SpaceShipOne captures X-prize!

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/10/04/spaceshipone.attempt.cnn/index.html

MOJAVE DESERT, California (CNN) – SpaceShipOne climbed into space for the second time in a week to claim the $10 million Ansari X Prize.

X Prize officials said the privately funded craft reached 368,000 feet – well into space – Monday to win the $10 million prize.

The threshold of space is 328,000 feet.

Pilot Brian Binnie reported a shaky flight with “a little roll” but did not experience the 29 rolls Mike Melvill experienced last week.

Space ShipOne and its mother ship, the White Knight, featured a new paint job promoting Virgin Group, Richard Branson firm, which recently announced a deal to license the SpaceShipOne technology for a fleet of commercial spacecraft.It could also be the most lucrative 3 1/2 minutes in space for the Mojave Aerospace Ventures Team.

Spacecraft designer Burt Rutan told a crowd gathered at his home in the Mojave Desert on Sunday that he was confident of the success of today’s flight – and winning the $10 million Ansari X Prize check.

After some unexpected acrobatics during the last flight, Rutan said Monday’s would be a smooth flight, but he was prepared for stability issues.

“We believe we have solved these and we don’t believe we’ll see the rolls tomorrow,” he said. “But if we do, we don’t believe they’re dangerous. … After all, what we’re doing is research.”

Binnie, who piloted the first powered SpaceShipOne launch, was at the helm of the craft after it was released from the belly of the White Knight turbojet at about 50,000 feet.

Within seconds after igniting its rocket, it was traveling faster than a bullet out of a rifle.

The spacecraft is outfitted with a stronger engine and some aerodynamic modifications from its first record-breaking flight into space on June 21.

Melvill flew the craft’s first mission to space and reached, just barely, the required 62-mile altitude, passing the internationally recognized boundary of space. Wind shear and a jammed control on the tail meant the craft veered about 20 miles off course, but it returned for a smooth landing. It was only SpaceShipOne’s fourth flight using the rocket engine

On Wednesday, SpaceShipOne streaked even higher to 337, 569 feet (64 miles). However, during its ascent, the private spacecraft began a series of rolls that Melvill brought under control only after ending the rocket burn 11 seconds early.

Today’s suborbital flight is the second within two weeks needed to win the X Prize for the desert workshop of pilots and engineers who have continually pushed the envelope.

SpaceShipOne’s thrust is provided by two innocuous substances that, when mixed together, are explosive: nitrous oxide and rubber.

A fuel tank about six feet in diameter at the center of the craft holds liquid nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas. A hollow tube leading from the tank to the engine nozzle is filled with solid rubber. The combustive combination produces thousands of pounds of thrust, although exact amount remains secret.

Most importantly, says aerospace engineer and spacecraft designer Rutan, it has opened the world – and a private market – to spaceflight.

“I strongly feel that, if we are successful, our program will mark the beginning of a renaissance for manned space flight,” said Rutan in an X Prize statement.

Peter Diamandis, co-founder of the X Prize Foundation, said the $10 million award is intended to spur civilian spaceflight. The nonprofit X Prize Foundation is sponsoring the contest to promote the development of a low-cost, efficient craft for space tourism in the same way prize competitions stimulated commercial aviation in the early 20th century. The prize is fully funded through the end of the year

Nice to see someone getting the X prize. I’ve been waiting for this day since my teacher told me about it in 8th grade. Now I’m in 12th.

thats so cool. but then again, it takes the fun out of it now… and also means i wont be getting that particular prize anymore… what next? im sure eventually there will be another contest with a high price prize. go to mars and back twice within 2 years? lol
and the google.com page has spaceshipone drawing on it. :smiley:

The guy behind the X Prize, Peter Diamandis, has just announced an annual competition called the “X Prize Cup”, sort of like NASCAR for spacecraft. Prize categories are expected to include altitude, speed, passenger capacity, etc.

There are already corporate sponsors lined up.

The sky’s not the limit anymore!

There is a new $50 million dollar competition for an orbiting spacecraft!

The guy behind the X Prize, Peter Diamandis, has just announced an annual competition called the “X Prize Cup”, sort of like NASCAR for spacecraft. Prize categories are expected to include altitude, speed, passenger capacity, etc.

I can start to imagine the problems involved with with a safe orbital flight. Basically I wonder how anyone would managed to avoid the countless numbers of space debris without it destroying anything. Im surprised NASA has never had this problem.

Are there any videos of either fights on line? I’ve been looking, but have not found any.

actually, i think ive heard of some debris damaging a satellite of somewhere of someone’s :smiley: sorry. cant seem to remember what or when. or if its just my imaginition…lol

google it up or click the spaceshipone drawing above the textbox for google.com youll find videos there.

