Virgin Founder, Sir Richard Branson and SpaceShipOne designer, Burt
Rutan, have unveiled the new WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft that will ferry SpaceShipTwo and thousands of private astronauts, science packages and payload on the first stage of the
Virgin Galactic sub-orbital space experience.
Christened “Eve” in honor of Sir Richard’s mother, who performed the official naming ceremony, WK2 is both visually remarkable and
represents ground-breaking aerospace technology. It is one of the world’s largest all carbon composite aircrafts and many of its component parts have
been built using composite materials for the very first time. At 140 ft, the wing
spar is one of the longest single carbon composite aviation components
Virgin Galactic, WK2 has a unique heavy lift, high altitude capability and an open
architecture driven design which provides for maximum versatility in the weight, mass and volume of its payload potential. It has the power,
strength and maneuverability to provide for pre space-flight, positive G force and zero G astronaut training as well as a lift capability which is
over 30% greater than that represented by a fully crewed SpaceShipTwo. The vehicle has a maximum altitude over 50,000 ft and its U.S.
coast-to-coast range will allow the spaceship to be ferried on long duration flights.
aircraft is powered by four Pratt and
Whitney PW308A engines, which are amongst the most powerful, economic and efficient
The twin fuselage and central payload area configuration allow for easy access to WK2 and to the spaceship for passengers and crew; the
design also aids operational efficiencies and turnaround times. WK2 will be able to support up to four daily space flights, is able to carry out both
day and night time operations and is equipped with a package of highly advanced avionics.
has already begun ground tests and is expected to take its first flight in the fall of 2008. The flight test program will be comprehensive
even before SpaceShipTwo is carried as a payload for the first time in 2009.
Commenting on the rollout, Burt Rutan, Founder of Scaled Composites
said, “WhiteKnightTwo represents the apogee of the application of carbon composites to aerospace and all of us at Scaled are tremendously excited at the capabilities of the Mothership for SpaceShipTwo. I
believe the vehicle will be developed and sold for a variety of launch applications beyond the initial requirements of our launch customer, Virgin
Galactic. We have set up a new business jointly with Virgin, The Spaceship Company (TSC), to develop these vehicles and we very much hope
that its efficiency will herald a wake up call to the aerospace industry and the necessity of using new materials and technologies in the future.“
Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic
added, “The rollout of WhiteKnightTwo takes the Virgin Galactic vision to the next level and continues to provide tangible evidence that this
most ambitious of projects is not only for real but is making tremendous progress towards our goal of safe commercial operation.”
other recent news regarding: