Normally having a spaceship split in half during reentry would be a bad thing, but the giant floating brains at Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites were hoping to do just that. Earlier this month in the Mojave desert, Richard Branson’s space tourism company successfully tested the “feathered reentry” of their new spaceplane SpaceShip Two.
Unlike the space shuttle and virtually every other spacecraft designed to return to Earth, SpaceShip Two has no heat shield to protect it from the fiery friction between the space craft and the Earth’s atmosphere. Instead, the unique ship’s tail section splits and folds, quickly and safely decelerating the ship. By reentering slowly, there is no chance for friction to build up on the craft.
Today’s demonstration is a major milestone for the company, as it verifies that the essential design of the craft is sound. If you ever wanted to blast off into space, but don’t have the time for all that pesky astronaut training, your dream just got one step closer to reality.
(via Universe Today)
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