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Watch: Virgin Galactic Spaceship Passes First 'Feather' Reentry Test


Earlier this month Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo completed its first "feather" reentry test flight, and video was released this week.

Wired writes:

During the test flight, SS2 was dropped from 51,000 feet and the change in configuration to the feather position appear to cause a significant nose up pitch attitude during the transition. Once the tail surfaces are raised to about 65 degrees and SS2 is established in the feather position, the space craft descends nearly vertically. In the feather position, SS2 appears to be closer to a flat pitch attitude with some oscillations in pitch, roll and yaw.

The feather position allows the space craft to reenter the atmosphere at a slow enough speed to reduce the heating problems that can occur as friction with the atmosphere increases. It also simplifies the process compared to needing a precise glide angle for reentry in order to avoid skipping off of the atmosphere.

You space geeks are going to love this clip.


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  1. Amazing.

    Posted by: The Milkman | May 19, 2011 9:52:23 AM

  2. Sir Richard should be proud and Mr. Rutan must be walking on air!

    Posted by: JT - the real one | May 19, 2011 10:00:50 AM

  3. Amazing technology and SMOKIN HOT man there at the end.

    Let's not forget that we are GAY space geeks!

    Posted by: TampaZeke | May 19, 2011 10:14:45 AM

  4. That is extremely cool. This is very exciting stuff! Space travel for everyone really feels imminent now. :-)

    Posted by: MT | May 19, 2011 10:18:43 AM

  5. It is NOT a spaceship despite what their marketing/PR firm might say

    Like the space shuttle it is a sub-0rbital vehicle slated to never go past 27,000 miles from the earth's surface

    The Van Allen radiation belt stretches out 37,200ish miles at its furthest point and beyond that is TRUE space

    Its cool BUT not a true spaceship

    Posted by: mstrozfckslv | May 19, 2011 10:37:17 AM

  6. Unfortunately, the rocket engine they will use will be burning rubber or nylon (plastic), which will put a lot of black carbon soot into the stratosphere, where it is immune to rainout. If they ramp up these joyrides to the 1000 per year they are planning, the impacts on the radiative balance of the planet may be quite significant.

    MSTROZFCKSLV: The space shuttle is actually orbital, and has only ever achieved a maximum altitude of 372 mi. Virgin Galactic is indeed suborbital, offering 45-minute up-and-down joyrides with a maximum altitude of about 68 miles. Neither gets anywhere near 27,000 miles, as no manned missions other than Apollo have.

    Posted by: Mike | May 19, 2011 11:03:30 AM

  7. Mike the 27,000 mile point is what i googled as its maxed theoretical point

    Which is of course very generous. But yeah, per your own numbers this is not and never will be a spaceship

    Calling it a "high atmospheric vehicle" isn't as sexy sounding but more accurate

    Posted by: mstrozfckslv | May 19, 2011 11:42:34 AM

  8. PS

    or calling it a "high altitude airplane" traveling within a very thin but still present atmosphere (hydrogen, helium, CO2, and atomic oxygen present) isn't as sexy sounding as "space ship'

    I side with Buckminster Fuller on our poor use of words which perpetuate false science (i.e. sunrise sunset etc which is not reality)

    Posted by: mstrozfckslv | May 19, 2011 11:48:40 AM

  9. I love science and spoiling a good time with facts, but this IS.A.SPACESHIP. to me. If you can leave Earth, experience zero-gravity and see space, that's good enough for me and a few generations to come.

    Posted by: Drew | May 21, 2011 1:14:25 AM

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