Actuator Failure Prompts Precautionary But Safe Landing For WhiteKnightTwo

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Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo, also known as "Mothership Eve," was on its way from Scaled Composites in Mojave to fly past the groundbreaking ceremony for Spaceport America in New Mexico on June 19 when the crew noted the failure of a speedbrake actuator as they descended toward the site. Pilot Peter Siebold and his crew made a precautionary landing at Williams Gateway Airport near Phoenix, where they were met by ground crew. They were able to re-launch the next morning and successfully completed several flybys and a low pass over the runway at Las Cruces International Airport for spectators at the Spaceport America event. Systems were evaluated on the high-altitude return leg to Mojave. According to the flight log posted at scaled.com, WhiteKnightTwo has so far flown more than 29 hours, with some flights lasting as long as 7.5 hours, at altitudes up to 52,400 feet. WhiteKnightTwo is the carrier vehicle for SpaceShipTwo, which will transport passengers to the edge of space.

It is scheduled to appear at EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh on opening day, July 27, and stay through Saturday, August 1. Spaceport America is scheduled for completion by early 2011.