“Minor Nuance” in SpaceShipTwo’s Propulsion System Was Neither

SpaceShipTwo's propulsion system using the nylon engine. (Credit: Scaled Composites)
SpaceShipTwo’s propulsion system using the nylon engine. (Credit: Scaled Composites/NTSB)

After SpaceShipTwo crashed last year, Scaled Composites President Kevin Mickey was asked at a press conference whether the vehicle’s new hybrid engine had failed, causing an explosion. Mickey correctly said that it had not; he and others knew it was pilot error. When pressed for details about the engine change, he claimed that the change in hybrid motors from three previous flights was a “minor nuance.”

Ahh…no. This was not accurate. Sitting in the audience that afternoon listening to him, I knew it wasn’t. I really wanted to ask him about it. But, Mojave CEO Stu Witt ended the press conference not too long afterward.  Mickey literally ran out of the Stuart O. Witt Event Center at the Mojave Air and Space Port before I or anyone else could ask him anything further. Did he have a good reason to rush off like that? Maybe. I don’t know.  I never got a chance to ask.

And, in the overall scheme of things, it wasn’t that important. The graphic above, taken from the NTSB’s final accident report, shows why “minor” and “nuance” should not have been used to describe the changes.

(more…)

Mojave Spaceport Moves Forward With Fitness Center Project

Interior of the Stuart O. Witt Event Center. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Interior of the Stuart O. Witt Event Center. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

A fitness center could open inside the Mojave Air and Space Port’s Stuart O. Witt Event Center in November if all goes well, officials said on Tuesday.

The spaceport’s Board of Directors approved spending up to $60,000 on improvements required to prepare an unfinished portion of the building to host a fitness center. The improvements will include heating, air conditioning, electrical work, lighting, flooring and ceiling insulation.

Mojave CEO and General Manager Stu Witt said a fitness company has signed a letter of intent to lease the space once it is set for occupancy.

Deputy General Manager Karina Drees said the fitness center would be open to employees at the airport as well as members of the general public. The company is taking some risk coming up to Mojave, so it wants as many members as possible.

The unnamed company is looking to sign a five-year lease to rent the space.

The event center and the fitness club are part of the airport’s tenant retention program. The event center has been used to host special events and company all-hands meetings.

2014 in Review: Mojave’s Difficult Year

Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)
Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)

“2014 will be a fun ride. We welcome you to get onboard, strap in and hold on!”

Stu Witt

CEO & General Manager
Mojave Air and Space Port
Jan. 9, 2014

Stu Witt had a lot of reasons to be optimistic as 2014 began. The Mojave spaceport was on a roll. On Jan. 10, Scaled Composites conducted the third powered flight of SpaceShipTwo in less than 9 months. XCOR was making steady progress on the Lynx and a new hydrogen engine for ULA, Stratolaunch was busy building the world’s largest aircraft, and other tenants such as Masten and Firestar had successes over the past year.

(more…)

Mojave Board Renames Pool Building After Stu Witt

Credit: Douglas Messier
The Stuart O. Witt Event Center. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Mojave residents can officially say goodbye to the Pool Building on Poole Street (No Relation).

The Mojave Air and Space Port Board of Directors voted on Tuesday to rename the structure after CEO and General Manager Stu Witt, who spearheaded the renovation of the building where military pilots once underwent emergency water egress training.

The Stuart O. Witt Event Center will host its first public gathering next month when the Antelope Valley Board of Trade holds its Business Outlook Conference on Feb. 21.

(more…)