Thursday, 8 July 2004

Space Ship One Ready to Roll

...or rather, ready to not roll, as it did in its previous flight.

From Wired :
X Prize contender Burt Rutan says his team has solved a control problem that threw its spacecraft off course during a historic flight last month and that the next time the ship flies it will be to capture the $10 million space jackpot.

"That's a complete, entire yes," Rutan said when asked whether his Scaled Composites team had gotten to the bottom of a trim-control problem experienced during SpaceShipOne's voyage to an altitude of 100 kilometers on June 21.
"There is no way we will fly again without knowing the cause and without assuring that we fixed it," he said at a press conference following the flight.

But in a telephone interview Tuesday, Rutan said the "flight-control anomaly" on June 21 "was not serious." The problem, he said, had been traced to an actuator -- a device that drives flaps and other aircraft control surfaces. The actuator delayed moving one of the ship's flaps because it "had run against a stop," limiting its movement. The glitch helped push the craft off course and led Melvill to use his backup controls.

Rutan also said a review of data from the June 21 flight had uncovered the cause of another anomaly Melvill reported.

The pilot said that immediately after he fired his engines, SpaceShipOne rolled 90 degrees to the left. When Melvill tried to correct the uncommanded movement, the ship then rolled 90 degrees to the right.

Rutan said Tuesday that wind shear -- violent air currents aloft -- triggered the rolls.
As for what's scheduled for the near future? :
With the June 21 issues analyzed and resolved, Rutan said the next time SpaceShipOne flies, it will be to win the X Prize. The prize requires a privately funded craft to fly into suborbital space twice within two weeks to win the $10 million jackpot.
Given the contest's requirement of 60 days' notice before a prize attempt -- and the lack of any notice so far -- the earliest Rutan or other teams could fly for the cash is now around Labor Day. The prize offer expires at the end of the year.

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