Headlines > News > Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308 Engine to Power Virgin Galactic's Suborbital Spaceship Launcher

Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308 Engine to Power Virgin Galactic's Suborbital Spaceship Launcher

Published by Ekkehard on Tue Jul 17, 2007 9:50 am
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Longueuil (Quebec), July 11, 2007 – Pratt & Whitney Canada Corp.’s PW308 turbofan engine has been selected by The Spaceship Company (TSC) – a jointly-owned Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites company – to power the White Knight II (WK2) launch aircraft for the world’s first commercial passenger suborbital spaceship SpaceShipTwo (SS2). Virgin Galactic is the launch customer for the SS2 system, having ordered five SS2 spacecraft with options for a further seven-plus WK2 carrier aircraft. Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) is a United Technologies (NYSE: UTX) company.

“We are delighted to welcome Pratt & Whitney Canada on board the White Knight II program,” said Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group of Companies and co-founder of The Spaceship Company. “With P&WC’s excellent reputation and our mutual desire for innovation, it became clear that its PW308 engine is the best and most reliable solution available today to help make our aerospace adventure a true success.”

“We are excited to be a part of this visionary commercial spaceship program that will open up new opportunities for people to fly into space,” said Alain M. Bellemare, President, P&WC and Executive Vice President, Pratt & Whitney Group Strategy & Development. “Our global leadership is built on innovation and we look forward to helping shape the future of suborbital spaceflight with The Spaceship Company.”

Equipped with its PW308 engines, the WK2 launch aircraft, being developed by Scaled Composites, will take off like an airplane with the manned SS2 attached underneath. It will launch SS2 into suborbital space from about 50,000 feet. The first flight of White Knight II is planned for 2008.

“We have been impressed with P&WC’s enthusiasm for this groundbreaking project,” said Burt Rutan co-founder of TSC and CEO of Scaled Composites LLC, designers of SS1 and SS2. “The PW308 is a great engine for our new launch aircraft.”

Rated at 6,900 pounds of normal takeoff thrust and equipped with full-authority, digital electronic controls (FADEC), the PW308 engine provides a combination of cruise thrust, fuel consumption and power-to-weight ratio considered best in its class. Also, as part of the company’s sustained efforts and commitment to lead green technology development, P&WC will team up with TSC and Virgin Fuels to evaluate the use of advanced biofuels in White Knight II that could reduce engine emissions even further and make aircraft more environmentally friendly.

The Virgin Galactic space launch system is already the most environmentally friendly developed to date for the purpose of human spaceflight, science or payload. If the evaluation is successful, the use of biofuels in White Knight II could further reduce the overall carbon footprint of a flight into space by up to 50%.

“The fully certified PW308 meets all thrust and schedule requirements of White Knight II,” added Bellemare. “This is yet another demonstration of our technology leadership.”

Virgin Galactic will commence commercial operations as soon as development and testing of the system is complete. The company is offering suborbital space flights to the public for $200,000 US and has received over $25 million US in deposits and interest from over 80,000 people from 120 countries around the world.

Virgin Galactic is a company established by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group to undertake the challenge of developing safe, commercially viable and environmentally friendly access to space. The company will own and operate privately built spaceships, modelled on the ground-breaking SpaceShipOne craft (created by the world’s premier aviation designer Burt Rutan, together with space entrepreneur and visionary Paul G. Allen through his company Mojave Aerospace Ventures, who together won the coveted $10 million X-Prize). Virgin Galactic was launched in London on September 27, 2005 at the Royal Aeronautical Society. Virgin licensed the intellectual property rights from Mojave Aerospace Ventures to develop and build the world’s first private commercial spaceships for suborbital tourism, with plans to develop a science research and payload deployment capability in the future.

Pratt & Whitney Canada, based in Longueuil, Quebec, is a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of aircraft engines powering business, general aviation and regional aircraft, and helicopters. The company also offers auxiliary power units and industrial gas turbines. United Technologies, based in Hartford, Conn., USA, is a diversified company providing high technology products and services to the global aerospace and building industries.

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