DARPA announces XS-1 study contracts

Boeing XS-1 design

Boeing’s concept for the XS-1 spaceplane, one of three selected by DARPA for Phase 1 studies. (credit: Boeing)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced Tuesday it has awarded study contracts to three teams, representing a mix of established and entrepreneurial space companies, to study concepts for a reusable suborbital spaceplane.

DARPA said [...]

Report claims Google considering investing in Virgin Galactic

Illustration of Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne igniting its first stage engine after being dropped from WhiteKnightTwo. Google’s reported interest in Virgin Galactic likely centers on this smallsat launch system Virgin is developing. (credit: Virgin Galactic)

In the latest evidence that the search engine giant is taking an increased interest in space, British broadcaster Sky News [...]

Virgin Galactic changes fuels as it prepares for its next round of test flights

A hybrid engine using polyamide, or plastic, fuel is tested by Virgin Galactic on May 8. Virgin plans to use this in place of the rubber-based fuel originally developed to launch SpaceShipTwo into space. (credit: Virgin Galactic)

After many months of speculation, including sightings of engine tests at the Mojave Air and Space Port [...]

Virgin responds to reports about WK2, altitude

After the The Sunday Times of London reported issues with the wings of the company’s WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft, and the possibility that SpaceShipTwo (SS2) may fall short of the 100-kilometer “Kármán line,” the company has responded in a couple of ways. On the WK2 issue, the company tweeted a photo of WK2 on the [...]

Report raises new questions about Virgin Galactic

SpaceShipTwo fires its hybrid rocket engine during its third powered test flight on January 10, 2014. The next powered test flight of the vehicle is unlikely to take place before some time in June as its carrier aircraft undergoes repairs, according to a report. (credit: Virgin Galactic)

It’s been a little more than a [...]

Branson promises commercial SS2 flights this year, and a UAE spaceport soon

SpaceShipTwo fires its hybrid rocket engine during its third powered test flight on January 10, 2014. (credit: Virgin Galactic)

All has been quiet on the SpaceShipTwo test flight front in recent weeks, after the vehicle’s third powered test flight a month ago and a glide test a week later. Despite the lack of public [...]

What the media got right and wrong—and missed—about Virgin Galactic’s China problem (updated)

It’s not uncommon for the media to mangle space-related developments, either by getting the facts wrong or misinterpreting their importance, as they did recently reporting that Virgin Galactic did not yet have a license for its flights, even though it didn’t need a license now for its test flights and wasn’t even “late” in getting [...]

New Branson bio examines delays and other problems with Virgin Galactic

Sir Richard Branson and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson pose in front of WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo at Spaceport America in October 2010. A new biography of Branson takes a critical look at Virgin Galactic’s development of SpaceShipTwo (credit: J. Foust)

A new biography of Sir Richard Branson, being published in the United Kingdom this [...]

For SpaceShipTwo, focus on the engine, not the license

SpaceShipTwo during its first powered test flight on April 29, 2013. It has made only two powered flight since then, something that may be a bigger concern than whether it has a launch license yet. (credit: Virgin Galactic/MarsScientific.com)

Since the third powered SpaceShipTwo test flight early this month, the vehicle has flown again, although [...]

SpaceShipTwo’s third powered flight begins a critical year for Virgin Galactic

SpaceShipTwo fires its hybrid rocket engine during its third powered test flight on January 10, 2014. The reflective material added to the inboard surfaces of the vehicle’s tail booms since the second powered flight in September is clearly visible in the image. (credit: Virgin Galactic)

After weather scrubbed a pre-holiday powered flight attempt last [...]