2004 – SpaceShipOne wins the Ansari X Prize for private spaceflight
SpaceShipOne is an experimental air-launched rocket-powered aircraft with sub-orbital spaceflight capability at speeds of up to 900 m/s (3,000 ft/s), using a hybrid rocket motor.
SpaceShipOne takes off from the ground, attached to White Knight in a parasite configuration, and under White Knight’s power. The combination of SpaceShipOne and White Knight can take off, land, and fly under jet power to high altitude.
SpaceShipOne completed the first crewed private spaceflight in 2004 and on the same year 4th October 2004, it won the US$10 million Ansari X Prize and was immediately retired from active service.
The SpaceShipOne pilots came from a variety of aerospace backgrounds. Mike Melvill is a test pilot, Brian Binnie is a former Navy pilot, and Peter Siebold is an engineer at Scaled Composites. They qualified to fly SpaceShipOne by training on the Tier One flight simulator and in White Knight and other Scaled Composites aircraft.
Extra Note: Accelerating a spacecraft to orbital speed requires more than 60 times as much energy as accelerating it to Mach 3. It would also require an elaborate heat shield to safely dissipate that energy during re-entry
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