Virgin Galactic Unveils SpaceShipTwo Design

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Virgin Galactic unveiled the final designs of SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo at a press conference in New York on Wednesday. The construction of WhiteKnightTwo, the gangly mothership that carries the spaceship aloft before it ignites its rocket engine, is now very close to completion at Scaled Composites in Mojave, Calif., the company said, and flight testing should begin this summer. The ship is not just a larger version of the original aircraft, but is substantially different, with four Pratt & Whitney PW308A jet engines and dual fuselages. No promises were made, but since Virgin Galactic is calling 2008 "The Year of the Spaceship," we wouldn't be surprised to see WhiteKnightTwo fly into Oshkosh for a public intro at EAA AirVenture in July. The airplane is the world's largest all-carbon-composite aircraft, the company said. The spaceship itself features the original version's unique "shuttlecock" wing configuration, but is substantially larger, with room for eight.

Pictures and animations of the ships are available online. Branson added that he plans to experiment with bio-fuels to power the White Knight's engines.