Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Today Richard Branson and company unveiled Rutan's design for SpaceShipTwo and the launch vehicle, White Knight II.
Very much different than SpaceShipOne and the original White Knight, this configuration is focussed on 1) reliability/safety and 2) low total cost of operations.
Aside from the twin fuselages on White Knight II, this is probably the most "normal" configuration of an airframe that I've ever seen from Burt. SpaceShipTwo resembles the DynaSoar project from the 60's, which was the precusor to the Space Shuttle as we know it today. (without the shuttlecocking wings and vertical Atlas launch vehicle)
I was at the first sub orbital launch of SpaceShipOne in June of 2004 (before the two X-Prize flights) and I was impressed with the operations .... not in their complexity and organization, but in their simplicity and lack of overhead.
This simplicity and lack of overhead is the very thing that separates VirginGalactic/Scaled from the rest of the suborbital community. These guys are building REAL flight vehicles. These guys have a track record of building successful aircraft. And they've been doing it for 30+ years.
UPDATE - I forgot to mention that the WK2 design is also a decent launch platform for orbital rockets and other money making missions. Smart. ;-)
I'm excited for the team, and I wish them godspeed in their business endeavor!