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Throwing Their Hat In The Ring

As many speculated, the Da Vinci team announced today that they are in the race, with a first attempt on October 2nd. They claim to have gotten funding from a sponsorship by an on-line gambling site. I'll bet that this sponsorship wouldn't have been forthcoming absent Burt's successful flight in June. More evidence of the diminishing giggle factor.

If they can really pull it off, it will make for much more excitement. There's plenty of overlap on the dates, so if Burt gets his first flight off without a hitch, it may come down to turnaround time.

[Thanks to Andrew Gray for the tip, over at]

[Update at 2:15 PM PDT]

Clark Lindsey has a lot more links, and points out that Burt is hinting that he'll be a passenger on one of the flights.

Here's the press release from the casino.

Posted by Rand Simberg at August 05, 2004 12:36 PM
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Horse Race to Space
Excerpt: The Canuck da Vinci Project has thrown its hat into the X-Prize ring, announcing today that they will make an attempt at their first flight on October 2, 2004, just a few days after Scaled Composites' first attempt. Rand Simberg...
Weblog: TexasBestGrok
Tracked: August 5, 2004 09:03 PM

I'm a little nervous that they have chosen to set the date for a prize flight without completing testing. I assume there is at least one test flight scheduled before the competition flights.

Posted by Andrew Case at August 5, 2004 01:25 PM

You'd like to think so, but they've made some comments that imply that they don't think it's necessary. It's hard not to suspect that, in their rush to beat Scaled, they're not cutting some corners. But that's an inevitable feature of such a competition.

Posted by Rand Simberg at August 5, 2004 01:28 PM

Incidentally, is the mention of Oct.4th new to anyone else, or just me? I don't recall seeing it before, but it might just be a guess.

Posted by Andrew Gray at August 5, 2004 01:35 PM

Do you mean October 2nd? I didn't see a reference to the 4th. It is the first time that I've seen them announce a date. I thought that was the purpose of today's announcement.

Posted by Rand Simberg at August 5, 2004 01:37 PM

October 4th is the date for the second SS1 flight, assuming the first goes well. If competing flights do occur on the 29th and the 2nd, then it really could be a horserace...

Posted by Doug Jones at August 5, 2004 02:24 PM

As Doug said, for the second Scaled flight.

The BBC story said they were aiming at the 4th, but I don't know if that's a guess, an inference, or an announced statement.

Posted by Andrew Gray at August 5, 2004 03:27 PM

Can anyone find some good pictures of the actual da Vinci vehicle from the unveiling today? I've so far only been able to find one (and rather small at that).

Posted by James at August 5, 2004 03:58 PM

I've been concerned about the testing/safety angle for a while. Clearly they are working on a much tighter budget and shorter timeline than Scaled. If there is a fatality or major injury, it wouldn't be as bad as if it had happened with the Scaled space shot, but it wouldn't be good.

It does add much needed competition and drama, though. Scaled has already made the space record, I'd be thrilled if Da Vinci won this one.

Posted by VR at August 5, 2004 03:59 PM

On the matter of them flying on Oct.2, Alain Fournier has an interesting point on - when was the last time there were three planned spaceflights in a six-day period?
(Indeed - potentially five in three weeks, if both contestants fly twice on their prize schedules and the Soyuz rotation isn't delayed...)

Posted by Andrew Gray at August 5, 2004 04:06 PM

when was the last time there were three planned spaceflights in a six-day period?

What difference does it make? According to Derek Lyons, these aren't real space flights anyway, since they don't go into orbit. ;-)

Posted by Rand Simberg at August 5, 2004 04:15 PM

According to Derek Lyons, these aren't real space flights anyway, since they don't go into orbit. ;-)

At least make my name a link! Any publicity is good publicity as long as the name is spelled correctly, right? :)

Do keep in mind we are all pulling for the same goals, even if we color the maps showing the path a bit differently.

Posted by DerekL at August 5, 2004 05:15 PM

Amusing Burt Rutan quote from BBC story on SS1:

"On the 21 June, after Mike Melvill had gotten into the spaceship and we were doing the pre-flight checks, I climbed in and closed the door and made motions to go, and then they kicked me out."

Posted by Neil Halelamien at August 5, 2004 05:28 PM

Sorry, Derek. I'll do better next time. But at least I have a comments section so you can do it yourself. It might help if you'd post a little more often...

Posted by Rand Simberg at August 5, 2004 06:24 PM

October 4th is also the date first Sputnik was launched in 1957.

Posted by Ilya at August 5, 2004 07:25 PM

October 4th would be a reasonable date for Scaled to make its second X prize flight, if Rutan's projection of three flights within the two week span is accurate. They have kept an eye to anniversaries before (ie 100th anniversary of manned flight).

One factor to consider in the da Vinci attempt is that by the beginning of October it may already be snowing in Kindersley - it might not affect the launch, but could affect turnaround time, particularly if the Wild Fire lands far from an access road.

Posted by Ed Minchau at August 6, 2004 12:14 AM

Is this the entry?

Posted by Alan K. Henderson at August 9, 2004 02:52 AM

Saskatchewan should still be fairly warm at that time of year - it will be just two weeks past the end of the harvest season.

As for the risks involved, from the tone of Brian Feeney's response to Burt Rutan's question about flight testing, I'm not sure that he is all that sure himself that it's safe to try now. So why do it? I think the money could be a factor and the fact that time is running out to beat Scaled's effort.

Another dark musing of mine is that the X-Prize people may be pushing the DVP team to at least make it look like there is a race since Rutan's team has been considered a shoo-in for quite a while now. Two teams striving to be the first to grasp the brass ring makes for better drama, publicity and attaction of additional sponsors.

Posted by Initial B at August 10, 2004 11:48 AM

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