CNN reports that on June 21, Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne will attempt another first for a private spacecraft - reach 100 an altitude of kilometers.
SpaceShipOne and its pilot are to be carried by a jet called the White Knight to an altitude of about 50,000 feet. The craft will then separate from the jet and glide for several seconds before its rocket engines are ignited. In 80-seconds SpaceShipOne will reach Mach 3, three times the speed of sound, and into space. It will cruise for three minutes beyond Earth's atmosphere.
In Scaled Composites' news release Burt Rutan states:
This flight won't win the X-Prize. That $10 million will be awarded to the first team that privately finances, builds and launches a spaceship, able to carry three people to 100 kilometers (62.5 miles), returns safely to Earth, and repeats the launch with the same ship within 2 weeks. There are over 20 teams competing for the X-Prize, but SpaceShipOne has made the most progress.
Since Yuri Gagarin and Al Shepard’s epic flights in 1961, all space missions have been flown only under large, expensive Government efforts. By contrast, our program involves a few, dedicated individuals who are focused entirely on making spaceflight affordable. Without the entrepreneur approach, space access would continue to be out of reach for ordinary citizens. The SpaceShipOne flights will change all that and encourage others to usher in a new, low-cost era in space travel.