Virgin Galactic's Scaled Composites-designed White Knight II will help Pratt & Whitney Canada obtain high-altitude performance data for its PW308A turbofan.

Four PW308A engines will power the WK2 carrier aircraft to its air-launch altitude of about 50,000ft (15,250m) - where its SpaceShipTwo payload will be released - with sufficient margin to cope with an engine failure on take-off.

The forthcoming installation of the engines on WK2's wing will involve P&WC engineers. The wing was fitted "weeks ago", according to Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn.

Talking to Flight International in Montreal, P&WC executive vice-president John Saabas explained how WK2 would support his company's own engine research. He said: "We will see the engines taken to a high altitude. We will be instrumenting the vehicle [to collect data]."

Saabas added that Sir Richard Branson's business interests were developing alternative fuels and that P&WC would help with technical expertise, such as pump systems, to test them. Virgin Galactic awarded P&WC the contract for WK2's engines in July 2007.

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Source: Flight International