I enjoyed last night’s debut episode “Will it fly?” in National Geographic Channel’s on-going documentary series [ Virgin Galactic]. (The show will be rebroadcast on Sunday Oct. 24th at 8pm.) There were no big revelations, e.g. nothing about the status of the motor development. But it did give a nice view of what was going on behind the black curtain that has hid development of the WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo vehicles.
Some observations: /– The whole project came very close to shutting down after the accident. They didn’t say exactly what made the difference but if Burt had not returned from the serious heart ailment that he suffered in the year following the accident, it seems very unlikely that the project would have continued.
/– He’s a no nonsense engineer but Burt sure is passionate and emotional about this project.
/– Lots of young or young-ish (relative to me anyway) looking people are involved in the project from machinists to managers.
/– These documentary “real-life” shows certainly exaggerate the drama of events but it was still very clear that everyone involved was really nervous before and during the maiden flight of the WK2 and the first glide flight of the SS2. Calculations, simulations, and throwing models off the Mojave control tower certainly didn’t guarantee they would work.
/– The first WK2 flight was a success, i.e. it took off and landed safely, but it clearly had rudder problems they needed fixing. I remember that Scaled and VG, though, gave Rob Coppinger (then at Flight Global) some grief over [breaking the story] on this.
/– I wish they had shown more time-lapse videos of the WK2 and SS2 construction. The brief ones shown were pretty cool.
/– Both Branson and Rutan are very committed to following SS2 with an orbital system.
I’m looking forward to future episodes as the project moves further along.