X Prize Rocket Engine Tested

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Scaled Composites keeps marking milestones toward the capture of the $10 million X Prize to build the first civilian spacecraft. Last week, Environmental Aeroscience Corp. (eAc), one of two contractors competing to supply the rocket for the suborbital SpaceShipOne spacecraft, did a full-duration test of its hybrid rocket engine. Its competitor, SpaceDev, has already tested its entry. Both are hybrid engines, using aspects of both liquid and solid-fueled rockets to blast the spacecraft, and, eventually, its paying passengers, 62 miles high. The engines use nitrous oxide as an oxidizer and rubber as the fuel. Both are easily handled and won't react together in storage. The rubber has to be heated to high temperature first before the nitrous oxide is introduced to create the kick that will push SpaceShipOne to 2,500 mph for the flight to the edge of space. Scaled will decide on the engine soon.