It's been 10 years in the making, but several privately funded rockets are set to take off in the coming months. Two are Canadian.The race is for the Ansari X-Prize. It is modeled after the cash prize awarded Charles Lindbergh for his crossing of the Atlantic. The rules are simple. Launch 3 people (or 1 person and the equivalent mass of 2 other people) into a 100km orbit, return them safely to earth, and do it again within 14 days. The X-Prize is meant to do for space travel when Lindbergh did for air travel.
The leader is thought to be SpaceShipOne by Burt Rattan, a skilled aero engineer. He's backed by Paul Allen, Microsoft's #2 man. The budget for SpaceShipOne is though to be in the neighbourhood of $20 million so far, and they have already had one mostly successful test flight to 100km. They will try for the prize on September 29th, and October 4th.
In true Canadian fashion, the Da Vinci Project has a modest budget of about $300,000. Most of the work and most of the materials have been donated by volunteers, and an estimated 5000 volunteer hours have gone into design, prototyping and testing the designs. It will roll out 'Wildfire', it's rocket which has been in the works for 8 years, on August 5th in Toronto. It will try to overcome the limitations of launching such a small rocket, by lifting the rocket with a balloon to 80,000 feet before launching the rocket.
The other Canadian team is aptly named The Canadian Arrow. Looking much like a WWII V-2 rocket and taking many lessons from it, they too are set to start testing their tried and true designed 2 stage rocket in August.