Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo Sees First Light

Branson and Rutan inspace Eve at the Mojave Air and Space Port (Virgin Galactic)
Branson and Rutan inspect Eve at the Mojave Air and Space Port (Virgin Galactic)

The new addition to the Virgin Galactic family has been rolled out during an early morning ceremony in the middle of the Californian Mojave Desert. Sir Richard Branson and Burt Rutan proudly showed off “Eve,” the first of two WhiteKnightTwo mother ships that will fly up to four times a day. This is a big moment for Branson and Rutan as it brings their dreams of space tourism to a new reality…

Eve, named after Branson’s mother, is constructed from the world’s longest carbon composite aviation component ever manufactured, i.e. a wing. It has a wing span of 42.7 metres and has two fuselages with four jet engines attached. When carrying SpaceShipTwo up to an altitude of 50,000 ft (9.5 miles), the spaceship will be stowed under the centre portion of Eve’s wing. What makes this launch system very appealing is its elegance and efficiency:

Driven by a demanding performance specification set by Virgin Galactic, WhiteKnightTwo has a unique heavy lift, high altitude capability and an open architecture driven design which provides for maximum versatility in the weight, mass and volume of its payload potential. It has the power, strength and maneuverability to provide for pre space-flight, positive G force and zero G astronaut training as well as a lift capability which is over 30% greater than that represented by a fully crewed SpaceShipTwo. – Virgin Galactic press release.

Update: A video is already available via YouTube of Sir Richard checking out his new toy. Looks like an awesome craft, can’t wait to view the interior:

To be honest, the web is stuffed full with technical specifications of the Virgin Galactic designs, so I’ll leave the talking to them. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll showcase the images taken at today’s historic rollout at the Mojave Air and Space Port instead:

Detail of WhiteKnightTwo cockpit - Galactic Girl artwork (Virgin Galactic)
Detail of WhiteKnightTwo cockpit - Galactic Girl artwork (Virgin Galactic)
Eve catches the morning light (Virgin Galactic)
Eve catches the morning light (Virgin Galactic)
Eve sitting in the hangar (Virgin Galactic)
Eve sitting in the hangar (Virgin Galactic)

For more information on the Eve rollout, check the Virgin Galactic pages and my recent Universe Today article

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