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US rocket pioneers hit 100km

First space flight for privately-built GoFast

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The US Civilian Space eXploration (CSXT) team yesterday became the first private outfit to send a rocket into space. Its 6.5m GoFast missile blasted off from the Nevada desert and is reckoned to have exceeded 100km in altitude - the official boundary of space.

Federal Aviation Administration officials witnessed the lift-off from the Black Rock Desert. A 14-second burn was followed by a three-minute ascent into the blue yonder. Reports suggest the vehicle spent several minutes above 100km before the rocket and payload sections returned separately to Earth by parachute. CSXT avionics manager Eric Knight is quoted with offering the highly unscientific: "It just roared off the pad and flew into space."

Civilian Space eXploration has a long history of attempting to shake off our earthly shackles. It's backed by a mixed bag of sponsors, including the rather improbable beefjerky.com. If you think that's a little off-the-wall for a rocketry outfit, then be amazed at the revelation that the company's product has a proud space heritage - its "Final Frontier Jerky" has been to Mir aboard space shuttle Atlantis, made another jaunt to the International Space Station and accompanied private astronaut Mark Shuttleworth on his Soyuz flight to the ISS.

We will have to wait and see whether or not Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne pilot Mike Melvill decides to chew on a bit of Final Frontier Jerky when he makes his eagerly-anticipated attempt to claim the X-prize for the first private manned space flight. It seems to do the trick. ®

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