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bunbun has a gungun
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Registered: 05/09/03
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Civilian craft ready to make space history
    #2806400 - 06/18/04 05:55 PM (13 years, 11 months ago)

From http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996036

On Monday, just a few months after the hundredth anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight, another historic flight may be added to the record books - the first civilian space flight.

The craft that will make the attempt, SpaceShipOne, is built by aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan and his company Scaled Composites,. He believes the flight could mark the start of another new age, in which spaceflight could become as commonplace as today's air travel.

Rutan's sleek little two-part rocket system is a far cry from the converted missiles that began the age of human spaceflight, and from the astoundingly complex space shuttles that require thousands of full-time workers to keep them flying. If the shuttle can be likened to a cargo truck, then the new craft is like a sports car.

The craft will launch on its maiden voyage into space with just a pilot on board, although it is designed to also carry two passengers. Assuming the flight succeeds, the as-yet-unnamed pilot will become the first person ever enter space on a non-government-funded rocket, and thus become the first true civilian astronaut.

Slow circle

At 0630 PDT on Monday, the journey will begin with take-off from a conventional runway at Mojave airport in California, a huge, dusty airport in the desert that has been home to experimental craft for decades.

SpaceShipOne will start slung under its carrier airplane, White Knight, a jet-powered craft also designed by Rutan. The pair will circle slowly up to an altitude of 15,250 metres (50,000 feet), where SpaceShipOne will be released.

The pilot will then ignite the SpaceShipOne's hybrid rocket motor, which will burn for 80 seconds and should send the craft to at least 100 kilometres (62 miles) - the usual definition of the beginning of space. For three minutes or so, he will see the blackness of space and the gentle curvature of the Earth below, and will float in weightlessness.

Twenty minutes later, after plunging into the atmosphere like a shuttlecock, he will glide it to a landing on the same Mojave runway.

Prize shot

The flight will not qualify as part of a run for the $10 million X-Prize, because it will not be carrying the weight of two passengers. But Scaled Composites, funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, is expected to attempt the requisite two flights within a fortnight to qualify for that prize, perhaps within a few weeks.

Other teams are still hoping to beat Scaled Composites to the prize, and will be watching Monday's flight closely. So too, it seems, will thousands of people who are expected to flood the small desert town, along with television crews and reporters.

Rick Tumlinson, president of the Space Frontier Foundation, which advocates the development of commercial space vehicles, says: "The US government has spent billions of dollars on planned or experimental vehicles. Yet, for less than $40 million, SpaceShipOne has already flown higher, farther and more often than all of those past X-vehicles combined."

Scaled Composites is certainly projecting an expectation of success. The company has issued an open invitation to the launch, encouraging parents to bring their children so they can be there "to see the event that triggered the industry of private space tourism".

New Scientist will be reporting from the launch site on Monday, bringing you all the latest news.

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Registered: 04/27/01
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Re: Civilian craft ready to make space history [Re: micro]
    #2806564 - 06/18/04 07:05 PM (13 years, 11 months ago)

The guy that designed and built the first plane to fly around the world on a single tank of fuel is about to be the guy that designed and built the first civilian spaceship... very cool!

Just another spore in the wind.

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Dog Lover

Registered: 04/24/04
Posts: 6,762
Re: Civilian craft ready to make space history [Re: Seuss]
    #2810715 - 06/20/04 09:55 AM (13 years, 11 months ago)

Didn't he also fly a balloon around the world?

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The Duk Abides

Registered: 05/17/03
Posts: 94,392
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Re: Civilian craft ready to make space history [Re: micro]
    #2811112 - 06/20/04 02:01 PM (13 years, 11 months ago)

I?m very excited about this, and hope all goes well! :laugh: :thumbup: Besides, that?s a seriously cool looking rocket plane! :cool:

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