SpaceShipOne – First Private Manned Spacecraft


SpaceShipOne is a reusable manned sub-orbital rocketplane that is designed to fly to space (an altitude above earth’s atmosphere) and then glide back to earth. It was built by aircraft designer Burt Rutan and his company Scaled Composites.


SpaceShipOne Info:

Spaceshipone has three seats; one for the pilot and two for space tourists who will be able to make the minutes up and down flights once the test phase is over. Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites may use the SpaceShipOne rocketplane to win the $ 10 million X-Prize by flying three people twice into space in two weeks.

Paul Allen, founder and chairman of Vulcan Inc is financing the SpaceShipOne project. He is also the co-founder of Microsoft.

White Knight Specification:
Length: 20 m
Diameter: 30 m
Weight: 40 kg
Space Ship One Specifications:
Length: 20 m
Diameter: 30 m
Weight: 40 kg

How does SpaceShipOne one work?

The White Knight is a specially designed  airplane that is powered by turbo-jets. It carries SpaceShipOne under its belly and releases SpaceShipOne rocketplane at 50,000ft and after a brief glide the rocket engine (hybrid rocket motor) ignites and fires for about 80 seconds carrying the craft to 100km for a three minute zero-g flight before a 15-20 minutes glide back to Earth, landing like an aircraft.

White Knight Aircraft - Mothership to SpaceShipOne

White Knight Aircraft Mothership carrying SpaceShipOne

SpacehipOne’s wings can be folded away which lets the craft re-enter the atmosphere in any direction.

The rocket motor was built by SpaceDev of San Diego. It burns a combination of a solid rubber propellant and nitrous oxide.


* Scaled Composites became the first US company to be granted a launch permit by the  Federal Aviation Administration (USA) on April 1, 2004.

* Mike Melvill was the first private astronaut to space. He piloted SpaceShipOne on 21 June 2004.

* Mike Melvill was the first person to fly a rocket into space (rocketplane) on the 4th flight of Spaceshipone from the Mojave Desert, USA to 100km (62 miles) above the Earth.

* Pilot Mike Melvill  set the record for the fastest speed (Mach 3.2) of any private aircraft on June 21.

History of Test Flights of Space Ship One

SpaceShipOne so has performed three powered test flights:

* Flight 1:  December 17, 2003

* Flight 2: April 8, 2004

* Flight 3: May 13, 2004

Mike Melvill piloted the craft to an altitude of 64km.

* Flight 4: June 21, 2004

Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne made the first privately developed commercial sub-orbital manned space flight on 21 June 2004. The pilot was Mike Melvil who flew alone to an altitude of about 100km (62 miles), became the first person to be launched by a non governmental organisation. The flight was from Rutan’s base at the Mojave Civilian Aerospace test Center, California.

The White Knight with SpaceShipOne carried under its belly. It took off from Mojave Airport on the early morning at 6.45 on June 21. The flight lasted about 90 minutes. 

White Knight carried SpaceShipOne to an altitude of 13.8km. At an altitude of about 15,000 metres SpaceShipOne separated from White Knight and fired its rocket engine for 80 seconds, propelling it on a suborbital trajectory before gliding back to the same runway it took off from less than 90 minutes earlier.

The rocketplane travelled three times the speed of sound (mach 3.2) and its trail was even photographed by astronauts on board the International Space Station. During the journey, Mike tossed M&Ms around the cabin to watch them float weightlessly. The successful trip means that space tourism could be affordable in the next few years.

Scaled Composites have announced that they will attempt the first manned suborbital flight of its SpaceShipOne vehicle on June 21.

* Flight 5: September 29, 2004

On 27 July 2004 Burt Rutan, head of the Mojave, California-based Scaled Composites gave 60 day notice and that SpaceShipOne will be making an attempt to win the Ansari X-Prize competition on September 29 from the Mojave Spaceport, and then repeating the feat no later than October 13.

The first flight to attempt to win the X-Prize competion was piloted by Mike Melvil and it was successful.

* Flight 6: October 2, 2004

Brian Binnie was the test pilot of the second flight to win the X-Prize. SpaceShipOne won the X-Prize Competion.

What is the X-Prize Competition?

The Ansari X-Prize competition will award a prize of 10 million USA Dollars to the first company that can launch a human piloted craft above 100 km (where space officially begins) twice in a two-week period. 27 teams are competing for the 10 million dollar prize. The teams ranging from Argentina, Canada, Israel, Romania, Russia, Britain and the United States.

SPACE RACE 2 has commenced. Who will win the Ansari X-Prize


Click Poll to vote now!

– 1. SpaceShipOne

– 2. da Vinci Project

On August 5th 2004 the Canadian da Vinci Project Team unveilled its
Wild Fire Mark VI spacecraft. It also notified the Ansari X-Prize of
its intention to launch its rocket on October 2nd, 2004.

The da Vinci Project is competing with Burt Rutan’s craft, and 23
other teams, to win the $10m (?.7m) prize. Canadian astronaut Brian
Feeney plans to blast off from Kindersley, Saskatchewan, Canada on
October 2.

The da Vinci team’s craft is designed to be launched from a reusable,
drifting helium balloon from an altitude of 80,000ft (24.4km). If
successful, it will be Canada’s first manned space launch.

Did you know?

– Did you know Space starts 100km above the Earth. It is the boundary between Planet Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.

– Mojave Airport is 150km north of Los Angeles, California, USA.


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