Virgin’s WhiteKnightTwo Damaged During Landing

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The mothership jet built to launch suborbital spaceships for Virgin Galactic suffered landing gear damage Aug. 19 during a test in California’s Mojave Desert, the aircraft’s builders said. No injuries were reported.

A mechanical problem with the left-side landing gear on the WhiteKnightTwo jet caused the “minor incident,” officials with Scaled Composites — the Mojave-based company that built the twin-fuselage carrier plane — said in a statement.

“Further information will be posted in due course,” Scaled officials said in the statement. U.S. Federal Aviation Administration officials said the left-side landing gear collapsed.

The runway incident at the Mojave Air and Space Port did not involve Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, the suborbital passenger-carrying spacecraft designed to be carried into launch position by WhiteKnightTwo. SpaceShipTwo is also built by Scaled Composites.

WhiteKnightTwo is a specially designed jet-powered mothership, built to haul the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft to a release altitude of approximately 15,000 meters.

The aircraft was on its 37th test flight, and has been flying since December 2008.