...Burning Rubber Toward $10 Million
There's nothing new about rockets but when Burt Rutan starts looking spaceward, you can bet there'll be something unconventional supplying the kick. As AVweb reported last week, two companies, eAc and SpaceDev, were in line to build the hybrid rocket that will push Rutan's SpaceShipOne to 62 miles high in the race for the $10 million XPrize. Rutan's Scaled Composites announced Friday that SpaceDev won the contract. Both companies developed a rocket that combines the function of liquid- and solid-fueled engines with safety and reliability. The engines burn rubber, which is oxidized by nitrous oxide, both of which are safe and easy to handle and won't react spontaneously. And as we relentlessly seek new technologies to power our passion, last week, some well-heeled travelers were undoubtedly wishing the tried and true were just a bit more reliable when their Concorde trip got complicated. As the last of the British Airways supersonic airliners creak toward retirement at the end of next month (Air France's are already in museums), passengers aboard the New York-to-London flight must have wondered what their $6,600 fare was really worth. After an hour's delay on the ground at Kennedy to fix a faulty light, the plane was at supersonic cruise over the North Atlantic when an engine "backfired," as written by The Associated Press. "Glass and plates were flying and people were screaming. It was very scary," passenger Danny Ferris told the AP. With one engine out, the plane dropped to a lower altitude and to subsonic speeds, which caused it to burn more fuel. It limped into Cardiff, Wales, forcing the rich, famous and adventurous to take a bus to London. British Airways says it will compensate the passengers with frequent-flyer points.