Private company close to putting craft into space

May 13, 2004

Brussels, 12 May 2004

The chairman of the Ansari X-Prize, a ten million dollar (8.4 million euro) race to be the first private company to put a three person craft in space twice in two weeks, has said that he expects the race to be won by the end of the summer.

A total of 26 teams are competing for the prize. 15 of these are from the US, but the UK has three teams, and Romania, Russia and Israel are also represented. It is widely believed that SpaceShipOne, the entry from US company Scaled Composites, will claim the first prize. The company has already conducted several test flights and secured a launch licence, although other teams are not far behind.

The prize is intended to jump-start the space tourism industry through competition among the most talented entrepreneurs and rocket experts in the world. Teams must be privately funded in order to enter the race.

The organisers also hope to persuade the general public of the benefits of low-cost space travel, and to make the experience a reality.

The expected winner, SpaceShipOne, is a rocket-powered spacecraft designed for sub-orbital flights at an altitude of up to 100 kilometres. The design enables the vehicle to travel like an aircraft in terms of boost, glide and landing. During descent, the ship's empennage converts into a stable high-drag shape for atmospheric entry.

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CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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