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Last Updated: Monday, 9 August, 2004, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
X-prize contender rocket explodes
Rubicon 1, AP
The rocket exploded less than 1,000 feet into the air
A rocket belonging to a team taking a low-budget stab at the $10m (5.7m) Ansari X-prize has exploded less than 1,000 feet into the air.

Nobody was hurt in the test which took place on Sunday just south of Olympic National Park in Washington State, US.

Rubicon 1, which is seven metres (23 feet) long and 96cm (38 inches) in diameter, held three dummies simulating the weight of astronauts.

It was hoped Rubicon 1 would reach 6,000m and supersonic speeds.

The rocket, which crashed about 60 metres (200 feet) from lift-off after its parachute failed to deploy, will have to be completely rebuilt, said Eric Meier, co-founder of Space Transport Corporation - the team behind the attempt.

Investment call

"We need to raise some more money...fix our problems and launch another low-altitude flight as soon as possible," Meier told the Associated Press.

"It's a learning experience to be expected when you're developing a vehicle with [these kinds] of capabilities."

Onlookers watch Rubicon 1 crash, AP
The rocket cost about $20,000 to build
X-prize competitor SpaceShipOne, built by aviation pioneer Burt Rutan, became the first privately-funded manned spacecraft to reach space when it flew to 100.12km (328,491ft) on 21 June.

Another 25 teams across the world are competing for the prize, which awards the first team to send a three-person craft over 100km (62 miles), and repeat the feat in the same craft within two weeks.

Rubicon 1 cost $20,000 (10,800) to build, but Mr Meier said he hoped the relatively low cost of the spacecraft would make raising the money to build another rocket a little easier.

The partners of Space Transport Corporation have invested about $100,000 (54,000) of their own funds in the company.




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