Sample Chapter: Foreword

When anyone asks me to do a cover-quote or a foreword for his book, my answer is, “I will only do that after reading the full book.”  I have to admit being a bit shocked when I was handed the 500-page draft of ‘M&M.’  Would I really have the time and patience to dig through the entire book? Jumping into the task, I quickly realized that this is not just the usual summary of events. What I was reading was clearly the work of a most polished writer, rather than the product of the typical ‘steely-eyed Navy fighter-pilot/astronaut’ type. ‘M&M’ is unique. In it, you will learn many fascinating technical details about the design, build and test of SpaceShipOne, an entire manned space program – one that took only 3.5 years with the first two years being covert.

As you will see, Brian has done something I wish I had done in my career – document each daily activity and personal detail, so it would later be possible to construct with accuracy not only the facts but the full depth of human emotions.  This quality makes the book something you cannot put down.

Previous works about the historic SpaceShipOne program were mostly factual with sprinkles of technical detail, all of which I was well familiar. (Hey, I was there, so I am finding nothing new). However Brian was central to nearly all activities of the program, so his book is not just a technical education about the first (and still only) non-Government manned space program, it weaves in many personal stories, told with wit and humor which brings to life the personalities of my SpaceShipOne team and opens a dimension of richness and character not previously reported. While I lived and breathed the SS1 program from 2001 through 2004, I learned many new details only by reading ‘M&M.’

My first post-college job in 1965 was flight testing Air Force airplanes at Edwards Air Force Base.  Those 7 years spanned much of the USAF/NASA X-15 rocket research program, which included 199 test flights.  The North American X-15 was the world’s fourth rocket system to launch humans out of the atmosphere, with Joe Walker flying it above 100 km twice in 1963*.  The death, in 1967, of U.S. Air Force test pilot Major Michael J. Adams, during X-15 Flight 191, hit close to home for the test community at Edwards.  It taught me that supersonic atmosphere entry is a significant risk. That accident later inspired me to design a solution to that risk – The ‘Feathered-Reentry’ feature of SS1.

The North American X-15 program required lots of help from other Prime Aerospace companies, like two different rocket motors from Reaction Motors and a launch airplane from Boeing, the B-52 bomber. The fact that the X-15 program involved thousands of people and billions of $ (inflation corrected) should have precluded me from thinking I could ever duplicate its goals.  However, in 1996, I began preliminary designs to do just that–including my need to develop a new rocket motor and build my own version of the B-52 launcher.  However, with the help of fewer than 50 engineers and fabricators, I managed to reach that goal, flying three of the world’s five manned space flights of 2004 and culminating in rocketing Brian Binnie more than two miles higher than Joe Walker. That effort is no doubt the pinnacle of my career, and Brian’s accounting of it is like nothing I’ve ever read.

I was often asked which of my research airplane prototypes was my favorite.  Up until 2005, I always answered “The Next One.”  However, after SS1, I reasoned that I would retire not having done anything as rewarding as SS1, so my answer became “SS1, of course.”  SS1 was the 42nd of 49 manned research aircraft developed and flight-tested by my two companies, Rutan Aircraft Factory and Scaled from 1972 to 2015.

So, hold on, and get ready to read the most fascinating and unique account of SS1, the world’s only non-Government manned space program.

Looking up……way up,

— Burt Rutan
Spring 2020

* The first was Vostok, second was Redstone, third was Atlas.  The world flew nine new/different rockets systems to make astronauts/cosmonauts in the 1960s, but only three during the next 50 years (Space Shuttle in 1981, Chinese Shenzhou in 2003 and SpaceShipOne in 2004).