WhiteKnightTwo Expands Flight Envelope in Third Test Hop

Sir Richard Branson calls her "EVE" and his Virgin Galactic space venture is relying heavily on the fruits of her performance envelope. That envelope expanded recently with a third test flight taking EVE to a speed of 140 knots and an altitude of 18,000 feet. The more official name is WhiteKnightTwo (aka WK2) and the Burt Rutan-designed quadjet is designed as the launch vehicle for Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo (aka SS2-no Branson-ized nickname announced, so far). EVE is powered by four Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308A engines and its role is seen to be expanding as well. The jet is projected to be capable of coast-to-coast range with a payload of greater than 37,000 pounds. For its role as launch vehicle, tests to its design altitude of 50,000 feet are expected within the next few months. Another anticipated role for WK2 could be that of astronaut training for Virgin Galactic's space tourism program-and possibly launching low-Earth-orbit satellites.