Ansari X-Prize

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Ansari X-Prize

The Ansari X-Prize (until May 2004 X-Prize ) was a competition launched by the US X-Prize Foundation in 1996 , which honored the first successful private and manned suborbital space flight . With the successful flight of the SpaceShipOne on October 4, 2004 , the Scaled Composites team won the ten million dollar competition.

Creation of the X-Prize

The idea for an award came from Peter Diamandis and his friend Gregg Maryniak in January 1996 in a dining room of the Racquet Club on Kingshighway in St. Louis . Were sponsors from the very beginning

Their donations totaling 50,000 US dollars laid the basis for a group of around 100 members, also known as the New Spirit of St. Louis Organization, which was founded in the same dining room where the Orteig Prize was advertised, along with the Charles Lindbergh suggested crossing the Atlantic with his plane Spirit of St. Louis .

After the foundation had been laid, further and considerably more financially strong donors could be found. First USA Bank (BankOne) gave $ 1 million, and the New Spirit of St. Louis Organization and Danforth Foundation donated half a million. Another major donation came from Tom Clancy . The multi-million dollar donation by the Iranian entrepreneur and later first female space tourist Anousheh Ansari and her brother-in-law Amir Ansari led to the renaming of the award to Ansari X-Prize on May 5, 2004 .

Purpose of the competition

The competition was designed to promote the space industry in the private sector - government sponsored applicants were not eligible. The aim was to prove that space flights are accessible and affordable for companies and private individuals, as well as to explore the possibility of space tourism . Creative ideas should be promoted that should make the currently expensive transport of people and payloads into orbit , for example with the space shuttle , cheaper.

Conditions of participation

The $ 10 million prize was awarded to the first who met the following five requirements:

  • The spacecraft had to be financed and built privately.
  • The spaceship had to reach an altitude of (at least) 100 km twice within two weeks.
  • The spaceship had to carry a pilot and at least two passengers (or alternatively 90 kg of ballast each instead of a missing passenger)
  • At least 90% of the spaceship had to be reusable.
  • The flights had to be carried out by January 1, 2005.

The enrollment fee was $ 1,000.

Since conventional rockets are not reusable, they had no chance of winning the Ansari X-Prize. Furthermore, the flight could not cost passengers more than $ 100,000.

A total of 26 teams from seven countries applied for the X-Prize. It was stipulated that the prize money would be forfeited if the prize was not won by the set deadline. Most of the participants came from the USA, as well as from Great Britain , Canada , Argentina , Russia , Romania (members of the Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Association worked on a rocket) and Israel .


Some of the 26 participating teams are listed below.

Scaled composites

  • Glider: SpaceShipOne
  • Nation: USA
  • Some team members: Burt Rutan, Mike Melvill, Peter Siebold

On June 21, 2004 Michael Melvill set a height record for private spaceships with the manned SpaceShipOne from Scaled Composites with an altitude of 100 kilometers. This made the company the biggest favorite for the X-Prize.

SpaceShipOne was carried from the mother ship to a height of 14 kilometers and released there. Then it began to climb.

On July 27, 2004, Scaled Composites announced that it would undertake the first of the two required flights on September 29, 2004 to win the award. This flight took place according to plan. The spaceship piloted by Mike Melvill reached an altitude of 337,500 feet (102.9 km), a little more than required. The engines burned for 77 seconds. Weights were transported instead of passengers. On October 4, 2004, the second flight was completed with Brian Binnie as a pilot (altitude approx. 112 km). To be on the safe side, an additional third flight was planned if the second did not meet the criteria. Brian Binnie or Peter Siebold were scheduled as pilots.

But everything went according to plan and with this second flight Scaled Composites won the X-Prize on October 4, 2004.

Discraft Corporation

  • Glider: The Space Tourist
  • Nation: USA

This team planned to construct a flat glider with jet engines that would work even at great heights. However, they did not succeed.

American team

  • Nation: USA

The nameless team constructed a missile that they wanted to detonate below the surface of the sea. They figured that the buoyancy of the water would give the rocket the thrust it needed. There was no success here either.

Space Transport Corporation

  • Rocket: Rubicon 1
  • Nation: USA

The company Space Transport Corporation announced that on July 4, 2004 an unmanned test flight with the seven-meter-long two-stage rocket “Rubicon 1” at an altitude of 17 kilometers had succeeded from the launch site on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. The rocket consisted of six tank tubes as the first stage and the spaceship mounted on it. On August 8 we conducted another test flight. The rocket, which was 97 centimeters in diameter, was occupied by the dummy "Steve Austin". An engine was torn during takeoff before the rocket shot into the sky. The debris damaged the outer skin so badly that the aircraft became uncontrollable and tipped over to the side. A split second later, the tank pipes broke away and fell just offshore. The spaceship fell separately into the sea.

The financing of the successor Rubicon 2 was not possible.

