12:14 pm EST: Max altitude is reportedly 294,000 feet, or 89.6 km, or 55.7 miles. [Update: 295,007 feet, or 89.9 km, or 55.87 miles.]
12:08 pm EST: The SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity is back safely on the ground after a second successful powered flight to the edge of space. Official apogee not yet announced. Unity definitely achieved 50+ miles, which crosses the USAF/NASA definition for the boundary altitude to space.
11:56 am EST: The motor has finished firing and the vehicle reached Mach 3.
11:55 am EST: Unity has been released and its motor is firing.
11:28 am EST: The WK2/SS2 combo should reach the launch altitude in about half an hour and release the SS2 for its powered test flight. There are three crew persons on the SS2 today:
We have a 3rd crew member in the cabin of SpaceShipTwo today, Chief Astronaut Instructor, Beth Moses. She will provide human validation for the data we collect. Including aspects of the customer cabin and spaceflight environment from the perspective of people in the back. pic.twitter.com/WiUxhuf2zv
Virgin Galactic plans to fly SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity to the edge of space today. This will be the fifth rocket powered flight and the second to to go to 80+ kilometers in altitude. Currently, the schedule has the WhiteKnightTwo with the SS2 hung beneath it taking off from Mojave Air & Space Port at 8:00 am PST local time (11:00 noon EST).
Blue Origin today successfully flew a New Shepard reusable suborbital rocket vehicle to over 100 km altitude. There were eight research experiments aboard the capsule, which separated from the booster after its engine ended its burn. The booster made a powered landing while the capsule returned via parachutes. The flight took place at Blue’s facility in West Texas.
This was the tenth flight of this second NS vehicle. During the webcast, a video was shown of a third New Shepard being transported from the factory in Washington state to the West Texas facility. The webcast host said this new vehicle will be dedicated to carrying people while the vehicle that flew today will focus on uncrewed missions with scientific and technology R&D payloads.
History has been made and a long-anticipated dream realised in Mojave, CA, today as Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, landed from her maiden spaceflight to cheers from Richard Branson and the teams from Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company.
Not only is this the first human spaceflight to be launched from American soil since the final Space Shuttle mission in 2011, but the very first time that a crewed vehicle built for commercial, passenger service, has reached space.
The historic achievement has been recognised by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) who announced today that early next year they will present pilots Mark “Forger” Stucky and Frederick “CJ” Sturckow with FAA Commercial Astronaut Wings at a ceremony in Washington DC. CJ, as a four-time Space Shuttle pilot, will become the only person to have been awarded NASA and FAA wings.
Today’s accomplishment has also been recognised by the NASA Flight Opportunities Program, which flew four space science and technology experiments on VSS Unity, making this Virgin Galactic’s first revenue generating flight.
The spectacular spaceflight, which was witnessed by a large crowd of staff and their families, as well as special guests and media, saw a 60 second planned rocket motor burn which propelled VSS Unity to almost three times the speed of sound and to an apogee of 51.4 miles.
As VSS Unity coasted upwards through the black sky and into space, Virgin Galactic Mission Control confirmed the news and congratulated the two astronaut pilots: “ Unity, Welcome to Space”.
After a Mach 2.5 supersonic re-entry into the atmosphere, which utilised Unity’s unique “feathering” configuration, Forger and CJ guided the spaceship down to a smooth runway landing and an emotional homecoming welcome.
Commenting from the flight line Richard Branson said:
“Many of you will know how important the dream of space travel is to me personally. Ever since I watched the moon landings as a child I have looked up to the skies with wonder. We started Virgin nearly 50 years ago dreaming big and loving a challenge. Today, as I stood among a truly remarkable group of people with our eyes on the stars, we saw our biggest dream and our toughest challenge to date fulfilled. It was an indescribable feeling: joy, relief, exhilaration and anticipation for what is yet to come.
“Today, for the first time in history, a crewed spaceship, built to carry private passengers, reached space. Today we completed our first revenue generating flight and our pilots earned their Commercial Astronaut Wings. Today, we have shown that Virgin Galactic really can open space to change the world for good. We will now push on with the remaining portion of our flight test program, which will see the rocket motor burn for longer and VSS Unity fly still faster and higher towards giving thousands of private astronauts an experience which provides a new, planetary perspective to our relationship with the Earth and the cosmos. This is a momentous day and I could not be more proud of our teams who together have opened a new chapter of space exploration.”
“What we witnessed today is more compelling evidence that commercial space is set to become one of the twenty-first century’s defining industries. Reusable vehicles built and operated by private companies are about to transform our business and personal lives in ways which are as yet hard to imagine. New enterprises are being created which will become hugely valuable, while enabling humanity to better manage some of its greatest future challenges. Today was a remarkable achievement brought about by the skill, dedication and support of our shareholders, staff, customers, partners and many other stakeholders. We extend our congratulations and thanks to each and every one of them.”
The new company Decron Club will soon begin selling collectible coins made from metals flown in space:
Rocket Launch Flight SL-11 leads to the Launching of the Opportunity
to Touch Space with Your Own Hands
On the day when the world learned the name of the first private lunar passenger, who paid a hundred million dollars for the honor, new American startup Decron Club made a step realizing towards thousands of dreams “to touch Space for a dollar.”
SPACEPORT AMERICA, NM – On Monday, September 17th at 08:09 a.m. MT, Up Aerospace successfully launched the SL-11 sound rocket from launch pad #1 in the New Mexico desert.
Together with NASA’s experimental payloads aboard, Decron Club integrated it’s own precious metals ingots (1 kg Silver 999, 1 kg Copper, 2 Gold 999 ingots (200 grams), 3 Platinum 999 ingots (220 grams) in the nose cone sections of NC 1 and NC 2.
The flight surpassed the Karman line, the border between the Earth and space, reaching an altitude of 357,800 feet (109 km) at a speed of 6 times higher than the speed of sound – 2058 meters per second. After floating in zero gravity the payloads were safely returned back to the Earth.
“It’s the great conclusion of the flight. We’ve been working on this payload for NASA for a long time. It’s nice to finally get it flown. We look forward to getting all the data from NASA and posting our analysis”
– said Jerry Larson, the president of the UP Aerospace company.
The launching of flight SL-11 involves much more than the pride of a successful Up Aerospace program, as it also includes one giant leap for Decron Club company, who has diligently worked to produce products that only a few imagined possible. Decron Club is one step from mass production of unique coins. Also, scientific research is going to be conducted to see how the physical and chemical metal structure changes after being in space.
With the help of Decron Club, people across the world will be able to grasp things in the palms of their hands that they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity. Decron Club works to deliver treasures from out of this world to you and your homes.
“The First Space Coin will become not a coin about space, but a part of it. Space is in its DNA. Today Decron Club became the first non-space company that made space affordable to thousands of people without paying a fortune for it”
– said Dennis Rudenko, CEO of Decron Club.
With these items paving the way into a new era in the evolution of collectible coins, products are expected to go fast as a result of the high demand to hold a piece of space in their hands.
Coin sales will start in October of 2018, with options consisting of platinum, gold and silver. For pre-orders check updates on the company’s official website Decron Club. Decron Club also welcomes customers to follow its social media accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
The EXOS Aerospace reusable suborbital SARGE rocket launched successfully from Spaceport America on Saturday. (See earlier posting about the project.) The liftoff is at 20:15 in this video. See also the payload capsule returning via a ballute (half balloon, half parachute) between 29:37-30:05, and the booster returning via para-glider between 31:12-35:39 :
Here is the booster on the ground following the landing:
And here it is being towed back to the launch camp: