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SpaceShipOne

Sub-orbital manned space flights have been done before by Redstone - Mercury in 1961 and by the B-52 - X-15 in 1963. For some reason though sub-orbital space flights were ignored for the next 40 years. The view from the apex of a sub-orbital flight is similar to being in orbit, but the cost and risk is far less.

The goal of the company Scaled Composites is to demonstrate that non-government manned space flight operations are not only feasible, but can be done at very low costs. Safety, of course is paramount, but minimum cost is critical. Scaled Composites looks to the future, hopefully within ten years, when ordinary people, for the cost of a luxury cruise, can experience a rocket flight into the black sky above the earth's atmosphere, enjoy a few minutes of weightless excitement, then feel the thunderous deceleration of the aerodynamic drag on entry.

The company’s plan involves flight in a 3-place spaceship, initially attached to a turbojet launch aircraft while climbing for an hour to 50,000 feet, above 85% of the atmosphere. The spaceship then drops into gliding flight and fires its rocket motor while climbing steeply for more than a minute, reaching a speed of 2,500 mph. The ship coasts up to 100 km (62 miles) altitude, then falls back into the atmosphere. The coast and fall are under weightless conditions for more than three minutes. During weightless flight, the spaceship converts to a high-drag configuration to allow a safe, stable atmospheric entry. After the entry deceleration which takes more than a minute, the ship converts back to a conventional glider, allowing a leisurely 17 minute glide from 80,000 feet altitude down to a runway where a landing is made at lightplane speeds.

(http://www.scaled.com)

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The concept design work began in 1996 and some preliminary development began in 1999. The full development program began in secrecy in April 2001. This extensive experimental research effort is a complete manned space program. It consists of all new hardware including a launch aircraft (the White Knight), a three-place spaceship (the SpaceShipOne), a hybrid rocket propulsion system, a mobile propulsion test facility, a flight simulator, an inertial-nav flight director, a mobile mission control center, all spacecraft systems, a pilot training program and a complete flight test program. All of the hardware components are full-scale, full space-capable performance, not mockups or interim vehicles.

Bellow are pictures of SpeceShipoOne followed by a pictures of White Knight:

(http://www.scaled.com) (http://www.scaled.com)

(http://www.scaled.com)

(http://www.scaled.com) (http://www.scaled.com)

And below is a picture of both aircraft in operational stage:

(http://www.scaled.com)

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Four years ago, Scaled conducted a study of rocket engine technologies that were appropriate for its future manned sub-orbital spaceship design. The results of this study were that a hybrid configuration using nitrous oxide (liquid N2O) and HTPB (rubber) propellants would likely provide the safest solution with operating characteristics that would complement the intended mission.

(http://www.scaled.com)

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In Jan 2000, Scaled defined a new integrated concept for the hybrid motor that allowed the entire propulsion system to be mounted to the spaceship by simple skirt flanges on the oxidizer tank. This concept, which cantilevers the case and nozzle directly to the tank, required an advanced all-composite design approach. By early 2001, Scaled had committed to developing the two main motor composite components in-house: The first is the nitrous oxide tank, a composite liner laid up onto titanium flanges, with a graphite over-wrap provided by Thiokol. The second is a unitized fuel case/nozzle component fabricated using a high-temperature composite insulator with a graphite/epoxy structure laid up onto an ablative nozzle supplied by AAE Aerospace.

(http://www.scaled.com)

(http://www.scaled.com) Click image for larger view!

In mid 2001, Scaled awarded contracts to two competing small businesses for the "rocket science". Each company was independently responsible for the development of the motor's ignition system, main control valve, injector, tank bulkheads, electronic controls, fill/dump/vent systems and fuel casting. The vendors, Environmental Aeroscience Corporation (eAc) of Miami and SpaceDev (SD) of San Diego, were also tasked with conducting the ground firing tests of their motor systems in Scaled's test facility during the development phase.

The ground firing development program started in November 2002 with a 15 second run by the SpaceDev team and ended early this month with a 90-second run by eAc. Both vendors demonstrated full design-duration firings during the nine-month development phase. All tests have exclusively used 100% flight hardware, and validated the inherent safety of hybrid type motors, with no instances of structural failure, hot-gas breach, explosion or other anomaly that would have put SpaceShipOne in jeopardy.

(http://www.scaled.com)

Scaled now looks forward to entering into the historic phase of private manned space flight. If this program is successful, it will mark the beginning of a renaissance for manned space flight.

(http://www.scaled.com)(http://www.scaled.com)

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