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Space-prize flight set for today

MOJAVE, Calif. — SpaceShip-One, the world’s first privately developed spaceship, is fueled and ready to embark this morning on a flight into space in a bid to claim the $10 million Ansari X Prize.

A carrier plane is expected to lift the spaceship off a runway here at 10 a.m. ET. After the two craft reach 50,000 feet in altitude, SpaceShipOne will break away, fire its rocket and attempt to break the edge of space, 62 miles above Earth.

The attempt comes five days after the ship went on a harrowing ride into space. During its ascent on Wednesday, SpaceShipOne and its pilot, Mike Melvill, went into a series of 30 wingtip-over-wingtip rolls — terrifying spectators on the ground — before Melvill leveled the craft and brought it safely back to Earth.

It was uncertain late Sunday whether Melvill will pilot the ship today. The ship’s backers planned to announce the name of the pilot today.

If today’s flight is successful, the backers can claim the $10 million award known as the Ansari X Prize. It is offered by the X Prize Foundation, a non-profit group that wants to encourage the development of a private space industry and space tourism. To win the prize, a privately developed craft must make two successful flights within 14 days carrying three people or a pilot and 400 pounds of cargo.

Despite the problems Melvill had during Wednesday’s flight, he was able to guide SpaceShipOne into space and qualify the flight as a successful first trip.


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