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SpaceShipOne completes first X Prize flight
Updated: Wed, Sep 29, 2004, 5:03 PM ET (2103 GMT)
Originally Posted: Wed, Sep 29, 2004, 2:06 PM ET (1806 GMT)
Mike Melville atop SS1 after X1 flight (J. Foust) SpaceShipOne has successfully completed its first qualifying flight for the Ansari X Prize, but not without some drama as the vehicle rolled during its ascent. SpaceShipOne ignited its engine at about 11:10 am EDT (1510 GMT), nearly one hour after it and its White Knight carrier aircraft took off from Mojave Airport, California. The flight appeared nominal for most of the approximately 75-second burn, but near the end the vehicle began to roll sharply, suggesting a possible control malfunction. However, in a brief statement to the media after landing, pilot Mike Melvill said that the roll was likely pilot-induced, and that it was otherwise a "near-perfect flight". Melvill and Rutan said that the vehicle does have a tendency to roll, but that the roll is not dangerous and was easily controlled using the vehicle's control surfaces and reaction control jets. There was no damage to the vehicle during the flight. X Prize judging officials said that the vehicle reached a peak altitude of 102,870 meters, well above the 100-km requirement, based on unofficial radar data from Edwards AFB. Burt Rutan said that they plan to announce by the end of Thursday when the next flight will take place; October 4 is the tentative date.
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