Rocket reports from Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin

Image: VSS Unity
Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo rocket plane is brought out from its hangar in Mojave, Calif. A portion of the plane’s WhiteKnightTwo mothership can be seen at right. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

In the past few weeks, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space venture and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture have both had a lot to talk about. Today, both companies delved more deeply into the nitty-gritty of getting rockets ready for flight.

Three weeks after Virgin Galactic unveiled its second SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, known as VSS Unity, the company said it was putting the craft through integrated vehicle ground testing at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. These tests involves operating the plane’s systems under ground conditions that mimic space conditions as much as possible.

“For example, instead of just testing our feather lock actuators at room temperature, we use liquid nitrogen to chill them down to the temperatures they will experience when performing at high altitude,” Virgin Galactic said in today’s update.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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