Today’s Tidbits: April 5, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: April 5, 2018

Here are our tidbits for April 5, 2018:  first powered flight for Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity; Lunar XPRIZE seeks new title sponsor; 87 countries agree on space sustainability guidelines.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity Makes First Powered Flight

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic took a major step forward today with the first powered flight of its VSS Unity spaceship.  It is the second spaceship to be built for the SpaceShipTwo program.  The first, VSS Enterprise, was destroyed in an accident on October 31, 2014 that killed co-pilot Michael Alsbury.   VSS Enterprise was built by Scaled Composites.  After the accident, Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing organization, The Spaceship Company, took over spaceship construction.  It built VSS Unity.

VSS Unity was taken aloft on the WhiteKnightTwo aircraft and released at an altitude of about 46,500 feet. It then fired its rocket motor for 30 seconds in an 80 degree climb, reaching a speed of Mach 1.87 and an apogee of 84,271 feet before gliding back to Earth.  Mike Masucci and Nicola Pecile piloted WhiteKnightTwo.  Mark “Forger” Stucky and Dave Mackay were at the controls of VSS Unity. Read more at: []

Lunar XPRIZE Seeks New Title Sponsor to Replace Google

XPRIZE announced today that it will continue the Lunar XPRIZE competition, but without a cash award.  Google withdrew as the sponsor in January with no winner of the Grand Prize after several years of extending the deadline.  Peter Diamandis, founder and chairman of XPRIZE and Marcus Shingles, its CEO, put a positive face on the situation, saying that “if every XPRIZE competition we launch has a winner, we are not being audacious enough.”

Today, Diamandis said “there are at least five teams with launch contracts that hope to land on the Lunar surface in the next two years” and therefore he is seeking a new “visionary” title sponsor.  Until they find one, it will be a non-cash competition.

Space Sustainability Guidelines Adopted by 87 Countries

In February, 87 countries agreed to 21 non-binding guidelines developed through the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOUS) on ensuring the long term sustainability of space.  Twelve had been adopted in 2016 and the February meeting added nine more.  Brian Weeden and Victoria Samson of the Secure World Foundation explain their importance in Breaking Defense today.

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