SpaceShipOne is the world’s first private manned spacecraft. In 1996, the X Prize Foundation offered $10 million to the first civilian team to launch a low-cost spaceship into suborbital flight twice within two weeks. The SpaceShipOne project was sponsored by philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen. The spacecraft was designed and built by innovative aeronautical engineer Burt Rutan and his company, Scaled Composites.
During tests, SpaceShipOne became the first privately-funded aircraft to exceed Mach 2 and Mach 3 and the first privately-funded manned spacecraft to fly over 100 km in altitude (62 miles). SpaceShipOne made its first X Prize-qualifying run on September 29, 2004, with test pilot Mike Melville at the controls. Days later, October 4, Brian Binnie flew the craft into space again to win the competition and claim the X Prize.
History of the Artifact
SpaceShipOne is today on display at the National Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian). To help educate the public and inspire new breakthroughs, the X Prize Foundation built six full-size SpaceShipOne replicas in 2005.
A large team of students built the replicas in Mojave, California, using some of Scaled Composites’ actual SpaceShipOne molds. The replicas were completed by a Los Angeles modeling and special effects company using a custom fiberglass spray gun. A few of the replicas have found permanent homes, while others continue to move from venue to venue, reaching new viewers. The X Prize team hopes that the spacecraft replicas will “help tell the story of SpaceShipOne and inspire people, especially kids, to dream big dreams about space.”
Did you know?
On its flights, SpaceShipOne was lifted to 50,000 feet by a jet-powered aircraft named White Knight.