Richard Branson today unveiled Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo, the craft that will essentially act as the launch pad for his SpaceShipTwo suborbital craft intended to be among the first civilian space tourism vehicles:
“Looking like a giant catamaran for the sky, the twin-boom, two individual fuselages are topped by a large, 140-foot (42-meter) long stretch of wing. The aircraft will straddle and carry to drop altitude (around 48,000 feet) the SpaceShipTwo — a six passenger, two pilot craft that, once released, rocket’s pay-per-view passengers to some 65 miles (104 km) above the Earth. ‘This is a big airplane,’ said Scaled Composites founder, Burt Rutan, and Chief Technology Officer and Chairman Emeritus of the company. ‘It is not an inappropriate claim to say this is the largest all-composite airplane,’ he told SPACE.com. The WhiteKnightTwo could be ready to do a space launch with only 40 flights — ‘if everything works,’ Rutan said, ‘but more than likely we’ll run a few more than that.'”
It’s expected that the WhiteKnightTwo will also be popular for passengers wanting to get a view of the launch of SpaceShipTwo. More shots here.