SpaceShipOne Lifts Off

Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne is heading for its second space flight this morning. In order to win the Ansari X-Prize the craft must make a second flight to 62 miles/100 km in altitude in the next two weeks. SpaceShipOne has already become the first privately-funded vehicle to reach the edge of space, and if it can win the X-Prize it will make history in terms of turnaround time for a space launch. Best of luck to the Scaled Composites team and pilot Mike Melvil who will once again fly SpaceShipOne for this history-making flight.

UPDATE: SpaceShipOne has once again rocketed into space reaching an altitude of 358,000 feet. If Scaled Composites can make another flight in two weeks, they’ll win the X-Prize and make aerospace history once again.

Congratulation to the SpaceShipOne team who have shown what the ingenuity of the private sector can do to expand the frontiers of science and technology.

UPDATE: Apprently there were some attitude control problems on the ascent, forcing the engines to be shut off early, but the craft gained more than enough altitude to cruise into space, qualifying this flight for the X1 flight of the X-Prize challenge. In the next two weeks the craft must complete another qualifying flight in order to win the prize.

UPDATE: Attitude control problems would be the polite way of putting it – that ship was rolling all over the place. Amazing work in getting it stable and correctly oriented for the descent phase. Fortunately the shuttlecock design helps stablize the ship on descent, but I can see why they needed that early engine cut-off… must have been one hell of a ride.

UPDATE: Dick Rutan’s comments on the roll experienced in the ascent is a classic bit of steely-eyed rocket man rhetoric:

When something like that happens, it makes a much better chapter in the book.

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