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Space race update

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Sat Oct 30, 2004 1:41 pm
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chabot imageBy Alan Boyle: The Canadian-based da Vinci Project won’t be launching its WildFire rocket before its initial launch license runs out on Nov. 1, team leader Brian Feeney said today. In fact, the rocket, designed for piloted suborbital spaceflight, isn’t quite finished yet, he told me.

Feeney said the da Vinci / GoldenPalace.com space effort was making a fresh round of arrangements for insurance and a government license for later this year.

“We’re definitely targeting something that’s to happen this year,” Feeney said. “We’re looking at total completion of the rocket and everything sometime in November.”

Once the rocket is ready, it has to be trucked out from Toronto to the launch site in Kindersley, Saskatchewan — which is about a four-day trip. Then it will take a week or more to set up the launch facilities and “practice, practice, practice,” Feeney said. The flight plan calls for the Wildfire to be lofted up to an altitude of more than 70,000 feet (21 to 24 kilometers) on a balloon, then launched with Feeney aboard.

A couple of months ago, Feeney was locked in a race with the team behind SpaceShipOne for the $10 million X Prize. He had hoped to get Wildfire off the ground in early October, but postponed the launch due to rocket construction snags. SpaceShipOne easily won the X Prize on Oct. 4, and Feeney said his team was following a more deliberate pace now that someone else has taken the $10 million.

“Without that specific pressure, we’re taking every care to make sure we have the … safest and most successful mission possible,” he said.

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