Mike Melvill

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Mike Melvill
Melvill receiving wings as the first commercial astronaut in history
Michael Winston Melvill

(1940-11-30) November 30, 1940 (age 79)
NationalitySouth African / American[1]
Alma materHilton College
OccupationTest pilot
Space career
Commercial Astronaut
US - FAA Astronaut Wings.png
Time in space
~10 mins
SelectionSpaceShipOne 2003
MissionsSpaceShipOne flight 15P, SpaceShipOne flight 16P

Michael Winston "Mike" 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]

Melville (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]

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

Awards and achievements[edit]

Melvill reviews the first private space flight with Scott Crossfield

Melvill is the sole or joint holder of nine FAI aviation world records in various categories.[8]

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.[9]


  1. ^ a b "Michael Melvill - American pilot and astronaut". Britannica. 28 November 2016. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  2. ^ "Chronological listing of all known flights around the World". Earthrounders.com. Archived from the original on 12 July 2012. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
  3. ^ "Scaled Composites: combined white knight spaceshipone flight tests". Scaled.com. Archived from the original on 2010-08-22. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
  4. ^ "M.Melvill". Worldspaceflight.com. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
  5. ^ "Astronaut Biography: Michael Melvill". Spacefacts.de. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
  6. ^ a b c "Melvill". Astronautix.com. Archived from the original on 2010-10-20. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
  7. ^ "Dick Rutan The Frontiers of Flight – The Last Great World Record". 10 October 2014. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  8. ^ "History of Records: Michael W. MELVILL (USA)". records.fai.org. Archived from the original on 2010-07-29. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
  9. ^ "Mike Melvill". Flyincruisein.com. 2004-06-21. Retrieved 2010-08-02.

External links[edit]