autoevolution
 

Virgin Galactic Crash Not to Blame on Fuel, Pilot Error Considered

The first commercial service to space could once again be delayed for an unknown period of time as Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crash on Friday night left the entire crew shocked. New evidence overrules the initial theory that engine failures were behind the crash, prompted in part by a new, more potent fuel being used.
SpaceShipTwo crash 1 photo
As the terrible crash is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), acting chairman Christopher Hart has recently announced that preliminary reviews of the telemetry and optical data show there has been an error made by one of the pilots.

According to a briefing made last night by Hart, the ship’s fuel tanks and engines showed no signs of being compromised. Instead he claimed that a crucial lever inside the cockpit was activated too early by one of the pilots, which shortly was followed by the non-requested deployment of the tail surfaces, called “feathers”.

The vehicle had a nominal release followed by a nominal ignition. Approximately 9 seconds after ignition, the ‘feather’ parameters changed from lock to unlock. In order for the feathering to be commanded by pilots, a ‘feather’ handle must be moved in addition to the unlock handle. Approximately 2 seconds later, just above Mach 1.0, feathers moved toward the extended position”, the NTSB official explained.
It’s a fact, not necessarily a cause
Hart said normal procedures are to unlock the unique tail surfaces after Mach 1.4 so aerodynamic forces do not extend them prematurely. The scientist clearly stated these are just preliminary facts that are not to be taken as the actual cause of the accident. “There is still a great deal of investigative work to do in order to understand all of the issues in the Space Ship Two investigation,” he concluded.

However, these new facts are the closest thing to stating initial believes are false and Virgin Galactic’s spaceship had no problems on its rocket propulsion. This comes after early reports raised concerns with Virgin Galactic over its use of nitruous oxide in its rockets. Some scientists actually believed the new powerful fuel is not stable enough to be controlled and is still too risky to be used.
800 people are waiting for the flight of their life
Apart from approximately 800 people already having paid or put down deposits for the ride, which costs $250,000, things are becoming quite dangerous for those directly involved in the flying of the spacecraft. Unfortunately, the co-pilot died in the accident and the other pilot was severely injured.

Even though Virgin Galactic had initially hoped to start commercial service by 2008, constant development and testing challenges have repeatedly pushed back the date. With the terrible crash on Friday things don’t really seem to get better.

We’ll remind you the NTSB is leading the investigation into Friday’s crash of SpaceShipTwo, which was undergoing its first powered test flight since the beginning of the year. SpaceShipTwo was in the middle of test flights and was not yet certified for commercial operations when the accident occurred.



 
 
 
 
 

Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories