For having flown a hundred seconds “out of the nails”, the American aviation agency keeps the SpaceShipTwo of Virgin Galactic on the ground! In July, the suborbital plane that had brought Richard Branson and five other people deviated slightly from the cleared path. Despite a safety alert, the two test pilots had decided to continue the flight. The FAA therefore wants to clarify the mission scenario and ensure that their decision did not endanger the crew and the suborbital aircraft.
Surprisingly, theaboard which were Richard Branson, three other passengers and two test pilots did not go as smoothly as the British billionaire suggested. On July 11, Virgin Galactic made a flight at an altitude of 85 kilometers, above the space border recognized by the United States (80 km) before returning to land. We learn that the FAA, the American aviation agency, which also manages suborbital flights in the United States, has opened an investigation into a deviation from the path during this flight which could have resulted in a grave.
Two months after this highly publicized theft, theVirgin Galactic is therefore grounded for the duration of the investigation. The flight scheduled for late September-early October on behalf of the Italian air force is postponed to an unknown date.
Nicholas Schmidle, a journalist fromwho revealed the case, explains in his article that the suborbital aircraft experienced a deviation of path, flying for a few moments outside the airspace dedicated to the flight. This is obviously a serious problem although this flight was presented as a demonstration flight and not an operational one.
Concretely, the incident occurred during the ascent phase of the aircraft whose climb angle was not the right one, that is to say that the trajectory was not sufficiently vertical. This could prevent the plane from building up enough speed to return to dry land! Security alerts were triggered. An orange, then a red indicating that the flight path of the aircraft was not optimal and that there was a risk that the aircraft might lack power to reach its destination, that is to say land on the track of Spaceport America.
During Richard Branson’s space flight, a red warning light appeared. Aborting the rocket motor would have been the safest way to respond, according to company sources, but that “would have dashed Branson’s hopes of beating his rival,” @nickschmidle writes. https://t.co/d9j5hs6aK3
– The New Yorker (@NewYorker) September 2, 2021
A hundred seconds “out of the nails”
You should know that as for the, the SpaceShipTwo hovers during its return to Earth and landing. Without an engine, it must therefore acquire enough power to land safely. The red light on should have forced the pilots to cancel the mission and return to land before reaching “space”. Unimaginable for boss Branson whose flight marked the company’s entry into the era of .
Neither the public nor the crew were endangered, Virgin Galactic said, although the final trajectory deviated from the original flight plan. It was an intentional and controlled flight path.
The explanations of Virgin Galactic are rather convincing. The company does not deny the problem. She acknowledges that the aircraft fell below its authorized altitude for one minute and forty-three seconds due toaltitude different from those expected. In any case, the SpaceShipTwo was outside the mission’s safety margins. The pilots, who should be remembered are test pilots, judged that there was no risk for the crew and the aircraft, and therefore decided to continue the flight despite the safety alerts. The investigation will have to determine whether the pilots have breached the elementary rules of flight safety or whether they have acted in full knowledge of the causes without causing additional risks to the crew and the aircraft. Today, the SpaceSHipTwo is grounded for the duration of the investigation.