SpaceShipOne to Proceed With 2nd Flight

The creators of SpaceShipOne (search) will go ahead with plans for another launch next week to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize (search) after analyzing a roll that occurred as it neared space.

X Prize organizers announced without elaboration Thursday night that SpaceShipOne designer Burt Rutan (search) had given notice that he would proceed with Monday morning's scheduled flight.

The Ansari X Prize, intended to spur development of space tourism, is a formal competition for privately developed spacecraft capable of carrying three people — or a pilot and equivalent weight — 62 miles high.

The competition requires two successful flights by the same craft within a 14-day span to claim the prize.

Under the rules, the 14-day clock began running when SpaceShipOne touched down Wednesday morning after reaching an altitude of about 64 miles in its first competition flight. Time runs out at 8:34 a.m. Oct. 13.

The question of whether to proceed with the second flight arose after SpaceShipOne unexpectedly began rolling as it soared toward space.

The flight director recommended that pilot Michael Melvill (search) shut down the rocket motor, but Melvill chose to let it burn a few seconds longer to ensure he had reached the target altitude, then shut it down.

Despite the roll, Melvill, 63, kept the craft on course and brought the roll to a halt in space, using the craft's reaction control system.

After landing, he said the roll rate was always controllable and that he was never worried. He characterized the spaceship as working normally and said he probably inadvertently caused the roll.

Melvill also was the pilot when SpaceShipOne made its historic first flight into space in June, but it also flew more than 20 miles outside its planned flight area.

A serious control system problem was suspected, but data showed the pilot overcompensated for the effects of a wind shear.

Among its unusual features, SpaceShipOne is a supersonic craft with manual flight controls. Its pilots must have extensive training in a ground simulator and simulator aircraft.

The June flight marked the first time a privately developed manned rocket had reached space. Rutan and financial backer Paul Allen (search) then entered the craft in X Prize competition.