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Friday, June 18, 2004

Space flight: the new extreme sport
chabot imageLaunching into outer space is the next extreme sport, according to Brian Feeney, Team Leader of the DaVinci Project, one of 27 teams competing in the X-Prize. Initiated in 1996, the X-Prize is an international competition to design, build and develop a craft capable of launching three people 100 km into space, return them safely, and repeat the achievement with the same vehicle within two weeks. The X-Prize founder, Peter H. Diamandis, predicts that the competition will be won in the next few months. In fact, SpaceShipOne, a California based contender has set a June 21 launch date. Two Canadian teams, the Toronto based DaVinci Project and the London based Canadian Arrow, are rising to the challenge.
The $10 million prize is based on an insurance system that expires on January 1, 2005. If no team has won by that date, the cash reward is revoked.
To date, the DaVinci Project has received over $4 million in cash and in kind services and materials. Currently 200 members are actively involved, although over 500 people have participated over the project's lifetime. The current plan is to have a helium balloon carry the vehicle to a height of 24,400 metres, before the rest of the vehicle proceeds to its destination height of 100 km. At 85 km, the self-stabilizing spherical capsule separates. Each piece has its own parachute system, complete with redundancy for safety. The selected launch site, the Kindersley Airport in Saskatchewan, was chosen due to safety considerations, regional support and favourable weather conditions that provide a high number of possible launch days. Read More


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