Unless there has been a change in plans while I slept Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne will fly again in a few hours. This is the first of the required flights in their attempt at the Anseri X-Prize of $10 million. This time they will be flying with the required equivalent weight of passengers in the cabin. The prize clinching flight is scheduled for October 10th.
Some weeks ago the Da Vinci project in Canada announced a first flight date of October 2nd but I have not been following them closely. Armadillo Aerospace is still moving ahead at a steady pace: build a little, test a little, break a little, in the old fashioned hands-on engineering way. Peter Diamandes’ Zero G tourist flights – in an airplane! – are now flying and generating revenue.
The next prize, for the first orbital flight, has been announced by Robert Bigelow:
Company founder and millionaire Robert T. Bigelow told Aviation Week & Space Technology that he will announce as early as this week a new $50-million space launch contest called America’s Space Prize.
The objective is to spur development of a low-cost commercial manned orbital vehicle capable of launching 5-7 astronauts at a time to Bigelow inflatable modules by the end of the decade.
Bigelow has committed $25 million of his own to the purse.
All in all, 2004 is an exciting year for those of us who have dedicated our lives to opening the space frontier.
Note: I will unfortuneately not be present to photo blog this launch. At the moment I am damned fortuneate I can afford a pie for supper and I have been scrambling to keep my broadband connection bill paid. That is the ups and the downs of freelancing… with much assistance from customers who pay whenever or never. Freedom ain’t easy.