More Contenders For X Prize

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The race for the X Prize, the $10 million award for the first practical private space launch, is getting tighter as two more teams have joined the race and the well-established groups are getting nearer to flight. Space Transport Corp., of Washington State, announced its entry and says it will have an unmanned three-stage rocket launch within 60 days. Also joining the fray was the High Altitude Research Corp. Inc., which revealed its 40-foot rocket Nov. 22 at its Huntsville, Ala., headquarters. The two new entries bring the total to 26.

Meanwhile, some of the longer-term entries in the competition are testing their projects. Canadian Arrow has successfully tested the engine of its V-2 based design. The rocket, developing 57,000 pounds of thrust, is believed to be the largest liquid-fueled rocket ever fired in Canada. Of course, the Rutan team continues to make progress. SpaceShipOne has now flown 10 times, seven of them in free flight, and the aerodynamic development is proceeding well. The X Prize organization is putting the wraps on a year-end report that should be released in coming weeks.