Sad Happenings in Mojave
Image courtesy Guardian Media
By now everyone has heard about the tragic crash of Virgin Galactic's Spaceship II in Mojave, California. One pilot died and one pilot was severely injured in the accident. They were both test pilots, so they knew there was risk in what they were doing. Still, it was a terrible loss for Scaled Composites and for the Mojave Aerospace Community. The Mike Alsbury Memorial FundM was set up to help support Mike's wife in her time of need. Please contribute, if you feel so inclined.
As far as the accident is concerned, here's what we know: The NTSB has concluded that the in-air destruction of Spaceship II was due to Spaceship II's "tail feathering mechanism" opening during powered flight. This is the mechanism Spaceship I and II employ to re-enter the atmosphere during the ship's return to earth from extreme high altitude. This is done to present a large flat surface towards the flow of air and increase the rate of deceleration. Since the tail feathering places the ship's fuselage (and thus the rocket engine) perpendicular to the flow of air, the effect of activating it under thrust was to tear the ship apart. Many people had feared that the engine of Spaceship II was to blame, but it seems that has turned out not to be the case.
What ever the cause of the accident. I hope Virgin Galactic gets back on their feet soon. Obviously they will need to do much more testing before flying paying customers.