|December 17, 2003
A privately financed passenger-carrying sub-orbital rocket plane screamed its way through the sound barrier today, the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers historic 12-second flight over Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. FROM: SPACE.COM
cranked up its hybrid rocket motor after being released from the White
Knight carrier plane high over Mojave, California.
"This successful and historic flight is important because we are showing that the private sector can perform human space flight faster, safer and cheaper," said Jim Benson, founding chairman and chief executive of SpaceDev, the Poway, California based company that built SpaceShipOne's engine.
Test pilot Brian Binnie then put SpaceShipOne into a steep climb. Nine seconds later, SpaceShipOne broke the sound barrier and continued its steep powered ascent.
At motor shutdown, 15 seconds after ignition, SpaceShipOne was climbing at a 60-degree angle and flying near 1.2 Mach (930 mph).
continued the maneuver to a vertical climb, achieving zero speed at an
altitude of 68,000 feet. He then configured the ship in its high-drag
"feathered" shape to simulate the condition it will experience when it
enters the atmosphere after a sub-orbital space flight.
At apogee, SpaceShipOne was in near-weightless conditions, emulating the characteristics it will later
encounter during the planned space flights in which it will be at zero-g for more than three minutes.
After descending in feathered flight for about a minute, Binnie reconfigured the ship to its conventional glider shape and flew a 12-minute glide to landing at a landing strip in the Mojave.