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Friday, June 18, 2004
Space.com: Viewer's Guide to Monday's First Piloted Private Space Flight
The public is invited to watch history made Monday when a company called Scaled Composites attempts to launch the first piloted commercial vehicle into space.
Event planners expect a cosmic Woodstock. Motels in the area are mostly booked and plans are in place for an all-night party.
The flight of SpaceShipOne from an airport-turned-spaceport in California's Mojave Desert is scheduled to begin shortly after 9:30 a.m. ET (6:30 local time). Company officials expect a smooth flight, but anyone who follows the space industry knows that every flight has inherent risks.
Weather permitting, the craft will be carried aloft aboard the White Knight, a somewhat conventional airplane built specially for this purpose. An hour after taking off from the Mojave Airport, at about 50,000 feet, the White Knight will release SpaceShipOne, whose pilot will fire a rocket, powered by rubber and laughing gas, for about 80 seconds.
SpaceShipOne should soar to 62 miles (100 kilometers), crossing the threshold of space on a suborbital trajectory. The pilot, who has not yet been named, would officially become an astronaut.
According to plan, the craft will spend about three minutes in weightlessness, then glide back to Earth. It will land about 1 hour and 25 minutes after the initial takeoff in the same location.
The launch is planned for early morning because winds tend to pick up later in the day. Weather could scrub the launch, possibly pushing it back a day or more. Read More
Also on space.com: Edge Of Space Before SpaceShipOne (history)
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