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Balloon passes space test

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Wed Sep 15, 2004 1:56 pm
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chabot imageBy Alan Boyle: The Canadian rocket team hoping to beat the SpaceShipOne team to the Ansari X Prize finish line got a long-sought boost on Sunday: The da Vinci Project successfully tested the balloon that will serve as the aerial launch pad for its Wild Fire rocket.

“It was a complete success,” said Brian Feeney, who is the da Vinci team’s leader as well as the designated pilot for the balloon-launched spaceship. “The payload stressed the balloon, and it had a very rapid rise rate from the ground, which is what we wanted.”

The balloon test flight, which had been delayed for a week due to weather conditions, represents a significant step in the da Vinci / GoldenPalace.com bid to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize for private spaceflight next month.

During an actual launch, the da Vinci balloon would rise to more than 70,000 feet (21 to 24 kilometers), with the 8,500-pound (3,860-kilogram) Wild Fire rocket tethered beneath it. The rocket would be released at ignition, and Feeney would pilot it to an altitude of at least 62 miles (100 kilometers). A $10 million purse would be awarded for the first qualifying X Prize vehicle to reach that 62-mile mark twice in a two-week time frame by the end of the year.

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