【更接近太空的超音速飞机,太空观光不是梦】

【更接近太空的超音速飞机,太空观光不是梦】维珍银河(Virgin Galactic)公司的飞行器试飞,以超音速接近“太空边界”。一架名为WhiteKnightTwo的运载飞机将Unity航天飞机升至海拔14000多米,随后Unity的发动机点燃,以2.47倍声速、近乎垂直地向天空爬升,将航天飞机及两名飞行员带到5万多米的高空。这个区域通常被科学家成为“ignoresphere”,是一个研究不足的大气层。最终,维珍银河公司希望将太空观光客送入超过10万米的太空边界。

The 'million dollar view' as Virgin Galactic edges closer to space: Richard Branson's VSS Unity hits more than double the speed of sound in record-breaking 170,800ft test flight

  • A carrier aircraft, known as WhiteKnightTwo, hoisted the Unity spacecraft to an altitude of 46,500ft 
  • Unity's engine then ignited, carrying the spaceplane and its two pilots to 170,800ft above Earth's surface
  • Eventually, Virgin Galactic wants to fly tourists to an altitude of 360,890ft across the Earth-space boundary 
  • Sir Richard Branson said he's just months away from visiting space - and is playing tennis to train

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic took another step towards sending tourists into orbit with its latest test flight that reached over half way to the edge of space, and hit speeds

A carrier aircraft, known as WhiteKnightTwo, hoisted the Unity spacecraft to an altitude of 46,500ft before releasing it into the atmosphere.

Virgin Galactic test pilots Dave Mackay and Mike 'Sooch' Masucci lit the spaceship's rocket motor before pulling up into a near vertical climb and powering towards the black sky at 2.47 times the speed of sound.

The planned 42 seconds rocket burn took pilots and spaceship through the Stratosphere and, at an apogee of 170,800 ft, into an areas of the atmosphere known as the Mesosphere for the first time.

VSS Unity Pilot Michael 'Sooch' Masucci said the view was 'totally amazing; a million dollar view' - although Virgin Galactic says tickets on the ship will cost $250,000.

The planned 42 seconds rocket burn took pilots and spaceship through the Stratosphere and, at an apogee of 170,800 ft, pictured, into an areas of the atmosphere known as the Mesosphere for the first time. 'Dark sky, blue glow, totally amazing; a million dollar view' Michael 'Sooch' Masucci, Pilot VSS Unity, said.

WHAT IS THE MESOSPHERE?

The mesosphere is a layer of Earth's atmosphere directly above the stratosphere and below the thermosphere.

It extends from about 50 to 85 km (31 to 53 miles) above our planet.

The mesosphere is difficult to study, so less is known about this layer of the atmosphere than other layers, as weather balloons and other aircraft cannot fly high enough to reach the mesosphere.

Satellites orbit above the mesosphere and cannot directly measure traits of this layer.

This region, often referred to by scientists as the 'Ignorosphere', is an under-studied atmospheric layer because it is above the range of balloon flight, and in the future is an area we can help the research community explore further.

The groundbreaking flight for VSS Unity was her third rocket-powered supersonic outing in less than four months.

'It was a thrill from start to finish,' Chief Pilot Dave Mackay said.

'Unity's rocket motor performed magnificently again and Sooch pulled off a smooth landing.

'This was a new altitude record for both of us in the cockpit, not to mention our mannequin in the back, and the views of Earth from the black sky were magnificent.'

Sooch added: 'Having been a U2 pilot and done a lot of high altitude work, or what I thought was high altitude work, the view from 170,000 ft was just totally amazing.

'The flight was exciting and frankly beautiful.

'We were able to complete a large number of test points which will give us good insight as we progress to our goal of commercial service.'

Today's test, among other things, gathered more data on supersonic aerodynamics as well as thermal dynamics, Virgin galactic said.

Virgin Galactic test pilots Dave Mackay and Mike 'Sooch' Masucci took the VSS Unity to 2.47 times the speed of sound, reaching an apogee of 170,800 ft. Pictured, the craft touching down after the flight

Virgin Galactic test pilots Dave Mackay and Mike 'Sooch' Masucci took the VSS Unity to 2.47 times the speed of sound, reaching an apogee of 170,800 ft. Pictured, the craft touching down after the flight

As it has been on previous flights, Unity's cabin was equipped to gather data vital to the future safety and experience of our astronaut customers.

