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Dec. 17: First Private Supersonic Flight Succeeds  
User currently offlineLonghaulheavy From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 402 posts, RR: 2
Posted (12 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 4862 times:

I find the following far more in the spirit of December 17th than the Wright recreation today. Here's a group of Americans who basically did what the Wrights did - they got together, made a significant accomplishment, and blazed a trail for others to follow.

Here's the story:
Press Release
17 December 2003
For Immediate Release

SpaceShipOne Breaks the Sound Barrier

Today, a significant milestone was achieved by Scaled Composites: The first manned supersonic flight by an aircraft developed by a small company's private, non-government effort.

In 1947, fifty-six years ago, history's first supersonic flight was flown by Chuck Yeager in the Bell X-1 rocket under a U.S. Government research program. Since then, many supersonic aircraft have been developed for research, military and, in the case of the recently retired Concorde, commercial applications. All these efforts were developed by large aerospace prime companies, using extensive government resources.

Our flight this morning by SpaceShipOne demonstrated that supersonic flight is now the domain of a small company doing privately-funded research, without government help. The flight also represents an important milestone in our efforts to demonstrate that truly low-cost space access is feasible.

Our White Knight turbojet launch aircraft, flown by Test Pilot Peter Siebold, carried research rocket plane SpaceShipOne to 48,000 feet altitude, near the desert town of California City. At 8:15 a.m. PDT, Cory Bird, the White Knight Flight Engineer, pulled a handle to release SpaceShipOne. SpaceShipOne Test Pilot, Brian Binnie then flew the ship to a stable, 0.55 mach gliding flight condition, started a pull-up, and fired its hybrid rocket motor. Nine seconds later, SpaceShipOne broke the sound barrier and continued its steep powered ascent. The climb was very aggressive, accelerating forward at more than 3-g while pulling upward at more than 2.5-g. At motor shutdown, 15 seconds after ignition, SpaceShipOne was climbing at a 60-degree angle and flying near 1.2 Mach (930 mph).

There's a picture here: http://www.hobbyspace.com/AAdmin/Images/RLV/Scaled/17dec03316%20079_cmp30.jpg

17 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineSrbmod From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (12 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 4720 times:

This definitely puts them quite possibly as the front runner for the X-Prize.

User currently offlineMjszanto From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 205 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (12 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 4629 times:

I wonder if supersonic planes could pose a danger of being used by terrorists. Normal planes have trouble flying at very high speeds at low altitudes. Not only would a supersonic plane by definition have a significantly higher maximum speed at high altitudes, I think the difference could be greater at lower altitudes. I though I heard that jumbo jets actually have structural problems going much faster than 300 mph at very low altitudes. I would think this would not be an issue for supersonic planes. Consequently they could go 800+ mph. If supersonic planes constitute a significant additional security risk, then I think that could be a significant factor in their economic viability. Then again, I could see security issues being a dampener on A380 sales too.

User currently offlineLZ-TLT From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 431 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (12 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 4300 times:

I wonder why Brian Binnie was to fly the SpaceShipOne on the first powered flight. Looking at the hours the test pilots crew logged in both aircraft, I thought it would be rather Mike Melvill, since he has logged the most flight hours in the SpaceShipOne, while Binnie has the most hours in command of the WhiteKnight. Also, Binnie just freshly got his checkout flight in the SpaceShip as third pilot of the test crew(after Melvill and Siebold).

And just out of curiosity: who do you bet will be the pilot to take SpaceShipOne into space for the first time?

I bet on Binnie

User currently offlineNoelg From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (12 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 4245 times:

Let's not get too excited guys - I'm sure some other country will come out soon and claim they did it a few years previously, but for some reason didn't tell anybody!!

It's all lies people, the WORLD'S GREATEST LIE!!!!! The Americans couldn't have been first!

 Laugh out loud

(Tongue firmly in cheek)....

Seriously, this is a major achievement - how long before supersonic airliners are offered to airlines by private companies? The dawn of the new supersonic Bizjet maybe?


