Scaled Composites Model 318 White Knight
Scaled Composites developed White Knight as the launch platform and pilot training vehicle for the SpaceShipOne manned suborbital spacecraft. White Knight was powered by a pair of afterburning J-85-GE-5 turbojet engines—chosen for their availability and low cost. At the beginning of each of SpaceShipOne’s record-breaking flights, White Knight lifted the nearly 8,000-pound craft to a launch altitude of 8.7 miles.
The aircraft was capable of performing other missions like surveillance, atmospheric research, and launching very small satellites into space.
The story of this aircraft: This aircraft flew for the first time on August 1, 2002 and was introduced to the public in April of 2003. White Knight carried SpaceShipOne aloft for the first time on May 20, 2003 with the inaugural launch of the spacecraft following on August 27.
The Tier One project made aviation history with White Knight and SpaceShipOne when the group won the Ansari X Prize. This 10-million dollar prize was awarded to the first non-governmental organization that could launch a reusable, manned spacecraft into space two times in two weeks.
Fact: In order to train pilots for rocket flight, White Knight’s cockpit is configured nearly identically to that of SpaceShipOne.