SpaceShipOne Vies for X-Prize

By on September 29, 2004

Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipOne made its first X-Prize attempt this morning. Early measurements indicate that the craft made it to space, but it did so rifled-bullet style, rolling rapidly. The engines were shut down 11 seconds early as a result.

A sudden roll due to a stuck actuator had also caused an early shutdown during the June flight, but test pilot Mike Melvill claimed that this was a different issue. SpaceFlightNow has the coverage:

Mike Melvill just told reporters gathered at the runway that it was pilot error that caused the unplanned roll during the rocket engine firing of today’s launch. He said SpaceShipOne performed properly and he was never worried during the flight, knowing he could damp out the roll motion. Once he knew the 62-mile target altitude would be reached, he commanded the engine to shut down.


Melvill quipped that the craft just needs to be refueled and it’ll be ready to go.

The roll may not have concerned Melvill, but I saw it on CNN and it scared the bejeesus out of me. Best of luck to those guys.



  1. Actually, I caught a bit of testimony on C-SPAN2 (don’t ask) from a pilot’s union representative that was citing Melvill as a reason commercial airline pilots shouldn’t be required to retire at age 60.

    However, Melvill has stated today that he believes the roll may have been pilot error. He’s not helping the pilot’s union out with this quote:

    “It is possible that I stepped on a rudder when I shouldn’t have. You get older you can do things like that.”

    He is indeed a bad-a** (with capitalized asterisks even), but I wouldn’t be suprised to see a new pilot on the next test flight.

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