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Monday, June 14, 2004

Post-Gazette: First private spaceship ready to fly next week
chabot imageCommercial aviation began within a decade of the Wright Brothers' 1903 flight at Kitty Hawk. Yet 43 years after Yuri Gagarin's first manned spaceflight, you still can't book a seat on a regularly scheduled spaceship.
Weather and technology permitting, the era of commercial manned spaceflight finally may open a week from today, when the first privately developed rocket plane is scheduled to launch into history.
Funded by Paul G. Allen, billionaire co-founder of Microsoft Corp., and designed by aviation genius Burt Rutan, "SpaceShipOne" will attempt the first non-government manned flight to exit Earth's atmosphere.
After riding to an altitude of 50,000 feet on a carrier aircraft named the White Knight, SpaceShipOne and its pilot will drop loose. An 80-second blast from a rocket motor will lift the small ship to an altitude of 62 miles, well beyond the 50-mile mark that the U.S. Air Force terms "worthy of astronaut wings."
The pilot will become the world's first astronaut coined in a privately funded program. He then will guide SpaceShipOne to a landing in California's Mojave Desert, where organizers expect TV cameras and thousands of spectators. Read More


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