Renowned aircraft designer Burt Rutan, flanked by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn pledged yesterdat that WhiteKnightTwo – now named Eve after Branson’s mother - will be on display at AirVenture next year.
Unveiled by Virgin Galactic in the Mojave Desert on Monday, WhiteKnightTwo is a high altitude jet that will be able to take tourists on sub-orbital flights –sparking a new space tourism industry.
Powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines, WhiteKnightTwo is the mothership that will carry SpaceShipTwo, the rocket-powered passenger spaceship still in production, to launch altitude. WhiteKnightTwo is expected to take its first flight in the fall of 2008, with plans to carry SpaceShipTwo as a payload for the first time in 2009.
At the presentation, Rutan noted that he was not confident the required “big breakthrough” in propulsion needed to drive environmentally efficient space tourism would happen in his lifetime, but he said to an 11-year-old girl in the audience, “I know it will happen in your lifetime.”