EAA AirVenture WhiteKnightTwo Spacecraft Virgin Galactic Spaceline Satelite

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On July 28th, 2009, Richard Branson signed a $280 million deal giving Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments about a third of the Virgin Galactic spaceline. Branson also took his first flight on board the company's SpaceShipTwo mothership designed for flying to the altitute of 50,000 feet and then launching its spacecraft or satelites into orbit. SpaceShipTwo then flys back to Earth and lands just like any other glider airplane because, at that time, it is now unpowered. This type of space launch uses much less fuel than the traditional method of launching from a rocket.

Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson broke ground, this past June, on the world's first spaceport in the New Mexico desert. It will have a 10,000-foot runway and is porjected to be complete by late summer 2010. It will also have a 110,000 square foot terminal hangar that is to be complete by early 2011.


 

"WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) is a jet-powered carrier aircraft which will be used to launch the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft. It is being developed by Scaled Composites as the first stage of Tier 1b, a two-stage to suborbital-space manned launch system. WK2 is based on the successful mothership to SpaceShipOne, White Knight, which itself is based on Proteus.

Virgin Galactic has ordered two WK2s. Together WK2 and SS2 form the basis for Virgin Galactic's fleet of suborbital spaceplanes.

The first WK2 is named VMS Eve after Richard Branson's mother; it was officially unveiled on July 28, 2008, and flew for the first time on December 21, 2008. The second is expected to be named VMS Spirit of Steve Fossett after Branson's close friend Steve Fossett

WhiteKnightTwo is roughly three times larger than White Knight, in order to perform a captive carry with the larger SpaceShipTwo spacecraft. The WK2 is similar in wingspan to a B-29 Superfortress. Despite that comparison, White Knight Two is a thoroughly modern aircraft - even the flight control cables are constructed of carbon fibre, using a new patented design.

WK2 will provide preview flights offering several seconds of weightlessness, before the actual suborbital event. It is intended to have a service ceiling of about 60,000 ft (18 km), offering a dark blue sky to passengers. This will allow tourists to practice before the real flight.

WhiteKnightTwo consists of a twin boom with two jet engines per hull. One hull is an exact replica of that of SpaceShipTwo (to allow tourist training), and the other will carry cut-rate day-trippers into the stratosphere.

The design is quite different from the White Knight, both in size, use of tail, engine configuration and placement of cockpit(s). The White Knight uses two T-tails, but the WhiteKnightTwo uses two cruciform tails. Engine configuration is also very different, with engines hung underneath the wings on the WhiteKnightTwo as opposed to engines on either side of the sole cockpit on the White Knight.

Virgin Galactic contracted aerospace designer Burt Rutan to build the mothership and spacecraft.

* On January 23, 2008 the WhiteKnightTwo design was revealed
* On July 28, 2008 occurred the completion and rollout of the first aircraft, Eve, (Tail Number: N348MS) at Scaled's Mojave headquarters. Branson predicted that the maiden space voyage would take place in 18 months: "It represents... the chance for our ever-growing group of future astronauts and other scientists to see our world in a completely new light."

The launch customer of WhiteKnightTwo is Virgin Galactic, which will have the first two units, and exclusive rights to the craft for the first few years.

Flight test program

The initial flight tests were planned to begin in early September 2008, but they were delayed. The flight tests are expected to be complete by September, 2009.

* December 12, 2008 -- WhiteKnightTwo did a low speed taxi trial at Mojave .
* December 16, 2008 -- WhiteKnightTwo did a high speed taxi trial at Mojave .
* December 21, 2008 -- WhiteKnightTwo flew for the first time. The two pilots were Peter Siebold and co-pilot Clint Nichols.
* February 5, 2009 -- Second test flight after some modifications to the airframe.
* March 25, 2009 -- Third test flight into the troposphere was the fastest and longest yet: >140 knots and >18000 feet. Seven additional tests were "successfully completed including in flight engine restarts, engine thrust asymmetry assessment and continued expansion of WK2’s operating envelope and evaluation of WK2’s handling qualities."}
* April 20, 2009 -- Fourth test flight lasted over 4 hours and ended with slight damage to the rudder, due to a tail-strike.
* May 20, 2009 -- Fifth test flight lasted about 3 hours and was the highest yet (20000 feet). An emergency response drill was conducted after landing.
* June 2, 2009 -- Sixth test flight lasted 3.1 hours and expanded flight altitude to over 10688 meters (35000 feet).
* June 8, 2009 -- Seventh test flight lasted 6 hours and increased maximum altitude 14716 meters (45000 feet). Wind-up turns were performed to 2.5g's. Engines were shut down and restarted per plan.
* June 11, 2009 -- Eighth test flight monitored by FAA resulted in issuance of pilot letter of authorization.
* June 15, 2009 -- Ninth test flight lasted 7.5 hours and increased maximum altitude to 15972 meters (52400 feet). Speed envelope increased to 370 KTAS. Engines were shut down and restarted per plan.
* June 19, 2009 -- Tenth test flight—to Phoenix, including landing at Phoenix.
* June 20, 2009 -- Eleventh test flight—Flyover of Las Cruces airport, New Mexico, having taken off earlier that morning from Phoenix. Flyovers included a total of six passes over the airport, three of these were low-altitude runway passes on two different runways with one a near-touch-and-go.
* July 9, 2009 -- Twelfth test flight. Testing cabin environmental control system (heating/cooling) and third-seat flight engineer capabilities. Flight maximum altitude 51000 feet.

Aircraft specifications

Data from

General characteristics

* Payload: 17,000 kg (to 50000ft)
* Length: 24 m (79 ft)
* Wingspan: 43 m (141 ft)
* Height: ()
* Powerplant: 4× Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308 turbofan

Performance

* Service ceiling: 21.3 km (70000 ft)"

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

 

EAA AirVenture WhiteKnightTwo Spacecraft Virgin Galactic Spaceline Satelite

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