SpaceShipOne & White Knight
SpaceShipOne is a three-place, high-altitude research rocket, designed for sub-orbital flights to 100 km altitude. The unique configuration allows aircraft-like qualities for boost, glide, and landing. The ship converts (via pneumatic-actuated feather) to a stable, high-drag shape for atmospheric entry. This “care-free” configuration allows a “hands-off” re-entry and greatly reduces aero/thermal loads. Designed for a “shirt-sleeve” environment, the 60” diameter cabin has a space-qualified ECS, as well as dual-pane windows. The ship uses three flight control systems - manual-subsonic, electric-supersonic and cold-gas RCS. SpaceShipOne’s hybrid rocket motor is a non-toxic, liquid nitrous-oxide/rubber-fuel hybrid propulsion system. The avionics onboard provide the pilot with the precise guidance information needed to manually fly SpaceShipOne for boost and re-entry. It also provides guidance for approach and landing and vehicle health monitoring. The unit stores and telemeters flight test data to Mission Control.
The White Knight is a manned, twin-turbojet research aircraft intended for high-altitude missions. First flight was on August 1, 2002. Design mission - provides a high-altitude airborne launch of SpaceShipOne, a manned sub-orbital spacecraft. The White Knight is equipped to flight-qualify all the spacecraft systems, except rocket propulsion. The White Knight’s cockpit, avionics, ECS, pneumatics, trim servos, data system, and electrical system components are identical to those installed on SpaceShipOne. The White Knight’s high thrust-to-weight ratio and enormous speed brakes allow the astronauts in training to practice space flight maneuvers such as boost, approach, and landing with a very realistic environment. Thus, the aircraft serves as a high-fidelity moving-base simulator for SpaceShipOne pilot training.
Other White Knight mission capabilities include: reconnaissance, surveillance, atmospheric research, data relay, telecommunications, imaging & booster launch for micro-satellites.
- Carriage and launch of payloads up to 7,000 lbs
- Internal fuel capacity up to 6,400 lbs
- Altitude capability above 53,000 ft
- Large, three-place cabin (60” diameter outside, 59” inside)
- Sea level cabin qualified for unlimited altitude
- ECS scrubs CO2, removes humidity and defogs windows
- Two crew doors with dual seals and dual-pane windows
- Manual flight controls with three-axis electric trim
- Avionics include INS-GPS navigator, flight-director, flight test data (recording and T/M), air-data, vehicle health monitoring, backup flight instruments, and video system
- Propulsion is two afterburning J-85-GE-5 engines
- The 82 ft wing can be extended to 93 ft for increased climb capability
- Super-effective, pneumatic speed brakes allow steep descent with L/D < 4.5
- Hydraulic wheel brakes and nose-gear steering
- Pneumatic main gear retraction
- Dual-bus electrical power system
- Cockpit allows single-pilot operation (VMC-day conditions only)