The first privately financed, privately designed, and privately built spaceship was the spaceplane SpaceshipOne. Its first powered flight took place on December 17, 2003, exactly 100 years after the Wright brothers made the first powered heavier-than-air flight at Kitty Hawk. Between June and October of 2004, SpaceShipOne made three suborbital spaceflights, each exceeding 100 km altitude. The last two flights took place within 2 weeks of each other, winning the X-Prize for Scaled Composites, builder of the baby spaceplane.
SpaceShipOne made only three flights into space before being sent to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. to take its rightful place among other famous trailblazing craft in aerospace history. It now hangs with the Bell X-1, the first aircraft to break the sound barrier, and The Spirit of St. Louis, the first airplane to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceShipOne proved that a private company could design, engineer, build, and fly a spaceplane into suborbit, and repeat the feat within 2 weeks. Similar to its predecessor the X-15, SpaceShipOne was carried under the wing of a mothership and released at high altitude. Unlike the X-15, this new-generation baby spaceplane used hybrid rocket engines utilizing a solid fuel and liquid oxidizer. This enabled the spaceplane to control its engine, as others of liquid propellant design.
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