WhiteKnightTwo Recalls Past Catamaran Designs

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When Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites unveiled the final version of their spacecraft last week, the impressive double-hulled design of the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft stirred up memories of catamaran aircraft of the past. LiveScience turned up a photo of a Russian airplane model, apparently built in the late 1970s, that is eerily similar to the Scaled design. The model shows a twin-hulled aircraft, in Aeroflot regalia, with four jet engines and a center wing built to carry a space shuttle aloft. We found other pictures of the design, called a Myasishchev 3M2, that look a little more ungainly and less WhiteKnight-like, with up to eight jet engines, a single tail surface connecting the two empennages, and the shuttle mounted in the rear. According to LiveScience, the Myasishchev design was considered scalable for use to deliver ships into orbit.

The Myasishchev official Web site's history page makes no mention of the catamaran design.