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Virgin Galactic, Branson laud SpaceShipTwo flight “beyond my wildest dreams”

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SPACEPORT AMERICA, N.M. — Virgin Galactic and its founder, Richard Branson, hailed a successful test flight by the company’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane that carried him and five others to suborbital space, but offered few new details about the company’s future plans.

In a press conference here July 11, Branson and others said the “Unity 22” test flight met or exceeded expectations, with no serious issues during their ascent to approximately 86 kilometers and glide back to a runway landing.

“I’m never going to be able to do it justice. It’s indescribably beautiful,” Branson said, describing the view out the windows. Earlier, speaking on stage at the spaceport after the flight, he described the experience “as just magical.”

The flight itself was the fourth time the VSS Unity spaceplane had flown above the 80-kilometer altitude that the company defines as space. This flight was similar to the previous three, including the most recent one May 22, with few issues.

“The quick look of what we saw live, and the pilot feedback, was that all systems performed normally,” Mike Moses, president of space missions and safety at Virgin Galactic, said in an interview after the flight. “The spaceship flew its trajectory fantastically.”

There were a few minor issues, such as dropouts of live video from within the SpaceShipTwo cabin that Moses said might be caused by antenna blockages. The 90-minute delay in the flight, to a hotter part of the day, also meant the cabin was a little warmer than expected. “We can fix that pretty quickly,” Moses said. “It looks like we’re in pretty good shape.”

Branson, who said he went on this flight to evaluate the overall experience, said he took note of minor things in the week leading up to the flight. “I’ve written down 30 or 40 little things that would make the next experience for the next person who goes to space with us that much better,” he said. “But, having said that, 99.99% was beyond my wildest dreams.”

The flight was the first with four people in the cabin, including Branson and Virgin Galactic employees Sirisha Bandla, Colin Bennett and Beth Moses on board. “The feedback from the crew in the back was that the cabin was excellent. They really enjoyed their views. The hardware worked well,” Mike Moses said.

Bennett, at the press conference, said he was busy in the first part of the flight doing checkouts of the cabin when Beth Moses, the test director of the flight, reminded him to look out the window. “The view was just stunning,” he said. “I was mesmerized for a good 30 to 40 seconds.”

Mike Moses and other company executives did not give a schedule for upcoming flights. He said that will depend on a more thorough review of the data from this flight. Virgin Galactic still plans to perform two more test flights, including one for the Italian Air Force, before going into a maintenance period last this fall that will extend to early 2022.

“We’re in a stage of testing now where we’re moving from the more hardcore aerodynamic testing into more operational readiness testing,” he said. “Now it’s much more about repeating the trajectory, evaluating the results and then optimize.”

The company also didn’t offer much a look at its future strategy. When Virgin Galactic announced July 1 that Branson would be on the flight, Branson said that afterward “I will announce something very exciting to give more people a chance to become astronauts.” Many people interpreted that to be the resumption of ticket sales, something company executives previously said would take place after Branson flew.

Instead, Branson announced a partnership with Omaze, a fundraising platform, to raffle off two seats on “one of the first” commercial SpaceShipTwo flights in early 2022. Funds raised in the contest will go to Space for Humanity, an organization that itself works to provide flight opportunities on suborbital vehicles and high-altitude balloons.

“If enough people over the world participate, it just means the charity can keep on doing tickets for people,” Branson said. “It’s a lovely sort of self-propelling way of just trying to get lots of people who couldn’t have otherwise afforded it to go to space.”

The prize includes a guided tour of the spaceport by Branson, but at the press conference he said it’s unlikely he’ll fly again on SpaceShipTwo any time soon. “Will I do another adventure? I’m not sure it would be fair to put my family through another one,” he said, a reference to past efforts, like attempting to fly a balloon across the Atlantic. “I’ll definitely give it a rest for the time being.”


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Source: https://spacenews.com/virgin-galactic-branson-laud-spaceshiptwo-flight-beyond-my-wildest-dreams/

Aerospace

Accion Systems raises $42 million in Series C to accelerate development of 4th-gen propulsion system

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Space propulsion developer Accion Systems has closed its most significant funding round yet. The company raised $42 million in a Series C led by Tracker Capital, bringing its valuation to $83.5 million.

Along with the investment, Tracker Capital also acquired a majority stake in the company. This latest injection of capital will facilitate the development and manufacturing of the company’s fourth generation propulsion system, dubbed the tiled ionic liquid electrospray (TILE) system.

The TILE system uses electrical energy to push charge particles (ions) out its back to generate propulsion. While ion engines have been around for decades, Accion uses a liquid propellant, an ionic liquid salt, instead of gas. The liquid is inert and non-pressurized, meaning there’s no risk of explosion. It also results in a product that doesn’t need bulky components like ionization chambers, and an overall smaller and lighter weight system relative to the spacecraft – key considerations in space, where every gram of payload has a high price tag.

“It lets us build really, really small systems,” Accion co-founder Natalya Bailey explained to TechCrunch. “Instead of trying to take an existing ion engine the size of a Prius and shrink it down, we can start with very small systems because of this propellant.” And she does mean small – each thruster tile is about the size of a postage stamp.

