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The Dog That Didn't Bark

The Rocket Racing League is going to make a press announcement on Monday, but the release raises some questions:

Rocket Racing League Composites Corp. will announce the acquisition of a leading aircraft manufacturer and a partnership with a leading engine manufacturer...

Granger Whitelaw, CEO, Rocket Racing League
Peter Diamandis, Co-Founder, Rocket Racing League
Adam Smith, Vice President, EAA
Len Fox, Test Pilot, Rocket Racing Composites Corp.
Scott Baker, President, Velocity Aircraft
Neil Milburn, Armadillo Aerospace
John Carmack, Armadillo Aerospace

We have a missing player, and a new player. XCOR was building the initial racers, but they don't seem to be represented at the event. And this is the first time that I've heard Armadillo associated with the project. So apparently, for whatever reason, Armadillo is now providing propulsion for the racers, and they're apparently acquiring an aircraft manufacturer (Velocity?). I wonder why they have to acquire Velocity. Can't they just buy modified aircraft? Or maybe they're being imprecise in language, and it's also a partner?

This obviously raises many questions, none of which I know the answers to, but it would seem to be bad news (though of course by no means fatal) for XCOR. It certainly won't affect their work on the Lynx. It's also good news for Armadillo, and it means a new customer with apparent confidence in their hardware, even after the engine problems at the cup last October.

Perhaps the questions will be answered at the press conference, if asked.

[Update a few minutes later]

Actually, on reconsideration, it's not even obvious that it is bad news for XCOR (though clearly John Carmack must think that it's good for Armadillo, or he wouldn't have done the deal). It could be that, now that they're trying to focus on developing a true suborbital vehicle, the RRL work was proving to be a distraction for them that they've now gotten out from under. But it's speculation on my part, either way.


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Michael Kent wrote:

Egads! I hope they don't burn through Velocity's cash before I get a chance to build my XL RG!


Habitat Hermit wrote:

Would seem very odd if XCOR is out, so much so that I won't believe it for now. And if it really is a replacement I've got to wonder why (no offense to Armadillo) and that wondering wouldn't target XCOR first --not a good press release when the wording of it creates so much (possibly unwarranted) doubt about the RRL.

Hugh Emberson wrote:

It seems unlikely that they could expect to switch engines and still fly exhibitions in 2008, as the press release suggests. Stranger things have happened ...

Perhaps Armadillo have finally gotten their Vertical Drag Racing idea off the drawing board -- a module in an colorful aeroshell would do the trick -- and will be flying demos at the exhibitions.

broyale wrote:

Just because XCOR are not there I would not assume they will be giving up work on the X-Racers. The Rocket Racing League rarely mentions them in press releases so their absence should not be a big surprise. The addition of Armadillo is though and probably means some major business heading their way.

Bill White wrote:

Vertical drag racing . . .

Lynx would seem an ideal vehicle for vertical drag racing based on a "one design" mentality which is to use largely identical vehicles (only minor tweaks allowed) with very close racing and the winners / losers determined primarily by pilot skill.

At one time I raced one design sail boats on Lake Michigan and on occasions we would race two or three days to Mackinac Island with many boats finishing with a few minutes of each other, and at times overlapped.

Race for maybe 72 hours and then win or lose by a few seconds. Very exciting stuff.

Identical vehicles encourages close finishes and offers a market for XCOR to sell many Lynx to a racing league that could barnstorm the country. (What is the plural of Lynx?)

If $100,000 per flight is a realistic number, finding sponsors to place 6 or 8 Lynx on a starting line for a drag race to 50 km seems very doable, especially if selling the "co-pilot" seat is also available for additional revenue. Gosh, if a Lynx racing league were formed Red Bull might just buy a Lynx outright and offer "free" rides to anyone lucky enough to buy a can of Red Bull with the winning number stamped on the inside.

Use a wide enough runway (a B-52 capable airfield?) and several Lynx could begin the race lined up wingtip to wingtip with their front wheels stopped on the start line and upon the start signal they race down the runway. Once everyone is airborne they fan out never crossing tracks and head for separate vertical air corridors to make the ascent to 50 km.

Kinda like WW2 Spitfires taking off in formation, wingtip to wingtip. THAT would be visually impressive.

Six Lynx taking off wingtip to wingtip and once airborne, the furthest left turns 75 degrees left, the next turns 45 degrees left, then 15 degrees left, then 15 degrees right and 45 degrees right and 75 degrees right to maintain a 30 degree separation in bearing.

Mike E. wrote:

Anybody have an idea how Armadillo's pricing would compare to XCOR's?

Jumping to the assumption that they're talking about using some minor variation on AA's pressure-fed engines, I'd guess they're probably cheaper than the (more complex?) XCOR ones, but that's a wild guess...

David Summers wrote:

I can't help but connect a few dots... Armadillo puts out a "hard price" of $500K for a vehicle - then RRL makes this announcement.

I think a bunch of drag racing Armadillos would be cool!

Rocket Racer wrote:


It is all good news for everyone. If you care to listen in, please dial the following:


Pin# 983877 the #

9:30 AM EST

Remember, it's not always about rockets & space, there is businss that must support the industry and growth models for maor corporation to understand, invest in, sponsor etc.

Simply "wishing" to put rockets in space, manned or unmanned,will continue to be a dream unless this happens.

Racing them with a real business model will make it understandable for Corporations & fans that have been involved for YEARS through other motorsports, Indy, Formula 1 & NASACAR as examples.

See you at the races.....

Edward Wright wrote:

Identical vehicles encourages close finishes

That depends on the pilots.

A couple years ago, Reno restarted the jet races as an L-39 class. Instead of close finishes, identical airplanes simply meant that John Penney walked away with every heat.

Larry J wrote:

For many years, there has been a T-6 racing class where the planes must meet very rigorous configuration standards. Those planes are about as equal as you can get. They do have many close races. Over the years, they've also had some disasterous mid-air collisions.

Neil H wrote:

> Anybody have an idea how Armadillo's pricing would compare to XCOR's?

Since the previously-advertised entry price for an XCOR rocketplane team was $1.2 million (plus annual operating costs of up to $1 million), Armadillo's $500K price is looking fairly nice.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on April 10, 2008 6:07 PM.

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