Posted: Wednesday, April 7, 2004
WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Department of Transportation today announced it has issued the world's first license for a sub-orbital manned rocket flight.
The license was issued April 1 by the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation to Scaled Composites of Mojave, Calif., headed by aviation record-holder Burt Rutan, for a sequence of sub-orbital flights spanning a one-year period.
The FAA sub-orbital space flight license is required for U.S. contenders in the X-Prize competition, a high-stakes international race ultimately to launch a manned, reusable private vehicle into space and return it safely to Earth. The X- Prize foundation will award $10 million to the first company or organization to launch a vehicle capable of carrying three people to a height of 100 kilometers (62.5 miles), return them safely to Earth, and repeat the flight with the same vehicle within two weeks. Twenty-seven contestants representing seven countries have already registered for the X-Prize contest, modeled on the $25,000 Orteig Prize for which Charles Lindbergh flew solo from New York to Paris in 1927.
In its 20 years of existence, the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation has licensed more than 150 commercial launches of unmanned expendable launch vehicles. This license is the first to authorize manned flight on a sub-orbital trajectory. While the highest criteria to issue a license is public safety, applicants must undergo an extensive pre- application process, demonstrate adequate financial responsibility to cover any potential losses, and meet strict environmental requirements.
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