Mach One

How cool is this??

A privately funded rocket plane called SpaceShipOne yesterday broke the sound barrier over California’s Mojave Desert, achieving what its developer called the first supersonic flight achieved by a nongovernmental effort.

A homebuilt supersonic rocket. (Admittedly, it’s hard to call anything built by genius Burt Rutan ‘homebuilt,’ but still – I wonder how the level of effort compared with that in building the X-1?)

[Update2: Commenter Mike Daley catches me in a DOOOH! moment and reminds us all that Rand Simberg and Jay Manifold are a) all over this; and b) actually know something about it…

Update: Commenter Frank Martin provides a link to some pictures and first-hand commentary! Thanks, Frank…]


* April 19/03: Private Manned Spaceplane Unveiled as the craft makes its first test flight.
* Dec 18/03: SpaceShipOne breaks Mach One in a test flight.
* Juune 8/04: The system prepares for its first space flight. Go, SpaceShipOne, Go!
* June 21/04: First full flight successful!
* Sept 29/04: SpaceShipOne makes its first official X-Prize flight, and succeeds. That flight had some scary moments, though.
* Oct 5/04: Mission Accomplished! SpaceshipOne wins the X-Prize, and breaks the X-15’s manned altitude record for an aircraft.

10 thoughts on “Mach One”

  1. In answer to your question, and not to dis Burt and his group, a lot less because they were standing on the shoulders of those who opened the way to supersonic flight.

  2. As in Chuck Jones’ ‘Supah-genius’??

    And Michael – it’s clearly easier to do things once they have been done and once the concepts, tools, and confidence are embedded in your culture (I’m actually thinking about that a lot in the context of emergent intelligence).

    And while I continue to give Rutan full props(!!) for what he’s done and is doing, my core point is that – much like the ability of musicians to home-produce albums, and filmmakers to home-prodice films, the technology and culture are moving to place where even things which we’d see as ‘industrial scale’ can be done – and sometimes better – by small groups on a smaller scale.


  3. The Scaled approach to winning the X prize is the winning approach, its significant in many ways, first its totally reuseable. The “Whiteknight” carrier aircraft is based on tested technology and also serves as a test and training vehicle for the drop vehicle. Unlike all other contenders for the X prize, Rutan offers a working systems that is well within the test cycle.

    Paul Allen is funding the effort, but Rutan has proven once again that large scale government funding is often an impediment to acheiving great goals.

    Since Scaled is taking a “be quiet” approach to publishing info about their tests( and results), you can find good info at their site but nothing really current( but go look anyway – I wonder why these guys dont have a cafepress account going, I’d love to have a shirt with their stuff on it!)

    If you want to see pictures of testing from a blogger on the Mojave Airport ( Home of Scaled Composites and most of the worlds Experimental Aircraft Manufacturers) Visit here:

    Watch the skies folks, They are really going to do this!

  4. I know, like, and have a ton of respect for Rand and Jay (both of whom know a ton more than I do about this stuff – I’m just a fan); as noted, I’m just so buried that my blog reading has fallen off.

    I’ll link both…


  5. I’ll put up with being linked. ;)

    But Rand’s the go-to guy — particularly on the regulatory issues, which unfortunately are the real constraint on private space-transport development.

    I did visit Scaled Composites back in ’99 as part of my own private space venture (now dormant, revival being plotted and schemed as I write) and can report that it’s the kind of place where very talented people work for less money than they could get somewhere else. I’m not completely sold on their approach to the X-Prize, but Burt’s got a hell of an outfit, and I wish them all success.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>