Press Release

Burt Rutan to Receive Heinlein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Aerospace

By SpaceRef Editor
April 15, 2008
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Washington D.C., April 15, 2008 — The National Space Society (NSS) announced today that famed aircraft and spacecraft designer Burt Rutan will receive the Heinlein award for lifetime achievement in aerospace. The award, which is given out every two years, will be bestowed upon Rutan by CNN correspondent Miles O’Brien at the Gala dinner of the 27th Annual International Space Development Conference (ISDC) taking place at the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington D.C. on Friday, May 30, 2008.

The Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award honors those individuals who have made significant, lifetime contributions to the creation of a free, spacefaring civilization. The award is named after author Robert A. Heinlein, in memory of him and of his many contributions to the pro-space movement. The award is given based on a vote of the entire NSS membership. The 2008 award will be the 12th Heinlein Award given.

“With this award, the members of NSS recognize Burt Rutan for his life’s work in advancing the frontiers of air and space,” said NSS Executive Director, George T. Whitesides.

NSS selected Rutan in recognition of the unique contribution that he has made in designing not just the innovative and re-usable vehicles: SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo, but just as important, the creation of aircraft specifically designed to launch spacecraft: WhiteKnightOne and WhiteKnightTwo. These designs point the way to future high speed air launch systems which could greatly reduce the cost of launch to orbit.

Elbert Leander “Burt” Rutan was born June 17, 1943 in Estacada, Oregon and well known for his originality in designing light, strong, unusual-looking, energy-efficient aircraft.

He is most famous for his design of the record-breaking Voyager, which was the first plane to fly around the world without stopping or refueling, and the sub-orbital space plane SpaceShipOne, which won the $10M Ansari X PRIZE in 2004 for becoming the first privately funded spacecraft to fly to space twice within a two week period.

Rutan displayed an early interest in aircraft design. By the time he was eight years old he was designing and building model aircraft. His first solo flight in a full-scale plane was an Aeronca Champ in 1959, when he was sixteen. In 1965 he graduated third in his class from California Polytechnic University with an aeronautical engineering degree.

From 1965 to 1972 Rutan worked for the U.S. Air Force at Edwards Air Force Base as a flight test project engineer, working on nine separate projects including fighter spin tests and the LTV XC-142 VSTOL transport. Shortly after, he became director of the Bede Test Center for Bede Aircraft, in Newton, Kansas, a position he held until 1974.

Rutan struck out on his own in June of 1974 with the creation of the Rutan Aircraft Factory in the Mojave Desert, where he designed and developed prototypes for a number of aircraft, mostly homebuilt. His first design was the Rutan VariViggen, a two-seat pusher with a canard in front. The canard was later to become a standard feature in most Rutan designs. In April 1982, Burt Rutan founded Scaled Composites, LLC, which has become one of the world’s pre-eminent aircraft design and prototyping facilities. Scaled Composites is headquartered in Mojave, California.

Amongst several honors, Rutan previously received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Ronald Reagan in December of 1986 and was named by TIME Magazine one of the “100 most influential people in the world” in April of 2005.

Previous Heinlein Award Winners include General Chuck Yeager (video of Yeager’s acceptance speech), Capt. James Lovell, Neil Armstrong, Dr. Carl Sagan, Dr. Buzz Aldrin, Dr. Robert H. Goddard, Gene Roddenberry, Dr. Wernher von Braun, Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill, Dr. Robert Zubrin, and Sir Arthur C. Clarke. 27th Annual International Space Development Conference

ISDC 2008 will bring the major players from all corners of the space world to the nation’s capital for a symposium that will provide invaluable insight into the future of spaceflight and exploration.

On Wednesday May 28th, the conference will kick off with an exclusive pre-event, the 4th Space Investment Summit (SIS), bringing together the emerging commercial space industry with the established world of finance to exchange their goals, ideas and advice. On Thursday May 29th, up-and-coming entrepreneurial space companies will be on hand to share their latest advances. Friday May 30th will focus the discussion on NASA and its future. Saturday May 31 will be focused primarily on personal spaceflight and the final day of the conference will concentrate on the visionaries, scientists and entrepreneurs who look far in to the future at deep space settlements, ways to use and inhabit Mars and the methods used to protect our planet from near earth objects such as asteroids.

Featured speakers include Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn; SpaceX Founder Elon Musk; Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Dr. Anthony Tether; Hon. Nick Lampson (D-22nd District-TX), United States House of Representatives; Director of NASA Ames Research Center, Dr. Simon “Pete” Worden; Doug Cooke, Deputy Associate Administrator of NASA’s exploration programs; X PRIZE Foundation Founder and Chairman Dr. Peter Diamandis; private space explorers Dr. Anousheh Ansari and Gregory Olsen and Space Adventures CEO Eric Anderson.

NASA is the presenting sponsor of ISDC 2008 and Space News is the exclusive media sponsor. Space Florida is the presenting sponsor of SIS 4.

To register for the 27th Annual International Space Development Conference please visit: or call (202) 429-1600.

All media interested in attending the conference can do so by emailing Ian Murphy at or calling (310) 689-6397. Registered media will have their registration fee waived.

About the National Space Society

The National Space Society (NSS) is an independent, grassroots organization dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. Founded in 1974, NSS is widely acknowledged as the preeminent citizen’s voice on space. NSS counts thousands of members and more than 50 chapters in the United States and around the world. The society also publishes Ad Astra magazine, an award-winning periodical chronicling the most important developments in space. For more information about NSS, visit

SpaceRef staff editor.