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Mike Melvill

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Mike Melvill
Melvill in 2004
Michael Winston Melvill

(1940-11-30) November 30, 1940 (age 83)
NationalitySouth African / American[1]
Alma materHilton College
OccupationTest pilot
Space career
Commercial astronaut
Time in space
7 mins (roughly estimated)
SelectionSpaceShipOne 2003
MissionsSpaceShipOne flight 15P, SpaceShipOne flight 16P

Michael Winston Melvill (born November 30, 1940, in Johannesburg, South Africa)[1] is a world-record-breaking pilot[2] and one of the test pilots for SpaceShipOne, the experimental spaceplane developed by Scaled Composites. Melvill piloted SpaceShipOne on its first flight past the edge of space, flight 15P on June 21, 2004,[3] thus becoming the first commercial astronaut, and the 435th person to go into space.[4] He was also the pilot on SpaceShipOne's flight 16P, the first competitive flight in the Ansari X Prize competition.[5]

Life and career[edit]

Melvill receiving wings as the first commercial astronaut in history
Melvill (right) and Burt Rutan (left) in front of SpaceShipOne

In 1978, Melvill met aerospace designer and Scaled Composites founder Burt Rutan when he flew to California to show Rutan the VariViggen he had built at his home. Rutan then hired him on the spot. In 1982, he was named Rutan's lead test pilot.[6]

In 1997, Melvill and Dick Rutan, Burt's brother, flew two Long-Eze aircraft that they built side-by-side around the world. This "around the world in 80 nights" flight was called The Spirit of EAA Friendship World Tour, and some legs of it lasted for over 14 hours.[7]

His famous 2004 flights in SpaceshipOne earned him and the entire project team the Ansari X Prize of $10 million and helped spur the beginning of the global private space race.[5]

Later in his career, he became Vice President/General Manager at Scaled Composites.[6]

Mike Melvill holds FAA Commercial certificate, ASEL, AMEL, instrument airplane, rotorcraft-helicopter, glider and now astronaut.[8]

Awards and achievements[edit]

Melvill reviews the first private space flight with Scott Crossfield

As of January, 2020, Melvill is the sole or joint holder of ten FAI aviation world records in various categories.[9]

He was awarded the Iven C. Kincheloe Award in 1999 for high altitude, developmental flight-testing of the model 281 Proteus aircraft.[6]

Through SpaceShipOne flight 15P in 2004, he is known as the first privately funded human spaceflight mission pilot to reach space.[10]


  1. ^ a b "Michael Melvill - American pilot and astronaut". Britannica. November 28, 2016. Retrieved June 4, 2019.
  2. ^ "Chronological listing of all known flights around the World". Earthrounders.com. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved July 3, 2012.
  3. ^ "Scaled Composites: combined white knight spaceshipone flight tests". Scaled.com. Archived from the original on August 22, 2010. Retrieved August 2, 2010.
  4. ^ "M.Melvill". Worldspaceflight.com. Retrieved August 2, 2010.
  5. ^ a b "Astronaut Biography: Michael Melvill". Spacefacts.de. Retrieved August 2, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c "Melvill". Astronautix.com. Archived from the original on October 20, 2010. Retrieved August 2, 2010.
  7. ^ "Dick Rutan The Frontiers of Flight – The Last Great World Record". October 10, 2014. Archived from the original on August 13, 2020. Retrieved October 24, 2017.
  8. ^ "Mike Melvill bio". Archived from the original on December 24, 2005. Retrieved September 26, 2006.
  9. ^ "Records". Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  10. ^ "Mike Melvill". Flyincruisein.com. June 21, 2004. Retrieved August 2, 2010.

External links[edit]