Encyclopedia Astronautica
SpaceShipOne Flight 15P


Crew: Melvill. First private manned spaceflight. Fourth powered flight of SpaceShipOne and first flight above 100 km altitude. Spacecraft rolled 90 degrees right and left at motor ignition; attitude control lost at engine shut down; engine fairing collapsed.

Fourth powered flight of Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne and first flight above 100 km altitude.

Following release from the White Knight mother craft, the spacecraft rolled 90 degrees right and left at motor ignition. Melvill was able to control the aircraft and the problem did not return, so he pressed on. As the motor shut down after 70 seconds of operation, the spacecraft lost trim control. However the backup system (the cold gas reaction controls) allowed Melvill to orient the spacecraft for feathering of the wing and re-entry. The noise and shuddering of the spacecraft during re-entry was unnerving. A loud bang was heard (on landing it was found that the fairing around the engine nozzle had collapsed). Despite not reaching the planned altitude and re-entering 35 km away from the intended point, Melvill recovered control after re-entry and landed at Mojave Airport after a 30 minute flight. He had taken SpaceShipOne just over 100 km, thereby becoming the first private citizen, third person born in Africa, second person born in South Africa, and oldest pilot in command to ever reach outer space.

Apogee: 100 km (62 mi).
First Launch: 2004.06.21.
Last Launch: 2004.06.21.
Duration: 0.0021 days.

More... - Chronology...


Associated People
  • Melvill Melvill, Michael Winston 'Mike' (1941-) South African-American test pilot rocketplane pilot. Flew on SpaceShipOne Flight 15P, SpaceShipOne Flight 16P. More...

See also
Associated Programs
  • X-Prize The X-Prize competition was an attempt to promote commercial civilian spaceflight in a manner similar to the prizes handed out in the early days of aviation. Ten million dollars was to go to the first team to fly a vehicle capable of launching three people into space (defined as an altitude of 100 km in a suborbital trajectory), twice in a two-week period. The vehicle had to be 90% reusable by dry mass. For purposes of the two flights, the competition accepted flight by one person and ballast equivalent to two others at 90 kg per passenger. The flights had to be completed before the end of 2005. More...

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