Wednesday, December 23, 2009

White Knight Two

White Knight Two is the follow-on to White Knight One. It is bigger, more powerful and can carry the larger SpaceShipTwo rocketship that will carry paying tourists on a suborbital flight. The first customer/operator is Sir Richard Branson and his specially formed Virgin Galactic company. The first SS2 is named Eve, after Branson's mother. The first SS2 was christened VSS (Virgin Space Ship) Enterprise (cue the Star Trek music). Branson expects to have a fleet of six SS2s in operation from the New Mexico Spaceport in a few short years. Burt Rutan, whose company Scaled Composites (now part of Northrop Grumman) built both vehicles, foresees a market for 40 to 50 SS2s. Commercial space tourism is on the cusp of reality.

It was a special thrill to see WK2 make a fly-by at this year's Edwards AFB open house. Not only did it do an nice 360 degree photo pass, but it landed and went on static display next to WK1.

Since I was at the South Base media site, I got these images of WK2 as it passed overhead. The first shot shows the art on the unside of the wing and fuselages. The second photo is a top-rear quarter view that highlights the arched center wing section where SS2 will be carried. Again, another in a long line of weirdly neat designs from the house of Rutan.

Incidentally, the silhouettes on the bottom of both fuselages are those of historically significant flying machines. They are, in order from the aft-most image: Icarus; the Wright Flyer; the Spirit of St. Louis; The Bell X-1; Boeing 707; Grumman Lunar Lander and finally Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne.

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