Burt Rutan/Scaled Composites first private Sub-orbital flight, June 21, 2004


At 6:30 am on Monday, June 21st, Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites made history with the first private sub-orbital space launch. I was fortunate enough to see it firsthand!

My buddy David and I rode our motorcycles down to the Mojave desert from the San Jose area the night before. We stayed in Lancaster, CA and headed to the flight center at 5:00 Monday morning.

The day was perfect, not a cloud in the sky and minimal winds. The conditions for the flight were optimal, and the White Knight mother ship took off with SpaceShipOne, the sub-orbital craft right on schedule.

It taxied past us, then turned back and took off towards the mountains. We watched it spiral up to 50,000 feet, then heard over the loudspeaker that a historic call had been made- The SpaceShipOne requested permission to land. Of course, since once it detached from the White Knight and flew to 62 miles up, it would come down whether it had permission or not (gravity being what it is).

With the sun as a backdrop (from our vantage point), SpaceShipOne dropped from the White Knight, and took off straight up. A few minutes later, it could be seen spiralling in, with the chase planes in formation. After it landed, the chase planes and White Knight made some exhibition passes by the crowd before coming in themselves.

The flight was magnificent, and I'm glad I was there to witness a little bit of history in the making.

See a News Clip for more information.


Windmills by
Mojave Spaceport

My buddy David

The growing crowd

Libertarian
enthusiasm

Outside Rutan's
hangar

White Knight and
SpaceShipOne taxis

White Knight and
SpaceShipOne taxis

Getting ready
to take off

Getting ready
to take off

Getting ready
to take off

Accelerating on
the runway

Video: 1.4MB
Accelerating on
the runway

There she goes!

There she goes!

There she goes!

There she goes!

There she goes!

There she goes!

Spiralling up

Spiralling up

Spiralling up

Spiralling up

Spiralling up

Spiralling up

Spiralling up

Rutan chase plane

White Knight
and chase plane

David and
White Knight

White Knight
and chase plane

White Knight
and chase plane

White Knight
at altitude

Chase Plane
at altitude

Preparing to separate

Preparing to separate

Preparing to separate

Preparing to separate

SpaceShipOne
ascending rapidly!

SpaceShipOne
ascending rapidly!

SpaceShipOne
ascending rapidly!

SpaceShipOne
ascending rapidly!

SpaceShipOne
ascending rapidly!

SpaceShipOne
ascending rapidly!

Video: 219kb
SpaceShipOne
heading for history

Unencumbered
White Knight

Unencumbered
White Knight

SpaceShipOne
and chase planes

SpaceShipOne
and chase planes

SpaceShipOne
and chase planes

SpaceShipOne
and chase planes

SpaceShipOne
and chase planes

SpaceShipOne
and chase planes

SpaceShipOne
and chase planes

SpaceShipOne
and chase planes

SpaceShipOne
and chase planes

Spiralling down

Spiralling down

Spiralling down

Spiralling down

Spiralling down

Chase planes
showing off

The formation
approaches

The formation
approaches

The formation
approaches

The formation
approaches

The formation
approaches

The formation
approaches

The formation
approaches

Touchdown!

White Knight
flyby

White Knight
flyby

White Knight
flyby

White Knight
flyby

White Knight
flyby

White Knight
flyby

White Knight
flyby

Chase plane
formation flyby

Chase plane
formation flyby

Chase plane
formation flyby

Outdated sign -
Now "Spaceport!"