When aerospace designer Burt Rutan rolled out his manned suborbital spaceflight program and its centerpiece, SpaceShipOne (SS1), from its Mojave, Calif., hangar in April last year, reporters asked about his plans for space tourism. Rutan said he himself wasn’t interested in launching a space tourism business, but he hoped others would be able to use his technology “sometime in the future” to begin a new space industry.
In preparation for his solo nonstop around-the-world (ATW) flight tentatively scheduled for January, adventurer and solo ATW balloonist Steve Fossett has begun familiarization flights in the single-engine Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer in Mojave, Calif., following a number of envelope expansion flights by Scaled Composites project engineer and test pilot Jon Karkow.
Matt Eller, an Ames, Iowa real-estate developer, acquired the intellectual property of bankrupt VisionAire on October 2 for $441,000 and, under company name Eviation, plans to certify and produce the single-turbine Vantage very light jet.
A bustling airport in an otherwise desolate landscape served as the backdrop for the unveiling of what’s been hailed as the world’s first private space venture.
Northrop Grumman finalized its acquisition of Scaled Composites on August 24, increasing its shares from 40 percent to 100 percent. Scaled Composites is the aerospace and specialty composites development company founded and run by Burt Rutan, known most recently for designing the first privately funded rocket-powered spacecraft, SpaceShipOne. The spacecraft made its first supersonic flight on Dec.
Northrop Grumman now owns 100 percent of Mojave, Calif.-based Scaled Composites. On August 24, Northrop Grumman, which already owned 40 percent of Scaled, closed on the purchase of the remaining 60 percent. Scaled continues to work on the program to deliver SpaceShipTwo to Virgin Galactic.
Based on the success of the SpaceShipOne (SS1) suborbital craft’s ascent on June 21 (AIN, July, page 2)–becoming the first privately funded manned spacecraft to reach 100 km (328,000 feet)–designer Burt Rutan is confident that he and his company, Mojave, Calif.-based Scaled Composites, will win the $10 million Ansari X Prize by year-end.
Mojave, Calif., is a unique place. As they drive north on State Highway 14, approaching the small burg of approximately 3,700 people, visitors first notice the hundreds of blades turning in windmill farms on hillsides to the west of town. Across the highway, dozens of jetliner tails sprout from the desert floor, idling in storage in the arid desert air at Mojave Airport.
Known as the Model 311 Capricorn by its builder, and the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer by its pilot and sponsor, Burt Rutan’s latest creation took to the sky on March 5–the first step in its creators’ goal of seeing the single-jet, single-seat aircraft circle the globe nonstop on one load of fuel. With Scaled project engineer and test pilot Jon Karkow at the controls, the initial flight lasted 1 hour 30 minutes.
“LAST BIG PLUM” REVISITED–Burt Rutan and the Voyager team in 1986 described their quest to fly around the world nonstop and unrefueled as “the last big plum” in the orchard of aviation records. In 1999 Messrs. Piccard and Jones, similarly, characterized their ultimately successful circumnavigation of the world in the Breitling Orbiter balloon as “the last great aeronautical adventure.”