Successful Moon Landing Test = $1Million.

by wjw on September 16, 2009

Someone has qualified for the Northrup Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. (Small steps, but still worth a million bucks.)

Armadillo Aerospace qualified to win a million dollars of NASA’s money today by accomplishing a rocket-powered round trip modeled after a moon landing. The team’s remote-controlled Scorpius rocket (formerly known as the Super Mod) blasted off from its Texas launch pad, rose into the sky and floated over to set down on a mock moon landing pad. After refueling, Scorpius blasted off again for what one observer called a “perfect flight” back to the original launch pad.

The judges confirmed that Armadillo satisfied all the contest requirements. Scorpius made pinpoint landings within a meter of each landing pad’s center target, according to William Pomerantz, the director of space prizes for the X Prize Foundation.

That means the million-dollar top prize in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge will definitely be given away this year. But Armadillo’s rocketeers will still have to wait another month and a half to find out if they won, while other entrants in the competition try to do the same feat better . . .

John Carmack said: “Since the Lunar Lander Challenge is quite demanding in terms of performance, with a few tweaks our Scorpius vehicle actually has the capability to travel all the way to space. We’ll be moving quickly to do higher-altitude tests, and we can go up to about 6,000 feet here at our home base in Texas before we’ll have to head to New Mexico where we can really push the envelope. We already have scientific payloads from universities lined up to fly as well, so this will be an exciting next few months for commercial spaceflight.”

Peter Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation, which manages the prize on behalf of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program, said: “Carmack and the entire Armadillo team made it look easy … an overnight success after four years of hard work. Congratulations on two perfect flights. Now we’ll need to see if any other teams attempt the Level-2, Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. If no one does, then Armadillo will win $1 million in purse cash. I’m hopeful that this success will allow policymakers to see the power and success of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program.”

. . . The X Prize Foundation, which is managing the challenge with sponsorship from Northrop Grumman, estimates that the contest has generated more than 70,000 hours of skilled work on advanced rocket technologies, with just $350,000 paid out to date. In the long run, that payoff may dwarf the million dollars as well as the rocket ships built to win that cash.

“I think the government is getting a tremendous return on what they’ve put into this,” Carmack said. “When it gets to the point where we have to go and find more great people, we know exactly which people have demonstrated the right type of thinking, the right skill sets and the right determination.”

Go Armadillo!

Corie September 16, 2009 at 1:39 pm

I was surprised to see it wasn't with Pixel, but sounds like they've got a nifty new design going!

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