance envelopes. We are now focusing on the big step of developing a high-altitude supersonic light aircraft. This program, if successful, will result in the first non-government manned space flight (above 100 km altitude).
Sub-orbital manned space flights have been done before by Redstone - Mercury in 1961 and by the B-52 - 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.
Our plan involves flight in a 3-place spaceship, initially attached to a turbojet launch aircraft while climbing for an hour to 50,000 feet, above 85% of the atmosphere. The spaceship then drops into gliding flight and fires its rocket motor while climbing steeply for more than a minute, reaching a speed of 2,500 mph. The ship coasts up to 100 km (62 miles) altitude, then falls back into the atmosphere. The coast and fall are under weightless conditions for more than three minutes. During weightless flight, the spaceship converts to a high-drag configuration to allow a safe, stable atmospheric entry. After the entry deceleration which takes more than a minute, the ship converts back to a conventional glider, allowing a leisurely 17 minute glide from 80,000 feet altitude down to a runway where a landing is made at lightplane speeds.
Our concept design work began in 1996 and some preliminary development began in 1999. Our full development program began in secrecy in April 2001. This extensive experimental research effort is a complete manned space program. It consists of all new hardware including a launch aircraft (the White Knight), a three-place spaceship (the SpaceShipOne), a hybrid rocket propulsion system, a mobile propulsion test facility, a flight simulator, an inertial-nav flight director, a mobile mission control center, all spacecraft systems, a pilot training program and a complete flight test program. All our hardware components are full-scale, full space-capable performance, not mockups or interim vehicles.
The hardware, technical descriptions and a flight demonstration of the White Knight were revealed to the press on April 18th. We are now back into hiding, to complete the rocket development and flight tests. We will provide progress reports monthly via test reports posted in the “test updates” section of this site. We will again invite the press when we fly the first flight above 100-km altitude. This milestone will be significant in that it will represent the making of the first non-government Astronaut, and it will be flown on a system that shows the level of affordability needed for future space tourism.
I strongly feel that, if we are successful, our program will mark the beginning of a renaissance for manned space flight. This might even be similar to that wonderful time period between 1908 and 1912 when the world went from a total of ten airplane pilots to hundreds of airplane types and thousands of pilots in 39 countries. We need affordable space travel to inspire our youth, to let them know that they can experience their dreams, can set significant goals and be in a position to lead all of us to future progress in exploration, discovery and fun.
Proteus Completes Pacific, Polar Mission
Aviation Week—April 23, 2001:
MICHAEL A. DORNHEIM/LOS ANGELES
Scaled Composites’ Proteus high-altitude aircraft has completed a five-week government science mission throughout the Pacific Rim, capped by atmospheric measurements taken over the North Pole at 48,000 ft.
For some missions, Proteus may serve as an alternative to NASA’s ER-2 research aircraft, which are converted Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. The trip demonstrated the reliability and cost of the one-of-a-kind Proteus over an extended period and a range of conditions.
Scientists are pleased with the flexibility of dealing with Scaled Composites’ operation. They can be adjusting instruments almost until engine start and make mission changes quickly, something that is not possible with the elaborate procedures of the ER-2s, flown by pilots in cumbersome pressure suits.
Proteus was carrying a large belly pod containing two atmospheric sounding instruments—NAST-I, which uses infrared interferometry, and NAST-M, which measures microwave emissions ( AW&ST Nov. 20, 2000, p. 34). These may be used in next-generation Earth observation satellites, and NASA’s Langley Research Center was funding the flights to support this effort. The payload weighed about 1,300 lb., and the total pod weight was around 1,700 lb., said Michael W. Melvill, Scaled vice president and general manager.
The aircraft took off from Scaled’s Mojave, Calif., base on Feb. 19 and flew to Honolulu, Majuro Island in the Marshall Islands, Guam, Kadena AB on Okinawa, Yokota AB near Tokyo, Eielson AFB, Alaska, and returned to Mojave on Mar. 26. It made an 11.6-hr. flight on Mar. 23 from Eielson AFB to the North Pole, the longest of the journey.
Total flight time was 123 hr. with no significant problems, and the aircraft was always within a day of its planned schedule. The flight started six weeks after contract approval. The active Scaled crew was two pilots and two ground crewmen, and the mission was tracked at Mojave via Inmarsat satellite telephone voice and data link, which worked below 78 deg. Lat. The mission operated under a $680,000-fixed-price contract, good for up to 160 hr., or an average of $4,250/hr. This covered all expenses, including airfare and hotel bills for ground support. Estimated from NASA budget figures, the basic cost for an ER-2 is about $20,000/hr., or five times higher.
Proteus has a fore and aft wing configuration and is powered by two Williams-Rolls FJ44-2A turbofan engines modified to operate at up to 65,000 ft. It set a sustained altitude record of 61,919 ft. for its weight class in October, with the instrument pod removed. Pilots Melville and Michael T.
Alsbury have enough confidence in the composite structure and pressurization systems that they wear flight suits instead of pressure suits in the room-temperature cockpit. Though designed for 10 psi., it is operated at 7 psi., which requires supplemental oxygen at higher altitudes.
In the tropics, ceiling can be limited by very cold temperatures instead of performance, Melville said. The tropopause there is higher than at the upper latitudes, so the temperature continues to lapse down to lower levels. Cold temperatures, e.g. -125F, let nitrogen pressure leak past landing gear seals.
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Proteus, A High-Altitude, Multi-Mission Aircraft
MOJAVE, CA (September 23, 1998) -This morning Aerospace Officials from Industry and Government witnessed the unveiling of a new, special-purpose aircraft in a dramatic flight demonstration at the Mojave Airport Civilian Flight Test Center. Proteus* is the latest project from Scaled Composites, the prolific California desert based aerospace research company that has developed over 30 original aircraft types. This inaugural event allowed Scaled to demonstrate the unique performance and flight characteristics of the Proteus, and gave attendees a chance to view the airplane up close for the first time.
The Proteus designed with long wings and a low wing loading needed for efficient high altitude loiter, showed grace, stability, and low noise during its demonstration. The flight also included dynamic maneuvers showing the aircraft’s agility, needed to operate in adverse conditions. The crisp, short takeoff and landing illustrated the unique “three-mains” landing gear design intended to increase crosswind and wet runway capability without the use of spoilers. Also displayed was the Proteus graphite composite cabin test component. This structure, which incorporates several new design concepts, had recently been tested to 3.5 times the required operating cabin pressure.
Since the 1.7-hour first flight of Proteus on 26 July, the aircraft has been flown twelve flights, for a total flight time of 18 hours. During this time, Proteus has flown as high as 36,000 feet and demonstrated speeds from stall speed, as low as 65 knots (75 mph), to 250 Knots (288 mph). Takeoff weights up to 9000 pounds have been demonstrated, and the maneuvering envelope has been opened to 2.5 g. Cabin pressurization system tests are now in work, which will allow pressurized flights to begin soon. This will allow expansion of the altitude envelope while providing for the crew’s safety.
Proteus is a twin turbofan high altitude multi mission aircraft powered by Williams International FJ44-2E engines. It is designed to carry payloads in the 2000-pound class to altitudes above 60,000 feet and remain on station up to 14 hours. Heavier payloads can be carried for shorter missions. It is intended for piloted as well as for UAV missions. Potential missions for Proteus include telecommunications, reconnaissance, atmospheric research, commercial imaging, and space launch.
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