Texas based-rocket developer Armadillo Aerospace has won the $350,000 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge (NGLLC) level-one prize and jointly announced a suborbital tourism venture with the Rocket Racing company.
Armadillo's rocket won the level-one prize on 25 October at Las Cruces International airport in New Mexico by ascending to 150ft (46m) and moved 100m sideways during a 90s hover to make a powered descent for a landing, and then repeating that flight in reverse. The NGLLC is divided into two levels - the second requires a 180s hover before landing on a surface with craters and boulders to mimic lunar terrain. The 180s hover is to simulate a real mission and the prize money for the second level is $1 million. NASA's Centennial Challenges programme supplies the prize money.
On the same day Armadillo and Rocket Racing announced a joint venture for vertical take-off, vertical landing suborbital flights from New Mexico's Spaceport America. Rocket Racing chief executive Granger Whitelaw says: "Thanks to Armadillo's ships and New Mexico's spaceport, human beings will be treated to the most stellar views in the galaxy."
Test flights are expected next year from Spaceport America using technology from Armadillo's NGLLC winning vehicle. Nine teams competed in the Northrop-sponsored, New Mexico government-supported, NASA-funded, X Prize Foundation-managed competition. The teams include Acuity Technologies, BonNova, High Expectations Rocketry and Paragon.