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Space tourism attracts science and education customers to pioneer safe and clean access to space

by Rus Abz 2011-12-30 12:50


SpaceShipTwoVirgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo achieves new milestones on its way to become the first commercial vehicle to take space tourists on high-altitude flights to suborbital space and return them safely through the atmosphere to Earth. Safety is at the heart of the design of new space vehicles. Fundamentally safe by design the new space ship technology is focused on a number of innovative features which are believed to make the vehicles many thousands of times safer than any manned spacecraft of the past. Overlayed with experience in transportation operations it presents an unique opportunity to transform levels of safety into a new dimension and take steps to expand the mission beyond commercial space tourism. Scaled Composites is progressing towards commercial space exploration phase with 30 SpaceShipTwo flights and 75 WhiteKnightTwo flights to date. Over 450 future astronauts worldwide have signed on to join for a future voyage to pioneer safe, affordable and clean access to space.

SpaceShipTwo Feathering SystemNew spacecraft uses carbon composite construction and design. It will carry six passengers and two pilots. Its large cabin is similar in size to an executive jet aircraft, albeit with no floor dissecting the cabin to allow maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows, one side window and one overhead. This allows astronauts to float free in space, or to remain in their seats, with a great chance to see the view. The views of earth will be maximized by large windows. Powered by a hybrid rocket motor, new space ship offers important safety and environmental advantages over liquid or solid powered systems that are more commonly used on manned space vehicles. Its enhanced safe operation feature means that the pilots will be able to shut down the SpaceShipTwo rocket motor at any time during its operation and glide safely back to the runway.

The most radical feature employed by SpaceShipTwo is the unique way it returns into the dense atmosphere from the vacuum of space. The unique feathering system is designed with innovative approach which does away with the need for sophisticated computer driven flight control systems or the need to rely on the pilots. Instead it uses aerodynamic design and the laws of physics for a care-free and heat-free reentry followed by a glide runway landing. The spaceship can be thought of as an air launched glider with a rocket motor and a couple of extra systems for spaceflight. Just like any conventional flying machine, it requires aerodynamic forces to provide its stability and control which, clearly, it only has whilst in the atmosphere. In space it follows a purely ballistic trajectory, but here it can use small thrusters known as the reaction control system which allow the pilots to maneuver the vehicle in space and provide a changing view for the passenger astronauts. 

SpaceShipTwo designAmong new features which are focused on increased safety the sophisticated GPS enabled navigation and flight control system is developed and tested as an important component of the future space operation. During last decades the designers and builders of space launch system introduced and tested the world's most innovative experimental aircraft along with efficient flight control system. The safety record is second to none established a culture and an approach to design which is predicated on safety. Spacecraft design philosophy is based on simplicity with the rationale that a complex system has an increased chance of failure, therefore risk reduction has been the most important design element in the new space vehicles. 

While new spacecraft  feathering system dramatically simplifies the operation of the new spaceship, for the situations when spacecraft will need to rely on autopilot, safer spaceflight onboard flight control system is also designed to process the Global positioning satellite constellation information employing the latest achievements in the artificial intelligence and GPS navigation technology. One of the new approaches includes the micro nuclear navigation assist components. The heart of the new autopilot, positioning, navigation and timing system includes a nano chip which uses a micro-nuclear magnetic resonance gyroscope. Having no moving parts it uses a gyroscopic spin of nuclear particles in a magnetic field to determine orientation, and also measures the spin of atomic nuclei to measure rotation. The solid micro-nuclear high performance quantum gyro is not sensitive to acceleration and vibration, therefore providing the ability to achieve navigation-grade performance with a two orders-of-magnitude reduction in size, weight, and power from state-of-the-art positioning and navigation gyroscope currently used in inertial measurement units. The micro-nuclear magnetic resonance gyros are developed to be embedded in evolving GPS navigation enabled artificial intelligence flight control  systems for next generation of safer spacecraft.

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