Does anyone else find it slightly scary that COMPANIES will be building rockets to put normal people in space?

I mean, I’m all for innovation and pushing the envelope, but god knows how safe company xyz’s rocket is. NASA does more testing than anyone could even imagine… and the price of one shuttle is astronomically high. One has to wonder how safe these things will be.

There better be some serious regulation and oversight on these bad boys.

Well, if you realy want to go to space, you would take the risk. They would probably also make you sign some sort of agreement that they take no responsibility for your death.

http://www.xprize.com has links to the final flight video. beware, it only works if you are running a windows OS!

well, they SAY they are testing alot lol… no offense…
and same thing was running through everyones minds when airplanes came out, then jets too. competition makes things go quality too. if some company loses some ship, their reputation will definitly go down. might even lose their business. so these companys will make things QUALITY. i think. even NASA screws up sometimes. (columbia, few apollos, etcetc.)

Not at all. Successful companies are in the business of making money. Injuring (or killing) their customers is something they tend to avoid.

I mean, I’m all for innovation and pushing the envelope, but god knows how safe company xyz’s rocket is. NASA does more testing than anyone could even imagine… and the price of one shuttle is astronomically high. One has to wonder how safe these things will be.

SpaceShipOne is more like an airplane than a typical NASA spacecraft. It’s a whole lot easier to test something when you can do it incrementally, without needing to have everything work absolutely correctly the first time. The entire point of the X Prize was to bring about completely reusable spacecraft.

There better be some serious regulation and oversight on these bad boys.

There have been literally years of work put in by people in industry and government, working out appropriate models for regulating an emerging private space access market. One of the problems to be avoided is excessively restricting it too early and thus keeping it from developing at all. The rules for reusable spacecraft aren’t going to be specifying anything much more rigorous than existing regulations for experimental aircraft anytime soon.

and same thing was running through everyones minds when airplanes came out, then jets too. competition makes things go quality too. if some company loses some ship, their reputation will definitly go down. might even lose their business. so these companys will make things QUALITY. i think. even NASA screws up sometimes. (columbia, few apollos, etcetc.)

Not at all. Successful companies are in the business of making money. Injuring (or killing) their customers is something they tend to avoid.

Too bad the first commercial jet planes fell out of the sky due to a design error. :ahh: Ever wonder why airplanes have circular windows. Well their design is traced back to the first jet liner. They were having mysterious crashes that actually grounded the plane. Aparently the planes had a fatal flaw that was discovered after extensive ground testing. The planes were failing at the point at the windows which in that plane was rectangular (which were that shape for purely asthetic reasons). After that all airplane compaines united to design a very safe jetliner. Then you have cars which did not even follow the same lines of contraversy in terms of safety. Everyone at first thought cars were safe even though they had no seatbelts or any form of protection. Of course that all changed during the 1970’s?? when Ralph Nader came along. I believe he came along and said that a lot of the cars were unsafe. Im not sure of which specific brand car that he went after but the contraversy delt with the camber of the wheels which may have caused roll overs and the fact that the engine was in the front (which resulted in horrible steering). Of course some of the things Nader said were a little exaggerated but it did help start the first government crash tests. A lot of vehicles that were built were scary in terms of safety. There was one car that had two of it’s safety features removed (first airbags and a bladder around gas tank) which resulted into it turning into a fire ball every time you hit the car inthe back. I could go on about how companies thought they are doing a good job at safety but weren’t. NASA has a fairl good track record in terms of safety except for the fact that they keep on failing into a group think mentaility. There was two apollo missions and two shuttle missions in which the disaster could have been prevented.

Successful companies are in the business of making money. Injuring (or killing) their customers is something they tend to avoid. Too bad the first commercial jet planes fell out of the sky due to a design error. :ahh: [/quote]

The lesson to be learned from the DeHavilland Comet is not “Don’t trust companies.” The Comet was the first large aircraft to make regular trips to high altitude, and the problem of pressurization stress cycles was not known to anyone. A government-designed airliner wouldn’t have been any less likely to suffer from the flaw.

The true lesson is more along the lines of “Walk before you run.” Test the designs to find out where they break. Identify the problems. Correct the design to eliminate them. Note that every airliner since the Comet has rounded corners on the windows (and doors).

SpaceShipOne and White Knight have round windows for exactly this reason.

