Virgin Galactic reports the WhiteKnightTwo
(WK2) space launch vehicle made its longest and fastest test flight to
date on Wednesday, March 25, at the Mojave Air and Spaceport, California.
The twin-fuselage mothership, designed to serve as the launching point for
commercial space craft SpaceShipTwo, flew for more than two-and-a-half
hours at a maximum speed of 140 knots and an altitude exceeding 18,000 ft
The four-engine jet, nicknamed
"Eve" after company founder Richard Branson's mother, is
scheduled to fly to aviation innovation's main stage, EAA AirVenture
Oshkosh, and make its first public flight demonstrations. AirVenture is
scheduled for July 27-August 2.
Peter Siebold, test pilot, described it as
a great piloting experience. "This is a truly remarkable aviation
vehicle and, although it might look unique from the ground, it is not
strange to fly in any way and is in fact a great piloting
experience," he said.
WK2 Among the tests completed were in-flight engine restarts; engine
thrust asymmetry assessment; continued expansion of WK2's operating
envelope; and evaluation of handling qualities.
"WhiteKnightTwo really is an
impressive vehicle and it represents the apogee of the application of
carbon composites to aerospace," said Burt Rutan, founder of Scaled
Composites, which is building the aircraft. "All of us at Scaled are
tremendously excited by its capabilities. I believe the vehicle will be
developed and sold for a variety of launch applications beyond the initial
requirements of Virgin Galactic."
"As usual, Burt and the team have
created a beauty that also flies really well. These first flights of WK2
take the Virgin Galactic vision up another level and continue 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
"I am looking forward to flying myself
in Eve in the next few weeks before we attach SpaceShipTwo later in the
year and begin test flights to space shortly afterwards!"
DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3;
2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30