Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo mothership to make public debut this July

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Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo (SS2) mothership WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) is to fly publicly for the first time at this year's Experimental Aircraft Association's (EAA) AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin on the event's opening day, 27 July.

The experimental prototype WK2, referred to as Virgin MotherShip (VMS) Eve by Virgin Galactic, will have additional demonstration flights at the show until its 1 August departure and will be on static display during the course of the week. Flightglobal.com's blog Hyperbola reported on 1 August 2008 that WK2 was likely to fly at this year's AirVenture, while Virgin Galactic had originally wanted to fly the mothership at last year's event.

Designed by Scaled Composites VMS Eve has had two test flights so far, the first on 21 December last year and the second on 5 February. The second flight saw the addition of vortex generators on the vertical stabilisers to counter what appeared to be a fishtail effect during the maiden flight. Neither Scaled or Virgin Galactic would confirm that there was an issue with the rudder.

The construction of the SS2 experimental prototype is said by Virgin Galactic to be about 80% complete and the company's president Will Whitehorn is expecting to conduct carry test flights with VMS Eve and SS2 during the second half of this year. Though there have been rumours that Eve could arrive at Airventure with SS2 attached.

About the 27 July public debut Whitehorn says: "Together with Scaled Composites, we are delighted to be showcasing this incredible vehicle and demonstrating its capabilities in public for the very first time. VMS Eve is capable of lifting SS2, an unmanned satellite launcher or space science vehicle and also being capable of use as an astronaut training vehicle. It is particularly appropriate that we are doing this at the 2009 AirVenture event in conjunction with the EAA, which has done so much over the years to support and promote aerospace innovation."

Referring to an unmanned satellite launcher Whitehorn is in talks with micro satellite manufacturer Surrey Satellite Technology and the UK government about the development of a two-stage rocket for launcihing small spacecraft into orbit. Further news about EAA can be obtained via its twitter site.