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Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Crashes During Flight Test

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[FONT=proxima_nova_rgregular]Virgin Galactic said its SpaceShipTwo rocket plane suffered a "serious anomaly" during a powered test flight on Friday that resulted in the loss of the aircraft.[/FONT]
[FONT=proxima_nova_rgregular]The anomaly occurred after the plane was released from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane and fired up its rocket engine in flight for the first time in more than nine months. Sources said SpaceShipTwo exploded in midflight, and debris fell onto California's Mojave Desert.[/FONT]
[FONT=proxima_nova_rgregular]


[/FONT]

[FONT=proxima_nova_rgregular]"The WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft landed safely," Virgin Galactic said in a statement. "Our first concern is the status of the pilots, which is unknown at this time."

Two pilots fly in SpaceShipTwo's cockpit during a test. Those pilots are equipped with parachutes, and after the anomaly, chutes were reportedly sighted over the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, the base from which SpaceShipTwo and its WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane took off.[/FONT]
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Crashes During Flight Test - NBC News

If you know anyone planning to launch into outer space, you might want to suggest they wait until next week. Not a good week to launch.
 

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I'm fascinated by ambitions like this, and I hate that this happened. I hope Sir Branson keeps pursuing this dream of his.
 

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CNN is reporting that one person has died.
 

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I'm kind of suprised by the one-sidedness of the coverage. Every single piece I've read has sounded like it was written by Virgin Galactic, appologizing for the accident as if it was something you expect when exploring new frontiers. At one point the CNN host repeated herself about 16 times talking about everyone in the company's "excitement" at realizing this "vision".

Spaceship 2 isn't visionary. It's not exploring any new frontiers. In 1963, the North American X-15, utilizing a similar design reached 108km of altitude. That was 50 years ago. Spaceship 2 isn't research, it's commercialization. And comercialization means replacing the duct tape and chicken wire of research technology with something that's reliable and cost effective.

Spaceship 2 is certainly cheap. Very very cheap. Originally, Spaceship 2 was anticipated to cost $100 million dollars to develop. Contrast that with the 777 which cost $7.7BILLION to develop.

Why? Because safety and reliability are EXPENSIVE.

In today's dollars the entire x15 program cost $2.2Billion with each flight costing $4.5Million. Virgin Galactic hasn't released their targets, but they have to to pay back $400 Million in development costs with $1.5 million in revenue per flight. To be even remotely sane, they have to be looking at at a few hundred thousand dollars or less per flight in operating costs. There is also a significant time crunch. The current backlog of paid passengers is 575. At one flight a month, that's a 9 year backlog.

Quite simply, you cannot develop highly reliable safe systems without both time and money. It is not reasonable to develop a spaceplane for essentially the cost of a gulfstream and expect it to have the same level of reliability.

Obviously, there's a pretty signifigant chance that there were pressures put on the development team to make each flight as cheap as possible and to begin flying passangers as soon as possible. And if so, there's an equally good chance that those pressures contributed to or were directly responsible for this accident.

We shouldn't lionize Branson.
 

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I'm kind of suprised by the one-sidedness of the coverage. Every single piece I've read has sounded like it was written by Virgin Galactic, appologizing for the accident as if it was something you expect when exploring new frontiers. At one point the CNN host repeated herself about 16 times talking about everyone in the company's "excitement" at realizing this "vision".

Spaceship 2 isn't visionary. It's not exploring any new frontiers. In 1963, the North American X-15, utilizing a similar design reached 108km of altitude. That was 50 years ago. Spaceship 2 isn't research, it's commercialization. And comercialization means replacing the duct tape and chicken wire of research technology with something that's reliable and cost effective.

Spaceship 2 is certainly cheap. Very very cheap. Originally, Spaceship 2 was anticipated to cost $100 million dollars to develop. Contrast that with the 777 which cost $7.7BILLION to develop.

Why? Because safety and reliability are EXPENSIVE.

In today's dollars the entire x15 program cost $2.2Billion with each flight costing $4.5Million. Virgin Galactic hasn't released their targets, but they have to to pay back $400 Million in development costs with $1.5 million in revenue per flight. To be even remotely sane, they have to be looking at at a few hundred thousand dollars or less per flight in operating costs. There is also a significant time crunch. The current backlog of paid passengers is 575. At one flight a month, that's a 9 year backlog.

Quite simply, you cannot develop highly reliable safe systems without both time and money. It is not reasonable to develop a spaceplane for essentially the cost of a gulfstream and expect it to have the same level of reliability.

