Global Trade March/April 2012 : Page 87

would be a lot more going every his response was, “Let’s just say year now, but NASA is buying up extraction is another issue.” all the Russian seats. They say they have sold two tickets to orbit the moon at $150 million each. Virgin is already approaching 500 deposits for Eccentrics have pursued New Space space flights, equal to the number of at Mojave for 20 years. One of their astronauts who have been into most notable efforts, Rotary Rocket, space so far. formed in the 1990s on the surprising There’s more conventional proposition that a single-stage rocket-tourism, too—like LA to Tokyo in powered helicopter—a helicopter — an hour, the dream of several other could ascend into orbit and return to government projects that could never land vertically at its launch site. While get the cost to a reasonable level. it failed to achieve that orbital vision, And, sure, the military applications the firm did raise $30 million, the first are obvious—or maybe not so significant money for a private space obvious. Point-to-point transportation company. More important, maybe, is a real possibility. I was in a meeting when it flowered and died, its alumni in which a military official asked— spread throughout a half dozen firms hypothetically, of course—about a in the New Space business, seeding vehicle that could them with genius. “put eight people Among these, down anywhere on test pilot Brian the planet in one Binnie landed just ‘DESIGN, BUILD, TEST, ITERATE’ hour.” The tech down the tarmac at The XCOR rocket designed to guys’ response Scaled Composites breach space is designed to fit was, “Well, you where light aircraft-inside a cargo plane. couldn’t take design genius Burt off again” and Rutan was already IN THe beGINNING thinking about a low-cost spaceship. Like Witt, Binnie is a former carrier pilot with a passion for aircraft and the possibilities of New Space. He led Scaled into space—not from a desk, mind you, but in the cockpit, serving as both project manager and astronaut-pilot on the first successful, privately funded, manned spacecraft, SpaceShipOne. Travel today to the Smithsonian, find your way into the National Air and Space Museum, and look toward the ceiling. See where the Spirit of St. Louis hangs? Look just to the right: that thing that looks like a kid’s white paper airplane? That’s SpaceShipOne. Its placement next to the SOSL is no afterthought, no simple coincidence: On June 21, 2004, Mike Melvill took it on the world’s first private space flight. A few months later, on October 4, with Binnie in the pilot’s seat, SpaceShipOne won the $10 million Ansari X-Prize for carrying three occupants 100 kilometers in altitude twice within two weeks. “Lighting that motor is the same as swinging open the bull pen gate,” MARCH•APRIL 2012 Global Trade 87

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