Main Engine Cut Off

Virgin Galactic’s Dishonest Spin

It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of Virgin Galactic’s architecture, strategy, or technology. Add PR spin to that list.

Every company has spin, but it’s the dishonest kind that really bugs me.

Let’s take a look at the press release from their recent test flight with ballast:

By jettisoning the water ballast on descent, we were also able to confirm handling characteristics as the vehicle’s centre of gravity moved forward. Unity completed the flight with a safe and smooth landing in its lighter-weight configuration.

Right along with that description is this photo:

SpaceShipTwo Ballast Test Flight

I’m pretty sure that isn’t what “jettisoning the water ballast on descent” looks like. It’s pretty clear that this photo was rotated quite a bit to create the sense that SpaceShipTwo was accelerating vertically.

So let’s try being generous and see what a 50° rotation looks like.

SpaceShipTwo Ballast Test Flight (50° offset)

At that angle, it looks to be flying just about level, with the photographer shooting from a good distance behind and to the left of the flight path. Seems plausible, but still not on descent. How about a 90° rotation?

SpaceShipTwo Ballast Test Flight (90° offset)

This seems like the true photo. The healthy dive lines up with what we know a SpaceShipTwo glide flight looks like, and this view of the test shows ballast being released on descent.

Spin is spin, but at least be honest.