Headlines > News > University of Illinois Students to Participate in Historic SpaceShipOne ANSARI X PRIZE Launch

University of Illinois Students to Participate in Historic SpaceShipOne ANSARI X PRIZE Launch

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Sat Sep 18, 2004 12:20 am
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chabot imageReceived by e-mail; forwarded by Sarah Evans; x prize pr: written by Richard Kubetz: URBANA, Ill.- On Sept. 29, 34 student members of the Illinois Space Society will bear witness to history as volunteers at the SpaceShipOne ANSARI X PRIZE launch in Mojave, California. If successful, the Mojave Aerospace Ventures, LLC Team, developer of SpaceShipOne, will make history by launching a privately financed, manned spaceship to 100 km altitude, twice within two weeks, each carrying a pilot and the weight and volume equivalent of two additional passengers.

“SpaceShipOne is the first to schedule a competition flight at the Airport Civilian Aerospace Test Center in Mojave,” explained Kirk Kittell, a graduate student in aerospace engineering, who is also founder and director of Illinois Space Society (ISS) on campus. ISS, a local chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, was created to develop a network of students and members of the surrounding community who are interested in space science, engineering, entrepreneurship, and education.

“Last semester we invited Gregg Maryniak, the executive director of the X PRIZE Foundation, to give a presentation on campus, and afterwards, we asked if we could help out,” Kittell explained. “The biggest thing we will get out of it is to be part of history, expand our network and meet other people in the space industry,” he added. “Hopefully, some of the things they are doing will become the start of a new space flight industry and we will be a part of that.”

According to Mark Schaffer, a junior in aerospace engineering and chief coordinator for this trip, “The majority of what we will be doing is working in the VIP seating section, which is really close to the launch site. Primarily, we will be handing out information and answering questions.

“I am going to California this week to be trained in preparation for the event,” Schaffer added, “and I will be running a training session for our group here before we leave. We are only going to be out there for two days, however, there is a possibility that some of us might go out to the second launch in October.” The group’s initial trip is partially funded through the Student Organization Resource Fee (SORF) and the Engineering Council at the University.

To win the $10 million X PRIZE, SpaceShipOne (a partnership between Paul G. Allen of the Microsoft Corporation and Burt Rutan and his team at Scaled Composites) will need to make a second flight within two weeks. On June 21, 2004 Mike Melvill, a pilot for Mojave Aerospace Ventures, became the first commercial pilot to enter suborbital space, earning astronaut wings and a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.

In August, the Canadian da Vinci Project Team, based in Toronto, Canada, rolled-out its completed Wild Fire spacecraft for public viewing at its Downsview Airport hanger in Toronto. The da Vinci Project Team, widely heralded as a contender for the $10 million, will pursue its own ANSARI X PRIZE space flight attempts this fall.

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The Illinois Space Society (ISS) was founded at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in September 2003 by Kirk Kittell and Derek Meyer. The purposes of ISS are to (1) create a network of space supporters in the Champaign-Urbana area, (2) to service the community through educational outreach, and (3) to provide members with resources that will assist them in following their dreams in the field of space exploration. For further information, visit: www.ae.uiuc.edu/iss. ISS performs educational programs for students of all ages; email iss@ae.uiuc.edu if you would like ISS to visit your school or event.

Writer: Richard Kubetz
Phone: 217/244-7716
Email: rkubetz@uiuc.edu
Office of Engineering Communications
College of Engineering
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

For further information, contact:
Kirk Kittell, 309/338-5380 (cell); kittell@uiuc.edu
Mark Schaffer, 847/858-7824 (cell); mgschaff@uiuc.edu

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