During an event at the Mojave Air Space Port, White Knight Two designer Burt Rutan,
British entrepreneur and Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson, and Apollo
astronaut Buzz Aldrin, along with thousands of spectators and media, were on
hand to publicly view the new craft.
“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," Branson said during the
event. "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. “
White Knight Two, called Eve to pay respect to Branson's mother, has an
impressive wing span of 140 feet, and is a twin-boom aircraft that will one day
transport the SpaceShipTwo up to 48,000 feet in altitude.
It can fly coast to coast across the United States nonstop while powered by
four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines. Fuel capacity allows it to launch
four daily spaceflights or to ferry the SpaceShipTwo across the United States
To help with fuel efficiency, the entire craft is made of carbon fiber
composite, except for the landing gear and engines. Branson and company
hope the new spacecraft helps launch a new era of private, environmentally
friendly space travel.
Along with the space port in New Mexico, Virgin Galactic has plans for launch
sites in Sweden, Spain and somewhere in Asia.
The suborbital flight will have a max of 2 or 3Gs rather than 5Gs, so older
flyers or disabled people will be able to go on the trip.
Space tourism has grown in popularity the past several years, with a select few
private companies trying to take space tourism to the next level. Today's
public unveiling is four years after the SpaceShipOne became the first ever
private rocket to reach space. SpaceShipOne helped win the Ansari X Prize
in 2004, with the research team receiving $10 million prize.
Even though a date for the company's first launch has not been set, at least
250 customers have paid the $200,000 fee or put a deposit down to fly on the
maiden trip, Virgin Galactic said. Each SpaceShipTwo will be able to take
up to six passengers per flight.