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MOJAVE ROCKETEERS PRIVATE FIRM FLIES ALCOHOL-FUELED PLANE.



Byline: Charles F. Bostwick Staff Writer

MOJAVE - A 10-employee firm trying to make rocket flight a business showed off the first liquid-fueled rocket plane rocket plane
n.
1. An aircraft powered by one or more rocket engines.

2. An aircraft designed to carry and launch rockets.
 to fly since the last NASA NASA: see National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
NASA
 in full National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Independent U.S.
 rocket plane more than 25 years ago.

As winds from an approaching storm gusted Monday across Mojave Airport, the 1,800-pound EZ-Rocket roared off before 150 spectators, including investors, aviation enthusiasts and well-wishers.

``I'm really happy. It went beautifully,'' XCOR Aerospace XCOR Aerospace is a private rocket engine and spaceflight development company based at the Mojave Spaceport in Mojave, California. XCOR was formed by former members of the Rotary Rocket rocket engine development team in September, 1999. XCOR is headed by Jeff Greason.  Inc. President Jeff Greason Jeff Greason is a founder of XCOR Aerospace, the Personal Spaceflight Federation, was the team lead at Rotary Rocket for engine development, and previously worked at Intel.  said after the eight-minute flight that topped 200 mph and reached 9,000 feet.

Test pilot Dick Rutan Richard Glenn “Dick” Rutan (born July 1, 1938) is an aviator who piloted the Voyager aircraft around the world non-stop with the assistance of Jeana Yeager. He was born in Loma Linda, California, where he gained an interest in flight at a young age. , a retired Air Force lieutenant, said the plane flew smoothly despite the wind.

``That was a great flight,'' said Rutan, who gained fame in 1986 for his nonstop, unrefueled flight around the world in the Voyager.

The EZ-Rocket is a Long EZ kit plane, designed by Rutan's brother, Burt, for airplane enthusiasts to build in their garages. The difference is a significant one. It's fitted with two 400-pound-thrust alcohol-fueled rockets.

The EZ-Rocket's purpose is not to fly high or fast, but to provide information - for example, how long engine parts will last and what maintenance is required - that is needed to make rocket-powered flight routine, XCOR XCOR Cross-Correlation  officials say.

``It's not a performance demonstrator, any more than the Wright Flyer The Wright Flyer (often retrospectively referred to as Flyer I and occasionally Kitty Hawk) was the first powered aircraft designed and built by the Wright brothers.  of 1903 was a performance demonstrator,'' said Greason. ``What it is for us is it's an operations demonstrator. It will demonstrate ... that you can fly rocket aircraft routinely.''

XCOR's goal is to create a rocket plane able to make money carrying scientific equipment for experiments in microgravity mi·cro·grav·i·ty  
n.
1. An environment in which there is very little net gravitational force, as of a free-falling object, an orbit, or interstellar space.

2.
, hoisting small satellites aloft and even carrying passengers to the edge of space - more than 50 miles up.

``It's going to be somewhere south of $10 million to get all the way to revenue-supported (operations),'' Greason said.

If all goes smoothly, the second-generation rocket plane will get through flight tests and operational demonstrations and be ready to start flying payloads and cargo in about three years, Greason said.

XCOR is now trying to line up $850,000 for the next phase, which will include making more frequent flights - up to five a day - in the EZ-Rocket and refining the design for a future rocket plane able to reach the edge of space.

XCOR was created by former employees of Rotary Rocket, whose investors included techno-thriller novelist Tom Clancy, when that Mojave firm's plans to built an unconventional space rocket were shelved in 1999.

XCOR has raised and spent $330,000 in outside investment on its rocket plane research, said Greason, a California Institute of Technology California Institute of Technology, at Pasadena, Calif.; originally for men, became coeducational in 1970; founded 1891 as Throop Polytechnic Institute; called Throop College of Technology, 1913–20.  graduate who was a technical manager at Intel Corp. before becoming team manager at Rotary Rocket in 1997.

XCOR picked up its first $50,000 in investment last year after demonstrating a small rocket engine in April 2000 at the Space Access Conference, firing the rocket inside a Scottsdale, Ariz., Holiday Inn ballroom.

In September 2000 it got a contract from a rocket development company to test throttling of the engine. Then it March, XCOR won a $300,000 contract from the National Reconnaissance Office Noun 1. National Reconnaissance Office - an intelligence agency in the United States Department of Defense that designs and builds and operates space reconnaissance systems to detect trouble spots worldwide and to monitor arms control agreements and environmental , which operates U.S. spy satellites, to develop small rocket thrusters that run on nontoxic substances.

XCOR intends to use the same sort of thrusters for maneuvering its second-generation rocket plane in space.

Before Rutan took the EZ-Rocket up for its first flight in July, the last liquid-fueled rocket plane was the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's M-24B, which last flew in 1975 at Edwards Air Force Base Edwards Air Force Base, U.S. military installation, 301,000 acres (121,805 hectares), S Calif., NE of Lancaster; est. 1933. It is one of the largest air force bases in the United States and has the world's longest runway. , the XCOR developers say.

The last time a liquid-fueled rocket plane took off from the ground under its own power - rather than being dropped from a jet like the famous X-15 in the 1960s - was in 1949, when Chuck Yeager took off in an X-1 from Edwards and broke a Navy record.

Monday's demonstration flight started with a thin cloud of white smoke billowing bil·low  
n.
1. A large wave or swell of water.

2. A great swell, surge, or undulating mass, as of smoke or sound.

v. bil·lowed, bil·low·ing, bil·lows

v.intr.
1.
 up from behind the small white airplane. Then the craft rolled forward past a row of mothballed jet airliners parked for storage.

Emitting a thin plume of vapor - and roaring like a military jet in afterburners - the craft lifted off and climbed in a looping curve. After less than two minutes, the rocket engines shut off, and the craft glided in a wide descending spiral for six minutes more.

With a conventional propeller-driven Long EZ shadowing it, the Rocket EZ glided onto a runway, wobbling wobbling Vox populi Ataxia, see there  its upturned wing tips a bit in the crosswinds, and touched down.

After the craft was towed by a four-wheel-drive pickup truck back to the crowd, Rutan told reporters the flight went well, despite gusty gust·y  
adj. gust·i·er, gust·i·est
1. Blowing in or marked by gusts: a gusty storm.

2. Characterized by sudden outbursts.
 winds of about 25 mph coming in at an angle to the runway.

``We were a little worried about the wind. But the show must go on, right?'' Rutan told news people.

CAPTION(S):

3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color -- ran in AV edition only) Renowned Voyager test pilot Dick Rutan smiles after his flight Monday in a privately developed EZ-Rocket plane.

(2 -- color in AV edition only) News photographers and aviation fans surround the EZ-Rocket after a demonstration flight at Mojave Airport. (3) XCOR's 1,800-pound EZ-Rocket takes off Monday on a demonstration flight the test pilot called smooth despite winds.

Shaun Dyer/Special to the Daily News
COPYRIGHT 2001 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 13, 2001
Words:869
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