A da Vinci Project Update for Canadian Town

Canadian X Prize Team Delays Launch Attempt
Brian Feeney, leader of the da Vinci Project and first pilot of the Wild Fire Mark VI spacecraft, inspects the vehicle with his space suit helmet in hand. The vehicle is parked in the da Vinci Project's Downsview Airport hangar in Toronto, Canada. (Image credit: T. Malik/SPACE.com.)

Canadian rocketeers hopingto launch a privately built spacecraft from the small Saskatchewan town ofKindersley met with community officials Thursday, updating residents on themission's progress and reaffirming their intent to fly.

Dav1d [sic] Grossman,ground operations team leader for the Toronto-based GoldenPalace.com/da VinciProject, updated residents and officials near his team's launch site this weekwhile coordinating recovery and emergency plans for an anticipated suborbitallaunch two weeks overdue.

"Everybody here is still very enthusiastic," Grossman saidof Kindersley and its surrounding towns in a telephone interview. "We reallyneed their participation."

The da Vinci team, led by Toronto's Brian Feeney, originallyplanned to launch its suborbital manned spacecraft Wild Fire Mark VI on Oct.2, but the flight was put on an as-yet-indefinite hold.

"I would say that, just like they are, we are waiting for anew launch date," Kindersley Town Administrator Kim Hauta said via telephone."We had a fairly decent plan in place for Oct. 2, and some of those thingswon't happen now due to the change."

A cabaret and other community entertainment programs weretime sensitive and could not be put on hold without a definite launch date, headded.

Feeney, who will pilot Wild Fire's initial flight, has told SPACE.comhis team remains determined to launch despite losing the $10 million Ansari XPrize suborbital spaceflight competition. That contest, which challengedteams to privately build a reusable, three-person suborbital spacecraft, waswon on Oct. 4 in Mojave, California by Burt Rutan and hisSpaceShipOnelaunch vehicle.

But Feeney has also saida final launch date won't be announced until the da Vinci team has completelyarrived in Kindersley, which is expected to be at least seven days before theintended space shot.

Under the current flight plan, an unmanned helium balloonwill hoist Wild Fire into the Kindersley sky from the town's local airport,carrying it into launch position at about 80,000 feet. There, the spacecraft'stether will be released and its hybrid rocket engine ignited. The spacecraftand Feeney should experience a few minutes of weightless before reentering the atmosphereand parachuting back to Earth.

Two weeks after missing their first launch target, Grossmansaid plans are still coming together for what is hoped to be the first mannedspace launch in Canada but would not say if a specific date has been set. Overthe last few days he has met with police and emergency services personnel fromKindersley, as well as from nearby Elrose - where Wild Fire is expected to landunder its flight plan - to discuss ground and safety operations.

"We've got a man in the capsule," Grossman said. "We want tomake sure Brian comes down safe and sound."

Meanwhile, Kindersley officials were encouraged byGrossman's arrival and presentations to both residents and city officials. OnOct. 14, Grossman gave the Kindersley Town Council a mission briefing and metwith about 50 townspeople during a public meeting a night earlier.

Hauta said Grossman's personal presence was a welcome sightfor a town that has been eagerly awaiting the Wild Fire launch. The town hasbeen given the nickname Cape Kindersley for the launch, and souvenir chairs andother goods are already available from local vendors.

"The onlyreservations we have is with the attendance level," said Kindersley MayorMichael Hankewich, adding the weather in Kindersley will only get colder andcould limit spectator turnout. "But our hopes are high and we're rooting forthe launch and for [Feeney] too."

"This is a big thing, not only for Kindersley but forSaskatchewan too," Hankewich said.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at Space.com and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.