Category Archives: Technology/New Stuff

WhiteKnightTwo


Something you don't see every day

Something you don’t see every day — WhiteKnightTwo

On September 11 of this year we had a visitor come to El Paso International Airport.  What you see above is WhiteKnightTwo, the launch vehicle for Virgin Galactic’s suborbital tourist thrill ride SpaceShipTwo.

SpaceShip 2 (center) suspended for a ride aloft on WhiteKnightTwo — Launch altitude 50,000 feet/15,240 meters; Upper diagram is of WhiteKnightOne and SpaceShipOne

Fortunately I was at work that day, and doubly fortunately Ursula was able to snatch a couple of my cameras and bring them out to the control tower.  Triply fortunately, the wonderful folks at Atlantic Aviation were gracious enough to escort both Ursula and me out onto the ramp so that I could take the photographs you see here today as well as some of my favorite shots of this encounter on this week’s Fun Photo Friday.

WhiteKnightTwo taxiing out for departure

WhiteKnightTwo taxiing out for departure

All in all I managed to snag some 50 photographs, including those I later stitched together for a couple of detailed panoramas, one of which you’ll see Friday.  Of course, I couldn’t just waste all that ramp time photographing just one aircraft, so I diversified a bit.

Beech King Air 200

Beech King Air 200

The FAA registry number for this wondrous aircraft is N348MS (MS standing for “Mother Ship), and  WhiteKnightTwo has been christened VMS Eve — Virgin Mother Ship “Eve” named after Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson’s mother.  The second WhiteKnightTwo in the series will be christened VMS Steve Fossett after the famous aviator.

VMS Eve is larger than she appears:

  • Crew: 2 pilots, 6 passengers/launch crew
  • Capacity: payload 37,000 lb/16,783 kilos
  • Length: 78 ft 9 in/24 meters
  • Wingspan: 141 ft 1 in/43 meters
  • Powerplant: Four Pratt & Whitney PW308 turbofans each rated at 6,900 lbs/30.69 kN thrust
  • Launch Altitude: 50,000 ft/15,240 meters
  • Service ceiling: 70,000 ft/21,336 meters (service ceiling is defined as the maximum useable altitude of an aircraft)

Coincidentally, that 141-foot wingspan almost precisely matches that of another famous mother ship — The Boeing B-29 Superfortress that served as the launch vehicle for Chuck Yeager and the Bell X-1 rocket plane that first broke the sound barrier exactly 67 years ago yesterday, on October 14, 1947.

Boeing B-29 acting as mother ship to Chuck Yeager and the Bell X-1 Rocket Plane

But let’s get down to today’s gallery.  Enjoy, and remember to click on any of the images below to bring up today’s slide show.

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Filed under Aircraft, Photography, Technology/New Stuff

Coming Up This Week


Because of several things that have come up in the news and in the theaters, I’ll be pushing back my remaining blogs on our Montreal-to-Boston cruise aboard the MS Maasdam.  In an attempt at timeliness, I’ll be presenting my take on the Chicago En Route (ARTCC) Center fiasco and why those pushing for both consolidation and privatization of ATC are yet again being proven as off their collective rockers.  Also this week I’ll put forth one of my famous double-reviews.

This time I’ll be comparing The Equalizer:

Robert McCall versus . . .

to The Equalizer:

. . . Robert McCall

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Filed under Author, Movies, R. Doug Wicker, Technology/New Stuff, Television

Return to Carlsbad Caverns — Part 2


Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages

As you’ll recall from Monday, we are this week taking a second look at Carlsbad Caverns.  This time, however, we’re relying upon advances in digital photography to produce handheld images that were all but impossible just two years ago.  Whereas my July 2011 photoblog on Carlsbad relied upon techniques for taking long exposures without a tripod, on this trip I instead relied upon the Handheld Night Scene mode built into the Canon G1 X.

Top of the BIg Room — 255 feet (78 meters)

Top of the Big Room — 255 feet (78 meters)

Most of today’s pictures are of the Big Room — the largest portion of the caverns.  The hallmarks of the Big Room are the immense columns reaching high above the cavern trails and the “Top of the Cross,” the point on the ceiling of the cavern that is the highest above the Big Room floor.  “Top of the Cross” is an intimidating 255 feet (78 meters) above, and one shudders when looking at photographs of the spelunkers who hung suspended beneath it during an expedition back in the 1970s.

Column

Immense Column

As always, just click on any of the images below to bring up an album showing enlarged versions:

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Filed under Photography, Technology/New Stuff, travel