Obviously, there's a pretty signifigant chance that there were pressures put on the development team to make each flight as cheap as possible and to begin flying passangers as soon as possible. And if so, there's an equally good chance that those pressures contributed to or were directly responsible for this accident.

We shouldn't lionize Branson.
I thought the opposite of the coverage. I found the continued emphasis on the private nature of the flights to be implicit damning of commercial space organizations. Disclosure: I own several hundred shares of Orbital Sciences stock so I may be being overly sensitive.

We have done this before as far as LEO goes but the point is that flight test is dangerous business, especially with completely new types and an all composite space plane is a radically new type. People die doing it and the streets at Edwards are named after a long list of test pilots who've died in flight test. We should try to minimize the risks but to assume we can eliminate them and not get people killed is wholly unrealistic.

No doubt that there are pressures to keep costs down, I don't see that as as being a bad thing. Rather I think it's required if we're to commercialize space. And if space is ever to be anything other than a novelty, a research project it must become commercially viable. Does that mean accepting more risk? Probably. At least in the short term.
 

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I'm kind of suprised by the one-sidedness of the coverage. Every single piece I've read has sounded like it was written by Virgin Galactic, appologizing for the accident as if it was something you expect when exploring new frontiers. At one point the CNN host repeated herself about 16 times talking about everyone in the company's "excitement" at realizing this "vision".

Spaceship 2 isn't visionary. It's not exploring any new frontiers. In 1963, the North American X-15, utilizing a similar design reached 108km of altitude. That was 50 years ago. Spaceship 2 isn't research, it's commercialization. And comercialization means replacing the duct tape and chicken wire of research technology with something that's reliable and cost effective.

Spaceship 2 is certainly cheap. Very very cheap. Originally, Spaceship 2 was anticipated to cost $100 million dollars to develop. Contrast that with the 777 which cost $7.7BILLION to develop.

Why? Because safety and reliability are EXPENSIVE.

In today's dollars the entire x15 program cost $2.2Billion with each flight costing $4.5Million. Virgin Galactic hasn't released their targets, but they have to to pay back $400 Million in development costs with $1.5 million in revenue per flight. To be even remotely sane, they have to be looking at at a few hundred thousand dollars or less per flight in operating costs. There is also a significant time crunch. The current backlog of paid passengers is 575. At one flight a month, that's a 9 year backlog.

Quite simply, you cannot develop highly reliable safe systems without both time and money. It is not reasonable to develop a spaceplane for essentially the cost of a gulfstream and expect it to have the same level of reliability.

Obviously, there's a pretty signifigant chance that there were pressures put on the development team to make each flight as cheap as possible and to begin flying passangers as soon as possible. And if so, there's an equally good chance that those pressures contributed to or were directly responsible for this accident.

We shouldn't lionize Branson.
Pushing the envelope is dangerous. The private sector is the engine of innovation, and it will be where advancements come from.
 

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I'm fascinated by ambitions like this, and I hate that this happened. I hope Sir Branson keeps pursuing this dream of his.
Very sad for the pilot involved, really feel for his family but to a certain extent as well these men and women understand the risks they undertake, many pilots have died in the past to improve and perfect not just space travel but air travel as well and as this incident and the recent unmanned rocket shows us, everything we build is fallible and we just have to try our best to minimize the risk.

But I believe humanities future lies among the stars and nothing will stop us from achieving that goal.
 

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I'm kind of suprised by the one-sidedness of the coverage. Every single piece I've read has sounded like it was written by Virgin Galactic, appologizing for the accident as if it was something you expect when exploring new frontiers. At one point the CNN host repeated herself about 16 times talking about everyone in the company's "excitement" at realizing this "vision".

Spaceship 2 isn't visionary. It's not exploring any new frontiers. In 1963, the North American X-15, utilizing a similar design reached 108km of altitude. That was 50 years ago. Spaceship 2 isn't research, it's commercialization. And comercialization means replacing the duct tape and chicken wire of research technology with something that's reliable and cost effective.

Spaceship 2 is certainly cheap. Very very cheap. Originally, Spaceship 2 was anticipated to cost $100 million dollars to develop. Contrast that with the 777 which cost $7.7BILLION to develop.

Why? Because safety and reliability are EXPENSIVE.

In today's dollars the entire x15 program cost $2.2Billion with each flight costing $4.5Million. Virgin Galactic hasn't released their targets, but they have to to pay back $400 Million in development costs with $1.5 million in revenue per flight. To be even remotely sane, they have to be looking at at a few hundred thousand dollars or less per flight in operating costs. There is also a significant time crunch. The current backlog of paid passengers is 575. At one flight a month, that's a 9 year backlog.