These cabin analysis systems record a host of parameters that are designed to help us further understand the environment inside the cabin during powered flight – temperatures, pressures, humidity, acoustics, thermal response, vibration, acceleration and even radiation.

The carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, was piloted today by Todd Ericson and Kelly Latimer.

Last month Virgin carried out the second supersonic flight.

The vehicle carried the spaceplane's two pilots — Dave Mackay and Mark Stucky — to nearly 114,500ft above the Earth's surface while reaching a top speed of Mach 1.9.

The test flight bested April's in altitude, which only reached 84,271ft at its peak. That test fight reached Mach 1.87.

Eventually, Virgin Galactic wants to fly space tourists to an altitude of 360,890ft going beyond the 328,000ft defined boundary of space.

As it has been on previous flights, Unity's cabin was equipped to gather data vital to the future safety and experience of our astronaut customers. 

The groundbreaking flight for VSS Unity was her third rocket-powered supersonic outing in less than four months.

For the test, VSS Unity's engine burned for 31 seconds, which is around a minute less than they would during a flight to space.

The main goal was to see how the spacecraft performed at supersonic speeds when it had more weight at its rear - a configuration that closely resembles its set-up during a commercial flight.

Virgin Galactic changed the craft's centre of gravity by adding more passenger seats and equipment to the back of Unity.

Once the 31-second engine burn was complete, the pilots conducted a manouvre known as 'feathering' which changes the position of the spaceplane's wings so it can descend through the atmosphere and onto a runway.

Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson was down on the ground of the launch.

'It was great to see our beautiful spaceship back in the air and to share the moment with the talented team who are taking us, step by step, to space,' Branson said.

'Seeing Unity soar upwards at supersonic speeds is inspiring and absolutely breathtaking. We are getting ever closer to realizing our goals.

For the test flight, VSS Unity’s engine burned for 31 seconds, which is around a minute less than they would during a flight to space. The main goal was to see how the spacecraft performed at supersonic speeds when it had more weight at its rear - a configuration that closely resembles its set-up during a commercial flight

Touchdown! The second rocket-powered flight of the Unity spacecraft launched and landed from the Mojave Air and Space Port in the California desert. Virgin Galactic changed the craft's centre of gravity by adding more passenger seats and equipment to the back of Unity

'It was great to see our beautiful spaceship back in the air and to share the moment with the talented team who are taking us, step by step, to space' Sir Richard said. The 67-year-old multi-millionaire has been desperate to make space travel a commercial enterprise since he founded Virgin Galactic in 2004

'Today we saw VSS Unity in her natural environment, flying fast under rocket power and with a nose pointing firmly towards the black sky of space' Branson said.

'The pathway that Unity is forging is one that many thousands of us will take over time, and will help share a perspective that is crucial to solving some of humanity's toughest challenges on planet Earth.'

Unity's test flight comes not long after the company completed the spacecraft's first powered flight in nearly four years on April 5.

The rocket motor burned for the planned 31 seconds and propelled Unity to a speed of Mach 1.9 and an altitude of 114,500ft. Once the 31 second engine burn was complete, the pilots conducted a manouvre known as 'feathering' which changes the position of the spaceplane’s wings so it can descend through the atmosphere and onto a runway

Virgin Galactic's has it over 700 astronauts-to-be signed on to launch, with tickets priced at $250,000 per flight. This was the sixth powered test flight of the SpaceShipTwo designVirgin Galactic's has it over 700 astronauts-to-be signed on to launch, with tickets priced at $250,000 per flight. This was the sixth powered test flight of the SpaceShipTwo design
This was the sixth powered test flight of the SpaceShipTwo design, and the second since the fatal crash of the Spaceship Enterprise on October 31, 2014. Unity underwent extensive engine testing and seven glide tests before Virgin Galactic said it was ready for a powered test flight 

原文链接:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-5996681/Virgin-Galactic-edges-closer-passenger-spaceflights.html


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