White Knight Two Alteration/Augustine on NASA TV

When Branson’s White Knight Two (Eve) space ship carrier was at Edwards Air Force Base on October 17th, there was some noticable changes on the airfoil.

Speculation abounds!

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Scaled Composites has added holes to the inboard spoilers of Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnight Two mothership prototype Eve.

Photographed on 15 October during its twentieth test flight that lasted around 4h, the carrier aircraft was performing high angle-of-descent approaches during a sequence of touch-and-go manoeuvres.

Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic have declined to explain why the holes have been added, but these modifications would reduce the degree of drag the spoilers provide and are the latest in a series of changes to the WK2’s control surfaces this year.

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The mothership had not made a test flight since its 1 August return from the EAA AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, a 10-week hiatus that is the longest since its maiden flight on 21 December 2008.The changes to the spoilers follow a series of structural modifications to WK2’s rudders earlier this year including the addition of extra control cables just before the Oshkosh air show. At the air show Scaled’s chief engineer and founder Burt Rutan explained that WK2 had had an “unstable rudder”.

As for the spoiler modifications, Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn says: “This innovation is to prepare WK2 for [the SpaceShipTwo] captive carry flights by what [Scaled Composite president] Doug Shane calls ‘a continued refinement of the spoiler geometry to optimise loads and buffeting levels’. The first [SS2 captive] flights will be in early 2010.”

I wonder if the alterations to the carrier attachment  and airfoil has anything to do with Branson’s recent meetings concerning launching small rockets from the WK2 carrier in order to enter the satellite market?

PICTURES: WhiteKnight Two’s spoilers get holes

For all you mainstreamer space cadets (tinfoilers too), the Augustine Panel Report gets released today and is broadcast on NASA TV at 1 p.m. EDT.

I wonder how much truth will come out of this?

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