Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic was back in the air this week. The new SpaceShipTwo launched from the SpacePort in Mojave, California achieved an altitude of weightless, and landed from a maiden flight to cheers from the teams at Virgin and The Spaceship Company.
The mission was the first human spaceflight launched from an American soil since the final Space Shuttle mission in 2011, and it also marked the first time a crewed mission reached space in a vehicle built for commercial, passenger service.
Perth mechanical engineer Enrico Palermo, then Chief Operating Officer of The Spaceship Company, gave the 2014 Warren Centre Innovation Lecture describing his work building carbon fibre spacecraft in Mojave and his career journey from Australia to Europe and on to America.
An accident in October 2014 occurred when a pilot deployed the “feather” drag system too early, leading to a crash. SpaceShipTwo included a controls upgrade to prevent that error. The 2014 Innovation Lecture included bold predictions on the rise of private commercial travel. Since that event, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has launched numerous missions, and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin has also recorded numerous successful private launches.
SpaceShipTwo is the latest in a long trend towards greater space travel and the growing economic relevance of satellites, space-based data collection and even space tourism as a new market. Congratulations to the Virgin Galactic team! See Enrico Palermo’s 2014 presentation here.
This story is featured in the 14 December 2018 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.