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Virgin Galactic’s Scaled Composite WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft is back in the air. The highly unconventional aircraft, which is configured with two structurally identical 78-ft. long fuselages, resumed flight tests at Mojave, Calif. on Feb 5. Scaled remains its usual secretive self, but it is thought the aircraft has been down for 47 days (since first flight on Dec 21) while changes were made to improve handling qualities, particularly at low speeds. It is difficult to see any obvious external differences between these two images (the top one was taken on the first flight, and the lower one on Feb 5), although the outboard upper wing surfaces appear to have sprouted more prominent vortex generators. Hopefully more details will gradually emerge as Scaled Composites gets to grips with the rest of the planned 18-month flight test program.
The 140-ft. span, twin-boomed WK2 is powered by four Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308A turbofans and is designed to carry Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (SS2) spacecraft to launch altitude between two structurally identical 78-ft. long fuselages. Initial space tourism flights are planned to start in 2011. Click below to see a computer animation of what lucky participants will one day hopefully enjoy, and (below that) see rare glimpses inside the Scaled Composites Mojave facility as the WK2 and SS2 come together.
os99. Virgin Galactic, Scaled Composites, WK2, Mojave
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