Stories tagged SpaceShipTwo

Jun
10
2008

Soaring to space: The dual-hulled WhiteKnightTwo will soar through the atmosphere to an altitude of 50,000 feet where it will then launch SpaceShipTwo, cradled in the middle, off to space. WhiteKnightTwo should be ready for initial testing next month.
Soaring to space: The dual-hulled WhiteKnightTwo will soar through the atmosphere to an altitude of 50,000 feet where it will then launch SpaceShipTwo, cradled in the middle, off to space. WhiteKnightTwo should be ready for initial testing next month.Courtesy Virgin Galactic
While we’ve been getting cranked up here at SMM about this week’s opening of the Star Wars exhibit, where people will be able to get the virtual feel of what it’s like to be in one of the popular sci-fi movies, the folks at Virgin Galactic are frying up some bigger space fish.

Next month in the anticipated date for the roll-out of WhiteKnightTwo, a mother-ship aircraft that will be fly high into the sky to launch smaller crafts into space. The first big application of this technology, space tourism flights, are targeted to start in 2009. You can plunk down a down payment of $20,000 for a $200,000 ticket on a flight by clicking here to get to the Virgin Galactic website.

A shuttle for tourists: This diagram shows how SpaceShipTwo will work once it gets into space and also how it prepares for re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.
A shuttle for tourists: This diagram shows how SpaceShipTwo will work once it gets into space and also how it prepares for re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.Courtesy Virgin Galactic
Here’s how it works. After taking off from a conventional airstrip, WhiteKnightTwo will climb to about 50,000 feet carrying the craft SpaceShipTwo in the space between its twin bodies.

SpaceShipTwo then fires its rockets and releases from WhiteKnightTwo roaring into a suborbital path 68 miles above the earth. In space, it can reach a speed of more than three times the speed of sound.

After giving its six passengers a unique view of space scenery and the experience of weightlessness, SpaceShipTwo turns back to Earth. Moving into the atmosphere, it extends its wings and aerodynamically flies back to the airstrip as a conventional plane landing.

Reservations have already been made by 254 people to take part in the flights. Virgin Galactic is shooting at booking 500 to 600 passengers before beginning flights. And the company’s business model shows that with that kind of participation, the endeavor will be profitable.

In the meantime, Virgin Galactic will be doing testing on the WhiteKnightTwo, with 130 to 150 test flights on the docket before commercial operations. Preliminary tests on SpaceShipOne and WhiteKnightOne were done in 2004.

Operations are currently being based at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, but an official terminal for the “spaceline” is currently under construction in New Mexico. SpaceShipTwo will be brought out to the public sometime early next year.

Along with carrying passengers in SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic foresees WhiteKnightTwo being able to carry other payloads up toward space, including microsatellites. Also, WhiteKnightTwo could be used to carry huge water tanks for flyovers of forest fires.