By Rob Coppinger at Farnborough air show

Virgin Galactic promises to exhibit carrier aircraft in 2007 as it gets ready to unveil SpaceShipTwo's interior

SpaceShipTwo's (SS2) carrier aircraft White Knight 2 (WK2) will have a range of 4,000km (2,500 miles), enabling the Virgin Galactic fleet to operate with one WK2 and three SS2s in the USA, while a second WK2 and its SS2 tour the world.

Speaking at Farnborough, space tourism company Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn said White Knight 2 "will be displayed in July or August next year. The Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford wanted White Knight there, but it will not be ready for an air show until 2008. Next year we will display it and then begin testing," he added.

SS2's interior will be unveiled on 28 September and Virgin Galactic's first accredited travel agency will be announced soon.

Scaled Composites has begun construction of the first WK2 and SS2 following the delivery of "several millions of dollars worth of composites".

Whitethorn expects WK2 to visit the recently renamed Southwest Regional Spaceport in New Mexico, now called Spaceport America, during its flight tests.

Virgin Galactic now has $15.6 million in full ticket sales and various levels of deposit payments for operations that will begin in 2008 from Mojave spaceport in California and then move to Spaceport America in late 2009 or early 2010.

Whitehorn said his company is generating $1 million a month in sales and he expects that to accelerate after the SS2/WK2 unveiling. Virgin Galactic is predicting 500 paid customers by its first commercial flight in 2008.

Source: Flight International