Thursday, June 21, 2007

Launch Of First Privately-Funded Spaceflight

By Princessa

An experimental spaceplane, SpaceShipOne made the first privately funded spaceflight on this day in 2004. Without any government funding, SpaceShipOne was developed by Burt Rutan's aviation company. A $10,000,000 prize (called the Ansari X Award ) will be awarded to the first non-government organization that can launch a manned spacecraft into space. SpaceShipOne is one of the leading contenders out of 27 participants for this prize.

Exactly one year later, another privately-funded project launched the first solar sail spacecraft. Cosmos 1, which had no engine at all, was designed to be powered by photons reflecting off its large solar sails. As the craft traveled, it would increase its speed steadily as more photons hit its sails. The Planetary Society, which headed the Cosmos project, predicts that, because it is not dependent on chemical fuels, solar sail technology will one day take humanity out of our solar system and out among the stars. For now, however, a test of this new technology will have to wait. Cosmos 1 was lost 83 seconds into the test, when its launch vehicle failed.

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