WhiteKnightTwo Leaves Nest, But Where is SpaceShipTwo?

Credit: Douglas Messier
WhiteKnightTwo after a SpaceShipTwo owered flight in September. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

I spotted WhiteKnightTwo on the ramp outside of its hangar this afternoon. There was no sign of SpaceShipTwo. When I looked later in the day, the carrier aircraft was not there. I’m guessing it was back inside the hangar. If it flew, it likely did so in the morning; late afternoon flights are fairly rare.

I received a report last week that WhiteKnightTwo had been out flying on its own four or five times prior to the Thanksgiving break. None of the flights have shown up yet on the Scaled Composites summary page.

It is not known why these flights were conducted, although Scaled does fly WhiteKnightTwo periodically to keep the pilots proficient in between SpaceShipTwo powered flights. Speaking to science writers in Florida on Nov. 3, Virgin Galactic President George Whitesides said he expected another SpaceShipTwo test flight in about a month or so. It is thus possible that they are gearing up for another test soon.

Weather conditions here in the Mojave are beginning to deteriorate as we move into late Fall. The winds were up and the windows were rattling last night as a storm moved over the area from the coast. It’s clear now, but the temperature is expected to drop to 22 degrees F (-5.5 C) this evening. Nighttime lows are expected to stay in the 20’s and not rise above 32 degrees F (0 C) through next Friday.

The cold temperatures are probably not a major issue, but if the winds kick up then flight test becomes more difficult.You will recall that in September they had to cancel a drop test of SpaceShipTwo for about 300 future Virgin Galactic astronauts due to high winds. The current forecast shows the winds being relatively mild for most of the next 10 days, but the winds out here can be rather unpredictable.