Monday, March 3, 2008

Rocket Truck Redux

Another run of the Armadillo Aerospace rocket truck:

Just to be clear. These guys are actually making a serious attempt to develop space vehicles. But they have their engine test stand mounted on the back of their truck, and after a long day of testing somebody said, "Hey, why don't we take the brakes off and just see how fast it would go?"

If you haven't heard of Armadillo Aerospace, they are one of the more successful companies in what is often called New Space or Alt Space. These are small startup companies who are trying to develop space vehicles that are much, much less expensive than the tradional aerospace companies like Boeing and Lockheed-Martin. Armadillo has specialized in vertical take-off, vertical landing vehicle development. They very nearly won the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge in 2007, sponsored by NASA. This contest, with $2,000,000 of NASA-provided prize money available, requires you to launch your unmanned rocket from one launch pad, fly it to an altitude of 50 meters, stay airborne for at least 90 seconds, then land on another pad 100 meters away. Then you have to refuel your vehicle and fly it back the same way. Armadillo was the only contestant flying in the 2007 challenge and they came heartbreakingly close to succeeding. You can see lots of video and pictures of their effort on their web site.

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