“We want to put lots of people into space, cheaply,” Aero Club members were told at their final meeting of 2011 by the chief engineer of one of the world’s most innovative aerospace companies.
Ben Daichun, vice president of engineering of Mojave-based Scaled Composites, described the objective of his company’s SpaceShip Two program at the Club’s dinner meeting in mid-November at the Flight Path Learning Center at LAX. The firm, now a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman, was founded in 1982 by famed designer Burt Rutan, who retired in April 2011.
Daichun said the company, which has a current work force of 350 people including 90 engineers, is preparing its SpaceShip Two vehicle for suborbital test flights. It’s designed to carry half a dozen paying passengers at a time to the edge of space, rocketing to an altitude of around 60 miles after launch from a jet-powered mother ship and then gliding back to earth for a landing on a runway.
He said plans call for Scaled Composites to build and fly the first vehicle and for a fleet of sister ships to be built later by Virgin Galactic, headed by British entrepreneur Richard Branson. In December, Scaled Composites announced a partnership with U.S. billionaire Paul Allen to build the world’s largest aircraft for the purpose of launching large, rocket-powered vehicles into orbit for commercial or government customers.
Also at the November dinner meeting, ACSC scholarship committee chairman John Durant introduced the four winners of the Club’s annual scholarships. College students Ryan Conversano and Guillermo Costa each received $5,000 grants named for former ACSC presidents Jack Real and Bill Schoneberger. High school students Eason Arunachalam and Nicholas Meyer were selected for $2,500 Marsha Toy scholarships.
During the same meeting NAA president Jonathan Gaffney presented award certificates to 10 California aviators who set various speed and altitude records during 2011.
Five people were elected to the Aero Club’s board of directors for three-year terms beginning in January 2012. They are incumbent directors Ramona Cox, John Stammreich and Alan Wayne, and new board members Bob Ettinger and Steve Perry. Officers re-elected to serve during 2012 are Nissen Davis, president; Jim Ragsdale, vice president; Art McAllister, treasurer, and Alan Wayne, secretary.