3723: Virgin agenda primeiro voo orbital para sábado… se tudo correr bem

CIÊNCIA/ESPAÇO/VIRGIN

O teste vai ter início no deserto do Mojave com a descolagem de um Boeing 747 que foi transformado para transportar o LauncherOne acoplado a uma das asas

A Virgin Orbit tem tudo preparado para um primeiro teste de voo orbital com o lançador LauncherOne no próximo sábado. O teste, que poderá revelar-se decisivo para a companhia dar início a colaborações com agências espaciais como a NASA, depara-se com uma histórica probabilidade de falha de 50%, pelo que a empresa do grupo de Richard Branson já fez saber da eventualidade de repetir os testes no dia seguinte.

O teste vai ter início no deserto do Mojave com a descolagem de um Boeing 747 que foi transformado para transportar o LauncherOne acoplado a uma das asas. Segundo o site SpaceNews, o LauncherOne deverá ser lançado em pleno voo 50 minutos depois desta descolagem e usar os motores do primeiro estágio do veículo durante três minutos.

Depois de se libertar do primeiro estágio, o LauncherOne deverá activar os motores do segundo estágio, a fim de funcionarem durante seis minutos. Após se libertar deste segundo estágio, o lançador da Virgin Orbit deverá planar durante 22 minutos sem ajuda de motores, até retomar novamente a propulsão por alguns segundos e libertar a carga numa órbita de baixa altitude da Terra.

“Vamos manter a missão durante o tempo que conseguirmos. Quanto mais tempo o LauncherOne voar, mais dados conseguiremos recolher”, refere a empresa em comunicado.

A Virgin Orbit mantém ainda a esperança de que o teste consiga contrariar os dados estatísticos do passado e consiga ter sucesso à primeira tentativa. E é deixada ainda a promessa de que o lixo ou desperdícios espaciais serão reduzidos ao mínimo.

No grupo empresarial da Virgin ninguém esconde a expectativa: caso o lançamento de teste seja bem sucedido, fica dado um passo importante para a companhia entrar finalmente na fase operacional. O programa Venture Class Launch Services, da NASA, é apontado como a meta para o voo de estreia no que toca a serviços comerciais prestados a terceiros que venham a usar o LauncherOne.

Actualmente, a VirginOne está a desenvolver mais um lançador LauncherOne, em Long Beach, Califórnia, que já terá em vista a prestação de serviços a outras entidades.

Exame Informática
21.05.2020 às 15h06
Hugo Séneca

 

spacenews

 

3555: Small satellite launcher Virgin Orbit conducts dress rehearsal ahead of its first test flight

SCIENCE

Doing everything but launching the rocket

On Sunday, small satellite launcher Virgin Orbit did an intricate dress rehearsal of how it plans to launch rockets into space — without actually sending any rockets anywhere. The successful demonstration potentially paves the way for the company’s first test launch sometime this year.

Instead of launching its vehicles vertically from the ground — like most other rocket companies — Virgin Orbit plans to launch them from midair. The company has developed a small rocket called LauncherOne, which is designed to take off from under the wing of the company’s giant 747 airplane nicknamed Cosmic Girl. The plane is meant to fly to an altitude of 35,000 feet, and from there, LauncherOne will fall from the wing and ignite its main engine. It’ll then climb the rest of the way to space.

Virgin Orbit @Virgin_Orbit

Beautiful pull-up maneuver today!

Virgin Orbit has been going through a rigorous test program before its first launch — a process that has entailed testing LauncherOne’s engines on the ground, doing periodic flights with Cosmic Girl, and more. The company has also been doing incremental demonstration missions with both the rocket and the plane. First, Virgin Orbit flew Cosmic Girl with a dummy rocket attached, filled with water to simulate how LauncherOne will weigh when it’s loaded with propellant. And in July, the company actually dropped LauncherOne from Cosmic Girl, to see if the rocket fell as expected.

During Sunday’s flight, Virgin Orbit ran through every part of the process of launching LauncherOne without the actual takeoff. The company filled LauncherOne up with liquid nitrogen, which is similar in temperature to the extremely cold liquid oxygen propellant the rocket will carry when it’s set to fly. Cosmic Girl then took off from Virgin Orbit’s facilities in Mojave, California, and went through a regular flight plan for a launch.

The plane flew to the exact place over the ocean where LauncherOne will drop during its first test. It even did the same pull-up maneuver it’ll do just before LauncherOne releases from the wing, which is meant to position the vehicle at the right angle for getting into orbit. For this dress rehearsal, the cold rocket remained attached, and the plane returned to Mojave afterward.

Virgin Orbit claims the demonstration went well and says it will provide more details about its plans for its first test launch soon. The timing of that test launch remains uncertain. The company has completely reorganized its business operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Up to 90 percent of Virgin Orbit’s workforce is staying at home, and the company has made some major changes to its facilities, according to a blog post:

We reconfigured our Mission Control. We re-wrote procedures for our technicians on the shop floor and at the test site in order to meet social distancing requirements. We were already accustomed to using Personal Protective Equipment during many of our operations — but now we are ramping up our standards to match the latest guidelines from the CDC and other leading medical experts. And of course, we are spending extra time regularly sterilizing every square inch of our manufacturing facility, constantly educating our staff, and much more.

Because of all these changes, the company says there are still some more rehearsals to do before that first launch so that employees can run through operations with all of the new COVID-19 procedures in place. But Virgin Orbit says that its inaugural launch “will be squarely in our sights.”

The Verge

 

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