SS2 Carrier Aircraft Lifts Off On One-Hour Shakeout
It's official: "Eve" has wings. Scaled Composites'
WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft ascended into the skies over the
Mojave Air and Space Port (MHV) Sunday morning, for an hour-long
test flight that marked the most public milestone to date for the
company's plans to implement commercial space travel.
Industry sources report WK2 lifted off at approximately 0815 PST
Sunday morning, and touched down 60 minutes later to the
appreciation of Scaled employees, Mojave residents and curious
onlookers who trekked out to the desolate airfield in the wee hours
of a Sunday morning to witness the event.
Scaled will conduct a series of unladen test flights with WK2
until the first SpaceShipTwo spacecraft is ready for unpowered
flight trials, expected sometime in early 2009. Scaled and client
Virgin Galactic hope to begin commercial spaceflights before the
end of 2010.
Unveiled in January and originally expected to
fly this summer, WhiteKnightTwo is the world's largest, all-carbon
composite flying aircraft. Sporting unique high altitude lift
capacity, WhiteKnightTwo -- dubbed "Eve" by Virgin Galactic founder
Sir Richard Branson, in honor of his mother -- will be the
mothership for the SpaceShipTwo, carrying the rocket-propelled
suborbital spacecraft and its eight passengers aloft to launch
Powered by four Pratt & Whitney PW308A turbofans, the WK2
mothership has also been designed to be capable of lifting other
payloads and launching them into space. Both Scaled Composites and
Virgin Galactic believe the system has sufficient lifting
capability to launch unmanned vehicles designed to carry small
satellites and other scientific payload into low earth orbit.
Peter Diamandis, whose X-Prize revolution sparked the fever that
created SpaceShipOne and led to the develop of this airframe as the
launch platform for SpaceShipTwo, was very pleased with the
"Congrats on the first step to future revenue flights for a
whole new industry," Diamandis told Aero-News. "It was December
17th, 2003, when history was made with the first powered flight of
SpaceShipOne and less than a year later, they won the Ansari
X-Prize. I look forward to seeing SpaceShipTwo take to the
stratosphere in 2009."