Chair Force Engineer

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Tease of Things to Come

Sir Richard Branson has released a computer-animation of SpaceShipTwo to coincide with the vehicle's interior mockup. Overall I have to say that I'm not too surprised that it looks like a bigger version of SpaceShipOne and the original White Knight.

The biggest difference in my view took part on the SpaceShipTwo, as the wing is disproportionately longer than on SpaceShipOne (having apparently absorbed the function of the horizontal stabilizers.) I'm guessing that the elevons will act differentially to control the vehicle, with no need for the precise pitch functions performed by the separate horizontal stabilizer.

SpaceShipTwo will also have viewing ports in the lower fuselage, which is generally frowned upon in the world of structural engineering. Each cutout (such as a window) represents a stress concentration in the craft's fuselage. The stresses are worst in the lower fuselage because that region is subjected to the highest heating during re-entry (except for the nose cap and leading edges.) The problem shouldn't be as extreme as the shuttle, as SpaceShipTwo probably will fly no faster than Mach 4. Windows in the bottom floor shouldn't be an impossible challenge, but it is something the engineers will have to pay a lot of attention to.