X Prize Cup Starts Countdown For October Liftoff
The X Prize Cup logo. Image
Credit: X Prize Foundation

The personal spaceflight revolution is headed for a liftoff this October in New Mexico.

Officials of the X Prize Cup announced today in Las Cruces, New Mexico that a roster of rocket activities will take to the air October 4-9 at various locations in Southern New Mexico, including Las Cruces and Alamogordo.

Last April, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson declared the October dates as X Prize Cup Week in New Mexico. He noted that it would be a week-long showcasing of personal spaceflight projects, test-flight activities, educational outreach, as well as aircraft fly-ins and tributes to the history of the state's unique role in space exploration.

Now onboard and ready to show their wares at the upcoming Countdown to the X Prize Cup are such entrepreneurial rocket groups as: Armadillo Aerospace, XCOR Aerospace, Starchaser Industries, The da Vinci Project, TGV Rockets, as well as organizations that will blast off numbers of homebuilt rockets.

The Countdown to the X Prize Cup is prelude to a yearly event designed to spotlight the emerging personal spaceflight business, said Peter Diamandis, Founder and Chairman of the X Prize Foundation.

Multitude of vehicles

Last year, Mojave Aerospace Ventures, led by Burt Rutan and Paul Allen, built and flew the world's first private spacecraft - SpaceShipOne -- to the edge of space. Thanks to back-to-back flights of the piloted rocket plane, the Mojave, California-based group snagged the $10 million Ansari X Prize.

"It isn't enough for the industry that we're all passionate about to just have a single vehicle," Diamandis said. "It's critical to build an industry that has a multitude of vehicles that are opening up the personal spaceflight industry," he said.

Diamandis said that the vision is for the public to come to an X Prize Cup in the next few years and witness for themselves over the course of four or five days as many as 50 flights to space. "That's the vision...that's the goal," he said.

"This is your spaceflight program. Our goal is to grow to an event that does bring tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of people," Diamandis said.

Fingers-in-the-ears event

Several officials from groups taking part in the October festivities said they were drawing closer to flights of their respective vehicles.

"We're looking to launch our first rocket into space in October next year," said Steve Bennett, head of Starchaser Industries.

At this year's event, the Bennett's Starchaser group is going to fire up a booster engine. And it is sure to be a fingers-in-the-ears event.

"This thing kicks out something like three-tons of thrust," Bennett said. "We're looking at a flame of about 80 feet long...lots of fire and smoke."

Ready to fly

Brian Feeney, team leader of the Canada-based da Vinci Project, said "sometime in the summer of 2006 we'll be launching our first manned flights to space." The da Vinci Project is displaying associated launch hardware at the Countdown to the X Prize Cup.

Jay Edwards of Rocketplane Limited of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma said they are bringing a mockup of their suborbital vehicle. They expect to start a flight test program of their craft in October of next year, with passenger flights to start in January-February 2007, he said.

Also on hand at today's press briefing was Russ Blink of Armadillo Aerospace. The group has committed to doing demo flights at the Countdown to the X Prize cup event this October.

"I'm one of the few people that have actually ridden on one of the rockets that we've built," Blink reported, but quickly added: "I went three feet in the air...but I did come down safely. I'm putting that under my belt and I'm ready to fly up into space."