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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

5 Years After SpaceShipOne: Commercial Spaceflight Ready for 'Go'


Its victory was hailed by the banner: "SpaceShipOne, Government Zero."

Today, at the Mojave Air and Space Port all appears in readiness for the combined test flights of WhiteKnightTwo and the sleek two-pilot, six-person SpaceShipTwo - the world's first passenger-carrying suborbital spaceliner. This outing is backed by British entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic company. Like SpaceShipOne, the new SpaceShipTwo is designed to be carried to a high altitude by a mothership aircraft where it can launch on suborbital trips.

Above the fold

Burt Rutan reflects on the wake left by the pioneering SpaceShipOne flights, the winning of the Ansari X Prize, and a glimpse at the road ahead.

"Our big milestone of 2004 occurred on June 21, the date of the first non-government manned spaceflight. The X Prize flights were an opportunity for our sponsor and our employees to get a 'well-done bonus' and to show that our June accomplishment was not a lucky fluke...that it really is feasible for low-cost space access to be offered to the public," Rutan explained.

Rutan proudly spotlights a "Google Trends" search that also shows the importance of their first manned spaceflight. The Newsworthy Record , that is the number of world newspapers that carried the story above the fold, showed that the June 21st story was the second largest news event of 2004 - the first being the capture of Saddam Hussein. Three of the five manned space flights of 2004 were flown from Mojave, California.

"SpaceShipOne was my 39th manned aircraft type to be flight tested and was clearly the most significant," Rutan said. "It was my last opportunity to hand over the reins to the very talented young designers at Scaled."

Rutan said that he has continued to design new concepts as Chief Technology Officer and Chairman Emeritus of Scaled Composites.

"I may design a future aircraft or two, but because of the rewarding experience of SpaceShipOne for all my employees, I personally feel that my aircraft development career is complete," Rutan told

Historic, game changing

A witness to all three of the SpaceShipOne flights was Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic. "Those breathtaking X Prize flights were worthy of every cliche in the book...historic, game changing...all in all, the right stuff!"

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