The first privately-funded vehicle to reach space and one of the most innovative crafts ever flown is part of space history again. A three-inch piece of SpaceShipOne was selected by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) to accompany eight other mementos on the New Horizons spacecraft's extraordinary journey to Pluto.
"SpaceShipOne is part of a historic moment in spaceflight, as more private companies work to bring space access to everyone," said Kevin Mickey, president of Scaled Composites, a Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) subsidiary. "We are honored to have been recognized for this by having this piece of SpaceShipOne's pilot seat on New Horizons, which has the potential to change the way we think about our solar system."
In keeping with the tradition of space mementos, the SpaceShipOne piece bears a message about its significance. Side one reads, "To commemorate its historic role in the advancement of spaceflight, this piece of SpaceShipOne is being flown on another historic spacecraft: New Horizons. New Horizons is Earth's first mission to Pluto, the farthest known planet in our solar system." Side two reads, "SpaceShipOne was Earth's first privately funded manned spacecraft. SpaceShipOne flew from the United States of America in 2004."
"Congratulations to APL and the incredible team, and thank you for recognizing SpaceShipOne in this historic voyage," Mickey said.
On October 4, 2004, SpaceShipOne rocketed into history, becoming the first private manned spacecraft to exceed an altitude of 328,000 feet twice in a 14-day period, winning the $10 million Ansari X-Prize. The initial prize-qualifying flight, under the controls of test pilot Mike Melvill, occurred on Sept. 29, 2004, soaring to 337,500 feet. Just five days later, Oct. 4, 2004, the second flight piloted by Brian Binnie reached 367,442 feet, claiming the prize.
Cory Bird, current Scaled vice president and general manager, designed the SpaceShipOne pilot seat in his role as project engineer during the program's development. The sleek and space-ready seat, made from preimpregnated carbon fabric and LTM 45 epoxy, was autoclaved to 60 psi. Before SpaceShipOne was donated to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Scaled founder and aviation legend Burt Rutan had a piece of this seat preserved for New Horizons.
Source: Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC)
Date: Jul 17, 2015