2018: A Space Odyssey
by Susan Bullock, Sr. Business Development Manager
Avalex Technologies, Inc.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever dreamed of going into space. I know I’ve spent many a clear night gazing skyward wondering what it would be like to boldly go where too few humans have gone before…
Thankfully, what was once the realm of pure science fiction is on the verge of becoming commercial fact. Sr. Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic team are well on their way to making it possible for many more citizens of Earth to buy a ticket and travel into low Earth orbit. That’s the stuff dreams are made of. If you’re not familiar with the program, here’s a link to its website: Leading that development effort is the next-generation of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo spaceplane, christened the www.virgingalactic.com.
Leading that development effort is the next-generation of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo spaceplane, christened the VSS Unity, which was chosen by British Physicist Stephen Hawking.
The VSS Unity recently completed its third successful test flight and in doing so also set a pair of records for suborbital vehicles, including reaching a top speed of Mach 2.47 (1,895 mph) and reaching a peak altitude of 170,604 feet (52 kilometers).
As you can imagine, with the ability to carry two pilots and six paying passengers into space, SpaceShipTwo is an amazing feat of engineering and aerodynamics, and requires some cutting edge equipment and technologies to fulfill the promise of creating the world’s first commercial human spaceflight system.
And while much of the technology required is being purpose-built for the task, to help control costs, the engineering team at Virgin Galactic’s aerospace systems division, The Spaceship Company (TSC) is using as many commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products as they can. Much of which is found in the various avionics on-board the spaceplane.
While, thankfully, the HAL9000 computer is not part of the VSS Unity’s avionics suite, the Avalex Technologies Smart Multi-Function Display (ASD3124) is – and we’re very proud of that. Having our equipment be selected to go into space and return on a “routine” basis is a boast few electronics/avionics companies can make.
No matter how you look at it, spaceflight is hard and it’s really hard on the electronic equipment aboard the spaceplane. During a typical low Earth orbit flight, forces up to four-times the pull of gravity (4 Gs) will test the equipment to its performance and reliability limits.
But the high degree of ruggedization built into the Avalex Smart Multi-Function Display is one of the many reasons why it was selected for inclusion aboard SpaceShipTwo. The unit is well proven to be able to withstand a variety of harsh environments on earth and now in space. How cool is that?
Another differentiator was our willingness to work closely with the TSC engineering team to customize our COTS display unit with a specially designed bezel featuring both buttons and knobs, which will make it easier for pilots to use the units during both the high- and zero-gravity portions of the mission.
Lastly, by integrating the processor with the display itself, the Avalex SMFD’s unique architecture saves VSS Unity’s engineers both space and weight: Two things that are at a premium whether you’re designing a 21st century spaceplane or upgrading a current-generation military transport or fighter aircraft.
As I said before, everyone at Avalex Technologies is extremely proud to have our Smart Multi-Function Display play a role in helping the Virgin Galactic team achieve its goal of commercializing space travel and tourism to infinity and beyond.