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October 4, 2004 - Space Ship One wins the X Prize!!

June 21, 2004
History was made when the world's first privately built spaceship, SpaceShip One, left the Civilian Flight Test Center at Mojave, California, attached to the belly of the White Knight. After circling to 47,000 feet, SpaceShip One was released and pilot Mike Melvill fired its rocket, boosting it to over 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the surface of the Earth, qualifying it as the world's first privately built spaceship. Sue, Bobby and I were there in person to witness history.

We arrive early

Along with thousands of others

The sun rises over the desert runway

Bobby programs the scanner

Reporters come from as far away as Germany

The crowd waits

White Knight and SpaceShip One take to the sky

Followed by the Starship chase plane

White Knight and SS1 continue circling

SpaceShip One rockets spaceward

Trails past the sun

And keeps on going
White Knight and SpaceShip One circled for nearly an hour. When Space Ship One separated, its rocket fired for approximately a minute and a half, boosting it to nearly three times the speed of sound. At one point, there was a minor trim control problem, causing the final altitude to be 328,491 feet instead of the target 360,000 feet, but still high enough to qualify as a space flight. We were able to monitor radio transmissions on a scanner, including the countdown to rocket firing, and were able to see its trail up the sky until engine cutoff. Following that, the pilot experienced 3 1/2 minutes of weightlessness before beginning his high speed dive back to earth. We were treated to a sonic boom as he began his nearly half hour glide.

White Knight returns alone

SpaceShip One reappears with its chase planes

And gets closer

The crowd watches

SpaceShipOne is back!

Mike Melvill heads into the history books

Civilian Flight Test Center

Scaled Composites
SpaceShip One was built by Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites, who have been building "next generation" aircraft for years, including Voyager, the only aircraft in history to have travelled around world the non-stop without refueling. Note: SpaceShip One's registration - N328KF - representing 328,000 Feet. It is registered as an experimental glider. Its rocket engine is powered by laughing gas (nitrous oxide) and rubber (hydroxy-terminated polybutadiene).

Mojave - the small desert town

With a high tech attitude ;)
How do I feel about the flight of Space Ship One? I have spent over 2500 hours as pilot in command of small airplanes. I feel fortunate to have had such a blessed life, but those moments I enjoy far above the Earth are the result of work done and risks taken by pioneers in aviation - the Wrights, Curtiss, Lindbergh, Piper, Cessna, and many, many more. As each frontier is explored and conquered, new pioneers are needed to open fresh frontiers. Burt Rutan and Mike Melvill are expanding the boundaries of aviation to new heights.
Aviation Adventure Stories Check out Gene's book about 24 years of flying adventures.
There are those who say the events of June 21, 2004 were overrated. Within a day CNN had returned to their full-time coverage of murder trials, war, and political scandal, but for a shining moment, thousands of people on the high desert of California were rooting for the new pioneers. To me, it was a symbol of hope for the future. Man can not live without hope. Flight is a gift from God.

Gene Seibel

View from Mike Melvill's SpaceShip One
June 21, 2004

View from Alan Shepard's Mercury MR-3
May 5, 1961

Gene & Sue's Home - Hangar 131 - High Flight - Confessions of a Pilot - E-Mail Gene
We must go - How SS1 works - Technical Details - Virgin Galactic