While Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipOne made history as the first privately financed spacecraft, a Canadian project designed to snare the $10 million X Prize is also nearing completion. And while SpaceShipOne cost $20 million, the da Vinci Project is trying to get into space on a shoestring budget.
Their entry in the competition is called Wild Fire, and it takes a different approach than Scaled’s space plane. Wild Fire is a rocket/capsule contraption, lofted to 70,000 feet by a gigantic helium balloon. Once at altitude, the rocket will fire, blasting the capsule to 60 miles above the Saskatchewan prairie. Instead of gliding to a runway landing like SpaceShipOne, Wild Fire will parachute back to earth.
The real kicker here is that the da Vinci Project is almost entirely a volunteer effort. They’ve built this contraption for a measly $1 million Canadian, plus about $3 million Canadian in donated services. That’s peanuts, chump change compared to Scaled Composites and the other teams.