Four NASA-sponsored experiments set to launch on Virgin Galactic spacecraft
by Leslie Williams for AFRC News
Edwards AFB CA (SPX) Dec 13, 2018
A winged spacecraft will soon take off with four NASA-supported technology experiments onboard. Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo will separate from the WhiteKnightTwo twin-fuselage carrier aircraft and continue its rocket-powered test flight.
The flight, scheduled for no earlier than Dec. 13, is Virgin Galactic's first mission for NASA. The agency's Flight Opportunities program helped the four experiments hitch a ride on SpaceShipTwo. The program purchased flight services, the accommodation and ride, from Virgin Galactic for the payloads. During the flight, the payloads will collect valuable data needed to mature the technologies for use on future missions.
"The anticipated addition of SpaceShipTwo to a growing list of commercial vehicles supporting suborbital research is exciting," said Ryan Dibley, Flight Opportunities campaign manager at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. "Inexpensive access to suborbital space greatly benefits the technology research and broader spaceflight communities."
NASA's investment in the growing suborbital space industry and strong economy in low-Earth orbit allows the agency to focus on farther horizons. NASA will venture forward to the Moon - this time to stay, in a measured, sustainable fashion - in order to develop new opportunities and prepare for astronauts to explore Mars.
The planned technology demonstrations onboard SpaceShipTwo could prove useful for exploration missions. For Principal Investigator Josh Colwell at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, the Virgin Galactic flight will help further refine the Collisions Into Dust Experiment (COLLIDE). The experiment aims to map the behavior of dust particles on planetary surfaces. Suborbital flights let Colwell and his team gather data useful for designing exploration architectures at the Moon, Mars and beyond.
The presence of dust on asteroids and moons with low surface gravity introduces challenges for both human and robotic missions. Particles can damage hardware and contaminate habitats. Understanding dust dynamics could help NASA design better tools and systems for exploration missions.
On this microgravity flight, COLLIDE will simulate the dusty surface of an asteroid and a surface impact. The experiment will collect high-quality video of the dust dispersing.
"We want to see how dust in microgravity behaves when it's disturbed. How fast will it fly around? How careful do you have to be to avoid disturbing the surface too much? If you have a hard landing and disturb the surface a lot, how long will you have to wait for the dust to clear?" Colwell explained.
Here on Earth, this isn't as much of a concern. Colwell explained that in space, where the absence of gravity complicates every task at hand, such considerations are significant for mission planning.
"If you have a small dust disturbance and can work around it, great. If the dust particles have enough speed, they can contaminate and stick to equipment well above the surface, posing problems for safety as well as mission success," Colwell said.
COLLIDE data collected on its first to suborbital space, as well as data from a related experiment previously tested on NASA-sponsored parabolic aircraft flights, could help future human and robotic explorers throughout the solar system. The other technology payloads slated for the SpaceShipTwo flight are:
+ Microgravity Multi-Phase Flow Experiment for Suborbital Testing - NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston
+ Validating Telemetric Imaging Hardware for Crew-Assisted and Crew-Autonomous Biological Imaging in Suborbital Applications - University of Florida in Gainesville
+ Vibration Isolation Platform - Controlled Dynamics Inc. in Huntington Beach, California
The Flight Opportunities program is funded by NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington and managed at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley manages the solicitation and selection of technologies to be tested and demonstrated on commercial flight vehicles.
Virgin Galactic and other U.S. commercial spaceflight providers are contracted to provide flight services to NASA for flight testing and technology demonstration. Researchers from academia and industry with concepts for exploration, commercial space applications or other space utilization technologies of potential interest to NASA can receive grants from the Flight Opportunities program to purchase suborbital flights from these and other U.S. commercial spaceflight providers. The next solicitation for potential payloads is anticipated for release in January 2019. For information about current opportunities, visit:
Virgin Galactic's new flight test to soar closer to edge of space
Washington (AFP) Dec 12, 2018
Virgin Galactic is preparing for a new flight test Thursday that aims to fly higher and faster than before toward the edge of space. The US company run by British tycoon Richard Branson is aiming to be the first to take tourists on brief trips into microgravity. Virgin Galactic's fourth flight test on the VSS Unity is scheduled for Thursday, weather permitting. The flight will take off from a spaceport in Mojave, California. The vessel does not launch from Earth but is carried to a high ... read more
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.