Armadillo: “Can’t believe we were lucky 30 times”

Armadillo team members Russ Blink and Phil Eaton were manning the Armadillo staging area late this afternoon, as the 2007 X Prize Cup wound down. Eaton confirmed that they had suffered another hard start, this one more violent than their previous ones. While fuel valves closed off in time, the downward force of the hard start yanked the wiring for the liquid oxygen (LOX) valves loose before the valves could close, keeping them open at about 20%; that’s what fed the fire. Beyond the engine chamber, Eaton said that they had some wiring damaged and other minor miscellaneous items to repair, but said that, if needed, they could fly the same vehicle again in a week or so.

While they do know what happened, they still don’t know why it happened. The design, Eaton said, has flown 30 times before without anything like this happening. As Blink put it, “I can’t believe we were lucky 30 times.” Further work is needed to track down exactly what was different this time in New Mexico compared to all their previous successes elsewhere.

Eaton was optimistic about the long term. “Each time we fly we do a little better, learn a little bit more,” he said. He vowed that Armadillo would be back next year with some new and improved vehicles to go after the prize.

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