Canadian private space race contender names launch date
TORONTO (AFP) Aug 05, 2004
A Canadian entry in a private space race chasing a 10 million dollar prize designed to spur private sub-orbital flight named a launch date Thursday for its sleek but sinister black rocket Wild Fire.

The Toronto-based da Vinci project is seen as top challenger to US-based SpaceShipOne which in June became the first privately-financed manned flight into space.

Canadian astronaut Brian Feeney plans to blast off from a remote launch site in central Saskatchewan province on October 2, days after SpaceShipOne is due to make its own bid for the X Prize.

To win the cash, put up by the St. Louis-based Ansari Foundation, the winning entry must carry two passengers and a pilot to an altitude of 100 kilometers (62.5 miles) twice in two weeks.

Feeney plans to strap into his black cylindrical 4.88-metre (16-foot) Wild Fire rocket later this year and soar to a height of 24,000 metersfeet) hitched to the world's largest helium balloon.

Once in position, he will fire his craft's twin engines, which guzzle a cocktail of kerosene and liquid oxygen, and blast into stratospheric sub-orbit.

After a perilous five-minute space flight, Feeney then hopes to float back to terrafirma by parachute.

SpaceShipOne is taking a different route into space. The rocket plane made its maiden launch in June from a specially made jet, named White Knight, at an altitude of 15 kilometers (48,000 feet).

Its engine ignited for three minutes, powering SpaceShipOne into the fringes of space before it fell back to Earth, its mission control said.

Team members said SpaceShipOne reached 328,491 feet (100.12 kilometers), farther than any other privately financed mission into space.

The non-profit Ansari foundation wanted to recreate the contest which spurred Charles Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in pursuit of the 25,000 dollar Orteig prize in 1927.

Their goal was to promote space tourism and break the stranglehold governments have exerted on manned space flight.

In all, 27 teams are vying for the 10 million dollar prize, from Argentina, Canada, Israel, Romania, Russia, Britain and the United States.

Another Canadian entry has conducted engine tests on its rocket, Canadian Arrow, but is not thought to be as close to liftoff as Wildfire.