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Smithsonian Institution #2005-24456,
Photograph by Dane Penland

Look inside the cockpit!
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Cockpit panorama created from actual photographs of spacecraft interior taken on the ground and an exterior photo taken in flight.

First privately developed, piloted vehicle to reach space.
Date of Milestone:
June 21, 2004
Mike Melvill

Artifact Location:
Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum, National Mall building, Milestones of Flight Gallery


Launched from its White Knight mothership, the rocket-powered SpaceShipOne and its pilot ascended just beyond the atmosphere, arced through space (but not into orbit), then glided safely back to Earth. The flight lasted 24 minutes, with 3 minutes of weightlessness.


With SpaceShipOne, private enterprise crossed the threshold into human spaceflight, previously the domain of government programs. The SpaceShipOne team aimed for a simple, robust, and reliable vehicle design that could make affordable space travel and tourism possible.


Records and Awards: SpaceShipOne won the $10 million Ansari X-Prize for repeated flights in a privately developed reusable spacecraft, the Collier Trophy for greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in 2004, and the National Air and Space Museum Trophy for Current Achievement. Its three record-setting flights:

•  100 kilometers (62 miles) altitude*; Mike Melvill, pilot; June 21, 2004.

•  102 kilometers (64 miles) altitude; Mike Melvill, pilot; September 29, 2004.

•  112 kilometers (70 miles) altitude; Brian Binnie, pilot; October 4, 2004.

* The official boundary of space defined by the Fédération Aéronautique International.

Gift of Paul G. Allen, Microsoft co-founder and sole investor in SpaceShipOne


Design Features

•  Three-person vehicle for suborbital spaceflight.

•  Lightweight composite structure with twin swept wing-tail booms.

•  Hybrid ascent rocket, burning both solid and liquid propellants

•  Wings that pivot up (feather) for stable, safe reentry.



•  Investor and philanthropist Paul G. Allen funded the project.

•  Aeronautical engineer Burt Rutan, Scaled Composites, designed the vehicle.

•  Pilots Mike Melvill and Brian Binnie , Scaled Composites, became the first pilots to earn FAA commercial astronaut wings.


SpaceShipOne, N328KF

  Length: 8.5 m (28 ft)
  Wingspan: 8.2 m (27 ft)
  Height: 2.7 m (8 ft 9 in)
  Weight, gross: 2,895 kg (6,380 lb), first space flight
  Rocket: SpaceDev SD010 Hybrid Motor
  Propellants: Rubber (solid) and nitrous oxide (liquid)
  Thrust: 74,730 N (16,800 lb) , first space flight
  Velocity: Mach 3
  Manufacturer: Scaled Composites, Mojave, Calif. ; rocket motor,
SpaceDev, Poway , Calif.


  White Knight and SpaceShipOne

SpaceShipOne is carried aloft to 15 kilometers (50,000 feet) by its mothership, White Knight.

Courtesy of Discovery Channel and Vulcan Productions, Inc.

  SpaceShipOne in Flight

Released from White Knight, SpaceShipOne gets a rocket-powered boost into space.

Courtesy of Discovery Channel and Vulcan Productions, Inc.

  Candies Floating Inside Cockpit

Candies float inside the cockpit during the time in space.

Courtesy of Discovery Channel and Vulcan Productions, Inc.

  SpaceShipOne Feathered Wings

In space, the pilot raises, or feathers, the wings for the coasting suborbital arc and initial descent. This brakes the spacecraft for reentry into the atmosphere.

Courtesy of Scaled Composites, LLC

  SpaceShipOne Flight Profile

SpaceShipOne suborbital flight profile.

Courtesy of Scaled Composites, LLC

  Pilots Brian Binnie and Mike Melvill

SpaceShipOne pilots Mike Melvill (right) and Brian Binnie.

Courtesy of Scaled Composites, LLC

  Burt Rutan and Paul Allen

Investor Paul G. Allen and designer Burt Rutan with SpaceShipOne.

  View from SpaceShipOne

View from SpaceShipOne. Photo by pilot Brian Binnie.

Courtesy of Discovery Channel and Vulcan Productions, Inc.


This exhibit made possible by Paul G. Allen, Microsoft co-founder and sole investor in SpaceShipOne.


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