October 29, 2009
Contact: Amy Hewes
Cal Poly Engineering
It’s been nearly three decades since Cal Poly engineering alum Burt Rutan (AERO ’65) founded the company Scaled Composites – and the sky has been the limit ever since. Rutan was a primary designer of the world’s first civilian reusable suborbital spacecraft, SpaceShipOne.
Rutan’s company recently showcased the White Knight One and White Knight Two aircraft in a rare public appearance at the Edwards Air Force Base on October 17 for “Flight Test Nation 2009” Air Show and Open House. White Knight Two performed an aerial display with a spaceship-style approach and landing, parking adjacent to its sister ship for public display.
The White Knight One, renowned for its role as the “mothership” for SpaceShipOne, is back in the air, this time as a high altitude aerodynamic test bed in support of the Air Force Research Lab and Northrop Grumman Corporation. Alumnus Pete Siebold (AERO ’01) is the pilot of White Knight One. Siebold was recently awarded the Iven C. Kincheloe Award from the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.
The airliner-sized White Knight Two was built under contract for Virgin Galactic and will serve as a high-altitude mothership – not just for the commercial passenger-carrying SpaceShipTwo but also potentially for unmanned rockets carrying orbital satellites.
The aircraft now carries the Cal Poly logo to recognize the contributions of faculty and students who are working with Northrop Grumman and Texas A&M on a project to accurately measure the amount of laminar flow in flight.
According to Scaled Composites, this versatile aircraft is capable of flying the steep approach and landing profile of SpaceShipTwo and is designed to handle flight loads approaching those of a modern fighter aircraft while also being capable of flying “zero-G” parabolas to simulate the weightlessness of space for astronaut trainees, micro-gravity science experiments and space instrument proving applications.