Design by Rutan
A retrospective of Burt Rutan's high-performance art.
- By The Editors
- Photographs by Jim Sugar
- Air & Space magazine, January 2012
(Page 5 of 5)
34. White Knight
With a wingspan of 93 feet, the twin-turbojet mothership carried SpaceShipOne on a one-hour climb to 50,000 feet and released it into history. Now Scaled Composites is offering the high-altitude flier as a research platform or booster stage for other small launchers. In 2005 and 2006, it launched the Boeing X-37 mini-spaceplane (see “Space Shuttle Jr.,” Dec. 2009/Jan. 2010) for drop and landing tests.
Winner of the $10 million Ansari X-Prize for repeated flights in a privately developed reusable spacecraft, SpaceShipOne rode into space on a hybrid rocket motor with a solid fuel and liquid oxidizer. From launch to landing, its first flight, on June 21, 2004, lasted 24 minutes. Rutan credits his successors at Scaled with the design of SpaceShipTwo and its booster.
36. Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer
Earth is wonderful the second time around, and faster when you’ve got a jet engine. In 2005, the late adventurer Steve Fossett became the first to fly solo on a nonstop, unrefueled flight around the world. He did it in under three days in the second world-circling Rutan-designed airplane, the GlobalFlyer. Lovelier than its piston-engine forebear Voyager, it has a sailplane-like wing with a span of 114 feet, twin booms, which held most of its gas, and a central pod for the pilot.
37. Pulse-detonation LEZ
The first airplane to fly powered by a pulse-detonation engine (see “Son of a Buzz Bomb,” Sept. 2007) was a Long-EZ, so modified that it looked like a flying house, with the engine carried in a faired pod beneath the short fuselage. The single flight was an Air Force research lab project, and the airplane is now in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
Race planes, transports, gliders, homebuilts, spaceships: What was left for Rutan to create? A flying car. The BiPod is a two-seat hybrid-electric roadable aircraft with a 760-mile range at a flying speed of 100 mph. On the road, with wings stowed between the pods, it’s designed to go 820 miles on one tank of gas, or 35 miles on batteries alone. Flight controls are in the right pod; driver’s steering wheel and brakes are in the left.
Photographer and filmmaker Jim Sugar has been photographing Burt Rutan and his flying machines since the earliest days of the Rutan Aircraft Factory and Scaled Composites.
Further reading: Burt Rutan’s Race to Space, Dan Linehan, Zenith Press, 2011. Burt Rutan: Aeronautical and Space Legend, Daniel Alef, Kindle eBook, 2011.