For only having been revealed to the public a bit over a year ago, SpaceShipOne is making fast progress towards the X-Prize:
In a post-flight statement from the company, the SpaceShipOne team reported that their space plane flew to 212,000 feet altitude, almost 41 miles. NASA awards astronaut status to anyone who flies above 50 miles in altitude….
Today’s flight builds upon a progression of 13 shakeout tests, mostly un-powered drop glides along with two engine-thrusting runs. The White Knight took off with SpaceShipOne at around 10:30 a.m. EDT today with the rocket plane landing an the ground a little after 12 noon.
SpaceShipOne’s first powered mission took place on December 17, 2003, with the hybrid motor firing for 15 seconds. A second powered flight occurred on April 8th of this year. In that trek, the motor burned for 40 seconds. A major contractor for the hybrid motor used in the rocket plane is SpaceDev of Poway, California….
The step-by-step SpaceShipOne missions are keyed to winning the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million purse offered by the X Prize Foundation of St. Louis, Missouri. For the cash prize, however, the clock is running as the $10 million purse expires January 1, 2005.
(And check out this pic of SpaceShipOne under power…it looks like something from a science fiction movie.)