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Behind the X Prize

        Science | Spaceflight

The Teams: Successful Flights
Pilot Mike Melville atop SpaceShipOne
Pilot Mike Melville atop SpaceShipOne
Photo courtesy Ansari X Prize

The Ansari X Prize garnered teams from countries as varied as Russia, Canada, Romania, Israel, England, Argentina and the United States. Contrary to the expectation that big aerospace companies would jump to get involved, many of the teams' companies were founded after the announcement of the contest, and teams often consisted of their founders. When Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne took the prize, more than 20 teams were registered. Most only managed to complete the design or build the spacecraft, but a few did have test flights with demonstrator rockets -- some successful, others not so successful. Here's a breakdown of the successful ones:

WINNER: Scaled Composites LLC

Mojave, California

Vehicle: SpaceShipOne, a 16.4-foot (~5-meter) rocket launched mid-air from carrier aircraft White Knight

Team Leader: Burt Rutan

Web Site: www.scaled.com

The Ship Design: Two-stage rocket based on the German V-2 Length: 82 feet (25 meters) first stage, 16.4 feet (5 meters) second stage Cabin: Pressurized to the point that you could be comfortable in a short-sleeved shirt Number of Engines: Two turbojets (first stage), one rocket (second stage) Propulsion System: Afterburning engine (first stage), hybrid engine (second stage) Thrust: 7,700 pounds (first stage) Reaction Control System: Cold pressurized CO2 gas The Flight Launch Site: Mojave, California Ascent Method: Carrier aircraft Ascent Duration: 60 minutes Altitude at Ignition: 53,000 feet (~16,000 meters) Maximum Acceleration Force on Ascent: 3 to 4 g (the force of gravity) Time of Engine Cut-off: 65 seconds Maximum Speed: Mach 3.5 Maximum Altitude: 62 miles (~100 km) Time in Weightless Conditions: 3.5 minutes Re-entry Method: Ballistic Acceleration Force on Descent: 5 g maximum; over 4 g for 20 seconds Landing Method: Unpowered horizontal Total Duration: 90 minutes Landing Distance from Take-off: 0 miles
SpaceShipOne
SpaceShipOne
Photo courtesy Scaled Composites, LLC

To learn much more about SpaceShipOne and its flights, see How SpaceShipOne Works.

GoldenPalace.com Space Program

da Vinci Project

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Vehicle: Wild Fire, a 16-foot (~9-meter) rocket launched mid-air from a huge helium balloon

Team Leader: Brian Feeney

Web Site: www.davinciproject.com

The da Vinci rocket
The da Vinci rocket
Photo courtesy da Vinci Project
Beginning of construction on the da Vinci rocket
Beginning of construction on the da Vinci rocket
Photo courtesy da Vinci Project
The Flight Ascent Method: Reusable helium balloon Ascent Duration: 90-120 minutes Altitude at Ignition: 70-80,000 feet (21,336-24,384 meters) Orientation at Ignition: 75 degrees; 90 degrees after eight seconds Maximum Acceleration Force on Ascent: 3.5 g Altitude at Engine Cut-off: 206,000 feet (~62,800 meters) Time at Engine Cut-off: 90 seconds Maximum Speed: 2,670 miles per hour (~4,300 kph) Maximum Altitude: 377,000 feet (115 km) Time in Weightless Conditions: 3.5 minutes Re-entry Method: Cabin capsule and propulsion section enter separately Acceleration Force on Descent: Maximum of 6.75 g, more than 3 g for 20 seconds Landing Method: Parachutes are released before landing on air bags Total Duration: 90-110 minutes Landing Distance from Take-off Location: 31-62 miles (50-100 kilometers) depending on the wind
the da Vinci Team
the da Vinci Team
Photo courtesy da Vinci Project

High Altitude Research Corporation (HARC)

Huntsville, Alabama

Vehicle: Liberator, a 40-foot-tall (~12-meter) rocket launched vertically from an ocean-going vessel

Team Leader: Tim Pickens

Web Site: www.harcspace.com

The Ship Design: Two-stage rocket based on the German V-2 Length: 43 feet (~13 meters) Diameter: 4 feet (~1.2 meters) Take-off Weight: 10,000 pounds (~4,500 kg) Cabin: Pressurized with suits Engines: Two liquid, one hybrid in the escape tower Propulsion System: Kerosene/LOX pressure-fed rocket engine Fuel & Oxidizer: Liquid oxygen Thrust: 24,000 pounds Reaction Control System: Cold gas thrusters The Flight Launch Site: Ocean-going barge or ship Ascent Method: Rocket fires for 57 seconds; cabin capsule coasts to 107 kilometers (~66 miles) Ascent Duration: 189 seconds Altitude at Ignition: 0 feet Orientation at Ignition: Within two degrees of vertical Maximum Acceleration Force on Ascent: 5 g Altitude at Engine Cut-off: 29 kilometers (~18 miles) Time at First-stage Engine Cut-off: T+57 seconds Maximum Speed: 1,263 meters per second (~4,144 feet per second) Maximum Altitude: 107 kilometers (~66 miles) Time in Weightless Conditions: 4 minutes Re-entry Method: Ballistic Maximum Acceleration Force on Descent: 5 g Landing Method: Parachute descent into the ocean Total Duration: 10 minutes Landing Distance from Take-off Location: 16 kilometers (~10 miles)

Aeronautics & Cosmonautics Romanian Association (ARCA)

Aeronautics & Cosmonautics Romanian Association (ARCA)

Ramnicu Valcea, Romania

Vehicle: Orizont, a 55.7-foot (17-meter) rocket launched vertically from the ground

Team Leader: Dumitru Popescu

Web Site: www.arcaspace.ro

The Ship Design: One-stage, vertically launched rocket Length: 55.7 feet (17 meters) Width (Span): 4.3 feet (1.3 meters) Take-off Weight: 15,430 pounds (7,000 kilograms) Cabin: Pressurized to 1 atm Number of Engines: 4 Propulsion System: Uncooled, pump-fed Fuel & Oxidizer: HTPB, hydrogen peroxide Thrust: 27,000 pounds Reaction Control System: Hydrogen-peroxide, low-thrust engines The Flight Ascent Method: Vertical lift-off Maximum Acceleration Force on Ascent: 5 g Altitude at Engine Cut-off: Over 130,000 feet (~40,000 meters) Time at Engine Cut-off: T+220 seconds Maximum Speed: 2,900 miles per hour (1,300 meters per second) Maximum Altitude: Over 62 miles (100 kilometers) Time in Weightless Conditions: 2 minutes Re-entry Method: Parachutes released at 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) Acceleration Force on Descent: 4 g Landing Method: Parachute recovery Landing Distance from Take-off Location: 31.3 miles (50 kilometers)