Scaled Model 401

Kern County-based Scaled Composites announced Wednesday the rollout and first flight of its most recent project, the experimental aircraft Model 401. Scaled said it worked with a proprietary customer to build two of the aircraft. It declined to name the customer.

Photo courtesy of Scaled Composites

Aerospace developer Scaled Composites, based at Mojave Spaceport in eastern Kern County, is known for making possible the first privately funded human spaceflight with its design of SpaceShipOne.

On Wednesday, the company founded by Burt Rutan and now owned by Northrop Grumman, flew its newest experimental aircraft for the first time, the modestly named Model 401.

The company said it is working with a "proprietary customer to build two vehicles to demonstrate advanced, low-cost manufacturing techniques and to provide aircraft for research flight services to industry partners and the United States government."

Vague? Sure.

But in the world of "bleeding edge" technology, where risk is inherent and secrets are jealously protected, information is released in small, careful doses.

The two vehicles, Scaled said, were designed to be identical in outer mold line and performance, with each aircraft powered by a single Pratt & Whitney engine with 3,045 pounds of thrust.

The jets are capable of flying more than 400 mph at 30,000 feet. They have a wingspan of 38 feet and are 38 feet long. The sleek jets have an empty weight of 4,000 pounds and a maximum take-off weight of 8,000 pounds with a flight endurance of up to three hours.

"This is such an exciting time for us," Project Engineer Aaron Cassebeer said in a statement. "Scaled is at the forefront of experimental aircraft development and I am fortunate enough to have a front row seat.

"Today was a great day for our test team," he said. "We had a great flight and we are looking forward to the future test program."

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