Space and astronomy news and information for the American Southwest. Coverage includes Vandenberg AFB rocket and missile launches.

Historic Flight Slated for Tomorrow

Brian Webb

2004 June 20

The first privately funded manned spaceflight remains on schedule for Monday morning. The flight is a part of a collaboration between investor and philanthropist Paul Allen and aviation legend Burt Rutan whose company Scaled Composites designed and built the spacecraft.

A carrier aircraft dubbed "White Knight" will ferry the SpaceShipOne rocket plane from the Mojave Civilian Aerospace Test Center to the launch point high above the California desert.

SpaceShipOne will be released just east of Mojave from an altitude of 50,000 feet. The pilot will fire the craft’s rocket engine for 80 seconds and climb vertically, sending the craft to an altitude of 62 miles (100 km) before it falls back to earth. The pilot will experience zero gravity for more than three minutes. SpaceShipOne will reenter the atmosphere glide back to a runway landing at Mojave.

The timeline for tomorrow’s flight is as follows (all times are PDT):

06:30 White Knight/SpaceShipOne takeoff
07:30 SpaceShipOne launch
07:55 SpaceShipOne landing
10:30 - 11:30 Post flight press conference

If the weather is clear, observers in Mojave and the surrounding desert should have an opportunity to view the historic flight. Scaled Composites has announced that it will allow the public to view the flight in person. Information on public viewing is posted at

Suitably equipped individuals over a wide area may be able to hear flight-related radio communications from the White Knight carrier aircraft and SpaceShipOne.

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Copyright © 2004, Brian Webb. All rights reserved.