Quite simply, you cannot develop highly reliable safe systems without both time and money. It is not reasonable to develop a spaceplane for essentially the cost of a gulfstream and expect it to have the same level of reliability.

Obviously, there's a pretty signifigant chance that there were pressures put on the development team to make each flight as cheap as possible and to begin flying passangers as soon as possible. And if so, there's an equally good chance that those pressures contributed to or were directly responsible for this accident.

We shouldn't lionize Branson.
It would not be the first time an accident happened because saftey was given lower priority in favor of finiancial gains.

The dc.10 had similar teething troubles that centered on the reliability of the planes cargo doors. They had a tendency to come unlocked during flight and causing the door to fly off in a explosive decompression
 

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It would not be the first time an accident happened because saftey was given lower priority in favor of finiancial gains.

The dc.10 had similar teething troubles that centered on the reliability of the planes cargo doors. They had a tendency to come unlocked during flight and causing the door to fly off in a explosive decompression
Safety is never the first concern.
 

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I'm kind of suprised by the one-sidedness of the coverage. Every single piece I've read has sounded like it was written by Virgin Galactic, appologizing for the accident as if it was something you expect when exploring new frontiers. At one point the CNN host repeated herself about 16 times talking about everyone in the company's "excitement" at realizing this "vision".

Spaceship 2 isn't visionary. It's not exploring any new frontiers. In 1963, the North American X-15, utilizing a similar design reached 108km of altitude. That was 50 years ago. Spaceship 2 isn't research, it's commercialization. And comercialization means replacing the duct tape and chicken wire of research technology with something that's reliable and cost effective.

Spaceship 2 is certainly cheap. Very very cheap. Originally, Spaceship 2 was anticipated to cost $100 million dollars to develop. Contrast that with the 777 which cost $7.7BILLION to develop.

Why? Because safety and reliability are EXPENSIVE.

In today's dollars the entire x15 program cost $2.2Billion with each flight costing $4.5Million. Virgin Galactic hasn't released their targets, but they have to to pay back $400 Million in development costs with $1.5 million in revenue per flight. To be even remotely sane, they have to be looking at at a few hundred thousand dollars or less per flight in operating costs. There is also a significant time crunch. The current backlog of paid passengers is 575. At one flight a month, that's a 9 year backlog.

Quite simply, you cannot develop highly reliable safe systems without both time and money. It is not reasonable to develop a spaceplane for essentially the cost of a gulfstream and expect it to have the same level of reliability.

Obviously, there's a pretty signifigant chance that there were pressures put on the development team to make each flight as cheap as possible and to begin flying passangers as soon as possible. And if so, there's an equally good chance that those pressures contributed to or were directly responsible for this accident.

We shouldn't lionize Branson.
You are wrong in every way it is possible for you to be wrong. No one has ever contended that Virgin Galactic is pioneering an innovative new approach to space exploration, or for that matter that it is even engaging in space exploration. What makes it visionary is that it is a first nascent step to commercialize human space flight, even if it's just a suborbital celebrity experience. It is by these steps that the future is constructed. Indeed Branson had made clear that his ambition was to see that the next iteration was to be a bonafide orbital craft.

I'm not sure what the rest of your argument is supposed to mean. Because the 777 cost X amount and Spaceship 2 didn't... Spaceship 2 is shoddy? That's a really nonsensical argument for reasons that should be abundantly clear if you think about that for a moment. As for time pressures and hacks that is precisely what makes commercial space corporations so exciting. The pressure to conform to a business timeline, their limited resources, and their desire for a marketable product is what will bring us innovations and further the development of the high frontier. This has costs and we accept those costs as do the test pilots who sign up for the job.
 

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A tragic incident. My heart goes out to the families, and to the surviving pilot as well. I was so sad to hear about this. :(
 

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I thought the opposite of the coverage. I found the continued emphasis on the private nature of the flights to be implicit damning of commercial space organizations. Disclosure: I own several hundred shares of Orbital Sciences stock so I may be being overly sensitive.

We have done this before as far as LEO goes but the point is that flight test is dangerous business, especially with completely new types and an all composite space plane is a radically new type. People die doing it and the streets at Edwards are named after a long list of test pilots who've died in flight test. We should try to minimize the risks but to assume we can eliminate them and not get people killed is wholly unrealistic.

