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Rocket wins $10M prize for spaceflight

MOJAVE, Calif., Oct. 4 (UPI) -- SpaceShipOne, the first, privately funded rocket to reach the edge of space, flew to an altitude above 62 miles Monday morning over the California desert.

The rocket, piloted by Mike Melvill, separated from its mothership aircraft at approximately 7:45 a.m. Pacific time. The craft's engine fired and a few minutes later, mission controllers announced it had reached the threshold altitude -- 100 kilometers -- necessary to claim the $10 million Ansari X Prize.

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The prize is offered to the first private company to fly a rocket carrying either three humans -- or a pilot and the equivalent weight of two passengers -- to at least the required altitude twice within two weeks.

SpaceShipOne, which was designed by famed aircraft designer Burt Rutan and built by his company, Scaled Composites, flew the first successful X Prize flight Sept. 29.

The unofficial altitude reached was 367,000 feet, Peter Diamandis, head of the X Prize Foundation, told the Fox News Channel as SpaceShipOne descended.

"I want everyone ... to know space is in your future," Diamandis said.

After gliding back to Earth for nearly 20 minutes, SpaceShipOne touched down at 8:10 a.m. and rolled safely to a stop on the tarmac at Mojave Airport.

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The flight took place on the 47th anniversary of the Russian Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to be launched into space.

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