SpaceShipOne's 2nd Shot at X Prize Slated for Monday

Set to Soar: First X Prize Flight This Week
The flight plan for SpaceShipOne. (Image credit: Scaled Composites, LLC)

The second attempt by the rocketplane SpaceShipOne to soar into space and snag the $10 million Ansari X Prize is planned for Monday, officials announced last night.

SpaceShipOne made the first of two required suborbital space treks on Wednesday. The flight included a scary few moments at the top, when the ship rolled about 20 times. A known control problem was responsible for the unplanned acrobatics.

To win the prize, the privately built, three-person craft must fly to at least 62 miles (100 kilometers) a second time within two weeks. After Wednesday's problems, it was not immediately clear when the second attempt would be made.

Flight details

An X Prize official told the attempt to secure the purse would be made Monday, Oct. 4. It is expected that SpaceShipOne will follow the same basic flight plan, with an early morning departure from an airport-turned-spaceport in Mojave, California.

SpaceShipOne will take off, slung under the White Knight mothership, at 10 a.m. ET (7 PT), according to officials. In the flight plan, SpaceShipOne is carried high into the air and then dropped. It will ignite its rocket engine at 11 a.m. ET (8 PT), rush into space, the glide back to a runway landing at 11:30 a.m. ET (8:30 PT).

A press conference to announce the official altitude is scheduled for Monday at 1:30 p.m. ET (10:30 a.m. PT). will provide live coverage, including a webcast, the entire morning.

No other details of the mission were provided.

Maverick aircraft engineer Burt Rutan, who built SpaceShipOne and has maintained a level of secrecy throughout the process, did not speak with reporters about the plans for Monday.

Determined pilot

SpaceShipOne topped out at 337,500 feet on its first crack at the X Prize. That's 63.9 miles (102.9 kilometers). It could have gone higher, pilot Mike Melvill said, but he cut the engine off early, once he knew he would reach the X Prize altitude and so that he could get the ship out of the roll.

Flight directors asked Melvill to shut the engine down earlier to avoid disaster, but the 63-year-old pilot-astronaut ignored their request.

Melvill and Rutan said after Wednesday's flight that at no time was SpaceShipOne out of control. Rutan characterized the problem as a "spin-stabilized" roll. He said there is a "known deficiency" in the craft that caused the roll.

It is not known whether any changes will be made to SpaceShipOne before Monday's launch.

  • X Prize and SpaceShipOne: Full Coverage
    Read an account of the tense moments of the first flight and watch the a live webcast second attempt.

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