User currently offlineConcordeBOAC From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2003, 71 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (12 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 4058 times:


I don't feel that supersonic aircraft are much more of a security threat, Although flying at a supersonic speed would make tham harder to intercept, it wouldn't be by much with modern military hardware and surely the technology would be far harder to get hold of, the world has seen what damage a 757/767 can do at a relativly slow speed, I can't see a far smaller supersonic craft doing anywhere near as much.

Now an A380 (or future Boing Super Jumbo for the sake of arguement) full of fuel, well, that could cause a fair bit of havoc.

User currently offlineSrbmod From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (12 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 3855 times:

SpaceShipOne is not a private supersonic jet design, it is one of the designs out there for a civilian resusable space vehicle. Scale Composites, along with a number of other groups is competing for the X-Prize, which will be awarded to the first group to successfully launch, recover, and within 2 weeks relaunch and recover a civilian spacecraft. The first group to complete this task is awarded a prize of $10 million.

User currently offlineImisspiedmont From United States of America, joined May 2001, 6544 posts, RR: 29
Reply 7, posted (12 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 3606 times:

Sorry Srbmod, but it is a privately funded venture. Every penny spent comes from the Scaled Composites bank account and the $10M USD, if indeed paid, will almost pay the interest that could have been earned by leaving the money spent in the bank. Which is, of course, not an option to a man such as Burt Rutan.

The day you stop learning is the day you should die.
User currently offlineMjszanto From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 205 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (12 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 3525 times:


I think you made good points. The A380 is definitely an issue. Yet, the impact of a supersonic impact would involve a lot more kinetic energy then a crash of a plane going at 300 mph. If I'm right that a subsonic plane would be unlikely to reach its max speed at low altitude(and a supersonic plane could max out at low altitude), then there could be a major difference in the amount of impact energy. The jury is still out about how important the impact was in the WTC disaster as opposed to just the fires and the large amount of jet fuel. A supersonic fighter crash would definitely have a small impact force relative to an airliner, but I still remember the KE=1/2mv2 equation from high school physics. I think a supersonic airliner could be a major issue for the same reason they say about driving, speed kills.

User currently offlineAreopagus From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 1380 posts, RR: 1
Reply 9, posted (12 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 3451 times:

Imisspiedmont, Srbmod didn't say it wasn't privately funded. He said it wasn't a private supersonic jet. It is a private supersonic rocket. Now, of course, a rocket is a form of jet propulsion, but we usually use the term for an air-breathing reaction engine, usually with a turbine.

User currently offlineConcordeBOAC From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2003, 71 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (12 years 5 months 2 weeks 23 hours ago) and read 3353 times:


My physics knowledge isn't too great but from what I (think I) understand an aircraft traveling twice as fast will have four times the kinetic energy to hit things with, but the other variable in that equation is mass. The general consensus is that any future commercial supersonic aircraft, i'm not thinking military as they are far less accessible and wouldn't be allowed anywhere near civilian airspace without being shot down, will be bizjet size, RJ size at the most. This is a more than four times smaller than the A380 so the kinetic energy will be similar for an aircraft traveling at Mach 1.5ish. Then control issues at low altitudes come into play, response times and g-force problems.

Reading through that I think it makes sense but I will quite happily stand corrected on anything wrong, i'm most certainly no expert.


User currently offlineJwenting From Netherlands, joined Apr 2001, 10213 posts, RR: 17
Reply 11, posted (12 years 5 months 2 weeks 23 hours ago) and read 3265 times:

Scaled is hardly the first private company to fly supersonic...
There are several companies flying ex-military fighterjets for various purposes that attain supersonic speeds if needed.
Most of these are used for things like target towing or research which is mainly contracted out by the military but they remain private companies.

Then there used to be Concorde and Konkordskii, which also flew supersonic.

I wish I were flying
User currently offlineMITaero From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 497 posts, RR: 7
Reply 12, posted (12 years 5 months 2 weeks 23 hours ago) and read 3254 times:

>Scaled is hardly the first private company to fly supersonic...

