So I see that they made it into space again.
While this seems like they are doing the same thing that NASA uses huge rockets to do they aren’t really the same thing are they?

Am I right in assuming that they broke the barrier of getting out of the earth’s atmoshphere however,

  1. It takes a lot more power to put something into orbit.
  2. It takes even more power to break away from earth’s gravitational pull.

It this sense, are they still years behind NASA’s space exploration?

Yes, but the point is that no one outside of government has made it into space before. Reaching orbit is a completely different set of challenges but 10 years ago has anyone seriously considered a small company would be able to achieve 2 sub orbital flights in 5 days?

Yes, and yes.

Don’t you hate answers like this?

However there is no specific velocity to “break out of the atmosphere.” They exceeded 100km altitude which the FAI (IIRC) defines as space. There is atmosphere enough to drag down a satellite were it in such a low orbit for practical puroses of a suborbital flight it’s more like “empty” space than not.

The Spaceship 1 is more similar to the Pegasus system than the shuttle.

Of course there is, as long as you have defined where it ends.

What was the Pegasus system of which you speak?

Jet launches a small rocket which places a payload in orbit.

Pegasus link (old-ish)

From the story: “X Prize officials said it set an altitude record exceeding the military X-15’s top altitude of 354,200 feet (67 miles) set on August 22, 1963.”

Exactly what altitude record is this? It’s not the fixed-wing or jet-engine altitude record, since SpaceShipOne is neither. It’s not the record for a craft taking off under its own power, since it didn’t. It’s certainly not the record altitude for a manned flight, and it’s not the record for a civilian pilot (actually, I believe it is an altitude record for a civilian pilot, but the record that was **broken ** wasn’t, because that record was held by a military aircraft).

Apparently I am missing something, because it seems to me that any record that SpaceShipOne would have set should have alreay been broken by the Space Shuttle.

So what is the specific altitude record that was held by the X-15, and was broken by this morning’s flight?

ABC seems to think it was the fixed-wing record.

Other sites seem to think it was the sub-orbital record or the aircraft record. I tend to believe that it’s the latter, as I heard a lot of talk about it being a rocket plane.

Uh, yeah, as a matter of fact it IS a “fixed wing aircraft”. I certainly didn’t see any rotors or parachutes, did you? It’s got wings, and they’re fixed. They fact that a portion of the wings move isn’t important - virtually ALL fixed wing aircraft have portions of the wing and tail that move. So, yeah, it’s a fixed wing aircraft. At least the FAA thinks so - N328KF is in the fixed wing aircraft database.

Yes, it WAS the record for a civilian pilot. Also the record for an entirely privately funded launch. And the fact the prior record was military is irrelevant, really - the longest unrefueled flight I believe used to be military but the Rutan/Yeager Voyager beat that handily.

Well, they’ve never turned around a shuttle and re-launched it within 5 days. Heck, they can’t seem to re-launch one in five months. So I’d say that record was certainly broken.

I think there’s a distinction here between the Shuttle, which jettisons a substantial portion of itself on the way up, and SS1, which pretty much just loses fuel to the burn. I know one of the X-prize rules was that no more than 10% of the dry mass of the vehcile would require replacing between flights. Not sure if the Shuttle makes that mark or not.

“fixed wing record” can be a bit ambiguous. Air launched craft such as the SS1 and X-15 are in a different cagegory than aircraft which take off from the ground under their own power. IIRC the shuttle is not in that category since it jettisons it’s SRB engines and fuel tank.


No, I don’t see anything ambiguous about “fixed wing”. The SS1, X-15, and Shuttle are all fixed wing air/spacecraft.

And SS1 is not the first rocket propelled airplane - I believe the Messerschmidt Komet (Me-163…?) was the first, back in the 1940’s. Had a distressing tendency to blow up on take-off, landing, in flight, or for no damn reason which might account for the technology being largely abandoned after the war.

But, you know, the Shuttle is hoisted up on a launch pad and just blasted away - once underway there ain’t much the pilot can do to change things. SS1, on the other hand, doesn’t go up until the pilot pulls back on the stick, and the pilot inside controls the direction, length of burn, and so forth. Is that the distinction that makes the difference?

I guess that explains it. Since the wings on SS1 tilt 90 degrees, I assumed that ment that it was not a “fixed wing aircraft”. What exactly is required for an aircraft to not be considered “fixed wing”? Is the distinction simply one of helicpoter/airplane, or is there more to it?

My point was that bodies such as the FAI don’t lump all types of fixed wing aircraft into one category for altitude records. Pure airplanes such as the NF-104 that Chuck Yeager flew take off as aircraft completely under their own power. It had both a jet and rocket engine but nothing was jettisoned during the flight. The SS1 and X-15 don’t take off under their own power, both being brough aloft by another aircraft.

I know I’ll catch hell for this but by contrast the shuttle doesn’t go into orbit as an aircraft but as a ballistic missle lifted only by engine thrust. Aerodynamic lift is only used to re-enter and land.

I think it’s entirely fair to say the SS1 beat the X-15’s altitude record but comparing it to an airplane taking off under it’s own power or the shuttler is no more meaningful than comparing how far Barry Bonds can knock a dinger to Brett Farve throwing a football or a rifle shooting a bullet.

The distinction is between rotary wing which includes gyrocopters and other aircraft for the most part. Swingwings and wings with changing camber are just a variable geometry type of fixed wing.

Record for air-launched manned fixed-wing aircraft (= aerodynamically lifted and controlled and operated primarily in an atmospheric envelope) and/or air-launched “rocketplane” (rocket-propelled manned fixed-wing aircraft-as-previously-defined). That would cover the X-15 and SS1.
And yes, the point behind X-prize is to see if the development of manned spaceflight’s next direction can start to be weaned off ultimate dependency on government mega-projects.

Too many examples of a concept being pitched to NASA or ESA only to have it handed to a series of committees who RFP it to the big MilIndComp corporations and then all parties proceed to spend 10 years cyclically bloating and debloating the proposal, so that after sinking a billion bucks/a milliard euros in “design studies” they announce they (a) give up on it (ESA’s Hermes spaceplane) or (b) can only deliver a half-arsed stripped-down barely-functional version (the ISS), pending someone coming up with something bigger and shinier, or cheaper.

That dependency not only raises costs, ties things up in political infighting, and encourages risk-aversion and institutional stasis; but also opens a flank to the attack that it’s wasting taxpayer money. Of course, now we’ve moved on to dependency on multibillionaire patrons :wink: , but hey, it’s a step.
… And besides, you know that if Virgin Galactic spacelines eventually gets off the ground, Branson will not mind that much if a pair of his passengers conduct the obvious zero-g experiment. Try proposing that to the brass at Houston and Zveszdygorodok… That alone should be worth our while.

The landing flaps on the Cessna 150’s I fly deflect up to 40 degrees, which is nearly halfway to what the bits of the SS1 do. Granted, those flaps on the Cessna are a much smaller porportion of the wing overall, but although most of the wing remains fixed in place it’s nothing unusual for parts of a fixed wing to deflect or change shape quite a bit.

so… are ornithopters considered to be fixed wing?




You know, I was going to imply that 'thopters aren’t airworthy machines. Apparently, and assuming this isn’t a hoax, I was wrong. Another group has built a different model. And, of course, it has been made into a toy. Not as silently menacing as a blimp, but it has a cooler name.

It does seem, however, that all of these craft are in no danger of breaking any records held by more convetional craft. It’s not even clear that they are registered with the FAA.