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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 August, 2004, 12:02 GMT 13:02 UK
Rutan aims to be on X-Prize flight
By Jo Twist
BBC News Online science and technology staff

(Scaled Composites image)
The world watched SpaceShipOne make its historic June flight
The aviation pioneer behind SpaceShipOne, Burt Rutan, has said he aims to fill the passenger seat during the craft's second X-Prize flight.

SpaceShipOne became the first private manned craft to go to space in June.

Its next trips are to win the Ansari X-Prize, which rewards the team that manages to send a three-person craft over 100km, twice in two weeks.

Mr Rutan added a decision had not been made on who the pilot would be for the flights, or whether it would actually carry passengers on the second flight.

"But I am going to be one of the first passengers, for sure," he told BBC News Online.

He said it certainly would not happen during the first X-Prize attempt on 29 September, however.

'Bunch of equipment'

"We haven't decided yet whether to carry one or two passengers on the second one. We absolutely could - there are real seats there."

Burt Rutan speaking in London
On the 21 June, after Mike Melvill had gotten into the spaceship and we were doing the pre-flight checks, I climbed in and closed the door and made motions to go, and then they kicked me out
Burt Rutan, SpaceShipOne

But, he said, because the prize is offered by a group trying to promote commercial space tourism, they are required to carry video as well as altitude verification equipment on board in the back seats.

"For the X-Prize flights, I would have to take out that stuff to fly two people. I could fly one other person very easily because I have another seat there.

"On the 21 June, after Mike Melvill had gotten into the spaceship and we were doing the pre-flight checks, I climbed in and closed the door and made motions to go, and then they kicked me out."

According to the X-Prize Foundation's rules, to beat 25 other competing teams from around the world, SpaceShipOne must reach its target of a height of 100km twice in two weeks.

On both occasions it will have need to fly with a pilot and at least the ballast equivalent of two other people.

'No changes'

Mr Rutan, talking in Europe for the first time as part of the Manx Aviation Festival, said that the only change that had been made to the record-breaking SpaceShipOne was a reinforcing of its nozzle.

The nozzle had also been painted white so it would not get so hot in space.

Piloted by Mike Melvill, SpaceShipOne went over space's 100km (62 mile) boundary, the first privately-funded, manned craft to do so on 21 June.

It was carried to 46,000ft (13.8km) by its launcher White Knight at which point it was unleashed. It fired its rocket to continue its trip, reached its target, then glided back to Earth.

Both of its next flights for the X-Prize will take place at Mr Rutan's company headquarters, Scaled Composite, in the Californian Mojave desert.

Mr Rutan said there were three pilots who had been trained for the flights, but a decision on who would take the main seat would be made in two to three weeks.

A Canadian team of contenders, the da Vinci Project, is due to unveil its spacecraft, Wild Fire, on 5 August. It will also attempt the X-Prize later in the year.

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