Small but significant step in private aerospace: Armadillo Aerospace wins $350,000 prize

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

See the article here. Armadillo Aerospace might not be that well known to a lot of people but they've spent a huge amount of time developing their unique-looking craft, and have finally made some money from their venture:

This year's win had the Armadillo team successfully fly their vehicle to a height of some 50 meters, then sky-scoot itself over to a distant landing pad, land safely after a minimum of 90 seconds of in-the-air time... and then repeat the flight.

The Armadillo team had earned $350,000 in prize money.

As champagne corks flew, Carmack was clearly elated: "All right! After three years of trying at this we know we can do's just having the circumstances work out right for us."
They didn't win the 2nd-level prize though ($1.65 million), so there's still a lot of money left over:
Hoping to snare more NASA Centennial Challenge money, Armadillo Aerospace tried the next day, on October 26, to fly the Level 2 Challenge.

Doing so meant flying a different vehicle geared to tackle a more difficult task. The rocket needed to fly for 180 seconds then maneuver to a precise landing atop a crater-pocked and rock-laden look-alike of a lunar landscape.

But the plucky craft failed shortly after ignition, falling on its side.
One aspect that sets Armadillo apart from a lot of other aerospace companies is its incredible low cost and ability to keep testing and fine tuning the craft over and over again:
"The incredible legacy of Armadillo is their ability to fly over and over again in a low-cost fashion. They actually build the vehicle, fly it, see what happens, and make the repairs. They can iterate multiple times in a couple of days," Diamandis told "It's really the garage rocket scientist approach to low-cost reliable vehicles. I think it's something that the larger companies and the government should be learning from."
One reason why this is a significant step is not only that some companies are managing to receive some funding from work they probably would do for free anyway, but also because the publicity this receives may convince those with slightly more commercial interests in mind (= intend to make lots of money in the long term but content with a big investment for a number of years) to consider participating as well. These would be people with a certain amount of money staved away and a great deal of interest in aerospace, but still low enough that they wouldn't be able to quit their day jobs to go out on a limb like this if there wasn't the possibility of turning a profit after a while.


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