The TILE system is also scalable and modular, meaning it could feasibly be used on anything from cubesats to propelling an interplanetary spacecraft, Accion CEO Peter Kant added in a recent interview with TechCrunch. “It’s one of the few occasions where the total addressable market and the actual addressable market that we can serve are pretty closely aligned and almost overlap,” he said.

The newest generation of the TILE system is the same size as its predecessors, but Accion is increasing the number of emitters on a given chip – emitters being the technology that actually shoots out the ions, generating the momentum – by almost tenfold. “We get more ions per area and that gives us a whole lot more thrust with the same amount of space,” Kant said.

Accion is looking to ship the first fourth-gen thruster systems in the middle to late summer of 2022.

The TILE system was developed by Accion co-founders Natalya Bailey and Louis Perna while the two were at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The tech generated a ton of interest from big aerospace companies, but they decided to found Accion in 2014 rather than sell. The company manufactures and assembles its product at its facility in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

The TILE system was onboard commercial spacecraft, one with Astra Digital and one with NanoAvionics, that went up on SpaceX’s Transporter-2 launch at the end of June. Accion started by focusing on serving smaller spacecraft first, like cubesats, but Bailey said that was just the beginning.

“We’re going after that segment initially, and then intending to reinvest our learnings in building larger and larger systems that eventually can do big geostationary satellites and interplanetary missions and so on. The systems that went up on the most recent launcher [is] probably good for a satellite up to about 50 kilograms [. . .] For us, it’s on the smaller end of where we intend to go.”

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/21/accion-systems-raises-42-million-in-series-c-to-accelerate-development-of-4th-gen-propulsion-system/

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Aerospace

Accion Systems raises $42 million in Series C to accelerate development of 4th-gen propulsion system

Published

on

Space propulsion developer Accion Systems has closed its most significant funding round yet. The company raised $42 million in a Series C led by Tracker Capital, bringing its valuation to $83.5 million.

Along with the investment, Tracker Capital also acquired a majority stake in the company. This latest injection of capital will facilitate the development and manufacturing of the company’s fourth generation propulsion system, dubbed the tiled ionic liquid electrospray (TILE) system.

The TILE system uses electrical energy to push charge particles (ions) out its back to generate propulsion. While ion engines have been around for decades, Accion uses a liquid propellant, an ionic liquid salt, instead of gas. The liquid is inert and non-pressurized, meaning there’s no risk of explosion. It also results in a product that doesn’t need bulky components like ionization chambers, and an overall smaller and lighter weight system relative to the spacecraft – key considerations in space, where every gram of payload has a high price tag.

“It lets us build really, really small systems,” Accion co-founder Natalya Bailey explained to TechCrunch. “Instead of trying to take an existing ion engine the size of a Prius and shrink it down, we can start with very small systems because of this propellant.” And she does mean small – each thruster tile is about the size of a postage stamp.

The TILE system is also scalable and modular, meaning it could feasibly be used on anything from cubesats to propelling an interplanetary spacecraft, Accion CEO Peter Kant added in a recent interview with TechCrunch. “It’s one of the few occasions where the total addressable market and the actual addressable market that we can serve are pretty closely aligned and almost overlap,” he said.

The newest generation of the TILE system is the same size as its predecessors, but Accion is increasing the number of emitters on a given chip – emitters being the technology that actually shoots out the ions, generating the momentum – by almost tenfold. “We get more ions per area and that gives us a whole lot more thrust with the same amount of space,” Kant said.

Accion is looking to ship the first fourth-gen thruster systems in the middle to late summer of 2022.

The TILE system was developed by Accion co-founders Natalya Bailey and Louis Perna while the two were at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The tech generated a ton of interest from big aerospace companies, but they decided to found Accion in 2014 rather than sell. The company manufactures and assembles its product at its facility in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

The TILE system was onboard commercial spacecraft, one with Astra Digital and one with NanoAvionics, that went up on SpaceX’s Transporter-2 launch at the end of June. Accion started by focusing on serving smaller spacecraft first, like cubesats, but Bailey said that was just the beginning.

“We’re going after that segment initially, and then intending to reinvest our learnings in building larger and larger systems that eventually can do big geostationary satellites and interplanetary missions and so on. The systems that went up on the most recent launcher [is] probably good for a satellite up to about 50 kilograms [. . .] For us, it’s on the smaller end of where we intend to go.”

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/21/accion-systems-raises-42-million-in-series-c-to-accelerate-development-of-4th-gen-propulsion-system/

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Aerospace

Live coverage: Russia set to launch new space station science module

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Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a Russian Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with the Nauka science module for the International Space Station. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

NASA TV

Roscosmos webcast

NASA TV’s live coverage of the launch begins at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) and is in English. Roscosmos’s live video stream begins at approximately 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT) and is in Russian.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2021/07/21/proton-nauka-launch-mission-status-center/

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Aerospace

Live coverage: Russia set to launch new space station science module

Published

on

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a Russian Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with the Nauka science module for the International Space Station. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

NASA TV

Roscosmos webcast

NASA TV’s live coverage of the launch begins at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) and is in English. Roscosmos’s live video stream begins at approximately 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT) and is in Russian.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2021/07/21/proton-nauka-launch-mission-status-center/

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