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The story of SpaceShipOne is a dramatic one with very close ties to EAA. Burt Rutan, the designer of this spacecraft, has been a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association since the early 1970s. From the days of his VariViggen and VariEze designs, he has continued to bring his innovative aircraft to the annual EAA convention known as AirVenture. For the EAA AirVenture Museum, these innovations have culminated in an exciting exhibit featuring a replica of the spacecraft that actually demonstrates the tailboom “feather” movement/configuration.

To commemorate the success of SpaceShipOne’s record setting space flights, a team of Scaled Composites employees and EAA staff worked together to produce an exact scale replica of the world’s first civilian spacecraft for the EAA AirVenture Museum. So close to the real thing is the museum’s replica that Scaled Composites christened it Serial #2 Scaled test pilot and long time EAA member Mike Melvill, his wife Sally, and a handful of other Scaled employees made 24 fiberglass parts from the same molds used to create the original SpaceShipOne. These components were trucked to the museum in Oshkosh, arriving in January 2006. Like a giant plastic airplane model, the parts were cleaned and the assembly of SpaceShipOne, Serial #2 began.

All of the individual components were pieced together to make up the fuselage, wing stubs, tail booms, and tail fins, using steel rings in the fuselage and wooden ribs in the other pieces to provide strength. In order to duplicate the feathering feature of the original, EAA’s Bauken Noack re-engineered the design of the replica slightly to allow it to accurately display the feathering configuration.

During the construction process, the decision was made to largely ignore the interior of the replica and focus on exactly matching every cosmetic detail of the exterior. After the exterior was painted in the same two-part epoxy primer as the original, two Scaled Composites graphic artists arrived at the museum to apply the blue star pattern to the fuselage. The EAA exhibit team then used hundreds of walk around photos of the real SpaceShipOne for reference while adding every possible detail to the exterior of the replica.

EAA’s Curator of Exhibits Alan Westby applied a mixture of paint to replicate the reddish-brown heat resistant paint seen on the nose and the leading edges of the wings of Serial #1, while the rest of the exhibit team used detail photos to accurately match the position of all the panel lines, access hatches, landing gear doors, screws, antennae, and maneuvering jets. Varying widths of vinyl pin striping was used for the panel lines, access hatches, and main gear doors, while the antennae were duplicated with wood. The same types of screws used on the original were also applied to the replica.

Before the original went on display at the National Air & Space Museum, all the Scaled Composites staff and volunteers who had worked on the project autographed the engine cone. EAA sign intern Joe Haas used close-up photos to duplicate those signatures with exacting detail on Serial #2. The last detail before the replica was placed on display was the addition of a handful of M&M candies hung on fish line in the cockpit to replicate Mike Melvill’s release of M&Ms during his June 21, 2004 flight into space.

In addition to the amazing sight of SpaceShipOne actuating into its “feather” position, the exhibit also features a stunning six-minute video narrated by Mike Melvill. The video is shown on a huge drop-down screen behind SS1. Use of spectacular footage from the Discovery Channel’s “Black Sky” documentary and special footage of Mike Melvill filmed on location in Mojave by IShootTVProductions tells the story of the first civilian spacecraft and the flight experience in the pilot’s own words.

EAA’s SpaceShipOne exhibit team members were: Alan Westby, Bauken Noack, Mike Hertz, Greg Witthun, Ken Schucknecht, Brian Borchardt, Zack Baughman, Joe Haas, with additional help sanding from John Hopkins, Tom Davis, Vince Hammons, Ted Mosman, and Gerard Putzer.

Highlights of the Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne Project:

    § Apr 1996 – Project began

    § Dec 17, 2003 – Pilot Brian Binnie flies SS1 to Mach 1.2 (800 mph). SS1 becomes the first privately built (non-government funded) aircraft to break the sound barrier

    § Jun 21, 2004 – Pilot Mike Melvill makes the first private manned suborbital space flight and becomes the first civilian to receive Commercial Astronaut Wings from the FAA. Flight goes to 328,491 feet (62.2 miles), just 407 feet past the boundary between the earth’s atmosphere and space

    § Sep 29, 2004 – Pilot Mike Melvill makes the first of two X-Prize competition flights, reaching an altitude of 337,500 feet (63.9 miles)

    § Oct 4, 2004 – Pilot Brian Binnie makes the second of two X-Prize competition flights, reaching an altitude of 367,442 feet (69.6 miles), winning the $10 million X-Prize and becoming the 2nd civilian to receive FAA Commercial Astronaut Wings. Brian also broke the 42-year old altitude record of 354,200 feet held by the X-15.

    § Jul 25, 2005 – SpaceShipOne and it’s mother ship, White Knight, are brought to Oshkosh, WI for the EAA AirVenture event, after which White Knight carried SS1 to Washington, DC to be installed in the National Air & Space Museum

    § Oct 5, 2005 – The National Air & Space Museum unveils SpaceShipOne in its Milestones of Flight gallery

    § July 2006 – SpaceShipOne exhibit dedicated during AirVenture 2006 at the EAA AirVenture Museum, Oshkosh, WI

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