Ingenious. Tireless. Masterful. Aerospace engineer and entrepreneur Burt Rutan turns ideas into winged vehicles that soar, take powered flight, and now rocket into space, safely returning to land under a pilot’s control. Of the scores of flying craft he has designed, SpaceShipOne is his most innovative engineering feat yet. Launched from its White Knight mothership, powered in ascent by a hybrid rocket engine, feathering its wings for the suborbital period in weightlessness and initial descent, and finally returning as a nimble glider, SpaceShipOne elegantly solves the equations for roundtrip space travel.

Visionary. Generous. Committed. Like Burt Rutan, entrepreneur and philanthropist Paul G. Allen believes that people should be able to fly into space readily and affordably. To make commercial spaceflight possible, he funded research and development of the SpaceShipOne project as a start-up private space program. By assuming the risks of an experimental project and collaborating with a world-class technical team, he focused the power of private enterprise as a force to shape the future.

The SpaceShipOne Team, especially the talented staff of Rutans company Scaled Composites and Paul Allens company Vulcan Inc., has achieved a major milestone in space history: the first piloted flights in a privately developed spacecraft. Innovations from the SpaceShipOne program are making breakthroughs for safety that will allow commercial flight operations for public access to space. Among the achievements are designing a small, lightweight craft for both sonic and supersonic flight; mastering the aerodynamics and flight controls for those different regimes; using the feathered wing as a brake to provide a “care-free” reentry; innovating with composite materials and a hybrid rocket engine; keeping the vehicle design simple, robust, and economical; and navigating the regulatory challenges for commercial, piloted launches into space. They demonstrate how essential teamwork is to successful spaceflight.

Inspired by a shared vision of space travel, enabled by the first launch license for a privately developed spacecraft, rewarded with the Ansari X-Prize for repeated spaceflights to stimulate space tourism Burt Rutan, Paul G. Allen, and the SpaceShipOne Team are pioneering the way toward commercial space travel.

  • June 21, 2004    Mike Melvill pilots SpaceShipOne past 62 miles (100 km) altitude into space
  • Sept. 29, 2004   Mike Melvill pilots SpaceShipOne to 64 miles (102 km)
  • Oct. 4, 2004     Brian Binnie pilots SpaceShipOne to 70 miles (112 km)