Via Clark Lindsey, here’s an article on the upcoming SpaceShipOne flight that’s more than just a regurgitation of Scaled’s press release. It helped that the author interviewed Jeff Foust about it. I only found one problem with it.
The pilot, who will become the first nongovernmental astronaut in history, then will fly the craft back to Earth after it reconfigures from rocket to glider plane.
Emphasis mine. Apparently he’s never heard of Charlie Walker, the Japanese news agency guy, Helen Sharman, Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth…
It would have been correct to say that he was the first astronaut to fly on a non-government-developed vehicle, which is the real significance (particularly when one looks at the relative cost).
I also found this part interesting, because I hadn’t previously seen much of a hint about Paul Allen’s motives:
Crediting Rutan and the Scaled Composites team with accomplishing “amazing things” without government backing, Allen said SpaceShipOne proves that a privately funded space industry is possible.
“Every time SpaceShipOne flies we demonstrate that relatively modest amounts of private funding can significantly increase the boundaries of commercial space technology,” Allen said in a statement.
Foust said “modest” might be in the eye of the beholder, but Allen’s funding had shown that a relatively small amount of money — on the order of a few tens of millions — can fund development of a manned, reusable, suborbital spacecraft that could open new markets, such as space tourism.
It’s not clear if he has a business plan for follow-on developments, but it is clear that he’s been thinking about it. If he starts to compete with fellow Seattleite (Seattleinian?–are either of those correct, or even words?) and dotcom entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, things could get very interesting very quickly.