Two Very Different Ways To Space
By ANN Correspondent Christopher Armstrong
During a powerful thunderstorm at the Theater in the Woods
Monday night at Airventure 2005 Mike Melville and Scott Crossfield
compared their rides to space. Mike showered endless praise on
Crossfield calling him "his hero."
Crossfield returned just as many good natured humorous jabs at
Melville, at one point replying to the question 'how did it feel
after your first release from the B-52?'
"I didn't have time for psycho analysis, I was busy working.
"said Crossfield. "I was flying an airplane. I don't know what you
To which Melville responded "Well, I was scared!"
Crossfield and Melville took turns pointing out how very
different their two vehicles were. Crossfield noted that the fuel
load of 25,000 pounds on the X-15 was greater then the combined
total gross weight of both the White Knight and SpaceShipOne at
around 24,000 pounds. Then he added "I won't add the weight of the
B-52, because that just wouldn't be fair!"
Melville observed other differences in the programs.
SpaceShipOne was designed to achieve maximum altitude, and achieves
only the speed required to achieve that goal, reaching Mach 3.09 on
the final flight.
The X-15 program was primarily an investigation of high speed
flight with a maximum speed of 4520 mph reached. Altitude was not a
primary goal for the X-15 program but the record of 107,960 meters
lasted for decades.
Brian Binnie's X-prize flight reached 111,996 meters on October
4, 2004 finally breaking the X-15's record as an added bonus for
the SpaceShipOne program. There were only 17 powered flights of
SpaceShipOne -- all in one year.
There were 199 X-15 flights spread over 3 aircraft and 2 B-52
launch platforms. Range for the X-15 was 280 miles, while
SpaceShipOne never got farther then 50 miles from its home base
until the flight to Oshkosh.
The large crowd was given an opportunity to submit questions and
were greatly informed and entertained by the answers given by their
heros on stage. After one questioner asked "What has made you so
successful?" they both agreed that their wives had been one of the
They agreed that though they never made much money their lives
had been rich with the great experiences of flying so many
different aircraft, and having their wonderful wives throughout
The audience showed their appreciation of these two legends in
aviation with a standing ovation at the end of the evening that
finally drowned out the sound of the pounding rain on the metal
roof of the theater in the woods.