*The following is archival content from 2003, hosted on the original X PRIZE website, to maintain authenticity.
Quote from Burt Rutan
"I strongly feel that, if we are successful, our program will mark the beginning of a renaissance for manned space flight. This might even be similar to that wonderful time period between 1908 and 1912 when the world went from a total of ten airplane pilots to hundreds of airplane types and thousands of pilots in 39 countries. We need affordable space travel to inspire our youth, to let them know that they can experience their dreams, can set significant goals and be in a position to lead all of us to future progress in exploration, discovery and fun. Thanks to the X PRIZE for the inspiration."
The X PRIZE competition launch system proposed by Scaled Composites (SC) consists of two stages: a carrier aircraft, the White Knight, and a second stage rocket, SpaceShipOne (SS1). The White Knight is a manned, twin-turbojet research aircraft intended for high-altitude missions.
The design mission of White Knight is to provide a high-altitude airborne launch of a manned suborbital spacecraft, SS1. The White Knight is equipped to flight-qualify all the spacecraft systems, except rocket propulsion. The White Knight's cockpit, avionics, electronic control system, pneumatics, trim servos, data system, and electrical system components are identical to those installed on SS1.
The White Knight's high thrust-to-weight ratio and enormous speed-brakes allow the Astronauts in training to practice space flight maneuvers like boost, approach and landing, with a very realistic environment. Thus, the aircraft serves as a high-fidelity, moving-base simulator for SS1 pilot training. SpaceShipOne (SS1) is a three-place, high altitude research rocket, designed for sub-orbital flights to 100 km altitude. The unique configuration allows aircraft-like qualities for boost, glide, and landing.
During descent, the ship's empennage converts (using pneumatic-actuated 'feather') to a stable, high-drag shape for atmospheric entry. This "Care- Free" configuration allows a 'hands-off' reentry and greatly reduces aero/ thermal loads. Designed for a 'shirt- sleeve' environment, the 60" the White Knight releases SS1 and pulls away from the undocked spacecraft.