Hot Rocket Planes From the X Prize Cup Showcase

While the rocket races will have to wait a year, inventors showed off plenty of private space technology at this year's X Prize Cup showcase
Armadillo Aerospace, led by videogame programming whiz John Carmack, plans to launch a manned suborbital rocket by the end of next year. Unfortunately for us, Carmack left his spaceship-in-progress back home in the shop. He did, however, show an early Armadillo design for a stainless-steel, hydrogen-peroxide-powered rocket engine [left]. In addition, he brought his aluminum, liquid-oxygen-and-ethanol engine that will power the suborbital ship [right]. Armadillo welder James Bauer [center] holds the engine design used by the small-scale Armadillo rocket flown at the X Prize Cup.

The X Prize Cup, an annual rocket race and showcase set to touch down every October in Las Cruces, New Mexico, held its inaugural gathering on October 9. Founder Peter Diamandis, whose X Prize Foundation last year awarded $10 million for the first private manned spaceship, plans for the XP Cup to be a chance for space fans to meet the engineers and pilots of a new generation of commercial spaceships and to watch them compete in rocket races both in and out of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Yet so far only one company, Scaled Composites in Mojave, California, has launched a person into space without government help funding, and the first rocket races are scheduled for next October’s XP Cup. Therefore, with notable exceptions, most of the ships on display were mock-ups or small-scale technology demonstrators of proposed spacecraft, not full-scale working models.

Click here to see these prototype spaceships and to learn more about how and when they’ll fly.

one-third-scale model rocket of the World War II-era German V2 rocket
solid-fueled SpaceLoft
capsule-and-rocket-block combo
full-scale model of the V2
Starchaser's three-man space capsule
Rocketplane Ltd. in Oklahoma
XCOR's EZ Rocket