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Rutan unveils reusable suborbital spacecraft
Posted: Sat, Apr 19, 2003, 10:05 PM ET (0205 GMT)
White Knight and SpaceShipOne (J. Foust) Noted aircraft designer Burt Rutan displayed publicly for the first time Friday a reusable suborbital manned spacecraft billed as the "first private manned space program." The program, consisting of spacecraft, carrier aircraft, propulsion test systems, and ground equipment, was shown to an audience of several hundred invited guests and media at the facilities of Rutanís company, Scaled Composites, in Mojave, California. The vehicle, dubbed SpaceShipOne, is a three-person vehicle with a single hybrid-propellant engine that is released from its carrier aircraft, White Knight, at an altitude of 15,000 meters. The spacecraft will fly to an altitude of 100 kilometers before gliding back to Earth for a runway landing. Development of White Knight and SpaceShipOne started in earnest two years ago, although Rutan said the first conceptual work dates back to 1996. While Scaled is an X Prize competitor, Rutan said there are no plans to put the vehicle into commercial service for space tourism or other markets. An extensive series of flight tests, starting with captive carry and glide tests and leading up to full-scale rocket-powered flights, is planned, but Rutan declined to give any details about when those tests would take place.
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