No doubt that there are pressures to keep costs down, I don't see that as as being a bad thing. Rather I think it's required if we're to commercialize space. And if space is ever to be anything other than a novelty, a research project it must become commercially viable. Does that mean accepting more risk? Probably. At least in the short term.
I live in Kern county Mojave is on the east side in the desert and is THE hub for aerospace in California right now. There's a reason they are called test flights. Not everything can be accurately modeled on a computer especially with new flight regimes.
 

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I'm kind of suprised by the one-sidedness of the coverage. Every single piece I've read has sounded like it was written by Virgin Galactic, appologizing for the accident as if it was something you expect when exploring new frontiers. At one point the CNN host repeated herself about 16 times talking about everyone in the company's "excitement" at realizing this "vision".

Spaceship 2 isn't visionary. It's not exploring any new frontiers. In 1963, the North American X-15, utilizing a similar design reached 108km of altitude. That was 50 years ago. Spaceship 2 isn't research, it's commercialization. And comercialization means replacing the duct tape and chicken wire of research technology with something that's reliable and cost effective.

Spaceship 2 is certainly cheap. Very very cheap. Originally, Spaceship 2 was anticipated to cost $100 million dollars to develop. Contrast that with the 777 which cost $7.7BILLION to develop.

Why? Because safety and reliability are EXPENSIVE.

In today's dollars the entire x15 program cost $2.2Billion with each flight costing $4.5Million. Virgin Galactic hasn't released their targets, but they have to to pay back $400 Million in development costs with $1.5 million in revenue per flight. To be even remotely sane, they have to be looking at at a few hundred thousand dollars or less per flight in operating costs. There is also a significant time crunch. The current backlog of paid passengers is 575. At one flight a month, that's a 9 year backlog.

Quite simply, you cannot develop highly reliable safe systems without both time and money. It is not reasonable to develop a spaceplane for essentially the cost of a gulfstream and expect it to have the same level of reliability.

Obviously, there's a pretty signifigant chance that there were pressures put on the development team to make each flight as cheap as possible and to begin flying passangers as soon as possible. And if so, there's an equally good chance that those pressures contributed to or were directly responsible for this accident.

We shouldn't lionize Branson.
I KNOW the people at Rutan. They are as good as ANY at Boeing, Lockheed, Sikorsky, some of those Rutan boys are better. They have pioneered many firsts in flight. I guarantee you it wasn't a shoddy workmanship or cheap design that caused that accident. It was an unanticipated problem. It happens to the best teams. That's why they do test flights to figure out what they did wrong and fix them. That's the whole point of a test flight. They are supposed to find problems before they go to production. I put my money were my mouth is. I use their services for designing my specialty airframes. These guys aren't fly by night. They have DOD contracts of all sorts.
 

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Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Crashes During Flight Test - NBC News

If you know anyone planning to launch into outer space, you might want to suggest they wait until next week. Not a good week to launch.
Its sad that we are fascinated by an aircraft that can only travel to near space when we landed on the moon decades ago. It's cool that a private citizen is interested enough in space that they fun a project to go there, but I just find it disheartening that this is even news. When voters and politicians decided to stop going to space and exploring, will probably be the point in time people in the future will look back on as the point when the US stopped leading the world in science. And also the point in time where the US started to decline.
 

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It would not be the first time an accident happened because saftey was given lower priority in favor of finiancial gains.

The dc.10 had similar teething troubles that centered on the reliability of the planes cargo doors. They had a tendency to come unlocked during flight and causing the door to fly off in a explosive decompression
Safety wasn't a secondary concern, it was a primary concern otherwise they wouldn't bother TESTING. The whole reason an aircraft especially manned aircraft are extensively tested is to FIND problems that may have been missed during the development and engineering phase. So those problems DONT occur in ordinary use. This is why the push the envelope of tested aircraft so they know what the limits are and can document them for future pilots, and for further refinement of the aircraft and its systems.
 

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I'm kind of suprised by the one-sidedness of the coverage. Every single piece I've read has sounded like it was written by Virgin Galactic, appologizing for the accident as if it was something you expect when exploring new frontiers. At one point the CNN host repeated herself about 16 times talking about everyone in the company's "excitement" at realizing this "vision".

Spaceship 2 isn't visionary. It's not exploring any new frontiers. In 1963, the North American X-15, utilizing a similar design reached 108km of altitude. That was 50 years ago. Spaceship 2 isn't research, it's commercialization. And comercialization means replacing the duct tape and chicken wire of research technology with something that's reliable and cost effective.

