burt rutan

Virgin Galactic Unveils Spaceship 'Enterprise'

Enterprise's Big Night Out:  Jack Brockway
We've seen concepts and a rare look behind the scenes during assembly, and now in the flesh: Raising champagne glasses in the shadow of a full-size ice statue of an Apollo astronaut, a group of soon-to-be space tourists joined Sir Richard Branson at the unveiling of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, now named “VSS Enterprise,” in the Mojave desert last night.

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A Look Inside Virgin Galactic's Flight Training

Would-be astronauts train for the world’s first suborbital space tourism flight

As early as next year, if you are one of a lucky few, you may find yourself strapped in a six-passenger rocket some 50,000 feet above the Earth’s surface, bracing yourself as it disengages from the specially designed jet plane mothership, and shoots cannon-like 60 miles up into suborbital space at three times the speed of sound. If all goes well, you'll then get to unbuckle and float in zero gravity for a full fifteen minutes, spying on the earth’s curvature, all of North America and the Pacific Ocean.

This scenario is what Virgin Galactic is banking on. So much so that though the rocket is still unfinished they are already putting their first-picked passengers through flight training. And that is how Wilson da Silva, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Cosmos (the biggest-selling science magazine in Australia) found himself in Philly last month at the National Aerospace Training and Research (NASTAR) Center strapped into one of the most advanced centrifuge simulators on Earth shouting words that we cannot print here as 6 Gs of force pressed down upon him.

But first, some background.

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Virgin Galactic Rolls Out Mother Ship

Carrier craft for SpaceShipTwo makes its debut in Mojave California

Virgin Group head Sir Richard Branson unveiled the latest addition to his air- and spaceline fleet at the Mojave Airport in California today, accompanied by the craft's chief designer, Burt Rutan.

The White Knight 2 is a four-engine jet that will carry an 8-seat spaceship called SpaceShipTwo to an altitude of 48,000 feet so that the spaceship can drop off and fire its rocket engine for a brief run to suborbital space. Branson's Virgin Galactic hopes to begin regularly scheduled passenger service to space in 2010.

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Virgin Galactic Unveils New Designs

We get a first peak at SpaceShipTwo and Branson's sexy new Galactic Girl logo

This morning at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, in front of a throng of international press, paying customers, and various captains of future industries, Branson, Scaled Composites CEO Burt Rutan, and other Virgin Galactic execs unveiled new designs for both White Knight and SpaceShipTwo. Branson says the two-ship combo will act as a catalyst to transform human access to space.

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Gossamer Condor Inventor Dies

Aerospace wouldn't be the same without his contributions

Aerospace genius Dr. Paul MacCready, founder of AeroVironment, Inc., passed away yesterday at 81 after an undisclosed illness. He had a list of achievements that would make anyone proud. His Gossamer Condor won the Kremer prize in 1977 for a human-powered flight; its successor, the Gossamer Albatross, was the first human-powered airplane to cross the English Channel. He created GM's ground-breaking solar-powered car, the Sunraycer, excelled as both a sailplane designer and pilot, and he developed many high-altitude, long-duration unmanned vehicles, including NASA's Helios. Under his mentorship at AeroVironment, his team of engineers have done everything from develop miniature flying surveillance robots to design the most efficient ceiling fan blade ever.

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Who Killed the Electric Car?

Corporate and governmental bad guys are implicated in this documentary about the death of GM's beloved EV1 plug-in

Burt Rutan, the visionary aircraft designer who created the first privately funded manned space vehicle, SpaceShipOne, told me a story recently about his EV1 electric car. He had happily driven the vehicle for years until General Motors decided not only to take it off the market but to take back all the leased vehicles that were on the road. â€The day they came to get it, I was on the verge of hiding the thing in a cave,†he recalled.

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Rocket-Powered Air Races to Launch Next Year

Gentlemen, start your spaceplanes—the newest racing series will create explosive thrills from high-tech rockets

Watch out, Nascar-the Rocket Racing League is about to start stealing some of your famed thunder. Picture high-tech, rocket-propelled airplanes racing around three-dimensional racetracks-in-the-sky with ear-shattering ferocity. Twenty-foot-long orange plumes will trail the aerobatic X-Racers as the daredevil pilots gun the rockets for critical boosts on long straits and steep vertical climbs. They´ll drop into the pits to fuel up on liquid oxygen and kerosene before reentering the fray.

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Around the World-Virtually

Young pilot takes a crack at GlobalFlyer world flight-without leaving Salina

Kansas State University flight instructor Brad Amstutz jumped at the chance to simulate Steve Fossett´s round-the-world GlobalFlyer flight. The challenge presented by Popular Science: Take off at the same time as Fossett, fly the mission as if it were his own, and see if a simulated flight challenges him in the same ways the real flight challenges Fossett. His only rule is that if Fossett has to terminate his flight, Amstutz will also land.

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The Daring Visionaires of Fringe Aviation

Will one of these aeronautical mavericks redefine personal flight? Probably not, but you can’t blame them for trying.

In the bucolic hinterland North of San Diego, on a hillside shaded by eucalyptus and pine, Attila Melkuti pulls open the doors of a barn. Inside, light gleams off a strange and marvelous contraption he’s been piecing together for the past seven years. He pushes his nearly finished creation into the sun: a curvaceous, cherry-red flying machine that looks like nothing so much as the unholy union of a UFO and a Corvette. “The idea came to me in a childhood dream,” he says. “I believe it could transform aviation.”

Melkuti may be the only one who so believes.

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1 Jet Engine & 18,000 Pounds of Fuel

With the rutan-designed globalflyer, these adventurers tackle “the first great aviation challenge of the new century.” Technology: cutting-edge. Risks: gigantic.

“Around the world in 80 hours.” The happy marketing slogan affixed to Steve Fossett’s attempt to set a nonstop, around-the-world solo flight record makes it sound like something of a nostalgic lark: Hints of Jules Verne, the golden age of global adventure.

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Two More Steps to Space

An independent designer pulls the sheet off his top-secret manned spaceplane program. Can he spark the 21st-century space tourism revolution?

Mojave, CA


Legendary aviation designer Burt Rutan unveiled Friday what is probably the leading contender for a manned, commercial space-launch system. SpaceShipOne was revealed to the public at Rutan's Scaled Composites headquarters in Mojave, California fully formed—a launch-ready prototype that will, within a few weeks, begin the series of tests that could send passengers into suborbital flight by early next year.

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