The SpaceShipTwo suborbital rocketplane, commissioned by beardy biz-lord Richard Branson in order to provide zero-G exoatmospheric joyrides to wealthy consumers, has flight-tested its exclusive "feathering" re-entry mode.
Have interaction shuttlecock mode, Mr Sulu
Virgin Galactic, Branson's nascent ballistic thrilljaunt enterprise, states that the test flight took place yesterday from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The SS2 rocket craft, dubbed VSS (Virgin Space Ship) Enterprise, was carried aloft by its jet-powered provider aeroplane, VMS (Virgin Mother Ship) Eve.
On reaching an altitude of fifty one,500 toes, the rocketplane dropped away from the mothership and "feathered" its twin tails upward by 65 degrees. This is the configuration the VSSs are developed to use when re-entering the environment at much higher heights in foreseeable future.
Feathering is meant to provide a entirely steady fingers-off descent, demanding no fly-by-wire systems: the large drag created by this "shuttlecock"-like flight regime put together with the craft's minimal fat is anticipated to indicate only minimum warmth generation in the course of re-entry and thus makes it possible for the craft to dispense with thermal shielding or tiles. In operational service the ships will stop feathering and recover their tails to the normal horizontal placement whilst nonetheless above 70,000 toes before gliding down to a runway landing ( via theregister.co.uk ).