Anyone for a space-ride?

Burt Rutan hopes to launch a rocket to much greater heights than commercial aircraft currently fly, travelling to the edge of space. Affordable space travel will be available within 10 years, according to an aviation pioneer who has been granted the first licence to launch a manned suborbital rocket. Eventually, his team hopes to go into orbit.

It is part of a worldwide competition, called the X Prize, which will give £5.5 million to the first group to put a three-seater craft 62.5 miles above the Earth twice within two weeks.

After learning from the Federal Aviation Administration that he had won the suborbital licence, Mr Rutan said: "I strongly feel that, if we are successful, our programme will mark the beginning of a renaissance for manned space flight."

"This might even be similar to that wonderful time period between 1908 and 1912 when the world went from a total of 10 airplane pilots to hundreds of airplane types and thousands of pilots in 39 countries."

He added: "We need affordable space travel to inspire our youth."

Mr Rutan, who heads the firm, Scaled Composites of Mojave, California, believes affordable space travel could be available within 10 years, inform

According to BBC the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has granted a licence to Scaled Composites for a sub-orbital launch of their SpaceShipOne rocket-plane. To claim the prize SpaceShipOne will have to reach an altitude of 100 km, the "official" boundary of space.

The FAA has given approval to Scaled Composites allowing it to expand its flight testing of SpaceShipOne - a privately-financed rocket plane to carry passengers into space.

Scaled Composites chief is Burt Rutan who was behind the design of Voyager - the first aircraft to fly non-stop around the world without refuelling.

SpaceShipOne and its carrier mothership, White Knight, were first shown to the public on 18 April 2003. Since then it has undergone extensive tests and during one powered flight it broke the sound barrier.

The rocket ship and its carrier were unveiled one year ago, and have undergone extensive glide tests and one powered flight. The first powered flight of Space Ship One took place on December 17, the one hundred year anniversary of the Wright brother's historic flight at Kitty Hawk. During the test flight, a hybrid rocket motor was used for 15 seconds, with longer burn times required to propel the craft to the X prize-subscribed altitude. The last glide flight of the craft included a thermal protection system-indicating that new powered flights may be coming soon, report

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