This privately built, piloted craft reached space and returned safely, expanding opportunities for commercial spaceflight.

Display Status:

This object is on display in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Collection Item Summary:

Launched from its White Knight mothership, the rocket-powered SpaceShipOne and its pilot ascended just beyond the atmosphere, arced through space (but not into orbit), then glided safely back to Earth. The flight lasted 24 minutes, with 3 minutes of weightlessness. Its three record-setting flights were:

* 100 kilometers (62 miles) altitude*; Mike Melvill, pilot; June 21, 2004

* 102 kilometers (64 miles) altitude; Mike Melvill, pilot: September 29, 2004

* 112 kilometers (70 miles) altitude; Brian Binnie, pilot; October 4, 2004

With SpaceShipOne, private enterprise crossed the threshold into human spaceflight, previously the domain of government programs. The SpaceShipOne team aimed for a simple, robust, and reliable vehicle design that could make affordable space travel and tourism possible.

SpaceShipOne won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for repeated flights in a privately developed reusable spacecraft, the Collier Trophy for greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in 2004, and the National Air and Space Museum Trophy for Current Achievement.

Collection Item Long Description:

In 2004 SpaceShipOne won the $10 million Ansari X Prize as the first privately developed space vehicle capable of carrying three people into suborbital spaceflight (up to 100 kilometers/62 miles) and repeating the feat within two weeks. Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen funded SpaceShipOne, and Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites designed and built it. With two successful flights piloted by Mike Melvill on September 29, 2004, and Brian Binnie on October 4, SpaceShipOne claimed the prize. The success of SpaceShipOne inspired the creation of Virgin Galactic, a company founded to add private suborbital tourist flights to the existing world of commercial spaceflight business. It also helped clear the way for NASA’s public-private partnerships to develop new spacecraft to carry crews and cargo.

  • Rainbow Striping

    Notice the rainbow striping on the wings and fuselage. This paint was a low-cost, reliable way to determine temperatures endured.

  • Feathered Wings

    With jointed "feathered" wings, SpaceShipOne operated much like a badminton shuttlecock. Upon reaching top altitude, it tipped over for a smoother, more efficient reentry.

  • No Heat Shield

    Notice the spacecraft has no heat shield or retro-rockets for re-entry. It doesn’t need them!

Inventory Number


Credit Line

Gift of Paul G. Allen


Scaled Composites


Country of Origin

United States of America


  • Body: Composite (graphite epoxy), metal, plastic
  • Interior: Fabric, plastic, metals, hydraulic and pneumatic systems
  • Motor: Composite (graphite epoxy), elastomeric compound, metal, ablative material


Overall: 8ft 10 5/16in. x 27ft 10 5/8in. x 26ft 10 13/16in., 2408lb. (270 x 850 x 820cm)

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum

Restrictions & Rights

Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum



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