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SpaceShipOne breaks the sound barrier
Posted: Wed, Dec 17, 2003, 4:00 PM ET (2100 GMT)
SpaceShipOne on 7th glide flight (Scaled Composites) SpaceShipOne (SS1), the suborbital RLV being developed by Scaled Composites, broke the sound barrier on its first powered test flight Wednesday morning. SS1 was released from its White Knight carrier aircraft at 11:15 am EST (1615 GMT), similar to seven previous unpowered glide tests, but shortly after release SS1 pilot Brian Binnie fired the vehicle's hybrid rocket engine in flight for the first time. The 15-second burn, performed during a steep ascent, carried the vehicle to a peak speed of Mach 1.2 and a peak altitude of 20,700 meters. The spacecraft then glided in both its feathered mode, with its wings raised at a high angle, and in normal mode, for 12 minutes to a landing at Mojave Airport in California. During the landing the left landing gear retracted, causing the vehicle to slide off the runway, but Scaled said in a statement the damage was minor and can be easily repaired. The flight was not only the first powered flight for the vehicle, but the first time a manned vehicle of any kind, developed by a small company without government funding, exceeded the speed of sound. The flight is likely the first in a series of powered flight tests that will gradually lead towards a full-scale suborbital flight to 100 km altitude in a bid to win the $10 million X Prize by the end of 2004.
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