Human flight took a significant step forward today as the privately built SpaceShipOne flew into suborbital space for the second time in five days, apparently securing the $10 million Ansari X Prize.
With pilot Brian Binnie at the controls, SpaceShipOne rocketed to an unofficial height of 368,000 feet after being dropped from its White Knight mothership at a little above 46,000 feet.
The altitude was confirmed by radar while SpaceShipOne was gliding back to Earth. The craft touched down at 11:14 a.m. ET.
“This is a milestone for humanity,” said John Spencer, president of the Space Tourism Society in Los Angeles.
Shortly after SpaceShipOne became airborne this morning, Spencer told SPACE.com the flight represents “an independent approach to space development. If today works it is the kickoff of the space tourist industry.”
Seconds after being released from the White Knight, SpaceShipOne’s hybrid rocket motor was ignited, boosting the craft to the target point required by the X Prize Foundation of St. Louis, Missouri in order to win the cash prize.