White Knight and SpaceShipOne were revolutionary in a number of ways. SpaceShipOne's hybrid engine needed special fuel that was safer, and both White Knight and the ship could be reused. SpaceShipOne's rocket motor, which was custom-built by SpaceDev of San Diego, burned a solid rubber propellant with liquid nitrous oxide – a liquid version of "laughing gas". It isn't volatile and is more eco-friendly than other space rocket fuels. Its byproducts are water vapour, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen.
In October 2004, SpaceShipOne won the $10m Ansari X-prize for the first private reusable spacecraft. It did this by making two flights inside two weeks with a pilot plus ballast equivalent to two passengers. The ship has now been retired to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, but its technology is already taking the next step forward. Rutan's company has announced that it will build SpaceShipTwo, a passenger-carrying successor to SpaceShipOne. Five of these new craft have been ordered by Virgin Galactic, a company founded by British entrepreneur Richard Branson. Virgin Galactic plans to offer flights into space for about $180,000 (£100,000).
Archived newsThousands keen for space flight (Mar 1, 2005)
External sitesScaled Composites
Related entry Rocket Racing League
Related categories• MANNED SPACEFLIGHT
• EXPERIMENTAL AIRCRAFT
• LAUNCH VEHICLES
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