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Space race team closer to $10 million prize

Must go into space and back, twice in two weeks

A drawing of the proposed Canadian Arrow in flight. The group and its rivals aim to get a private spacecraft off the ground.
A drawing of the proposed Canadian Arrow in flight. The group and its rivals aim to get a private spacecraft off the ground.  


By Richard Stenger
CNN

(CNN) -- A team vying for a $10 million prize in a private space race has completed its first major rocket engine test, the Canadian group said.

The successful demonstration of the engine part during a test burn last week showed that the prototype technology would work in flight, according to the Canadian Arrow project, which is based in London, Ontario.

Members of the group, one of many around the world hoping to send the first manned rocket in space built and flown without government assistance, appeared ebullient.

"This is a huge step for us," said Arrow Team leader Geoff Sheerin. "It proves that our spray nozzle system is correct and that we can get a smooth, safe burn."

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The test showed that the injector system will properly mix propellants -- in this case liquid oxygen and ethyl alcohol, Sheerin added.

"Watching this go so well was spectacular," he said. "This means that we've got the right recipe, and we're now ready to move to the next big step."

A main engine test could take place as early as August. But it could be years before Canadian Arrow or any of its rivals get a private spacecraft off the ground.

Twenty-one teams from five countries have signed up for the X-Prize, with a wide range of designs and resources. Some well-funded groups, particularly in the United States, have highly trained engineers and designers.

Others are pretty much the inspiration of solitary amateur inventors.

A key rocket engine part performed well in a burn test recently, according to the Canadian Arrow project.
A key rocket engine part performed well in a burn test recently, according to the Canadian Arrow project.  

The winners must send and return, twice within two weeks, the same three-person spacecraft into suborbital space 62 miles (100 kilometers) high.

The altitude is higher than that which the U.S. Air Force designates as "worthy of astronaut wings" -- 50 miles (80 kilometers) -- but not high enough to require extensive craft shielding from friction-induced heat during re-entry.

The X-Prize Foundation was started in 1996 by a coalition of St. Louis, Missouri, business leaders, and its board includes former NASA astronaut Byron Lichtenberg.

One major sponsor is First USA, a credit card company offering a sweepstakes with a suborbital space flight as the grand prize.



 
 
 
 



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