Around the Airport

Friday, October 21, 2011

Rumor Has It

It’s no secret that I’m a big proponent of private companies taking the lead in the space race. All one has to do is study history to see that when private companies take charge, the race accelerates. Yes, those who are incapable of studying history, always point to the disasters and accidents that befell private entities competing in any challenge. But what those people fail to understand is that setbacks are the signposts of growth.
Do something big and you can expect something big to go wrong. Aviation has a long and dubious record of such things. Historically though, one thing, above all else, has continually plagued aviation; powerplants. Early on it was the mere existence, or lack thereof, of powerplants that bound man to short glides. When that problem was solved, the issue of reliability reigned supreme. Finally, with dependability nurtured to acceptable levels, only one issue was left, engines with enough fortitude to power the machines our minds could dream up. Unfortunately, this final frontier refuses to go away.
Airframes that never went airborne due to the lack of appropriate powerplants would make a multi-volume novel. For whatever reason, human capabilities have no limits when it comes to creating the next jump in airframe technology. Yet, those same capabilities turn into limits when it comes to squeezing more power from the laws of physics. Or maybe the mind is simply more capable of dreaming up the dream than the how to. Whatever the case, one thing holds true with any flying machine; no matter how amazing the airframe, it is the powerplant that makes it all work.
Could Spaceship Two be next?
With great hopes for their success, I have watched Virgin Galactic’s operation. Organizations like this are the future of space transportation. They also serve as the only hope I’ll ever have of ever making it into space. So, as you can imagine, when I recently got wind from two different sources that Spaceship Two is falling prey to the final frontier of powerplants, I felt bad for all those involved.
What exactly did I hear? The rumor is, and I stress rumor, that the powerplant is not producing the thrust required and that a new powerplant may have to be designed and the spaceship redesigned to hold it. If true, that would be a huge setback. Wanting to know the truth, I contacted Virgin Galactic. What I got in return was a promise to discuss my question that never happened.
If like me you’ve been watching Virgin Galactic, you may have noticed the press releases about all aspects of the operation minus one, Spaceship Two. Although I cannot imagine how they would keep it quiet were such a problem to exist, several things appear to support something is up with the craft. I hope the rumors are wrong. I really want that flight into space.

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