SpaceShipOne has won the X-Prize! This morning it completed its second trip to the edge of the atmosphere within one week (the prize stipulates it must be within two weeks!)
The Scaled Composites team made history in June with the world’s first privately-funded manned space flight, and last week they made a deal with Virgin to licence the technology for space tourism. The $10 million X-Prize won’t offset the cost of developing SpaceShipOne (estimated at $20 million in the radio story I heard), but it is a prototype, and prototypes always cost more because you’re still experimenting.
The runner-up in the race to the X-Prize, the DaVinci Project, plans to keep going. This is great news as well, because the more different types of craft we have, the less chance one accident will ground the world’s space fleets.
The flights are still suborbital, but the process and technology have been shown to work.
From what I was hearing on the (radio) news this morning, there is also a planned competition (presumably for performance) that will be open to all the teams who had been working towards the X Prize, which I think begins next year. There is also a $25,000,000 prize in the works for orbital spacecraft (I’m sorry, I can’t remember the name of the company/person offering the prize).
Both of these things are also terrific news, because they increase the chances that the private sector will continue working on this technology.