SpaceShip One: first private spaceflight

SpaceShip OneA joint venture between experimental aircraft designer Burt Rutan and investor/Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, SpaceShip One becomes the first privately owned vehicle to cross the 100-kilometer boundary into space. It is one of several vehicles vying for the Ansari X Prize, a $10,000,000 competition to launch the first privately funded (in other words, not government-funded) space vehicle, even though this is considered one of its test flights and not a qualifying flight for the X Prize. Launched from an airplane “mothership” and dropped off seconds before its own rocket engine takes it into suborbital space, SpaceShip One nearly reaches Mach 3, and is already the first private aircraft to reach Mach 2. Pilot Mike Melvill becomes the first recipient of the Federal Aviation Administration’s commercial astronaut wings upon landing.