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 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
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
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
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.