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SpaceShipTwo mothership to be unveiled July 28 news
23 June 2008

Mumbai: Virgin Galactic, the suborbital tourism company will reveal the first WhiteKnight Two mothership on 28 July.

It has planned for a fleet of SpaceShipTwo space liners, which are designed by aerospace veteran Burt Rutan's firm Scaled Composites.

SpaceShipTwo is a reusable, air-launched suborbital spacecraft that owes its origins to Rutan's $10 million prize winning Ansari X SpaceShipOne design. Virgin Galactic has placed orders for  five SpaceShipTwo space liners, and two of their huge WhiteKnightTwo motherships.

The first WhiteKnightTwo has been christened "Eve", as a tribute to Branson's mother, and is scheduled to be unveiled at a Scaled hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California, from where it will roll out and commence its test program, according to Virgin Galactic commercial director Stephen Attenborough. In a record breaking feat of sorts, the craft will be the world's largest all carbon composite aircraft.

Attenborough was speaking at the 2008 Space Business Forum that was hosted by the non-profit Space Foundation.

Rutan's WhiteKnightTwo has a unique dual-boom design, and sports a wingspan of around 42 metres, or 140 feet. Each outboard cabin is mounted around 7.6 metres, or 25 feet from its centrally moored SpaceShipTwo payload.

The carrier craft has the capability to haul unmanned rockets in place of a crew-carrying vehicle, which raises the possibility of its use as a carrier for launching low Earth orbiting satellites or cargo. The craft has 18-inch windows, and a roomy 7.5-foot (2.2-meter) wide cabin. Another alternative use for the SpaceShipTwo is suborbital science experiments.

Till now, around 254 people have shelled out around $36 million in down payments to book their SpaceShipTwo seats for when the spacecraft commences operational flights. According to Virgin Galactic officials, the suborbital vehicle itself would be unveiled sometime early next year.

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SpaceShipTwo mothership to be unveiled July 28