Michael Winston "Mike" Melvill (born November 1941) is
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, thus becoming
the first commercial astronaut and the 433rd person to go into space. He was
also the pilot on SpaceShipOne's flight 16P, the first competitive flight in
the Ansari X Prize competition.
He was born in Johannesburg in South Africa before his family moved to Kloof
near Durban. He attended Highbury Preparatory School and Hilton College.
Later on Melvill moved to the United States from England in the 1970s and
became a U.S. citizen. Melvill is married; he and his wife Sally have one
son and four grandchildren.
He met Burt Rutan when he showed Rutan the Rutan VariViggen he had assembled
at his home. Melvill is the vice president and general manager of Scaled
Composites, LLC; he has 24 years of experience as a test pilot, and has
logged nearly 7000 hours in over 130 types of aircraft. A longtime
acquaintance of Scaled Composites founder Burt Rutan, Melvill has flown the
first flights of ten of Rutan's aircraft. Melvill also helped develop the
docking system for SpaceShipOne.
Melvill is an associate fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots;
in 1999, he received their Iven C. Kincheloe trophy for his work in
high-altitude development testing Scaled's Model 281 Proteus. Melvill also
built his own Long EZ aircraft, which he flew around the world with Dick
Rutan in 1997. He is also the only person other than Dick Rutan or Jeana
Yeager to have piloted the Voyager aircraft. Melvill is the sole or joint
holder of nine FAI aviation world records in various categories.
Melvill was the pilot for SpaceShipOne flight 15P, SpaceShipOne's first
spaceflight and the first privately-funded human spaceflight mission to
reach space, on the morning of June 21, 2004. In a ceremony two hours after
landing, Melvill was awarded his astronaut wings, specifically the FAA
Commercial Astronaut badge, the first wings awarded for a non-government
space program and the first for a spaceplane flight since the X-15 flights
of the 1960s.
Sally Melvill, Josh Wakefield, and Mike Melvill at EAA
AirVenture - July 2005