Model No.


First Flight

August 7, 2003

SpaceShipOne is a three-place, high-altitude research rocket, designed for sub-orbital flights to 100 km altitude. The ship converts (via pneumatic-actuated feather) to a stable, high-drag shape for atmospheric entry. This “care-free” configuration allows a “hands-off” re-entry and greatly reduces aero/thermal loads. Designed for a “shirt-sleeve” environment, the 60” diameter cabin has a space-qualified ECS, as well as dual-pane windows. The ship uses three flight control systems - manual-subsonic, electric-supersonic and cold-gas RCS. SpaceShipOne’s hybrid rocket motor is a non-toxic, liquid nitrous-oxide/rubber-fuel hybrid propulsion system. The avionics onboard provide the pilot with the precise guidance information needed to manually fly SpaceShipOne for boost and re-entry. It also provides guidance for approach and landing and vehicle health monitoring. The unit stores and telemeters flight test data to Mission Control.

During a nominal flight, the mothership White Knight takes off, carrying SpaceShipOne beneath it to an altitude above 45,000 ft where the White Knight copilot then releases the spaceship. Shortly after SpaceShipOne’s release, the hybrid rocket motor fires for over a minute to boost the spaceship to speeds above 2.5 Mach, gaining altitude and momentum quickly. After motor burnout, the vehicle continues to coast up past the Karman Line into space for apogee during which about 3 minutes of weightlessness are experienced. The feather deploys for atmospheric re-entry as dynamic pressure approaches zero and retracts after re-entry around an altitude of 51,000 ft for SpaceShipOne to glide to a landing.

SpaceShipOne made history by completing the first privately funded human spaceflight on June 21, 2004, where it reached an altitude of 100.124 km (328,491 ft). The spaceplane later made two more spaceflights on September 29, 2004 and October 4, 2004 - fulfilling the requirements to win the Ansari X-Prize by surpassing an altitude of 100km twice within two weeks while carrying the weight equivalent of three people on board and replacing no more than 10% of the non-fuel weight of the craft between flights.

SpaceShipOne now resides at the Smithsonian Institute's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Check out the Tier One Test Logs for SpaceShipOne and White Knight’s journey to make history

Services utilized on SpaceShipOne

This was the most exciting and stressful program I had ever been on. The stakes were very high - but so were the rewards.

Dan Kreigh

Senior Analyst