Rutan's SpaceShipOne Flies

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If you've read our recent coverage on Burt Rutan's White Knight/SpaceShipOne combo, you'll know that the fertile minds at Scaled Composites were working overtime on this dynamic duo. Now, the top contender for the X-prize competition has taken flight and moved one step closer to winning the $10 million prize money. Last Thursday, the first free flight of SpaceShipOne took place over the desert testing area near Mojave, Calif. The space ship was carried to its release altitude of 47,000 feet via the White Knightcarrier craft, then allowed to glide under a pilotís control to a smooth landing. The post-flight report states "an initial handling qualities evaluation was very positive" with the flight providing data for "60 percent of the expected subsonic flight envelope from stall to 150 knots." Before Thursday's flight, Scaled Composites, Burt Rutan's laboratory of much that's unusual and innovative in aviation, performed a series of captured carry flights of SpaceShipOne on the launch aircraft. Next up will be a series of powered flights to a landing. After that, well, it appears the sky might not be the limit. Click through for a short video montage of these aircraft from AirsideTV.