The difference is that they built their own vehicles

User currently offlineDC3CV3407AC727 From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 314 posts, RR: 2
Reply 13, posted (12 years 5 months 2 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 3180 times:

I agree with the initial premise of this thread,on the 100th anniversary of powered flight it was indeed good to see someone honoring the spirit of the Wright's accomplishment by moving forward with something new ,rather than recreating the old. They were shooting for the stars in 1903, let us continue along that path.

the rumble of round engines is like music to me,likewise the thunder of thr JT8D
User currently offlineImisspiedmont From United States of America, joined May 2001, 6544 posts, RR: 29
Reply 14, posted (12 years 5 months 2 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 2985 times:

Areopagus, you are correct, to a point. The original post does not mention a jet. I did infer though that Srbmod claimed it to not be the first in it's league. And I being the ultimate nitpicker.

As to the Concorde and private companies. Yes and yes.

The Concorde was a civilian aircraft, though built with massive government funding (over 100%) and several operators have flown military designed aircraft that were mach 1+ capable.

Rutan did though, do what he does best. Innovate.

The day you stop learning is the day you should die.
User currently offlineQ330 From Australia, joined Dec 2003, 1460 posts, RR: 19
Reply 15, posted (12 years 5 months 2 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 2905 times:

Adding to what Srbmod said, the purpose of the Space Ship One project is:

a. to pioneer relatively affordable, accessible space travel
b. to win the X-Prize

It is not a practical form of private supersonic travel. As it says in the press release, the rocket plane doesn't even take off under its own power but is dropped from the White Knight plane.

I don't know if any of you have heard this, but the flight on the 17th was less than perfect. On landing, the gear collapsed and send the plane veering off the runway. Luckily, the damage was minor and repairable and the pilot was not injured. There are some photos here:


I don't think it will be a major setback and they are probably still the front runners for the Prize.


Long live the A330!
User currently offlineElwood64151 From United States of America, joined Feb 2002, 2477 posts, RR: 5
Reply 16, posted (12 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 2843 times:


Thank you for clarifying that. I was afraid I'd have to.

I've seen some Discovery Channel and Popular Mechanics specials on the Scaled Composites designs, as well as some of the other teams. Scaled Composites seems to be the front-runner, but I think the Ascender team has a much more economically viable program, if they ever get their ship off the ground.

As for the concern about a super-sonic terror weapon, they don't need a jet liner. They just need to ask someone who wants to hurt the US (for example, Iran or N. Korea) for a cruise missile. Much more accurate and much harder to spot.

OTOH, I do see a market for a twin-engined 100-150 pax 1.2-1.4 Mach (930-1085 mph) jetliner. Slower than the Concorde, but without the driving thirst for fuel that the previous supersonic design had and which made it unprofitable. Perhaps using something more akin to the lifting-body designs from the X-planes of the 1960s or the never-built X-30. Not exactly, but similar, letting the aircraft be shorter, but with a wider passenger compartment, allowing just as many or more passengers...

No, I haven't spent any time day-dreaming about that one...  Big thumbs up

Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it in summer school.
User currently offlineAtpcliff From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 181 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (12 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 2798 times:


Supersonic planes fly supersonic at high altitude.

ANY plane has a much tougher time flying fast at low altitude than high altitude.

I flew supersonic once, about 1.3, at about FL 350. The plane, I don't think would've even made it past mach one at a low altitude.

U don't have 2 worry about supersonic planes flying at a low altituded.

Daussault, for one, is currently working on a supersonic biz jet. It would fly long distances at high altitudes fast. It would be smallish (like a Gulfstream).

Down the road, they are working on a hypersonic plane, which would be like Rutan's rocket. It would launch and fly sub-orbital (very high), and come down and land withing about 2 hours. It wouldn't matter if the plane was flying NYC-LAX, or London-Bangkok, both flights would take about 2 hours.

The A-380 would be the greatest security risk because of it's mass and the volume of jet fuel it could hold.


TRY. It's all you have control over, and it's what God wants.
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