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Alabama rocketeer Tim Pickens talks space flight, rocket bikes

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Like the city where he lives, Tim Pickens has rockets in his DNA. Over the years, Pickens has earned a reputation for masterminding an unconventional propulsion system that took a private spacecraft to the edge of space and for quirky inventions that include a rocket-propelled bike.

Pickens grew up in Huntsville at a time when the Apollo project was blasting to life in the 1960s. His father was a brilliant tinkerer with a background in rocketry and electronics. Pickens built a gasoline and air rocket engine at age 12. In his 20s, he was sketching rocket designs on his lunch hour and leading garage rocket science projects with aerospace engineers from companies around the city.

Pickens later linked up with celebrated aerospace engineer Burt Rutan and led development of a hybrid propulsion system for SpaceShipOne, which won the $10 million Ansari X prize in 2004 as the first non-government manned craft to touch the boundary of space. The spaceplane is considered one of history’s most amazing flying machines.

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Paris Air Show

Secretary Canfield kicks off Alabama Paris Air Show effort: ‘Let’s go’

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