SpaceShipOne To Fire Rocket Motor?
What we can deduce
by Charles A. Lurio, Ph.D
It looks like Burt Rutan's next planned flight test of his SpaceShipOne will include firing the rocket motor again. This may turn out to be quite ambitious compared to the first in-flight firing late last year.
A glide test was conducted last week; the Scaled Composites web site states that the purpose of this was to check various systems' functionality, stability, control, and "performance of the vehicle with the airframe thermal protection system installed.... All systems performed as expected and the vehicle landed successfully."
Their photo section displays a picture of the vehicle with this thermal protection, which appears to be the pink coating on the forward edges. Last week's flight is designated as test '12g,' the 'g' indicating it was a glide test.
More significantly (as pointed out by the HobbySpace web site), another new photo on the Rutan/Scaled site is labeled "SpaceShipOne with the rocket motor for the flight 13p"; by Rutan's own code this means that the next flight test may be powered. The presence of a thermal protection system on the vehicle -- needed only for high velocities -- may mean that Rutan expects to be able to fire the rocket for considerably longer than he did previously.
My understanding is that permission for a longer firing of the engine must be obtained through the Secretary of DoT or a suborbital vehicle license must be granted by the AST division of FAA. One may deduce that this may have already occurred or permission could be underway.
So an exciting flight test may at hand.
Charles A. Lurio, Ph.D. is a consultant in space enterprise, policy and engineering