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On October 4, 2004, SpaceShipOne rocketed into history, becoming the first private manned spacecraft to exceed an altitude of 328,000 feet twice within the span of a 14 day period, thus claiming the ten million dollar Ansari X-Prize.
In addition to meeting the altitude requirement to win the X-Prize, pilot Brian Binnie also broke the August 22, 1963 record by Joseph A. Walker, who flew the X-15 to an unofficial world altitude record of 354,200 feet. Brian Binnie’s SpaceShipOne flight carried him all the way to 367,442 feet or 69.6 miles above the Earth’s surface.
Space ShipOne and White Knight, was redecorated to promote Virgin Galactic, Branson’s new venture, which recently announced a deal to license the SpaceShipOne technology for a fleet of commercial spacecraft
The aviation pioneer Burt Rutan, who conceived SpaceShipOne and whose company Scaled Composites built the vehicle, said he was “”so proud of my team””.
Peter Diamandis, co-founder of the X Prize Foundation said that “”Today we have made history. Today we go to the stars. You have raised a tide that will bring billions of dollars into the industry and fund other teams to compete, beginning a new era of spaceflight.””
Paul Allen, who financed the program, Richard Branson, who recently founded Virgin Galactic for space tourism, and Burt Rutan greeted the newly minted astronaut on the runway.
Winning the X Prize with SpaceShipOne is only the beginning for Rutan. “”I have a hell of a lot bigger goal now (than NASA), and I absolutely have to develop a space tourism system that is at least 100 times safer than anything that has flown man into space, and probably significantly more than that,”” Rutan said.
The October 4, 2004 SpaceShipOne flight was timed partially to coincide with the 47th anniversary of the Soviet launch of Sputnik.
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