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Scaled Composites

Scaled Composites is an aircraft facility that designs and develops concept air and spacecraft and prototype fabrication. Scaled Composites was elevated to prominence for winning the prestigious Ansari X PRIZE with the successful launch of its experimental spacecraft the SPACESHIPONE.

Scaled Composites

Scaled Composites was formerly known as the Rutan Aircraft Factory, with its main facility at the Mojave Spaceport in Mojave, California that was ably headed by Burt Rutan, an aircraft designer.

In 1985, Beech Aircraft Corporation took over ownership of the aircraft facility. Then in 1988, Rutan reacquired it from Raytheon, and sold it to Wyman-Gordon, to Castparts and finally with ten investors in tow, Rutan reacquired it with a new name that is the Scaled Composites LLC. The major shareholder of the conglomerate is Northrop Grumman who owns 40-percent of the Company and later took control of the entire facility in August 24, 2007.

With Burt Rutan at the helm of Scaled Composites, he introduced several innovations in the aircraft industry. Notable of which is the canard design applied on the Beechcraft Starship and the Rutan VariEze. Unlike the conventional aircraft where the horizontal stabilizer causes negative lift (reduces efficiency); the revolutionary canard design devised all the lifts to be upward to raise efficiency to a new degree of safety and reliability.

Another known aircraft designed by Rutan is the Voyager, which in 1986 flew around the world without refueling. It is of public knowledge that in 1988, the catamaran Stars & Stripes, which is Dennis Conner's entry to the America's Cup Yacht Race, was also designed by Rutan, though this information was never published with the media.

What sealed the fate of Scaled Composites was a first prize win worth of $10 million in the Ansari X PRIZE competition. The competition was open to companies who can ably produce the first private funded spacecraft that can cruise at supersonic speeds and capable of manned flights into outer space and then back.

The feat was made possible by SpaceShipOne, which was strapped to the underbelly of White Knight, the carrier aircraft. As the coupled aircraft reached an elevation of over 50,000 feet, SpaceShipOne was released from its moorings and continued the journey on its own using rocket fuel built into the spacecraft. SpaceShipOne of Scaled Composites completed the suborbital manned rocket flight and landed without a hitch at the Mojave Spaceport in California.

The success of Scaled Composites and SpaceShipOne brought in Sir Richard Branson, owner and CEO of Virgin Galactic. Initial talks revealed that the Virgin Group is opening up space tourism and is interested in using the same technology to ferry tourists into space. The concept of flying tourists in outer space induced researchers at Scaled Composites to work on SpaceShipTwo and White Knight 2, the carrier aircraft. The new spaceship can carry 8 tourists and is expected to have its inaugural flight sometime in 2011.

The publicity about tourists in outer space have elicited various reactions from around the globe, as 200 people have committed to the trip and have actually made dollar deposits to be part of the inaugural flight. If this venture comes out successfully as hoped for, then Scaled Composites will go forward with the design and development of much larger spacecraft that will most likely meet the expected soar in demand for space travel.

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