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Monday, June 30, 2003

The X PRIZE Foundation selected Colonel Rick Searfoss as the Chief Judge of the X PRIZE Competition adding to the recent flurry of activity in the race for a three person private sector reusable launch vehicle.
"The competition is heating up. We could see a winner within the next 12 months. It's time to complete our judging panel. Rick Searfoss' extensive career in aviation and space, linked with his skills as a professional speaker make him the perfect candidate to be our Chief Judge" explains Dr. Peter Diamandis, Founder and Chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation.
The Chief Judge's initial duty is to complete the development of a pool of world-renowned aviation and space experts to judge the X PRIZE Competition. The judges will ensure that the $10 Million X PRIZE is awarded to the first team to fly a privately financed reusable three-person spaceship to an altitude of 62 miles-and repeat the trip within two weeks. "Since the day I commanded a space mission, I've felt compelled to share the wonder and vision of human spaceflight. To date only 431 humans have enjoyed the unbelievably spectacular, sublime adventure of flying in space - far too few! As Chief Judge of the X PRIZE Competition, I'm deeply honored to witness the efforts of bold, creative, and courageous private teams to reach space, make history, and pave the way for many thousands more." Read More

Southern California Businessman and private space travel pioneer Dennis Tito has been elected to the X PRIZE Foundation Board of Trustees. "I'm joining the X PRIZE Foundation Board of Trustees because I'd like to see a new generation of privately owned and operated spaceships. These are the ships that will fly thousands of people into space on an annual basis."
Mr. Tito is one of two civilian space travelers who have ridden with the Russian Space Agency to the International Space Station. Tito explains Millions of people could easily be qualified for space. Once the price of traveling to space comes down to the price of an SUV, I think we'll see thousands of people sign up. Read More

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Armadillo Aerospace News: Parachute rigging, Heated catalyst
chabot imageOur big parachute arrived on Friday, which is a huge relief for us. Three previous parachute companies have declined to work with us because they got the jitters over the fact that we were building rocket ships (Instead of just jump out of planes. Sheesh.). Strong Enterprises http://www.strongparachutes.com/ hasn’t batted an eye at our application, and the company president has been working with me on the details. To top it off, their price and delivery times are quite a bit better than what I got from Butler Parachutes before they bailed on us. Strong is also the parachute supplier for the Starchaser X-Prize team, who are using a steerable parachute for their capsule recovery.
Our parachute is a 64’ diameter round chute, extracted by a 9’ to 15’ diameter drogue, depending on application details. It turns out that we use a parachute basically the same size as the mercury capsule, because our entire vehicle landing weight is only a bit heavier than just the capsule. For our first test drop, we will have the drogue on a static line underneath a helicopter, but for free flights the drogue will be cannon-ejected, as on the subscale vehicle. Read More

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Dr. Peter H. Diamandis has been selected as the winner of the World Technology Network's (WTN) World Technology Award for Space, an award recognizing his vast achievements in the emerging commercial space and public spaceflight arena.
Dr. Diamandis has founded or co-founded ten leading companies and non-profit organizations in the space field most notably the X PRIZE Foundation (www.xprize.org), Zero Gravity Corporation (www.zerogcorp.com), Space Adventures (www.spaceadventures.com) and the International Space University (www.isunet.edu). Diamandis is founder and chairman of the X PRIZE, a $10 million prize awarded to the first private group to build and fly a three-person spaceship to 100 km and repeat the trip within two weeks. He is also the CEO of Zero Gravity Corporation, which will bring the experience of weightless parabolic flights to the general public this fall utilizing a specially modified Boeing 727 aircraft. Read More

chabot imageThe X PRIZE Foundation has been selected as the winner of the World Technology Networks (WTN) Corporate World Technology Award for Space, an award recognizing the non-profit foundationÕs tireless efforts to spawn a new groundbreaking industry and educate the public about commercial space travel.
Over the past year the X PRIZE has taken the lead in supporting and promoting a new commercial space industry in the private sector. The Foundations chairman and founder is Dr. Peter Diamandis, who also received the WTN personal World Technology Award for Space. This is the first time in the history of the World Technology Awards that a Company and its Chairman have been selected as winners in the same year.
The X PRIZE Foundation is a non-profit educational organization, with headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. Supported by private donations and the St. Louis Community, the foundation's mission is to provide incentives in the private sector to make space travel frequent and affordable for the general public. A winner of the X PRIZE Competition is expected within the next 9-15 months. Read More

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Armadillo Aerospace News: Big engine mounts, 50% tests
chabot imageWe debated the exact engine mounting strategy for the big vehicle for some time, but we settled on a simple solution that wastes a bit of weight, but works out conveniently. The initial test flights will be with 5.5” diameter engines with 2” diameter throats, but the final engines will be much larger. We built mounting plates that clamp to the bottom of the tank manway flange on the inside, and are supported by two ¾” thick studs on the outside. To attach to the tank, we cut ¾” coupling nuts at an angle, and welded them to 3” by 3” squares of perforated metal. These squares will be bonded to the tank with epoxy / chopped glass fiber. The engines will be canted with angled shims above the mounting plate, just like the smaller vehicle. Read More

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Armadillo Aerospace News: FMC visit, poisoned catalyst, vehicle work
chabot imageWe had an all day meeting on Tuesday with three FMC representatives, who we are still trying to convince to sell 90% peroxide to us. We showed them our shop and test site, and went over everything we are doing. We also learned a few interesting bits from them:
Buffalo Electro Chemical Corp (BECCO) is mentioned in a lot of early literature on peroxide from the 50’s. I didn’t know that FMC had actually acquired them in the early days.
FMC’s dislike for polyethylene containers for 90% peroxide is mostly due to what can happen in a fire – molten PE can go into solution with peroxide and detonate. In normal operation, there is some danger of embrittlement in long term storage, but there isn’t any actual incompatibility. There was an incident where a train containing a tank car of 70% peroxide followed by a car full of PE pellets derailed. After some fires started and some PE melted, it went boom. Read More

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Armadillo Aerospace News: Digital IO board, Big vehicle work, 50% H2O2 success
chabot imageWe were doing a dry test run on the small vehicle when we noticed that the drogue ejection actuator was behaving very erratically. It turned out to be a solder blob that had landed on the PC104 board during the re-soldering of our secondary power input. Our attempt to repair it wound up killing the entire board, so I replaced it with a newer IO board (a WinSystems UIO-48). This board didn’t seem to work at all, but after some investigation, we found that it was functioning correctly, but that it just couldn’t drive the 15 mA needed to trigger the opto-isolators on our driver board. Looking at the specs, it only claims to source 2.5 mA, so it isn’t surprising. What was surprising was that the first board we were using also only listed 2.5 mA source, so we don’t see how that worked at all. The board (a WinSystems IO-48) must have additional buffering, but we decided to change vendors and get a board that was actually rated for what we were using. Read More

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