SpaceShipTwo’s feathered flight

First Feathered Flight of SpaceShipTwo - photo credit: Virgin Galactic

“Early on Wednesday 4th May 2011, in the skies above Mojave Air and Spaceport CA, SpaceShipTwo, the world’s first commercial spaceship, demonstrated its unique reentry ‘feather’ configuration for the first time. This test flight, the third in less than two weeks, marks another major milestone on the path to powered test flights and commercial operations. SpaceShipTwo (SS2), named VSS Enterprise, has now flown solo seven times since its public roll-out in December 2009 and since the completion of its ground and captive -carry test program. This latest flight saw a 6:43AM (local) runway take off for VSS Enterprise, attached to its WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft, VMS Eve. At the controls of the of the spaceship were Scaled Composites’ test pilots Pete Siebold and Clint Nichols whilst Mark Stucky, Brian Maisler and Brandon Inks crewed the purpose built, all composite, twin fuselage WK2. After a 45 minute climb to the desired altitude of 51,500 feet, SS2 was released cleanly from VMS Eve and established a stable glide profile before deploying, for the first time, its re-entry or “feathered” configuration by rotating the tail section of the vehicle upwards to a 65 degree angle to the fuselage. It remained in this configuration with the vehicle’s body at a level pitch for approximately 1 minute and 15 seconds whilst descending, almost vertically, at around 15,500 feet per minute, slowed by the powerful shuttlecock-like drag created by the raised tail section. At around 33,500 feet the pilots reconfigured the spaceship to its normal glide mode and executed a smooth runway touch down, approximately 11 minutes and 5 seconds after its release from VMS Eve.” -Virgin Galactic
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One Response to SpaceShipTwo’s feathered flight

  1. Ed Minchau says:

    A little math shows the WK2 was just a few feet over ten miles up when it dropped SS2. That is absolutely astonishing capability. If WK2 carried a rocket to that altitude and speed, it could probably launch a payload on the order of a few tens of kilograms into orbit.

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