Here’s my article for the third issue of The Oredigger:
The boundary of space is internationally recognized as 100km above Earth. On a clear Monday morning at Mojave Airport, the first FAA license Spaceport, Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne took towards the black sky. This was SpaceShipOne’s second flight within a two week time span that allowed it to capture the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE. According to the X Prize website, xprize.org, the contest is “modeled after Orteig Prize won by 25 year old underdog, [sic] Charles Lindbergh in 1927 for the first non-stop flight between New York and Paris….After Lindbergh’s flight, passenger travel in the U.S. increased 30-fold.” The X Prize is “an international competition that will award a $10 million dollar cash prize to the first team that:
- Privately finances, builds and launches a ship
- Carries three people 62.5 miles (100km) up into the atmosphere
- Makes two successful flights within two weeks (same ship)
There were thirteen different teams from 6 nations. In the last year, only US based Mojave Aerospace Ventures (SpaceShipOne), LLC, and Canada’s DaVinci Project Team were in serious contention. However, on June 21st, 2004, Mojave Aerospace Ventures made it clear they wanted the prize, saying in a press release “[u]nder the command of test pilot Mike Melvill, SpaceShipOne reached a record breaking altitude of 328,491 feet (approximately 62 miles or 100 km), making Melvill the first civilian to fly a spaceship out of the atmosphere and the first private pilot to earn astronaut wings.” Only six days later, Mojave Aerospace Ventures officially gave its 60-day notice for the X Prize, planning their first launch on September 29th, 2004.
In a press release issued shortly after successfully completing the first flight, “At 8:13 this morning PDT, SpaceShipOne (SS1) coasted above the 100 km altitude point and successfully completed the first of two X-Prize flights. The peak altitude reached was 337,500 ft. The motor was shut down when the pilot, Mike Melvill, noted that his altitude predictor exceeded the required 100 km mark. The motor burn lasted 77 seconds – 1 second longer than on the June 21st flight. Melvill was prepared to burn the motor up to 89 seconds, which indicates significant additional performance remains in SS1.”
This leads back to the morning of October 4th. A short press release on the X-Prize website noted: “SpaceShipOne and Mojave Aerospace Ventures, LLC. team reaches over 360,000 feet to win the $10 million ANSARI X PRIZE…Brian Binney, who piloted the flight, was released from it’s mothership White Knight at 50,000 feet early this morning. Binney continued into space breaking the August 22, 1963 record by Joseph A. Walker who flew the X-15 to an unofficial world altitude record of 354,200 feet.” The prize was won. The future of commercial space flight is finally here.
To learn more about SpaceShipOne, visit
To learn more about the Ansari X Prize, visit
To learn more about the author, Andrew Ferguson, visit