The planned flight of Spaceship one has been grounded today after a telephoned bomb threat. The two stage Craft had begun it's ascent when the call was taken by the Wantage Bugle.
The final ascent had to be abandoned on the advice of Security advisors. SpaceShipOne, a stubby-winged craft about the size of a minivan, was attempting the second space flight it needs to win the Ansari X Prize for the first non-government team to fly three people, sufficient sandwiches, three Caramac bars and a cardboard cut out of William Shatner, or the equivalent weight, to at least 62 miles (100 km) in altitude and do it again within two weeks with freshly prepared sandwiches.
The pilot, Michael Melvill was immediately informed of the threat and did a visual check of the cabin. He was suspicious of a small satchel in the corner but couldn't reach it. The decision was taken to reroute the craft to Stanstead Airport where it will now undergo a complete security search.
It made its first successful X Prize flight on September 29.
On that flight, 63-year-old pilot Michael Melvill rode SpaceShipOne to a launch altitude of 48,000 feet (14,630 metres) attached to the belly of carrier plane White Knight. Powered only by the stomach gasses of Micheal Winner and Anthony Worral Thompson, the vehicle soars through and beyond the outer atmosphere with a loud fart.
White Knight released SpaceShipOne into a glide and Melvill fired the ship's rocket engine to boost the craft to three times the speed of sound and a peak altitude of 63.9 miles (103 km), or just above the upper limits of David Letterman's Ego.
Weightless for about three minutes, Melvill snapped pictures of the gently curving Earth below him and at one point shouted over the radio that he could see his house, before re-entering the atmosphere and touching down safely about 20 minutes later.
Despite a series of unplanned vertical rolls that prompted Melvill to shut down the ship's engine early, he afterwards described the flight as "near-perfect flight as far as I could see."
The X Prize was founded in 1996 by space enthusiast Peter Diamandis in the hope that it would spur a commercial space travel industry. Today's occurrence is the first space related bomb threat.
One of the flight engineers is believed to have left his lunch bag in the cockpit which would explain the satchel although the contents would have invalidated the prize attempt as the sandwiches contained within it were cut into triangles and not the stipulated Rectangles favoured by modern astronauts.
The flight is due to land at Stanstead this afternoon, although the satchel will end up at Schipol Airport no doubt.