Vying For The X-PRIZE

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

Two Teams Lead The Pack...

The X-PRIZE race began like many others, with a slew of competitors jumping from the starting position with all of the motivation and excitement of a world-class runner. The mission is daunting, as the contest rules call for launching a manned craft to 62 miles, returning it safely to Earth and then doing it again within 14 days. Now, the race is realistically moving into a tight contest between two companies with an eye on the $10 million prize. Burt Rutanís Scaled Composites and Dallas-based Armadillo Aerospace are leading the suborbital race with their own respective spaceship designs. Scaled Compositesí project consists of two stages: a carrier aircraft, the White Knight, and a second-stage rocket, SpaceShipOne (SS1) . Armadillo's current design is a single-stage vehicle with "non-traditional operating features." Scaled's White Knight is a manned, twin-turbojet research aircraft intended for high-altitude missions. The design mission of White Knight is to provide a high-altitude airborne launch of a manned suborbital spacecraft, SS1. The White Knight is equipped to flight-qualify all the spacecraft systems, except rocket propulsion. The Black Armadillo's propulsion system consists of four pressure-fed, hydrogen peroxide, monopropellant system rocket engines fed from a single tank. While the two companies have publicly offered the most public advancement to date, there are 23 other registered groups from seven countries competing for the $10 million cash prize.