MOJAVE DESERT, California (CNN) -- SpaceShipOne successfully blasted into space at about Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound, on Wednesday in its quest to win the Ansari X Prize.
It touched down for a smooth landing about 11:35 a.m. ET, completing a successful flight despite some nail-biting moments.
The spacecraft encountered problems shortly after the rocket ignited during its vertical ascent. It unexpectedly began a series of more than 20 barrel rolls.
It was not clear why the craft lost maneuvering control. As SpaceShipOne turned groundward, however, pilot Mike Melvill appeared to steady the craft.
"The trajectory was good, the roll was off," said Dick Rutan, a test pilot and brother of Burt Rutan, the SpaceShipOne designer. "I was worried. That wasn't the way it was supposed to be."
An unofficial altitude for SpaceShipOne of 358,000 feet -- well in excess of 62.9 miles (100 km) -- was recorded by radar at the site.
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