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Originally published February 24, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified February 24, 2005 at 12:33 AM

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Plans for rocket dashed, founders leaving Forks

Two rocket engineers are leaving town, taking with them hopes and dreams for privatized space travel after their 12-foot Rubicon rocket...

FORKS, Clallam County — Two rocket engineers are leaving town, taking with them hopes and dreams for privatized space travel after their 12-foot Rubicon rocket exploded upon launch and their money dried up.

"We're having to transition out of the Forks location due to lack of funding," co-founder Phillip Storm of Space Transport Corp. wrote in an e-mail to the Peninsula Daily News in Port Angeles.

"Our company is in the middle of selling some equipment and figuring out how to tackle the privatization of space," he wrote. Proceeds will be used to pay bills, with the remainder to be saved "until we figure out our future plans."

The company's Rubicon I blew up after launch off the state's northwest coast last Aug. 8, dealing a setback to the engineers' pursuit of the $10 million Ansari X-Prize for civilian space flight.

"It's too bad they didn't go on to get the X Prize," said John Anderson, who allowed Storm and company Vice President Eric Meier to test rockets on his property. "They really had something going, and they had the whole town fired up.

"Everyone liked them."

The head of one female mannequin "astronaut," which washed ashore after the explosion, was sold on eBay.com for $200 to an actor-director who said he planned to build a cyberparody around it.

Most of the company's remaining tools and machines were auctioned Saturday, except for an old computer desk and a second Rubicon rocket that has not been tested, Anderson said. The Rubicon II will be stored, he said.

Storm said the company's new approach will involve a "highly different vehicle" and said it was not clear whether development would occur in the Pacific Northwest.

Anderson said Storm already had left Forks and Meier planned to leave soon.

The X Prize was won in October by Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne, a rocket plane financed by Seattle billionaire Paul Allen that completed two privately funded, manned space flights within two weeks.

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