Spaceship 2 is certainly cheap. Very very cheap. Originally, Spaceship 2 was anticipated to cost $100 million dollars to develop. Contrast that with the 777 which cost $7.7BILLION to develop.

Why? Because safety and reliability are EXPENSIVE.

In today's dollars the entire x15 program cost $2.2Billion with each flight costing $4.5Million. Virgin Galactic hasn't released their targets, but they have to to pay back $400 Million in development costs with $1.5 million in revenue per flight. To be even remotely sane, they have to be looking at at a few hundred thousand dollars or less per flight in operating costs. There is also a significant time crunch. The current backlog of paid passengers is 575. At one flight a month, that's a 9 year backlog.

Quite simply, you cannot develop highly reliable safe systems without both time and money. It is not reasonable to develop a spaceplane for essentially the cost of a gulfstream and expect it to have the same level of reliability.

Obviously, there's a pretty signifigant chance that there were pressures put on the development team to make each flight as cheap as possible and to begin flying passangers as soon as possible. And if so, there's an equally good chance that those pressures contributed to or were directly responsible for this accident.

We shouldn't lionize Branson.
This is why looking to the private sector to develop a space program is asinine. The only way to develop a space program is thru government funding, because private companies are only looking at how they can profit from it, while government agencies don't have to worry about or care about a profit from it.
 

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This is why looking to the private sector to develop a space program is asinine. The only way to develop a space program is thru government funding, because private companies are only looking at how they can profit from it, while government agencies don't have to worry about or care about a profit from it.
Are you kidding me? How many people died in NASA's space programs compared to the private industry? The fact is that government programs became bloated due to politics and corruption. There will always be deaths in space exploration, that is inescapable. The private industry will learn from this and get better.
 

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This is why looking to the private sector to develop a space program is asinine. The only way to develop a space program is thru government funding, because private companies are only looking at how they can profit from it, while government agencies don't have to worry about or care about a profit from it.
Friend you don't know what you're talking about. Flight test is a dangerous business. It always has been. Hundreds of military test pilots have died testing aircraft. NASA lost how many people over the years? Putting someone in a tube and accelerating it to hundreds or thousands of miles an hour, miles above the surface is inherently dangerous. Add to that the variables of a new design and it becomes an order of magnitude more dangerous. That's the nature of the beast and it doesn't matter in the least who's writing the check.
 

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I KNOW the people at Rutan. They are as good as ANY at Boeing, Lockheed, Sikorsky, some of those Rutan boys are better. They have pioneered many firsts in flight. I guarantee you it wasn't a shoddy workmanship or cheap design that caused that accident. It was an unanticipated problem. It happens to the best teams. That's why they do test flights to figure out what they did wrong and fix them. That's the whole point of a test flight. They are supposed to find problems before they go to production. I put my money were my mouth is. I use their services for designing my specialty airframes. These guys aren't fly by night. They have DOD contracts of all sorts.
It's not a question of how good the development team is, it's a question of how many of the decisions were dictated by profit, and not by engineering or safety. Why 6 passengers? Why not 4? Why not 2? And unanticipated problem doesn't fly. You don't get a do-over on someone’s life because something unexpected happened.

Flight tests are the culmination of a vast battery of other tests. You don't stick a guy in the cockpit until you're sure that they're coming back again.

Are you aware that the decision to change the fuel type was made in May. That's 5 months to completely redesign the engines and integrate them into the system. Why? Because the new fuel was much cheaper. I find that hard to defend.
 

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It's not a question of how good the development team is, it's a question of how many of the decisions were dictated by profit, and not by engineering or safety. Why 6 passengers? Why not 4? Why not 2? And unanticipated problem doesn't fly. You don't get a do-over on someone’s life because something unexpected happened.

Flight tests are the culmination of a vast battery of other tests. You don't stick a guy in the cockpit until you're sure that they're coming back again.

Are you aware that the decision to change the fuel type was made in May. That's 5 months to completely redesign the engines and integrate them into the system. Why? Because the new fuel was much cheaper. I find that hard to defend.
Listen I am in a related business. There is a reason for tests, its to find the breaking point, problems ect. Apparently you don't understand that. I guarantee you they wouldn't use a different fuel solely because it was cheaper unless it was significantly so without significant penalty in performance, volume, or weight. In case you don't know what the original fuel was. It was rubber tire compound and nitrous oxide. This allows a solid fuel motor to be throttled. That's pretty damn cheap rocket fuel to begin with. The new fuel if was cheaper wouldn't have been all that much cheaper. I don't know what the new fuel mix was but I am willing to bet it was a type that had better properties and performance. The issue by the way wasn't with the fuel or propulsion system. It looks like the pilot switched the feathering switch too early and that lead to a unstable trim condition that lead to a structural failure. At least that's the initial reports.

