We're off to the rocket races!

That's the call from Granger Whitelaw, President of the Rocket Racing League. The group announced today it is establishing a world headquarters in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Instead of racing high performance cars around a ground track, the Rocket Racing League's track will host piloted, rocket-powered X-Racer vehicles zooming around a three-dimensional track that reaches into the sky.

Whitelaw is a two-time Indianapolis 500 champion team partner. The League's mission is to serve as a technology accelerator in the areas of airframe, propulsion and spacecraft design.

New partnership

Working with the state and the city of Las Cruces, Whitelaw told SPACE.com, the group is being given its own taxi lane off one side of the Las Cruces airport.

The partnership announced today also spells out the building of 10 X-Racer hangars, a 50,000-square-foot office to support League operations and the donation of some 12 acres of land, Whitelaw said. In addition, a funding package is being made available to help in infrastructure development.

"We're off and running," Whitelaw said, with construction activity to start in the next 60 to 90 days, given architectural go-aheads. Upwards of 200 employees will staff the League's headquarters with 10 hangars on site to support 10 teams of X-Racer competitors.

X Prize Cup

The Rocket Racing League will exist as the primary race support and hosting element of the X Prize Cup to be held annually in New Mexico.

The first full-scale pathfinder Mark-1 X-Racer was flown at last year's Countdown to the X Prize Cup in Las Cruces. The first race is planned for October 2006 at the official inaugural X Prize Cup.

Flown at last October's event was the Mojave, California-based XCOR Aerospace EZ-Rocket, piloted by former shuttle astronaut, Rick Searfoss. The EZ-Rocket is the precursor vehicle to the Mark-1 X-Racer, which is currently under development with planned test flights in the Spring and Summer of 2006.

The Mark-1 will utilize a modified airframe from Velocity Aircraft and a single 1,500 - 1,800 pound liquid oxygen and kerosene rocket engine. The Rocket Racing League has entered into a design and engineering partnership with XCOR Aerospace and Velocity Aircraft to build the first generation of X-Racers.

New Mexico is also working concurrently on the development of a Southwest Regional Spaceport to be located outside Las Cruces. Last December it was announced that Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic spaceliner operations will utilize the still-to-be-built spaceport to fly paying passengers on suborbital treks.