Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne
This article is about flights made by SpaceShipOne. For information on the design of SpaceShipOne, and on related projects and commercial ventures, see the separate article on Tier One.
The Scaled Composites Model 316 SpaceShipOne is an experimental air launched suborbital spaceplane, using a hybrid rocket motor. It has been developed by Scaled Composites, Burt Rutan's aviation company, in their Tier One program, with no government funding. On June 21 2004 it made the first privately-funded human spaceflight, and on October 4 2004 it won the ten million dollar Ansari X Prize, by reaching 100 kilometers in altitude twice in a two week period with the equivalent of three people on board, with no more than ten percent of the non-fuel weight of the spacecraft replaced between flights.
Although impressive, the achievements of SpaceShipOne are not comparable to those of orbiting spacecraft like the Space Shuttle. Accelerating a spacecraft to orbital speed requires over 30 times as much energy as lifting it to a height of 100 km.
SpaceShipOne is registered with the FAA as N328KF. 'N' is the prefix for US-registered aircraft; '328KF' stands for 328 thousand (K) feet (approximately 100 kilometers, the officially designated edge of space). The original choice of registry number, N100KM, was already taken. It is registered as a glider, reflecting the fact that most of its independent flight is unpowered.
All the SpaceShipOne flights have been based at the Mojave Airport Civilian Flight Test Center.
SpaceShipOne made its first flight, flight 01C , on May 20 2003. It was an uncrewed captive carry flight test. Glide tests followed, starting with flight 03G on August 7 2003. The first powered flight, flight 11P, was made on December 17 2003, the 100th anniversary of the first ever powered flight by the Wright Brothers.
On April 1, 2004, Scaled Composites received the first license for sub-orbital piloted rocket flights to be issued by the US Department of Transportation. This license permits the company to conduct powered test flights for a period of one year. On June 17 2004 Mojave Airport reclassified itself (part-time) as the Mojave Spaceport.
SpaceShipOne will continue to make test flights, as Scaled Composites develops the technology further and designs future spacecraft such as the planned Virgin SpaceShip. It is also expected to carry a handful of paying passengers on barnstorming flights: those prospective space tourists who can't wait for routine space tourism and are sufficiently wealthy to afford the exorbitant fee.
There is a long-standing plan, known as task 21, that, once spaceflights have been demonstrated, SpaceShipOne will fly into space every Tuesday for twenty consecutive weeks, to demonstrate aircraft-like routine operation. As of November 2004, no date has yet been set for the start of task 21.
According to the VP of Scaled Composites the rumored "task 21" is just that -- a rumor. SpaceShipOne was only intended to win the X Prize, and will likely go into one of the space museums.
The SpaceShipOne pilots are:
The pilots come from a variety of aerospace backgrounds. Melvill is a test pilot, Binnie was a Navy pilot, and Shane and Siebold are engineers at Scaled Composites. They have qualified to fly SpaceShipOne by training on the Tier One flight simulator and in White Knight and other Scaled Composites aircraft.
Flights of SpaceShipOne are numbered, starting with flight 01 on May 20 2003. One or two letters are appended to the number to indicate the type of mission. An appended C indicates that the flight was a captive carry, G indicates an unpowered glide, and P indicates a powered flight. If the actual flight differs in category from the intended flight, two letters are appended: the first indicating the intended mission and the second the mission actually performed.
In the table below, the "top speed" reported is the Mach number at burn-out (the end of the rocket burn). This is not an absolute speed.
|01C||May 20 2003||1 h 48 min||uncrewed|
|02C||July 29 2003||2 h 06 min||Mike Melvill|
|03G||August 7 2003||0 h 19 min||Mike Melvill|
|04GC||August 27 2003||1 h 06 min||Mike Melvill|
|05G||August 27 2003||10 min 30 s||Mike Melvill|
|06G||September 23 2003||12 min 15 s||Mike Melvill|
|07G||October 17 2003||17 min 49 s||Mike Melvill|
|08G||November 14 2003||19 min 55 s||Peter Siebold|
|09G||November 19 2003||12 min 25 s||Mike Melvill|
|10G||December 4 2003||13 min 14 s||Brian Binnie|
|11P||December 17 2003||Mach 1.2||20.7 km||18 min - 10 s||Brian Binnie|
|12G||March 11 2004||18 min - 30 s||Peter Siebold|
|13P||April 8 2004||Mach 1.6||32.0 km||16 min 27 s||Peter Siebold|
|14P||May 13 2004||Mach 2.5||64.3 km||20 min - 44 s||Mike Melvill|
|15P||June 21 2004||Mach 2.9||100.1 km||24 min 05 s||Mike Melvill|
|16P||September 29 2004||Mach 2.92||102.9 km||24 min 11 s||Mike Melvill|
|17P||October 4 2004||Mach 3.09||112.0 km||23 min 56 s||Brian Binnie|
- Crew: one pilot
- Length: 5 m
- Wingspan: 5 m
- Core Diameter: 1.52 m
- Wing area: 15 m²
- Empty: 1,200 kg
- Loaded: 3,600 kg
- Maximum takeoff:
- Powerplant: 1x N2O/HTPB SpaceDev Hybrid Solid rocket engine, 7,500 kgf (74 kN) thrust. Isp: 250 lbf·s/lb (2.5 km/s) Burn time: 87 seconds
- Maximum speed: Mach 3.09 (3,518 km/h)
- Range: 65 km
- Service ceiling: 112,000 m
- Rate of climb: 25,000 m/min
- Wing loading: 240 kg/m²
- Thrust-to-Weight: 20 N/kg
- Most info from astronautix.com
Watching SpaceShipOne fly
SpaceShipOne's spaceflights have been watched by large crowds at Mojave Spaceport. Unfortunately, SpaceShipOne launches to the east of the spaceport early in the morning, which means that it is in the same part of the sky as the sun for viewers at the spaceport. This makes viewing more difficult, and caution is required when viewing through binoculars and telescopes. Nevertheless, direct viewing of the flight is entirely possible, and spectators can clearly see the takeoffs and landings of SpaceShipOne and its chase planes. Sonic booms are also part of the spectators' experience.
- Tier One home page at Scaled Composites's website
- SpaceShipOne video footage of flight 14P
- Private Craft to Shoot for Space by Irene Mona Klotz, Discovery News
- Wired News: SpaceShipOne Back on Course
- SpaceShipOne's FAA registration
- The Ansari X Prize
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