Behind the X Prize


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
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
Photo courtesy da Vinci Project
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
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)

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