A Holiday in Space

Who's flying high and how to be a space tourist

Armadillo Aerospace

Founded: 2000
Nationality: USA
Vehicles: (none)
Capability: sub-orbital
First flight: TBC

Armadillo Aerospace was founded by computer games programmer John Carmack of iD Software (famous for the first person shooter, Doom). It’s a specialist in low-cost reusable rockets, building the engines for the Rocket Racing League as well as working on NASA and the US Air Force. Its public progress has been measured in the annual X-Prize Cup and the Google Lunar X-Prize, and it’s been contracted by Space Adventures to build a sub-orbital spacecraft.

This is expected to use Armadillo’s modular tube rocket technology in a single-stage, vertical take-off and vertical landing vehicle. This would be a deep throttling, regeneratively cooled, alcohol burning motor that will fly at sub-sonic speeds through the lower atmosphere, throttling up as air resistance decreases.


An artist's impression of Armadillo's test flight vehicle

Armadillo has conducted more than 200 test flights using over a dozen different vehicles.They’ve currently flown to 4,000ft and plan to break the 100,000ft barrier by the end of 2011.

There's no date yet for a first manned flight, but ultimately Armadillo plans to scale up its vehicle to place small satellites in orbit, followed by manned missions, eventually developing it into a fully reusable orbital spacecraft.

 Armadillo's current test vehicle in flight

Images courtesy Armadillo Aerospace