The SpaceShipOne is a suborbital air-launched spaceplane that completed the first manned private spaceflight in 2004. That same year, it won the US$10 million Ansari X Prize and was immediately retired from active service. Its mother ship was named "White Knight". Both craft were developed and flown by Mojave Aerospace Ventures, which was a joint venture between Paul Allen and Scaled Composites, Burt Rutan's aviation company. Allen provided the funding of approximately US$25 million.

Rutan has indicated that ideas about the project began as early as 1994 and the full-time development cycle time to the 2004 accomplishments was about three years. The vehicle first achieved supersonic flight on December 17, 2003, which was also the one-hundredth anniversary of the Wright Brothers' historic first powered flight. SpaceShipOne's first official spaceflight, known as flight 15P, was piloted by Mike Melvill. A few days before that flight, the Mojave Air and Space Port was the first commercial spaceport licensed in the United States. A few hours after that flight, Melvill became the first licensed U.S. commercial astronaut. The overall project name was "Tier One" which has evolved into Tier 1b with a goal of taking a successor ship's first passengers into space within the next few years.

SpaceShipOne's official model designation is Scaled Composites Model 316.

Class Aircraft
Type Utility
Manufacturer Scaled Composites
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 2003
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Scaled Composites 1 View

Design Goal

The Scaled Composites model 316, known as SpaceShipOne, was a spaceplane designed to:

  •     carry three humans (one of them a pilot) in a sea-level pressurized cabin
  •     be propelled by rocket from an altitude of 15 km (9.3 mi) to in excess of 100 km (62 mi)
  •     reenter atmosphere and shed kinetic energy in an aerodynamically stable configuration
  •     glide transonically and subsonically
  •     land horizontally on a standard runway

Role Spaceplane
Manufacturer Scaled Composites
Designer Burt Rutan
First flight 20 May 2003
Retired 4 October 2004
Primary user Mojave Aerospace Ventures
Number built 1
Developed into SpaceShipTwo
Preserved at National Air and Space Museum

General characteristics

  • Crew: one pilot
  • Capacity: 2 passengers
  • Length: 28 ft (8.53 m) ()
  • Wingspan: 16 ft 5 in (8.05 m)
  • Height: ()
  • Wing area: 161.4 ft² (15 m²)
  • Empty weight: 2,640 lb (1,200 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 7,920 lb (3,600 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × N2O/HTPB SpaceDev Hybrid rocket, 7,500 kgf (74 kN)
  • Isp: 250 s (2450 Ns/kg)
  • Burn time: 87 seconds
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.6


  • Maximum speed: Mach 3.09 (2,170 mph, 3,518 km/h)
  • Range: 35 nm (40 mi, 65 km)
  • Service ceiling: 367,360 ft (112,000 m)
  • Rate of climb: 82,000 ft/min (416.6 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 49.07 lb/ft² (240 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 2.08

End notes