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SpaceShipOne's White Knight Airplane Makes Final Flight

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Image: White Knight
A P-51 Mustang plane guides the White Knight carrier plane to its new home in Washington state.Vulcan

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The world's first private-sector space plane, SpaceShipOne, is hanging in the Smithsonian — and now the White Knight mothership that carried it into history is in a museum as well. When SpaceShipOne was retired in 2004, Scaled Composites used the White Knight for other flight experiments at California's Mojave Air and Space Port. But on Monday, the twin-boom plane flew in to Paine Field in Everett, Washington, to become part of software billionaire Paul Allen's Flying Heritage Collection.

Allen bankrolled the SpaceShipOne effort, which won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for private spaceflight and spawned Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo project. SpaceShipTwo is bigger than its predecessor, and is designed to be air-launched from a bigger carrier plane called WhiteKnightTwo. The launch system is still undergoing testing, but the Albuquerque Journal quotes Virgin Galactic's Stephen Attenborough as saying "we have an achievable pathway" to fly Virgin's billionaire founder, Richard Branson, into space by the end of this year.

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NBCUniversal has established a multi-platform partnership with Virgin Galactic to track the development of SpaceShipTwo and televise Richard Branson's spaceflight.

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