The designs for SpaceShipTwo and its mothership, White Night Two (WK2), were unveiled late last month by creator Burt Rutan (right) and Richard Branson (left), the man behind Virgin Galactic.
Both aircraft are based on the technology of SpaceShipOne, which successfully flew into space three times in 2004, winning the $10 million Ansari X-Prize.
Construction of WK2, SpaceShipTwo’s carrier aircraft, is close to completion at Scaled Composites in Mojave, Calif., according to Rutan. Flight tests are expected to begin this summer.
Rutan began his career developing experimental homebuilt airplanes, including the VariEze and Long-EZ. He also designed the Voyager and the GlobalFlyer, and the stunning Beechcraft Starship. His latest project, the WK2, is the world’s largest all carbon composite aircraft. Powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines, it is designed to launch SpaceShipTwo and its eight astronauts into sub-orbital space flight.
SpaceShipTwo is nearly 60% complete, according to Rutan. Once finished, it will begin taking aloft the first of more than 200 people who have plunked down $200,000 for their first space flight.
According to Virgin Galactic officials, more than $30 million in deposits has been collected from future astronauts.
About 80 of those passengers have gone through orientation, which starts with a medical assessment and centrifuge training.
Flights are expected to launch from Spaceport America in New Mexico, which currently is under development. A Spaceport in Sweden also is under consideration.
SpaceShipTwo and WK2 will be on display at this summer’s AirVenture in Oshkosh.