Taking advantage of a spell of clear weather before the expected arrival of another low pressure system in southern Calfornia, Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic successfully flew the SpaceShipTwo mothership WhiteKnightTwo on its maiden flight from Mojave on Dec 21.
(photo: Alan Radecki)
The unusually configured aircraft made a 59min maiden flight, taking off from Mojave at 08:16 local time, and reached a maximum altitude of 16,000ft. The twin-boomed aircraft, powered by four Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308A turbofans, had been undergoing a series of high-speed taxi and brake tests in the run up to the first flight. However recent bad weather had pushed the first flight attempt back and it was unknown if Scaled Composites would successfully manage to achieve this before the company’s upcoming holiday break which begins later this week.
A second test flight, marking the start of an 18-month long test effort, is expected in early January. Captive carry flights with the SpaceShipTwo sub-orbital space tourist vehicle are not likely to begin until the last quarter of 2009. The first SpaceShipTwo is due to be unveiled around mid-year, says Virgin Galactic.