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Thursday, July 01, 2004
The next stage for private spaceflight
Infant industry capitalizes on success of SpaceShipOne;
By Alan Boyle Science editor MSNBC
MOJAVE, Calif. - SpaceShipOne’s milestone flight last week instantly transformed private-sector space travel from a rocket geek’s fantasy into reality.
One man's flight, however, does not an industry make. Not even the rocket plane's designer, Burt Rutan, or billionaire backer Paul Allen claim that SpaceShipOne in its current form could be a profit-making venture.
So now it's up a wide spectrum of players in the field to figure out how to make piloted suborbital flights profitable. Although they may differ over the best way to do that, nearly all agree that last week's flight to the 100-kilometer mark eliminated their biggest obstacle.
"Burt Rutan has destroyed the giggle factor in this business forever," said Pat Bahn, who is the Washington director of the Suborbital Institute as well as president of Oklahoma-based TGV Rockets. TGV is developing its own vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing vertical landing for suborbital space flights.
At the Mojave Airport, where SpaceShipOne was developed and flown, eight companies are working on space projects, said Stuart Witt, the airport's general manager. And just days after the airport was designated a commercial spaceport, Witt said a $100 million proposal for yet another Mojave space venture was sitting on his desk.
"They're just looking for the name to put on the check," Witt told MSNBC.com.
One of the other tenants at the Mojave Airport is XCOR Aerospace, which plans to build a suborbital space plane called the Xerus. XCOR's president, Jeff Greason, and company spokesman Rich Pournelle marveled at how quickly perceptions were changing. Read More
A Few other articles:
United Press International: Space Race II: Paving a new path to space
tehachapinews.com: Tehachapi pilot rockets into history
Financial Times: Mission achieved through genius and hard work
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