PICTURES: WhiteKnight Two's spoilers get holes

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Scaled Composites has added holes to the inboard spoilers of Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnight Two mothership prototype Eve.

Photographed on 15 October during its twentieth test flight that lasted around 4h, the carrier aircraft was performing high angle-of-descent approaches during a sequence of touch-and-go manoeuvres.

Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic have declined to explain why the holes have been added, but these modifications would reduce the degree of drag the spoilers provide and are the latest in a series of changes to the WK2's control surfaces this year.

virgin galactic
©Flight

 Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnight Two carrier aircraft performs a touch-and-go manoeuvre at Mojave air and spaceport and deploys its inboard spoilers with the new holes
The mothership had not made a test flight since its 1 August return from the EAA AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, a 10-week hiatus that is the longest since its maiden flight on 21 December 2008.

The changes to the spoilers follow a series of structural modifications to WK2's rudders earlier this year including the addition of extra control cables just before the Oshkosh air show. At the air show Scaled's chief engineer and founder Burt Rutan explained that WK2 had had an "unstable rudder".

As for the spoiler modifications, Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn says: "This innovation is to prepare WK2 for [the SpaceShipTwo] captive carry flights by what [Scaled Composite president] Doug Shane calls 'a continued refinement of the spoiler geometry to optimise loads and buffeting levels'. The first [SS2 captive] flights will be in early 2010."

this is the mid-wing section of virgin galactic
©Flight

 The mid-wing section of Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnight Two carrier aircraft showing the new holes and possible evidence of additional work for the SpaceShipTwo attachment system
In the pictures the results of what is likely to be preparatory work on the WK2 wing for the attachment system for mating SpaceShipTwo can also be seen. There are dark stripes on top of the wing and the underside, which also has white stripes. Eve made its second public demonstration at Edwards AFB's Flight Test Nation 2009 air show on 17 October.