Armadillo Aerospace

  • Missile: Black Armadillo
  • Nation: USA
  • Some team members: John Carmack , Russ Blink, Joseph LaGrave, James Bauer, Katherine Anna Kang

A press release from June 27, 2004 indirectly indicated that the team was as good as defeated.

But on July 3, 2004 the homepage announced: “As far as we know, everything is completely ready for flight testing on the big vehicle”. (“As far as we can tell, everything is ready for test flights with the large vehicle.”) The spaceship is to be completed in 2004.

A test flight took place just under a month later, on August 8, 2004. In the course of this, the $ 35,000 rocket crashed shortly after takeoff.

Da Vinci Project

  • Missile: Wild Fire Mark VI
  • Nation: Canada
  • A team member: Brian Feeney

The head of the Canadian Da Vinci Project , Brian Feeney , announced on August 5, 2004 that the "Wild Fire Mark VI" spaceship was to be launched on October 2, 2004. The second flight should take place no later than two weeks later. At the end of September 2004, the Da Vinci Project postponed the first official X-Prize flight indefinitely. A few days later, the Canadian government extended the launch window to the end of October 2004.

Canadian Arrow

  • Missile: Canadian Arrow
  • Nation: Canada
  • Some team members: Geoffrey Sheerin, Lou van Amelsvoort

The Canadian team has based itself on Wernher von Braun's plans for the A4 . The two-stage rocket has the same name as the team itself and is 16 meters long. The launch base is in Sarnia in the Canadian province of Ontario.

The “Canadian Arrow” was chosen by the jury as the most beautiful rocket of the competition.

Space Adventures / Myasishchev

  • Glider: Cosmopolis XXI
  • Nation: Russia

The Russian team calls its glider "Cosmopolis XXI". It was developed by the Moscow design office Myasishchev with financial support from the US company Space Adventures . A prototype was shown at the Moscow Aerosalon in 2002.

The machine is brought to a height of 17 kilometers with a carrier aircraft and disengaged. Then it will use a rocket engine to continue its flight to the edge of space. A twin-engine M-55 Geofisika , which was normally used for observation flights during the Cold War, serves as the carrier aircraft .

Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Association (ARCA)

  • Missile: Orizont
  • Nation: Romania
  • Some team members: Maria Nicolae, Dumitru Popescu, Simona Popescu, Constantin Truta

To everyone's surprise, this Romanian team also announced a test flight on July 15, 2004. This should initially lead to a height of 10 kilometers. For this purpose, a 14-meter-long liquid fuel rocket with eight tanks and an engine called "Orizont" was constructed at the team's headquarters in the Romanian town of Drǎgǎşani. It has a diameter of 130 centimeters and a weight of seven tons. It was geared towards a three-man crew. But before the first take-off, the missile test stand exploded and a rain of rubble fell on Drǎgǎşani. However, the Romanian oil company "Rompetrol" has promised to support the team with the equivalent of 9,000 euros. The new rocket has its launch base on the Black Sea. Here, even though the competition is over, she has already completed a number of successful test flights.

The ARCA team had the lowest budget in the competition.


  • Missile: Nova
  • Nation: Great Britain
  • Some team members: Steve Bennet, Anthony Haynes
  • Organization: Starchaser Industries

This team, experienced in model rocket building, developed the 11 meter high rocket “Nova”. It was supposed to take off from a government launch site south of Manchester. Before that, however, there were repeated problems with the welded seams of the engine.

In the end, the rocket flew a few times - but never rose above 1,689 meters.

Bristol Spaceplanes

  • Glider: Ascender
  • Nation: Great Britain

The British company Bristol Spaceplanes also entered the competition with a glider called the “Ascender”. However, the company's efforts in the context of the competition were not crowned with success.

Argentine team

  • Missile: Gauchito
  • Nation: Argentina
  • A team member: Pablo de Leon

The Argentine team developed its rocket and successfully tested its ejector seat, but was unable to come up with a countable flight until the competition was decided.

Israeli team

  • Glider: Negev 5
  • Nation: Israel

The team's idea was to hang their “Negev 5” glider on a giant helium balloon, let it rise, and then release the vehicle. However, not a single test flight took place.


On October 4, 2004, the prize was awarded to Scaled Composites for the SpaceShipOne project.

Follow-up prices

After the successful award of the X-Prize, the America's Space Prize was announced. The Google Lunar X-Prize was awarded in September 2007 to explore the moon .

The Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize is aimed at the development of energy-saving vehicles and is to be decided in August 2010 with a competition drive.The basic requirements are the consumption of a maximum of one US liquid gallon of petrol per 100 (land) miles (corresponds to approximately 2.4 Liters per 100 km) and a productive design.

In the future, a two-week X-Prize Cup will take place every year .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ansari XPRIZE. Retrieved May 16, 2019 .
  2. ^ The conditions of the Progressive Automotive X-Prize.

Web links

Participating teams

None of the other competitors have documented any recognizable activities on their websites.