Virgin Galactic unveils the WhiteKnightTwo

High-altitude aircraft carrier unveiled to the public along with a contest to win a ride.

Click photo for more pictures of Virgin MotherShip Eve. Virgin Galactic

The WhiteKnightTwo high-altitude aircraft carrier that will be used to launch a spaceship of Virgin Galactic passengers was unveiled Monday in Mojave, Calif.

The new spaceship carrier and launcher has been named Virgin Mothership Eve, after Richard Branson's own mother, Eve Branson.

The aircraft will be used to carry the SpaceShipTwo passenger plane to Earth's upper atmosphere. It's capable of climbing up to 50,000 feet.

In January the public was shown a small model and CGI images of what the WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo might look like, but this is the first time the actual carrier itself has been seen by the public.

The VMS Eve is the largest aircraft to be made entirely of carbon composite components. At 140 feet the VMS Eve's wingspan is also "the longest single carbon composite aviation component ever manufactured," according to Virgin Galactic specs.

While Virgin Galactic's technology may be groundbreaking, its iconography is a bit old-fashioned. The company also unveiled Galactic Girl, an icon painted on the side of the VMS Eve that resembles a pin-up girl from the World War II era, only sporting a space helmet.

Galactic Girl graces the side of the Virgin Mothership Eve. Virgin Galactic

It's unclear whether SpaceShipTwo, the passenger space plane due to be unveiled in 2009, will sport a galactic-looking boy to match.

More details and photos on the Virgin Mothership Eve, as well as info on a new contest announced by Virgin America to let an average person win a spaceflight, can be found at CNET News.com.

About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.

 

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