By the way when you send a test pilot up you are never sure they will return. That's why its a test, the pilots are specially trained to test new aircraft. Unanticipated problems happen all the time in new products and vehicles even at Boeing and Lockheed. I can think of several aircraft that are recent they made that crashed during testing. F-35, F-22, Osprey.
 

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It's not a question of how good the development team is, it's a question of how many of the decisions were dictated by profit, and not by engineering or safety. Why 6 passengers? Why not 4? Why not 2? And unanticipated problem doesn't fly. You don't get a do-over on someone’s life because something unexpected happened.

Flight tests are the culmination of a vast battery of other tests. You don't stick a guy in the cockpit until you're sure that they're coming back again.

Are you aware that the decision to change the fuel type was made in May. That's 5 months to completely redesign the engines and integrate them into the system. Why? Because the new fuel was much cheaper. I find that hard to defend.
The deserts are littered with the ghosts of test pilots that gladly got into a craft whether it be for military or commercial use.
 

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You are wrong in every way it is possible for you to be wrong. No one has ever contended that Virgin Galactic is pioneering an innovative new approach to space exploration, or for that matter that it is even engaging in space exploration. What makes it visionary is that it is a first nascent step to commercialize human space flight, even if it's just a suborbital celebrity experience. It is by these steps that the future is constructed. Indeed Branson had made clear that his ambition was to see that the next iteration was to be a bonafide orbital craft.

I'm not sure what the rest of your argument is supposed to mean. Because the 777 cost X amount and Spaceship 2 didn't... Spaceship 2 is shoddy? That's a really nonsensical argument for reasons that should be abundantly clear if you think about that for a moment. As for time pressures and hacks that is precisely what makes commercial space corporations so exciting. The pressure to conform to a business timeline, their limited resources, and their desire for a marketable product is what will bring us innovations and further the development of the high frontier. This has costs and we accept those costs as do the test pilots who sign up for the job.
Here's a rule of thumb. Reducing mean failure rates by 10^3 increases costs by an order of magnitude. Spaceship 2 was developed at roughly 100x less than anything comparable. The x-15 had a roughly 1/20 catastrophic failure rate. Is it surprising that the Spaceship 2 averages roughly a catastrophic failure every 4 hours?

The 777 cost 7.7 billion because reliability is expensive. I think it's clear that Spaceship 2 was underfunded, over-promised, and was forced to follow a schedule dictated by business rather than engineering.

The Shuttle Program had a 1/100 failure rate. Virgin Galactic was planning on hundreds of flights, it's very clear now that even if this disaster didn't happen, one of those would have certainly failed.
 

Mithros

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Listen I am in a related business. There is a reason for tests, its to find the breaking point, problems ect. Apparently you don't understand that. I guarantee you they wouldn't use a different fuel solely because it was cheaper unless it was significantly so without significant penalty in performance, volume, or weight. In case you don't know what the original fuel was. It was rubber tire compound and nitrous oxide. This allows a solid fuel motor to be throttled. That's pretty damn cheap rocket fuel to begin with. The new fuel if was cheaper wouldn't have been all that much cheaper. I don't know what the new fuel mix was but I am willing to bet it was a type that had better properties and performance. The issue by the way wasn't with the fuel or propulsion system. It looks like the pilot switched the feathering switch too early and that lead to a unstable trim condition that lead to a structural failure. At least that's the initial reports.

By the way when you send a test pilot up you are never sure they will return. That's why its a test, the pilots are specially trained to test new aircraft. Unanticipated problems happen all the time in new products and vehicles even at Boeing and Lockheed. I can think of several aircraft that are recent they made that crashed during testing. F-35, F-22, Osprey.
What failure rate do you feel is acceptable on a passenger aircraft? They were planning on actual passengers next year! What do you think the survival rate would have been? 1 in 10?

If you have a major design change, and 5 months later it fails on the first test, then my first thought is why the hell were you flight testing after only 5 months?

How long was the Osprey in flight testing? What about the F-35? F-22? Years... And that's on programs that were much better funded and much more willing to accept risk. (A failure of a Military aircraft is typically much more acceptable.. and more frequent... than that of a commercial one.)
 
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