The NewSpace Journal reports that Armadillo Aerospace is in hibernation mode. The story by Jeff Foust is based on remarks which Armadillo founder John Carmack made at the QuakeCon gaming convention, which took place in Dallas last week. (Carmac is also the founder and technical director of ID Software.)

Carmac has put about $8 million of his own money into Armadillo Aerospace over the years, but that spending has slowed as he concentrates more on his software business. A setback came in January, with the loss of Armadillo’s Stig-B rocket when the main parachute failed to open following a launch from New Mexico’s Spaceport America. There has been no visible activity from Armadillo since January, so the latest comments came as no surprise. If outside investment is not found, Carmac says he intends to wind the company down further.

Armadillo, which is based at Caddo Mills Airport just east of Dallas, made rapid progress while competing in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, funded by NASA’s Centennial Challenges. Since then, the company has had trouble finding a path forward, with a number of false starts including a rocket-powered aircraft for the Rocket Racing League (also currently in hibernation). Armadillo also developed the Morpheus lander for NASA, a follow-on to its Lunar Lander Challenge work.

Given the number of successful vehicles that came out of the Lunar Lander Challenge, with a relatively small government investment, it’s unfortunate that funding for similar challenges has not been forthcoming. Congress has shown little interest in space-technology prizes, however.

At one time, NASA hoped that its Centennial Challenges program would receive up to $34 million per year, but the program received just $9.7 million in Fiscal Year 2005, followed by nothing at all in FY2006. It received another $12 million in FY2007, but no funding again in FY 2008, 2009, and 2010. Funding levels for FY 2011 through 2013 are harder to extract from NASA budget documents, but it is obvious that Centennial Challenges is currently running on fumes. For Fiscal Year 2014, NASA is requesting $5 million and will likely receive less.

Much of the remaining Centennial Challenges funding is going toward green-energy development and Unmanned Air Vehicles, rather than space technology. NASA’s most recent attempt at a space-launch prize, the Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge, was shut down before it started.

Armadillo had an agreement with Space Adventures to develop a two-seat VTOL rocket called Hyperion. It appears that Space Adventures provided little (if any) funding, however. It’s unknown whether Space Adventures will attempt to partner with another suborbital company if Armadillo falls by the wayside. Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace already have their own marketing networks, and vehicle developers might question what Space Adventures brings to the table, given how little it did for Armadillo.

Written by Astro1 on August 5th, 2013 , Armadillo Aerospace

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *