"A Space Age for the Rest of Us"

"328,491 Feet"

"Baby Steps to Space for Civilians"

"Paradigm Shift for Space Tourism"

"Orbit Awards"

"Space Fair 98"

This area covers photography of spaceflight accomplished by the private sector. The most notable of these are the flights of SpaceShipOne in 2004. Hopefully, there will be many further private spaceflights to photograph and report on in the future.

SpaceShipOne X Prize Flight 0

Mission Facts

White Knight Takeoff: 06:47 PDT, Jun. 21, 2004

Launch: 07:50 PDT at 47,000 feet

Pilot: Mike Melvill

Altitude: 328,491 feet

Speed: Mach 2.9, 2150 mph


First time a private company has exceeded the 100 kilometer limit recognized as the boundary to outer space. The flight was sub-orbital and was not intended for orbit. SpaceShipOne was vying for the $10 million X Prize, however, this flight was a test flight only and was not considered in the judging for the prize.

X Prize investor Paul Allen with SpaceShipOne pilot Mike Melvill and designer Burt Rutan on June 20, 2004. This photo was taken at the pre-flight press conference where it was announced that Melvill would be the first pilot to attempt to break the 100 kilometer altitude mark in a privately-funded spacecraft.

The White Knight carrier aircraft taxies past the crowd on the way to the end of the Mojave Airport runway, early on the morning of June 21st. SpaceShipOne is seen slung beneath the twin outriggers of White Knight.

Pilot Mike Melvill greets the crowd following his successful test flight of SpaceShipOne. Paul Allen is on the left in blue and Burt Rutan on the right in yellow.

Mike Melvill talks with the press corps following the flight.

SpaceShipOne X Prize Flight 1

Mission Facts

White Knight Takeoff: 07:12 PDT, Sep. 29, 2004

Launch: 08:10 PDT at 46,500 feet

Pilot: Mike Melvill

Altitude: 337,700 feet

Speed: Mach 2.9, 2110 mph


Second attempt and second success of SpaceShipOne team to exceed 100 kilometer altitude. A vertical roll was initiated by the pilot just at atmospheric exit. This was not planned, but pilot Melvill regained control of the vehicle and landed without difficulty. This was the first official qualification flight for the X Prize.

Mockups of some of the other X Prize contender space vehicles on display at the Mojave Spaceport early in the morning prior to the second flight on September 29.

Three chase planes were used during the flight to cover different altitudes and air speeds. This photo was taken as the three joined up for a formation flyby as the first X Prize flight came to an end.

Pilot Mike Melvill stands atop SpaceShipOne in victory after the successful completion of the second 100 kilometer flight, and the first official flight to qualify for the X Prize.

SpaceShipOne X Prize Flight 2

Mission Facts

White Knight Takeoff: 06:49 PDT, Oct. 4, 2004

Launch: 07:49 PDT at 47,100 feet

Pilot: Brian Binnie

Altitude: 367,500 feet

Speed: Mach 3.09, 2186 mph


Third successful flight in a row above 100 kilometers. Second official X Prize flight, qualifying the team to win the $10 million prize. The altitude of 367,500 feet beats the old record of 354,200 feet held by the X-15 research aircraft and set by NASA test pilot Joe Walker on Aug. 22, 1963

The press site on the morning of October 4, 2004. This date was chosen specifically to coincide with the date that Sputnik 1 was launched, ushering in the Space Age on October 4, 1957, forty-seven years earlier.

The SpaceShipOne flight sequence on October 4, 2004:

(above left) Seconds after launch, White Knight is seen veering to the left and SpaceShipOne ignites its rocket engine to head into space. A chase plane is seen to the right.

(above center) Seconds into the launch sequence, SpaceShipOne is quickly accelerating up and away from the White Knight.

(above right and right) Composite of two photographs that shows the exhaust trail left by SpaceShipOne. Winds have already started to catch some of the lower exhaust trail and twist it about the flight path. The photos were taken at the moment of engine burn out and shows the full extant of the rocket plume.

(below left) Spectators watching the flight unfold above them.

(below right) SpaceShipOne, with chase plane close behind, enters the landing pattern of Mojave Spaceport. Soon after the successful flight and landing, the spaceport was returned to normal aircraft flight operations and its normal name of Mojave Airport.

The post-flight victory celebration on the taxiway in front of the media site. Champagne and flags.

X Prize judge Space Shuttle Commander Rick Searfoss announces the official results that the SpaceShipOne team has won the X Prize.

Pilots Brian Binnie (left) and Mike Melvill (right) give the credit where it is due, to designer Burt Rutan.

Burt Rutan and Paul Allen are presented a plaque commemorating the historic flights by Federal Aviation Administrator Marion Blakey.

Sir Richard Branson announces that he has contracted with Burt Rutan to construct sub-orbital passenger-carrying vehicles for Virgin Galactic,.

Anousheh Ansari, a member of the family that helped to fund the X Prize, holds a copy of the book "Space Tourism: Do You Want to Go?"

A daylight view of some of the X Prize contender mockups at Mojave for the two X Prize flights.