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Home / Business / The limits of space are being reviewed with the progress of the Virgin Galactic testing program

The limits of space are being reviewed with the progress of the Virgin Galactic testing program



WASHINGTON – When Virgin Galactic approaches its first suborbital flights into space, a potential terminology change could make it easier for the company to reach this milestone.

In an interview with CNN published on November 30, Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson said the company had flown into space within a few weeks with the Suborbital SpaceShipTwo. This vehicle, called VSS Unity, made a series of test flights, most recently on July 26th.

"Space is difficult," Branson responded to a question quoted by nameless critics who did not believe in the company's ability to reach space with SpaceShipTwo. "Of course we would like to prove our critics wrong, and I'm pretty confident that we'll do this before Christmas."

Branson had suggested in an October interview with CNBC that the first flight with SpaceShipTwo would fly into space "in weeks, not months". The then representatives of the company refused to comment on this timetable. He maintained a long-standing policy of having Branson set schedules and deadlines, even though they indicated that they would conduct at least one more test flight before the end of the year.

George Whitesides, Chief Executive of Virgin Galactic, did not specify a specific timeline in a November 27 speech at SpaceCom Expo in Houston, but suggested that more and more should be tested. Flights are coming soon. "The next flights will be even more exciting" than the July flight, which peaked at 52 kilometers, he said. "We'll see some soon."

During this flight in July, SpaceShipTwo's hybrid rocket engine crashed in 42 seconds, which was supposed to fire for about 60 seconds on a typical flight. "We're in the place where we're going to add a lot of apogee as we continue to burn the rocket engine," Whitesides said during a dinner talk at the Space Settlement Summit November 2 in Los Angeles.

One The question is what height SpaceShipTwo must reach to get into space. While there is no formal limit to space in treaties or laws, the industry has often used the 1

00-kilometer height known as the Karman Line, according to the late aeronautical engineer Theodore von Kármán. This definition gained prominence as part of the Ansari X commercial suborbital vehicle award won by SpaceShipOne in 2004 twice over twice in two weeks, and during a three-month test flight.

There was speculation in the industry. However, the SpaceShipTwo in its current configuration can not reach this altitude with full payload of space users or on-board experiments. Whitesides, asked about altitudes in his Los Angeles call, instead pointed to a lower level used by the US government.

"For Virgin Galactic, the most important milestone we perceive is the height at which NASA and Air Force peoples reach their astronaut wings. That's 50 miles," he said. "For us and our customers, I think we'll focus on 50 miles, at least initially."

International committees are revising the definition of the Karman lineage. In a statement issued on 30 November, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the worldwide aviation sports federation that keeps records for aerospace, announced its cooperation with the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) to check which altitude should be considered as the limit "19659002]" Recently published research provides a compelling scientific argument to reduce this height from 100 km to 80 km, "the FAI said," eighty kilometers is about 50 miles. "The FAI said it had suggested to the IAF that" An international workshop will be held in 2019 to comprehensively explore this topic with the involvement of the astro-dynamics and astronautics community. "

The FAI statement did not mention the specific analyzes that led to the height of the karman. However, such a paper was recently published in the journal Acta Astronautica by Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and space historian at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who recommended lowering the Karman line to 80 kilometers.

In addition to examining historical records, this article performed a comprehensive mathematical analysis modeling forces on a spacecraft that flew through the upper atmosphere. It concluded that gravity on most satellites surpasses aerodynamic forces at heights of 70 to 90 kilometers. "Because of these physical, technological and historical arguments, I therefore propose to use a value of 80 km as the canonical lower" edge of space ", if such a dividing line exists between the atmosphere and space desired," concluded the newspaper.

Whitesides referred to it in his comments last month. "Looking at space history, it is by no means clear that Kármán really believed that 100 [kilometers] was the right place," he said. "It's a kind of round number."

This dividing line was no problem for the other company, which wanted a commercial suborbital space flight system for humans. Blue Origin's new Shepard has crossed 100 kilometers on some of its test flights. Last year, last July, thanks to the use of the abortion engine, the crew capsule reached a maximum altitude of approximately 119 kilometers shortly after disconnection from the propulsion module of the vehicle


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