Rocket Racing 101

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While zipping around in fiberglass airplanes belching flame trails 20 feet long may sound challenging enough, it would appear that rocket races will be won on the ground. The planes carry only enough fuel for four minutes of powered flight and Diamandis said they'll have up to 10 minutes of glide time. But with each race lasting 90 minutes, that's a lot of fuel stops (not to mention some pretty precision dead-stick work). Considering how long it takes NASA to get a rocket ready, cycling 10 airplanes six or eight times in a span of 90 minutes looks like an interesting technical challenge and that may be the heart of the league. Diamandis is perhaps better-known as the money and drive behind the X Prize, which paid Burt Rutan and Paul Allen $10 million for being the first to launch two manned, privately funded flights into space within a two-week period. Diamandis said the racing league is another step toward making private space flight a practical reality for many people and he says it's much more than a technical challenge. "[Spaceflight] should be sexy, it should be edgy and fun," he said. "It should be more like Star Wars and Star Trek, and that's what private enterprise can do."