Scaled Composites is dusting off the WhiteKnightOne mothership in readiness for a new flight test program. The aircraft has been in mothballs for around a year since flight testing an anti-MANPADS infrared countermeasures pod under contract to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as part of Project CHLOE.
Scaled Composites test pilot Pete Siebold took the WK1 for its first shake down flight from the Northrop Grumman-owned company’s base in Mojave, Calif., on Aug. 24, and I was fortunate enough to be there at the time. Scaled is not able to say what new project WK1 is being lined up for, though it will likely be suited to the aircraft’s high-altitude, long endurance capability.
WK1 lands back at Mojave after first post-storage test flight (all photos Tom Norris/Chris Ravelo)
In the last test WK1 acted as a surrogate UAV to test the concept which involves protection of aircraft and airspace by scanning a three mile radius threat envelope around an airport, and air traffic up to an altitude of 18,000 ft. The concept also protects standard approach and departure corridors up to 65 miles from airports, and would be required to respond to a threat within three to ten seconds
Before that WK1 was used to carry and drop the Boeing X-37 advanced technology demonstrator in 2005 and 2006. The vehicle was originally developed to launch the SpaceShipOne which won the $10 million Ansari X-Prize in 2004 by reaching 100 kms in altitude twice in a two-week period with the equivalent of three people on board.