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Da Vinci Project Team Challenges SpaceShipOne for Space Prize

  • Friday, 13th August 2004
  • Reading time: about 4 minutes

The Canadian da Vinci Project Team has notified the ANSARI X PRIZE of its intention to launch its rocket on October 2nd, 2004, marking its official entry in the international, commercially-funded space race competition.

The da Vinci Project, which unveiled its rocket Wild Fire earlier this week, joins one American team in a field of 26 to announce its launch date. “”With two ANSARI X PRIZE teams launching within days of each other for the $10 million prize (U.S.), we truly have a remarkable race for space,”” said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and Founder of the X PRIZE Foundation. The recipient of the $10 million prize will be the first team to travel safely to space twice within a two-week period on a privately funded, re-useable spacecraft.

Brian Feeney, who plans to pilot Wild Fire approximately 110 kilometers into suborbital space, said the team is finalizing construction of the rocket as well as logistical details related to the event, which will be held in Kindersley, Saskatchewan.

“”We’re very close to achieving our mission, thanks to the organizations and individuals that understand the significance of this race,”” said Feeney. “”The da Vinci Project is on the cusp of a new era of space travel for humankind. Our team is proof positive that ingenuity and innovation can overcome the impossible.””

In addition, Feeney announced a new sponsor to finance the project. Golden Palace.Com, the world’s largest online casino, has signed on as the title sponsor. The Golden Palace.Com Space Program – powered By The da Vinci Project — is poised to make history.

The da Vinci Project, which Feeney describes as the largest volunteer technology project in Canada, has achieved several critical milestones since officially entering the competition in 1996. These milestones have included the filing of necessary papers to Canadian government for launch approval; securing the site for launch; the testing of engine components; testing the design and securing a wide range of sponsors including Sun Microsystems of Canada, Blake Cassels Graydon, ANSYS, Hinz Automation and Kindersley Transport.

“”The da Vinci Project is emblematic of the spirit of the ANSARI X PRIZE,”” said Diamandis. “”It brings together many of the best and brightest to break down preconceived notions on space travel and prove that we are no longer bound to one planet.””

The Wild Fire’s first attempt for the prize will be two days before SpaceShipOne’s second flight. The da Vinci team’s craft is designed to be launched from a reusable, drifting helium balloon from an altitude of 80,000ft (24.4km). At that point, Wild Fire’s rocket engines will fire up and send the craft to the target height of 100km – the official boundary of space. It lands using parachutes. Both SpaceShipOne and Wild Fire are reusable craft, and run on laughing gas and rubber as fuel. According to Wild Fire’s team, the alternative of fuelling a massive ground launched rocket is expensive and technologically complex; SpaceShipOne’s pioneer agrees.

“”I have always felt the most dangerous place to fly a rocket is as it lifts off from the ground,”” commented Mr Rutan on the da Vinci Project. “”So we have both recognised there is an enormous safety aspect of not launching from the ground.””

It is not reusable or an economically viable answer to repeatedly fly to space, the da Vinci team has stated.

The UK contender for the X-Prize, Starchaser Industries, is planning a ground-launched rocket, however. It plans to attempt a space flight in the next 18 months,

Da Vinci is the largest volunteer technology project in Canadian history, with 600 volunteers and about 150,000 man-hours have been spent developing the craft to take them into space in the last eight years.

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