Privately Funded Manned SpaceCraft Reaches 62 Miles
June 21, 2004
Web posted at: 12:46 PM EDT
MOJAVE, Calif. (ROL Newswire) -- Known as SpaceShipOne, pilot Mike
Melvill piloted a small, manned vehicle to aproximately 62 miles then
glided back to land at Mojave Airport 90 minutes after leaving the same
location. The hybrid rocket powered plane is thought to be the first
privately owned craft to carry a man into outer space. Burt Rutan the
creator of the project worked in conjunction with Microsoft's co-founder
Paul Allen, spent over 20 million dollars on the project and are
competing for the X Prize, a $10 million award for the first privately
financed three person spacecraft to reach 62 miles and repeat the flight
within a two week period.
Standing on the tarmac beside the ship, pilot Melvill said seeing the
Earth from outside the atmosphere was "almost a religious experience.
You can see the curvature of the Earth," he said. "You got a hell of a
view from 60, 62 miles." Melvill states he heard a loud bang during the
flight but was unsure of the cause. He pointed to a location on the back
of the spacecraft where a covering over the nozzle had buckled which may
have been the cause.
A special high altitude plane called the White Knight took off at 6:45
a.m. carrying the SpaceShipOne uder its belly. After an hours' climb the
pair reached about 46,000 feet and SpaceShipOne was launched. The pilot
then armed the rocket and then ignited the hybrid rocket motor. After a
brief burn vehicle coasted to apogee at about 62 miles.
"Clearly, there is an enormous, pent-up hunger to fly in space and not
just dream about it," Rutan said Sunday. "Now I know what it was like to
be involved in America's amazing race to the moon in the '60s." Rutan
gained wide fame by designing the Voyager aircraft, which flew around
the world nonstop and without refueling in 1986. Rutan hoped his latest
program shows that spaceflight is not just for governments. "I believe
that realization will attract investment and that realization will
attract a whole bunch of activity and very soon it will be affordable
for you to fly."
- posted 17 years ago