Welcome to Mojave, America's First Inland Spaceport

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To Space: For the People, By the People ...

If it's before 10:30 a.m. (Eastern Time), you may want to click through to KLOA online radio to see if their bandwidth can accommodate you for a live audio feed of the "first civilian pilot to cross the border of space in a civilian-funded vehicle" ... if it wasn't cancelled, or you're not already watching it on CNN.

Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites -- the "you're not likely to know what we're up to next until we have to push it outside" people -- scheduled 10:30 a.m. (Eastern) today for its attempt to "push it outside" in a very big way with SpaceShipOne -- and they invited the world to watch ... relatively speaking. (We were only kicked out of two buildings.) Mike Melville found out yesterday at a press conference that he was chosen from three pilots for the unearthly task of piloting the nitrous oxide- and rubber-burning craft to space and back: "I am very excited. ... I am ready to go," he said. Straight up at Mach 3.2 to better than 300,000 feet and back.

The flight profile called for SpaceShipOne to drop from its carrier craft (White Knight) shooting for better than Mach 3 and more than 300,000 feet after launching together from what Rutan called "a small commercial airport" (Mojave). Rutan says the craft, to hit its target altitude, will burn most (but not all) of the 3,200 pounds of nitrous oxide and 600 pounds of rubber it uses for fuel. (A full burn would send the craft to 420,000 feet.) The rocket will then be shut down with the flip of a switch. RADAR at Edwards Air Force Base will be able to call the trajectory (and apex) within a few yards.

Sunday, Rutan was very confident his craft would make the grade, saying that many of the increments that led to this step were more challenging (and more dangerous). And with a scheduled launch time of 6:30 a.m. (Mojave time), you should know by the time you read this whether or not the launch will usher in a new era of "affordable suborbital flight" within 15 years.