Design lessons from the badminton birdie

Image by Rebecca Partington via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Image by Rebecca Partington via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

One may not naturally associate badminton birdies with space flight, but Burt Rutan saw a connection. A shuttlecock inspired his solution to a significant engineering problem.

The Ansari X-Prize was created in 1996 to spur the development of private space travel. Ten million dollars was offered to the first team capable of designing a re-usable system that could take three people 100 km above the Earth, then return them safely to the ground, and do so twice within a two week period. Rutan’s company Scaled Composites, in collaboration with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, developed a vehicle called SpaceShipOne which won the X-Prize in October 2004. Continue reading

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