SpaceShipOne Astronaut Brian Binnie Passes Away

Astronaut Brian Binnie after the prize winning X2 flight.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Very sad to report that SpaceShipOne astronaut Brian Binnie passed away on Sept. 15. He was 69 years old. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.

His family released a statement on Sunday.

With overwhelming grief, sadness, and sorrow we announce the passing of our beloved Brian.

Arrangements are being made at this time for Brian’s final resting ceremony to take place at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. We kindly ask for privacy during this time for our family to grieve the loss of our husband, father, brother, and friend.

More information will be announced as we prepare to celebrate Brian with full military honors and his life as an American hero.

On Oct. 4, 2004, Brian flew SpaceShipOne to an altitude of 112 km (69.6 miles) during a successful suborbital flight from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The flight broke a 41 year old altitude record set by the X-15 rocket plane in 1963.

Brian’s record flight was the second of two SpaceShipOne flights needed to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize. The prize was given for the first privately-built crewed vehicle to make a flight above 100 km (62.1 miles) twice within two weeks. Mike Melvill made the first flight for the Ansari X Prize competition five days earlier.

Brian was awarded astronaut wings by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Mike earned his wings from the FAA on an earlier SpaceShipOne flight in June 2004 that exceeded 100 km.

XCOR’s senior test pilot Brian Binnie and senior engineer Erik Anderson performing a Lynx mission in the Simulator. (Credit: XCOR)

Brian served as a U.S. Navy aviator for 21 years flying A-7 Corsair II, A-6 Intruder, F/A-18 Hornet, and AV-8B Harrier II jets. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in 1988. Brian was an alumnus of Brown and Princeton universities.

Brian served as co-pilot for Rotary Rocket’s Atmospheric Test Vehicle. He worked as a test pilot for Scaled Composites, XCOR Aerospace and Northrop Grumman during his long career.

Brian will be greatly missed here in Mojave.