No, I think exactly the opposite. I think that this is a great example of how work done by private enterpreise outperforms government work. NASA and their contractors have a “high cost culture” that leads them to say, well, if its going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, then its just going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Because private enterprise cares about money, they find ways to do things cheaply and effectively. As an example, check out SpaceX, a company developing launch vehicles that will cost one third of current ones. They claiming that there vehicles will also have breakthrough improvements and safety and reliability, and their reasons make a lot of sense. When things are run by the government, they just get stuck in a time frame, and don’t move forward. Ignoring SpaceX, launching a satellite today costs basicly the same amount that it did thrity years ago. This is because the launch contracts were done mainly through the government.

To install serious regulation, like you said, would be to “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.” Regulation on these companies is already far too much. For instance, going back to SpaceX, they have been ready to go for quite a while, but have been swamped with endless regulation from all kinds of agencies that has pushed their launch dates back and back. In order to improve both the safety and the cost, the government just needs to let the companies take care of themselves.

It baffles me that people have so much mistrust for corporations, when they are the reason that we have everything we have that is good. Computers for instance, are largely unregualted, and look at the phenominal performance and cost increases that have ocurred. And, by the way, most companies are actively taking actions such as creating lead-free products on their own, not becuase of government mandates. Supermarkets are another great example. There’s a reason why they don’t sell you rotton food, and its not regulation. Its because if they sold you rotton food, then you’d never go there again. There are so many stories of people from the former soviet union, and even people from somewhat socialist european economies, who come to the United States and are absoluteley flabbergasted at the selection and cost of our supermarkets. If less regulation was used across the board, all industries would see this sort of improvement. Space travel is no exception. If we want to see tickets to space for less the one hundred thousand, with safety and reliability, the thing to do is just tell the regulatory agencies to ease off. Of course, there are some checks that do need to be made-- but not nearly the number that currently exist.

In conlusion, thirty years ago, NASA said that they could provide space travel to average citizens in thirty years. At 600 million per launch, they’re far from their goal.

There’s a pretty good discussion on regulation going on on
Slashdot concerning space regulation. The general understanding is there is definitely a need to regulate, simply because it is such a dangerous undertaking. The examples given do not necessarily apply to space travel, simply because the stakes are much higher. Computers weren’t regulated because their typical use doesn’t have the potential to kill anyone. A spaceship is capable of not only killing passengers, but anyone unfortunate enough to be on the ground if one were to come crashing down.

Generally speaking, companies do everything in their power to prevent injury to their customers. Injury and death are simply not good for business. However, without some form of regulation, there would be no minimum safety requirements companies would have to meet before launching people to the stars. If that were the case, anyone could build a rocket out of the trash can in their backyard. Charge cheap rates and have passengers sign a waiver disclaiming you from all liability, and things can get ugly really fast.

The goal of regulation is to prevent problems before they happen. Supermarkets and restaurants are regulated to an extent- they have to pass federal health inspections every so often to keep their license to sell food. Any store caught selling bad food is immediately subject to federal inspections and evaluations. Wherever there is the potential to cause harm to innocent people, there is regulation. Cars are a great example- perfectly safe when used properly and held to strict standards and government safety checks, deadly and dangerous if something goes wrong. Private spaceflight is a new industry, and has plenty of hurdles to overcome before becoming as widely accepted as planes, boats, and cars, but regulation is a necessary measure to keep things safe.

The true lesson is more along the lines of “Walk before you run.” Test the designs to find out where they break. Identify the problems. Correct the design to eliminate them. Note that every airliner since the Comet has rounded corners on the windows (and doors).

Yeah I agree with you on that part. I guess the DC-10 airliner problem probably would have been a better example. Those airplanes lost engines due to a lack in regulation of repair procedures. How about the Bopal disaster in India. I think the main thing that we have to concern ourselves as engineers is falling into a false sense of security because if we don’t we will do something incredibly stupid and maybe even dangerous.

Airliners are just as capable of hitting people on the ground if they “come crashing down”. Cars are already on the ground (and are much more likely to hit people if something goes wrong, because they are generally operated near people). There’s nothing special about spacecraft in this way.

Consider the safety rules for a FIRST robot. There are a few absolutes regarding a robot’s interaction with the field, but only general guidelines for how to implement the rules. Regulation is fine if it gives a standard or goal, but if it specifies things in too much detail, it overly restricts the options available, and smothers innovation.

The old rules for rocket-propelled launch vehicles are written with the assumption that rocket equals artillery. Launch pads are still located on firing ranges, and the range safety officer requires the ability to destroy the vehicle if it threatens to leave the range in an uncontrolled manner. That’s not appropriate for passenger craft. The proper standard is to demonstrate the ability to maintain control in every probable situation, and to demonstrate the ability to survive a loss of control in all but the most improbable situations.

Even with extremely restrictive regulation, there will always be accidents. You can’t legislate luck.