The Scaled Composites Model 318 White Knight is a jet-powered carrier aircraft used to launch the SpaceShipOne experimental spacecraft. It was developed by Scaled Composites as part of their Tier One program. The aircraft is subsequently being offered by Scaled on a contract basis as a research testbed, and was also used for drop tests of the Boeing X-37 spaceplane from June 2005 until April 2006.
The White Knight carrier airplane was designed around the twin afterburning J-85 engines, which were selected for their availability and low cost.
White Knight first flew on August 1 2002. The flight was aborted shortly after takeoff due to a problem with the outboard wing spoilers. These trailing edge spoilers were designed to greatly increase the glide slope so that the White Knight vehicle could act as a flying simulator for training of SpaceShip One pilots. During the first flight, the mechanical over-center torque was insufficient to maintain the spoilers in the closed position. The spoilers deployed into the free stream and began a limit cycle forcing the pilot (Melville) to abort. The spoilers were subsequently disabled completely and the desire for a steep glide slope matching SpaceShip One was abandoned.
White Knight next flew on August 5 2002, and this time performed well. Development proceeded over the next few months. With White Knight developed and evaluated, on April 18 2003 White Knight and SpaceShipOne were presented to the media.
Subsequently, White Knight flew as part of the Tier One program that won the Ansari X Prize on 2004 October 4. Afterwards White Knight was used to carry and launch DARPA's experimental X-37 spaceplane for its approach and landing tests in 2005 and 2006.
|24C||May 20 2003||Peter Siebold||01C|
|29C||July 29 2003||Brian Binnie||02C|
|30L||August 7 2003||Brian Binnie||03G|
|31LC||August 27 2003||Brian Binnie||04GC|
|32L||August 27 2003||Brian Binnie||05G|
|37L||September 23 2003||Peter Siebold||06G|
|38L||October 17 2003||Peter Siebold||07G|
|40L||November 14 2003||Brian Binnie||08G|
|41L||November 19 2003||Brian Binnie||09G|
|42L||December 4 2003||Peter Siebold||10G|
|43L||December 17 2003||Peter Siebold||11P|
|49L||March 11 2004||Brian Binnie||12G|
|53L||April 8 2004||Brian Binnie||13P|
|56L||May 13 2004||Brian Binnie||14P|
|60L||June 21 2004||Brian Binnie||15P|
|65L||September 29 2004||Mike Melvill||16P|
|66L||October 4 2004||Brian Binnie||17P|