SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo Specs and Flight Profile



The Technology

  • A completely new approach to space access for people, science and payload
  • Air (horizontal) launch from the “WhiteKnight” purpose built aircraft not ground (vertical) launch – intrinsically safer and more environmentally friendly
  • All carbon composite construction (light, strong, resilient and fuel efficient)
  • Hybrid rocket motor uses benign fuel and oxidizer (same rubber and nitrous oxide used for SpaceShipOne) and is controllable – can be shut down at any time during boost phase of flight
  • Re-entry controlled aerodynamically by unique wing feathering design – heat free and carefree
  • Un-powered (glide) runway landing

 Virgin’s Involvement

  • Seeking investment opportunities since late 90’s when Galactic name was registered
  • Knew of Burt Rutan’s credentials through sponsorship of the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer – world’s most fuel efficient powered aircraft
  • Agreed with Burt Rutan and Paul Allen to invest in development and construction of second generation vehicle for commercial venture – the world’s first commercial spaceline
  • Intending to order 5 SpaceShipTwo’s and 3 WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft to be manufactured by The SpaceShip Company (TSC) (a Joint Venture between Scaled Composites and Virgin)
  • Mission to create environmentally benign, safe and commercially viable access to space for people, science and potential for payload.  Space tourism early adopters provided vital proof of first available market and made project possible.


  • SpaceShipTwo unveiled on 7th December 2009 immediately prior to start of its test flight program
  • Uses all the same basic technology, construction and design as SpaceShipOne prototype
  • Is around twice as large as SS1 and will carry 6 passengers and 2 pilots
  • Cabin approx the size of a Falcon 900 exec jet
  • Whole fuselage used for passenger cabin – no raised “floor”
  • Large windows positioned throughout the cabin to afford maximum viewing potential for passengers
  • Planning for reclining seats to maximize cabin space in zero g and for re-entry
  • Dimensions:  Wing span: 42ft.  Length: 60 ft.  Tail height: 18 ft (Feather down)
  • Cabin details:  6 passenger seats.  90” diameter x 12 ft long
  • Construction:  100% carbon composite
  • Propulsion: hybrid rocket motor uses benign fuel and oxidizer (the same means of propulsion as SpaceShipOne) and is controllable – can be shut down at any time during boost phase of flight
  • Power: after release from carrier aircraft, operates on internal power supply
  • Feathering wings for re-entry: same technology as SS1; improved aerodynamics
  • Flight simulator operational and already being used as pilot training and design refinement tool

Carrier Aircraft/Mothership (WhiteKnightTwo) Technical Specification

  • Status: first flight 21st December 2008. Test flight program substantially complete with a total of 22 successful flights including high altitude and long duration
  • Largest 100% carbon composite plane in service (Boeing 787 Dreamliner uses composite materials for about 50% of its primary structure)
  • Twin boom / fuselage construction
  • Propulsion & Power: 4 X Pratt & Whitney PW308 engines. Member of PW300 series engines
  • Dimensions: Wing span: 140ft (only 16 ft less than Boeing 767-300).  Length: 78 ft.  Tail height: 25ft
  • Performance: SS2 ferry range: U.S. coast to coast
  • Capability:  A training vehicle for SS2 spaceflight – can simulate SpaceShipTwo g force profile.  Both fuselages replicate SS2 and right hand cabin interior will also be identical allowing for passenger training.  Unique high altitude lift aircraft potentially suitable for various payloads


SpaceShipTwo Flight Profile

  • G-Forces:  max gx (front to back): 6g.  max gz (head to toe): 3.8g
  • SS2 release: 50,000 ft
  • Planned apogee of spaceflight: at least 110 km
  • Zero-g phase –out of seat
  • Total flight time:  all told approximately 2.0 hrs



  • WhiteKnightTwo commenced test program during the summer of 2008 with first flight 21 December 2008. Test program continued through 2009 and was substantially completed by the end of the year
  • Spaceship Two roll-out December 7th 2009. Test flight program will commence early 2010
  • Test flight period envisaged 18 – 24 months or longer if safety dictates.  Building of first commercial vehicles will commence whilst test program is underway
  • Safety first, we are not in a race, we will launch only when we are content that it is safe to do so
  • We aim to fly 500 people in the first year and 50,000 in the first 10 years, subject to our first obtaining all necessary regulatory approvals
  • First commercial flights are planned to operate from Spaceport America in New Mexico.


SpaceShipTwo Flight Stats

  • Total flight time around 2.0 hours
  • G forces: rocket boost max 3.8 g (x and z); re-entry max 6 g (x only whilst reclined)
  • Speed: supersonic within 8 seconds of rocket ignition and faster than Mach 3 within 30 seconds of rocket ignition
  • Achieving an apogee of at least 110 kms

The Experience

  • Plan for 3 days of preparation, medical checks, bonding, and g force acclimatization as part of flight cost
  • Carrier aircraft is able to act as a training platform with passenger cabins that replicate the spaceship
  • All passengers will be able to leave their seats and float in zero G should they wish and enjoy view of space and the earth stretching for around 1000 miles in every direction


  • Accepted Deposits from over 300 individuals who have made deposits from between $20 and $200k
  • Total deposits received over $40m.  Flight cost US$200k
  • Over 85,000 people from 125 countries have registered their interest in becoming a Virgin Galactic astronaut at
  • A specialist network of Virgin Galactic Accredited Space Agents has been set up around the world to accept deposits for seats on future space flights (ASA details can be found on


  • US regulatory framework established by 2004 Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act which empowered the Office of Commercial Space Transportation within the Federal Aviation Administration to regulate and license commercial space launch vehicles and operators.
  • Enshrined the principle of Informed Consent for space flight participants, permitting a licensed operator to carry passengers on space flights once the passengers are informed of and accept a comprehensive explanation of the risks involved.
  • Company also is committed to complying with other U.S governmental regulations, including export provisions administered by the State Department

 Environmental Credentials

  • Air launch means short rocket burn
  • Reusable spaceship – no space debris
  • The carrier aircraft uses latest highly efficient turbo fan jet engines
  • SpaceShipTwo re-entry and landing are unpowered
  • CO2 emissions per passenger on a spaceflight will be equivalent to approximately 60% of a per passenger return commercial London/New York flight.  Around 70% of the spaceflight CO2 emissions come from the carrier aircraft. This is a clean spaceship!
  • SpaceShipTwo and its carrier aircraft will provide space access, to paying tourism passengers and to scientists for research, with an incomparably smaller environmental impact, lower cost and greater flexibility than anything that has gone before. We need space but we need better access to it.