The Joy of Museums

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SpaceShipOne National Air and Space Museum photo D Ramey Logan

SpaceShipOne completed the first manned private spaceflight in 2004 and won the US$10 million Ansari X Prize. Almost one-hundredth years after the Wright Brothers’ historic first powered flight. As part of this project, the Mojave Air and Space Port was the first commercial spaceport licensed in the United States. And the first pilot of SpaceShipOne became the first licensed U.S. commercial astronaut.

SpaceShipOne was an experimental air-launched rocket-powered aircraft with suborbital flight speeds of up to 900 m/s (3,000 ft/s), using a hybrid rocket motor. The design features a unique “feathering” atmospheric reentry system where the rear half of the wing and the twin tail booms folded upward along a hinge running the length of the wing; this increased drag while providing stability.

SpaceShipOne - - National Air and Space Museum

The rear half of the wing and the twin tail booms foldedup to provide “feathering” atmospheric reentry system


Essential Facts:

  • Title:                    SpaceShipOne
  • Crew:                   One pilot
  • Length:                28 ft (8.53 m)
  • Wingspan:          16 ft 5 in (8.05 m)
  • Loaded weight:  7,920 lb (3,600 kg)
  • Burn time:           80 seconds
  • Powerplant:        1 × N2O/HTPB SpaceDev Hybrid rocket, 7,500 kgf (74 kN)
  • Max speed:          Mach 3.09 (2,170 mph, 3,518 km/h)
  • Range:                  35 nm (40 mi, 65 km)
  • Museum:             National Air and Space Museum


“Isn’t it astonishing that all these secrets have been preserved for so many years just so we could discover them!” Orville Wright



Photo Credit: 1)By Joyofmuseums (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons 2) Ad Meskens [Attribution, CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons