Burt Rutan (born 1943): The founder of Scaled Composites LLC, Rutan designed and built SpaceShipOne. In 2004, it became the first privately-owned craft to enter outer space; its second and third flights that year won him the ten million dollar Ansari XPrize. He then developed two more commercial spacecraft, in conjunction with Virgin Galactic, SpaceShipTwo and White Knight Two.
Elbert Leander “Burt” Rutan was born on June 17, 1943, in Estacada, Oregon. He grew up in Dinuba, California. In 1965 he graduated from the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo) with a Bachelor of Sciences Degree in aeronautical engineering.
Rutan founded the Rutan Aircraft Factory in 1974. Eight years later, he founded Scaled Composites, LLC, in Mojave, California. There he designed and built SpaceShipOne, the first privately built, flown, and funded manned craft to reach space. On October 4, SpaceShipOne won the Ansari X Prize, completing two flights within two weeks. For this, Rutan and his team received the 2004 Collier Trophy from the National Aeronautic Association for “greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America.” SpaceShipOne is currently on display at the National Air and Space Museum.
Burt Rutan next designed SpaceShipTwo, a craft he hoped would take up to six passengers to an altitude of 80 miles on suborbital space flights beginning in 2008. This program has been delayed by the explosion at the Scaled Composite factory in Mojave, California in July 2007, which killed three engineers and seriously injured three others.
Rutan also led the team that produced White Knight Two for Virgin Galactic, in conjunction with that company’s owner and founder, Sir Richard Branson. He continued on the project, building both the mothership and spacecraft, until his (semi)-retirement in 2011.