...As Competing Teams Continue Their Efforts...

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Although Rutan's team held a clear lead over the competition, more than two dozen teams tried for the X Prize, and many are still pursuing their ideas. Some are branching out in new directions or seeking new prizes. Interorbital Systems, a Mojave company that plans to launch from ocean spaceports, is working on two new rockets -- the Nano, for sending tiny satellites into orbit, and the Neptune, a rocket it hopes will ferry up to eight people into orbit, in pursuit of the $50 million America's Space Prize. The Space Transport Corp., in Washington state, says it plans to launch its Rubicon 2 rocket "probably" in mid-November, but won't announce the launch till after it's done. Pablo de Leon and Associates, the X Prize competitor from Argentina, announced that it will continue work toward the development of a suborbital transport. "We are seriously committed to this project," said team leader Pablo de Leon, "and we already spent enough time and effort in our development, so our goal is to continue until we see it finished no matter how long it will take. We believe there is a future in suborbital transportation." PanAero, based in Virginia, is adapting its Condor-X very-large-wing concept to a scaled-down aircraft with an extremely low wing loading. Their goals for this new aircraft are to set a new rocket-propelled altitude record, put a satellite into low Earth orbit at low cost, and complete high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft missions at competitively low costs. Canada's da Vinci project last summer found a major sponsor and set a launch date but then had to postpone. On Oct. 1 the project received full authorization from the Canadian government to launch its manned flights to space. No word yet on when that launch might take place.