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SpaceShipOne was the first private aircraft to fly to an altitude of 62 miles twice in a two-week period, winning the $10 million dollar Ansari X-Prize.

The October 2004 flight, coming while the Space Shuttle was grounded following the Columbia disaster, prompting many on the Internet to hail Scaled Composites as a scrappy group of engineers who bested NASA at their own game. The fact that it takes about 60 times the energy to make it to orbit (and designing the system to subsequently dissipate that extra energy during reentry) than it takes to make a simple, sub-orbital climb to 62 miles was apparently lost on these Internet commentators.

The engineers' accomplishment was certainly noteworthy, and it was announced shortly after the SpaceShipOne flight that commercial flights would be available on a larger version of SS1 "in three years." But the flights remained "three years away" for several years, three people died in a ground test of an uprated version of the SS1 engine, and SpaceShipTwo broke apart during a test flight in October 2014 (killing one of the pilots), showing that even scrappy groups of engineers may have a thing or two to learn about spaceflight.

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