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Thursday, July 08, 2004

SpaceShipOne back on course.
chabot imageX Prize contender Burt Rutan says his team has solved a control problem that threw its spacecraft off course during a historic flight last month and that the next time the ship flies it will be to capture the $10 million space jackpot.

"That's a complete, entire yes," Rutan said when asked whether his Scaled Composites team had gotten to the bottom of a trim-control problem experienced during SpaceShipOne's voyage to an altitude of 100 kilometers on June 21.

After the flight -- the first time a civilian flew a private craft into space -- pilot Mike Melvill said a control needed to steer SpaceShipOne at supersonic speeds malfunctioned. The problem caused him to veer more than 20 miles outside the flight's planned re-entry zone over Southern California's Mojave Desert.

But Melvill was able to use a backup system to control the craft and made a perfect landing after gliding back to the ship's base at the Mojave Airport. At the time, Rutan said the problem was the most serious safety issue encountered during the development of SpaceShipOne.

"There is no way we will fly again without knowing the cause and without assuring that we fixed it," he said at a press conference following the flight.


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