Tag Archives: WhiteKnightTwo


With Sir Richard Branson’s latest triumph earlier today, I thought it a good time to rerun this goldie oldie from 15 October 2014. The following article is my encounter with the Mothership used in today’s successful launch of Unity 22:

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. 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.

B-29 X-1
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.



Filed under Aircraft, Photography, Technology/New Stuff

Fun Photo Friday — WhiteKnightTwo Favorites

WhiteKnightTwo Panoramic

WhiteKnightTwo Panoramic

WhiteKnightTwo doesn’t only act as a launch platform.  Something I didn’t mention in Wednesday’s blog is that WhiteKnightTwo is also built to handle the stresses of parabolic flight, which results in something approaching zero gravity.

Parabolic flight profile from Wikipedia article on Reduced Gravity Aircraft

You’ll notice that this is not for the faint of heart.  While that Zero-G portion of the flight may look like fun, take a look at what awaits you and both ends of that experience — a force approaching twice that of Earth gravity.  That’s a pretty scary thought.  But this capability also means that WhiteKnightTwo can also double as a training environment to prepare travelers for the effects of micro-gravity.

But enough about WhiteKnightTwo’s other talents.  Here is today’s photo gallery:

Comments Off on Fun Photo Friday — WhiteKnightTwo Favorites

Filed under Aircraft, Fun Photo Friday, Photography, R. Doug Wicker