Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne


The SpaceShipOne project was sponsored by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen. The spacecraft was designed and built by innovative aeronautical engineer Burt Rutan and his company, Scaled Composites. SpaceShipOne was lifted to 50,000 feet by a jet-powered aircraft named White Knight. Once released, SpaceShipOne's pilot activated the craft's hybrid rocket engine and soared upward in a high arc. During the short flight (24 minutes, with 3 minutes of weightlessness) into space, the craft reached speeds of more than 2,000 miles per hour. During re-entry, the dual tail booms rotated upward, causing drag, slowing the craft, and keeping it stable.

The first SpaceShipOne powered flight took place on December 17, 2003. During subsequent flights, the craft became the first privately funded aircraft to exceed Mach 2 and Mach 3 and the first privately funded manned spacecraft to fly over 100 km in altitude (62 miles). SpaceShipOne made its first X Prize-qualifying run on September 29, 2004, with test pilot Mike Melville at the controls. Days later, October 4, Brian Binnie flew the craft into space again to win the competition and claim the Ansari X Prize.

The story of this spacecraft: After SpaceShipOne's successful record-breaking flights, the craft was donated to the National Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian) by Paul G. Allen. Today it is displayed in the Milestones of Flight gallery which features some of the pioneering machines of aviation and space history. To help educate the public and inspire new breakthroughs, the X Prize Foundation built six full-size SpaceShipOne replicas
in 2005.

A large team of students built the replicas in Mojave, California, using some of Scaled Composites' actual SpaceShipOne molds. X Prize team leader Brooke Owens stated the project "allowed the students to take part in recreating history in a very hands-on manner and learn a few composite skills along the way." The replicas were completed by a Los Angeles modeling and special effects company using a custom fiberglass spray gun. A few of the replicas have found permanent homes, while others continue to move from venue to venue, reaching new viewers. Owens hopes that the spacecraft replicas "help tell the story of X Prize and SpaceShipOne and inspire people, especially kids, to dream big dreams about space."

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