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SNC's Hybrid Rocket Engines Power SpaceShipTwo on its First Powered Flight Test

Aviation Week Article, May 6, 2013
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Sparks, NV – April 29, 2013 – Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Space Systems is proud to announce that its Hybrid Rocket Motor propelled Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (SS2) sub-orbital vehicle on its first ever powered flight. SNC’s hybrid propulsion system is the largest hybrid ever used for space vehicle propulsion.

SNC manufactures two major subsystems on the SpaceShipTwo vehicle including the main oxidizer valve and the hybrid rocket motor, plus nitrous oxide dump system and nitrous oxide pressurization system control valves.

Upon reaching 47,000 feet altitude and approximately 45 minutes into the flight, SS2 was released from the WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane. After cross-checking data and verifying stable control, the pilots triggered ignition of the rocket motor, causing the main oxidizer valve to open and igniters to fire within the fuel case. At this point, SS2 was propelled forward and upward to a maximum altitude of 55,000 feet. The entire engine burn lasted 16 seconds, as planned. During this time, SS2 went supersonic, achieving Mach 1.2.

“The rocket motor ignition went as planned, with the expected burn duration, good engine performance and solid vehicle handling qualities throughout,” said Virgin Galactic president and CEO George Whitesides. “The successful outcome of this test marks a pivotal point for our program. We will now embark on a handful of similar powered flight tests, and then make our first test flight to space.” 

SNC’s hybrid rocket systems offer a safe, high performing, and non-toxic alternative to solid and hydrazine liquid propulsion systems.  As the rocket motor fuel is industrial rubber, there are no special handling or transportation requirements, thereby greatly reducing the lifecycle cost to our customers.

“I am enormously proud of our team and motor, thrilled to be part of space history, thankful to be in a country where such entrepreneurship is possible and humbled to be part of the dawn of the next era of flight,” said Mark Sirangelo, head of SNC’s Space Systems.

“This first powered flight test marks a historic day on the path to commercial passenger space flight.  SNC’s Space Systems is proud to be a part of that success and proves that SNC’s safe, non-toxic hybrid propulsion systems can be scaled to meet the needs of many applications,” said Michael Borck, SNC’s director of programs.

The hybrid rocket motor and the oxidizer valve system are produced in SNC’s high rate manufacturing facility located in Poway, Calif., in conjunction with Scaled Composites of Mojave, Cali.  This location is currently producing motors for  both  SpaceShipTwo and SNC’s own Dream Chaser orbital crew vehicle.

For more information about Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo program visit www.virgingalactic.com/

About Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems business area headquartered in Louisville, Colo., designs and manufactures advanced spacecraft, space vehicles, rocket motors and spacecraft subsystems and components for the US Government, commercial customers as well as for the international market.  SNC’s Space Systems has more than 25 years of space heritage in space and has participated in over 400 successful space missions through the delivery of over 4,000 systems, subsystems and components.  During its history, SNC’s Space Systems has concluded over 70 programs for NASA and over 50 other clients. For more information about SS visit www.sncspace.com.

Media Contact: media.ssg@sncorp.com or Krystal Scordo at 720-407-3192

About Sierra Nevada Corporation
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), headquartered in Sparks, Nev., is one of America’s fastest growing private companies based on its significant expansion and reputation for rapid, innovative, and agile technology solutions in electronics, aerospace, avionics, space, propulsion, micro-satellite, aircraft, communications systems and solar energy. Under the leadership of CEO Fatih Ozmen and President Eren Ozmen, SNC employs over 2,500 people in 30 locations in 16 states. SNC’s six unique business areas are dedicated to providing leading-edge solutions to SNC’s dynamic customer base.

SNC is also the Top Woman-Owned Federal Contractor in the United States. Over the last 30 years under the Ozmen’s leadership, SNC has remained focused on providing its customers the very best in diversified technologies to meet their needs and has a strong and proven track record of success. The company continues to focus its growth on the commercial sector through internal advancements and outside acquisitions, including the emerging markets of renewable energy, telemedicine, nanotechnology, cyber and net-centric operations. For more information on SNC visit www.sncorp.com.

 Media Contact: communicationsfromsnc@sncorp.com or Julie Ardito at 775-849-6968.

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