Launch of the first privately funded and developed space launch vehicle, took place on 21 June 2004. Being able to witness this flight was an opportunity that I could not pass up. Congratulations to Burt Rutan, Paul Allen, the Scaled Composites crew, and pilot-astronaut Mike Melville for making that "next step" a reality. Here are some photos from the flight.

Sunrise at Mojave.
The Dawn of Privatized Spaceflight

First glimpse of the SpaceShipOne slung under the mother drop ship as it taxies for takeoff.


Final pre-takeoff checks are being performed at the start of the runway.

Start of roll-out down the runway.

Takeoff speed builds as the mother ship with SpaceShipOne heads for liftoff.

Mother ship carrying SpaceShipOne lifts off and begins its climb to altitude.



The climb to the launch altitude of 45,000 feet took about 45 minutes. The attached craft would go in and out of view during the ascent. Sight of the craft was lost just before launch, but it was easily seen when the rocket engine ignited. The crowd instantly cheered.


SpaceShipOne rockets its way to space and disappears as it leaves the atmosphere...........



...and successfully re-enters a few minutes later. For those of us on the ground, it was a tense 'few minutes' which seemed longer than it was. Upon sight of the returning spacecraft, the crowd cheered and applauded. Here the chase planes catch up and follow SpaceShipOne as it makes its way home from space.


Sight of the returning SpaceShipOne becomes a blur of heads and up-reached cameras as the spacecraft passes by for touchdown a few feet away.

Pilot-astronaut Mike Melville triumphantly waves to onlookers as he rides atop SpaceShipOne during a post-landing taxi past the cheering crowd.

Pilot and spacecraft are towed back to the hangar after a successful flight to space and back. can't blame was definitely their day.


Standing atop the spaceship, Pilot-Astronaut Mike Melville gives the two-thumbs-up sign after piloting the first private flight to space and back.

Congratulations to Mike Melville, Burt Rutan and the Scaled Composites Crew, and to Paul Allen for taking the "next step" and bringing us closer to routine spaceflight.

Now here's a thought...Wouldn't it be cool if they could give Dave's red 2001 space helmet a ride to space? Of course I'd have to go along just to hold the thing.

Burt & Paul, what do you think?