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Monday, 28 July 2008 19:47

Virgin Galactic shows off mothership 'œEVE'

On Monday, July 28, 2008, Sir Richard Branson and Burt Rutan unveiled for the first time their new WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft that will transport everyday space travelers inside SpaceShipTwo on suborbital space flights.

The press release from Virgin Galactic states, “The rollout represents another major milestone in Virgin Galactic’s quest to launch the world’s first private, environmentally benign, space access system for people, payload and science.” [Virgin Galactic: “Mothership “EVE” roll out”]

The unveiled WhiteKnightTwo, its first operational carrier aircraft, is named “EVE.” The name was chosen to honor the mother of Branson, the founder of Virgin.

WK2 EVE has a wing span of 140 feet (42.7 meters)—the world’s longest single carbon composite aviation component ever manufactured. It is also the world’s largest all carbon composite aircraft.

Four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines power EVE. The engines will enable EVE to reach heights up to 50,000 feet—9.5 miles (15.3 kilometers). Its fuel capacity allows it to go nonstop between the east and west coasts of the United States.

At that point of 9.5 miles above Earth's surface, SpaceShipTwo will be released from EVE and it will continue its trip to about 360,000 feet—about 68 miles (110 kilometers)—to the edge of what is considered outer space.

The press release states, “Driven by a demanding performance specification set by Virgin Galactic, WK2 has a unique heavy lift, high altitude capability and an open architecture driven design which provides for maximum versatility in the weight, mass and volume of its payload potential. It has the power, strength and maneuverability to provide for pre space-flight, positive G force and zero G astronaut training as well as a lift capability which is over 30% greater than that represented by a fully crewed SpaceShipTwo.”

Check out the images associated with the July 28, 2008 rollout of EVE and the scheduled plans for Virgin Galactic on page two.

The first test flight for EVE is scheduled in the autumn of 2008.

SpaceShipTwo is still under development. It is expected to be rolled out for public display in 2009, with its first test flight on EVE sometime later in that year.

Once operational, EVE will be able to lift SpaceShipTwo for up to four flights per day—both during the day and night.

The “Rollout Presspack," which contains images associated with the EVE rollout, is found on the Virgin Galactic website. The video “VGrollout" is also available on this website.

Virgin Galactic initially will be offering sub-orbital space flights to the paying public. Further out in its schedule are plans to offer orbital space flights. The space tourism company Virgin Galactic is headquartered in New Mexico, United States.

According to Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn, the company had sold, as of November 2007, almost 200 seats as of November 2007. The first passenger flight for Virgin Galactic is now scheduled for 2010. [statistics provided by Seattlepi.com: “Spaceflights now for sale; scary part is price”]

According to Virgin Galactic, the initial deposit for its first one hundred passengers is $200,000. However, the next four hundred passengers will pay a deposit of between $100,000 and $175,000. Thereafter, passengers will pay a flat $20,000.

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