blogosphere is abuzz with reports of Virgin Galactic's recently sent
invitations to selected individuals for a progress report and a rollout of
White Knight Two on July 28 at Mojave, California, Spaceport. These reports
foreshadow a parallel media event and follow-up engagements with EAA members
and visitors at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008, "The World's Greatest
Aviation Celebration," July 28-August 3.
"I can absolutely confirm that the Virgin
Galactic event, which takes place during the opening day of AirVenture, will
have ties back to Oshkosh, both real-time and throughout the week," said
EAA President and AirVenture Chairman Tom Poberezny. "We've been in
regular communications with our friends at Virgin Galactic and its partner
organization, Scaled Composites, to coordinate."
Poberezny added that the Virgin Galactic team -
including Virgin Group owner Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic President
Will Whitehorn, and Scaled Composites founder Burt Rutan - will arrive at
AirVenture the following day (Tuesday, July 29) to speak and interact with EAA
members and event visitors.
According to Virgin Galactic, White Knight Two's
primary mission will be to serve as the mothership for SpaceShipTwo, which is
currently under development as the world's first private tourism spacecraft.
White Knight Two will carry SpaceShipTwo and her passengers to an altitude of
approximately 50,000 feet, where the spacecraft will separate and blast at
nearly Mach 4 up to a zero-gravity, suborbital space boundary of as high as
360,000 feet. An inventive "feathering" configuration will ease the
spacecraft's reentry into the atmosphere after it has spent several minutes in
Virgin Galactic points out that White Knight Two
will also have utility as a launch platform for rockets and satellites. It may
even serve as a cargo hauler and fire-fighting water bomber.
White Knight Two and SpaceShipTwo are
significantly expanded and modified progeny of the original White Knight and
SpaceShipOne. These originals seized the $10 million Ansari X-Prize in the fall
of 2004 for making the world's first qualifying, privately funded flights into
suborbital space within two weeks. These aircraft wowed record crowds at EAA
AirVenture Oshkosh 2005, where the mated aircraft performed their only public
flight demonstrations before SpaceShipOne took its place at the National Air
and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
"This unfolding story of space tourism
reflects directly on the EAA community and the environment of pioneering and
innovation that it has always promoted," Poberezny said. "Burt Rutan,
the genius behind the designs of the White Knights and the SpaceShips, and
numerous other innovative aircraft, is a lifetime member of EAA who got started
as part of EAA's amateur-built aircraft movement.
"We're proud of the accomplishments of
Burt, of the Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic teams, and of every EAA
member who lives the dream of passionate participation in aviation."
EAA will announce more details regarding the
Virgin Galactic story at AirVenture as they are finalized.