The 15th Anniversary of the First Private Spaceflight: Rutan’s SpaceShipOne

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Paul Allen, Burt Rutan and Mike Melvill celebrate the flight of SpaceShipOne in Mojave, CA

Paul Allen, Burt Rutan and Mike Melvill celebrate the flight of SpaceShipOne in Mojave, CA

 

15 years ago on June 21st, 2004, pilot Mike Melvill rode Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne into space, 100 Kilometers (62 miles) above the earth. It’s difficult now, to imagine the audacity of the achievement. Before then, only 3 superpowers had successfully put a human in space. Each country had marshaled its extensive national resources to accomplish the feat.

Burt Rutan envisioned—and his team of some three dozen test pilots, engineers and technicians built—their entire space program in a little hangar in the Mojave Desert. From scratch, in three years, the Paul Allen-funded effort produced a mothership, the avionics, the rocket motor, and SpaceShipOne itself. They went on from this historic flight to win the $10 Million Ansari X-Prize and to open the door on a New Era of Private Spaceflight.

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