The da Vinci Project
*The following is archival content from 2003, hosted on the original X PRIZE website, to maintain authenticity.
Quote from Brian Feeney
"The X PRIZE is captivating the minds of the best and the brightest to prove that one can do what many think to be impossible. Its success will break down the barriers to growth and achievement in space flight. The entire planet's population will no longer see itself as bound to just one planet. The X PRIZE's vision will bridge the chasm once again just as the Orteig Prize did to bridge the mind barrier of crossing the Atlantic by air."
The da Vinci Project will launch its spacecraft (Wild Fire) from the world's largest helium balloon. The 3,270 kg (7,200 pound) rocket will be tethered 720 meters (2,400 feet) below the balloon and lifted over the course of an hour to an altitude of 80,000 feet. The 10,000 pound thrust, liquid oxygen, kerosene engines will fire the first stage and the rocket will fly an initial angular trajectory to clear the balloon.
The spacecraft then will transition to vertical flight to its apogee of 120 km in space. The rocket will reach a maximum speed on both its ascent and re-entry of Mach 4, or 4,250 kph (2,650 mph). An innovative ballute will protect and stabilize the rocket on re-entry. A flyable parachute will be deployed at 25,000 feet and the rocket will descend under control, guided by GPS, to a predetermined landing zone.