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Congratulations To Armadillo

But it sounds like a business setback for XCOR:

If the demonstrations in Oshkosh and Burns Flat were meant as a fly-off, the Armadillo team - led by millionaire video-game programmer John Carmack - came away as the winner.

"The Armadillo engine is going to be the primary engine for the Rocket Racing League," Whitelaw told me. He said five more planes will be built using Armadillo's propulsion system, which is a spin-off from Carmack's years-long quest to win the $2 million, NASA-backed Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.

It sounds like the Armadillo engine has more thrust, though it's not clear how the T/W compares.

I wonder to what degree XCOR was constrained by a potential desire to maintain some legacy toward the Lynx engine? If they were building an engine purely for the RRL, would it have been a different design and fuel type?

Presumably, the business plan with which they raised their recent institutional investment considered this as a contingency. I'm sure they would have liked continuing business from RRL, though Whitelaw doesn't seem to rule it out for the future.


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Pete Zaitcev wrote:

I am surprised, but perhaps I shouldn't be.

BTW, nobody ever mentions how well the trottle works in the Armadillo engine, if at all.

Jonathan Goff wrote:

As far as I can tell, their throttling is probably fine for the application. It's reasonably fast (faster than our old XA-0.1 throttle scheme), and simple. AFAIK, it doesn't have all the bells and whistles like active mixture ratio control, but so far it's suited them fairly well.

I'm not sure how the T/W compares, but I imagine that Armadillo's may be comparable or lighter--just because it's a film-cooled engine, so it doesn't need as much metal in it as a CSJ style regen cooled engine does. Of course, that comes at a pretty steep Isp hit. I wouldn't be surprised if at full throttle XCOR's engine gets 30% better Isp. And in an atmosphere, throttling down means taking a bigger Isp hit (though not necessarily that much--Armadillo doesn't have a very big expansion ratio).


Pete Zaitcev wrote:

Thanks, Jon. I asked in part because they never do any throttling in videos (when testing for RR -- MOD obviously throttles, so the capability is there).

It seems "intuitively" obvious that being pressure-fed, Armadillo engine should require heavier tanks, which counts against T/W of the whole system. But real numbers may be surprising.

Another thing... I wonder where Rick Searfoss is. I thought he was an employee of the League, not XCOR. It may be something as simple as the location in Oklahoma, but then since it's a key program for RRL... shouldn't he be trying out the plane?

Pete Zaitcev wrote:

Wikipedia suggests that Mr. Searfoss works for Mojave Civilian Flight Test Center, not RRL or XCOR. I'm a master of dumb questions.

Rand Simberg wrote:

Yes, I've never thought that Rick worked for either RRL or XCOR. He works with them, and does independent consulting.

Josh Reiter wrote:

Pete Zaitcev wrote:"I asked in part because they never do any throttling in videos

I believe many of the hover tests involve throttling the motor.

Mike E wrote:

I wonder how much revenue this is for AA?

Earlier this year they were quoting $500k each for copies of their mod/quad rockets if anybody was interested, and the RRL engine won't need much of the electronics (gyroscope, GPS). Still probably a low-7-figure revenue deal for AA?

Pocket change by aerospace standards, but for a crazy-lean operation like AA that could let them move half their workforce from volunteers to full-time.

Jonathan Goff wrote:

Mike E,
Just guessing, but most of the $1.25M per plane is probably going to RRL, not to the engine provider. I'd be willing to bet that they're only seeing somewhere in the $250k range per plane.


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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on August 27, 2008 1:54 PM.

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