Monday, November 07, 2005

Rocket Racing League

It sounds like science fiction, and I haven't read about it in the newspaper or any of the blogs I read regularly, but the BBC and several other media outlets are reporting on it, so it must be true. Peter Diamandis, the money behind the X-prize, which encouraged more than a half dozen teams to work on development of vehicles that could safely and repeatedly reach the edge of space, has announced the next step in private space development. He's starting the Rocket Racing League, a race series that will bring exciting competitive rocket races to airports around the country and eventually around the world.

They had a public demonstration at the X Prize Cup and Personal Spaceflight Expo in Las Cruces at the beginning of October, and later in the month showcased a test flight of the EZ-Rocket:

October 21, 2005 - The Rocket Racing League™, announced the successful completion of a detailed performance flight test research program for the EZ-Rocket rocket plane culminating in two exciting and aggressive public demonstration flights. The EZ-Rocket, precursor to the X-Racer™ now under development, made three flights out of Las Cruces, NM at the 2005 X PRIZE Cup events, two of these on the same day. The flights included three successful engine relights during flight and a maximum altitude reached of 8,756 feet. This accomplishment is a significant milestone for the vehicle and for the Rocket Racing League.

The point (obviously?) is to get people excited about space development. The league will fund develpment and production of ten initial rockets. The first few should be able to start racing in 2006, and the full fleet should be going in 2007. Diamandis hopes that other groups will develop their own rockets and enter them in the series. The rockets will be operated by independent companies, and will compete for a final cup annually in New Mexico.

I think these guys have the right idea. It will only take a few billionaires to put enough money into developing visible civilian applications of space to move development forward far enough that space development will be commercially viable. And making it sexy and exciting, and apparently dangerous will attract attention. The Rocket Races will look edge-of-your-seat scary, but if they can keep it actually safe, people will be happy to take trips to space, and spend time in space hotels.

And that'll lead to enough serious development that more commercial applications will become affordable, and other uses will drive development of yet more vehicles and technology.

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