Allen's SpaceShipOne Wins X Prize

A ship sponsored by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, SpaceShipOne, won the $10 million Ansari X Prize on Monday as the first privately built craft to fly into suborbital space two times in two weeks.

The X Prize, modeled after the early 20th century prizes that helped launch the commercial aviation industry, is intended to seed the space tourism industry. As part of the tourism theme, the prize required the winning ship to haul a pilot and the equivalent weight of two passengers to the edge of space and repeat the achievement in two weeks. More than 20 teams from seven countries were competing for the X Prize.

Allen, a billionaire who helped found Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, sponsored the efforts of Burt Rutan, the founder of the aerospace firm Scaled Composites. Rutan had signaled his intention to compete for the prize on the day the prize was first announced in May 1996.

Although Allen has been involved with the SpaceShipOne effort since March 2001, his involvement was kept secret until December 2003.

Allen devotes his time to venture capitalism and charitable investments. He left Microsoft in 1983 but remained on the board of directors until late 2000.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.