Rocket Racers take to the skies in Tulsa

Yesterday was the QuikTrip Air and Rocket Racing Show in Tulsa, featuring the first public flights of two X-Racer vehicles at the same time. (There had been previous test flights not open to the public, although anyone around the Tulsa airport late Friday looking up at the right time could have seen the two on a test flight.) Here’s a video of one of the vehicles during the first of two flights Saturday afternoon: the voices are of Miles O’Brien, who emceed the event; RRL co-founder Peter Diamandis; and Jim Bridenstine, executive director of the host institution, the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, and an owner of an RRL team.

The event allowed the Rocket Racing League to showcase their vehicles and talk about other developments, including a iPhone game that will be available next month (with an iPad version to follow in June.) The league was a little hazy about their future plans, beyond doing a series of increasingly-ambitious demonstration flights through the end of next year, although they did not announce when the next demo flight would be. By early 2012, Diamandis said, the league would be ready to begin actual competitive races. Skeptics will note that the league has pushed back the date of actual races multiple times over the last several years.

Yesterday demonstrated that the racers, while impressive, still aren’t quite ready for full-scale competitive racing. While the first set of flights went well, the second set, about two hours later, ended early: neither racer appeared to relight their engines after the initial takeoff burn. Both landed safely, and there was no sign of problems with either vehicle when they were towed over the league’s tent for the public to view closeup. RRL hasn’t yet disclosed what caused the second set of flights to be cut short. (Update: RRL spokesperson Diane Murphy said Sunday the truncated flight was caused a computer glitch that caused an alarm that shut off the engine in one of the aircraft. Both landed as a precaution, but a later check showed that it was a false alert and not an issue with the engine or other part of the vehicle.)

3 comments to Rocket Racers take to the skies in Tulsa

  • I tried to stream this on SAT but was unsuccessful beyond frozen sequential stills, so thank you for this vid.

    I am very excited about this league specifically and the technology in general! I would enjoy an enhancement that would increase the competition ‘thrill’ and would drive the technology also: make the leading edge/nose/cockpit airframe members to be comprised of materials/components that would withstand a rocket exhaust plume, and then have the competion allow drafting/dogfighting versus parallel course runs.

    I would love to see if run at the tracks/venues prior at F-1 auto races, at least at the races that have the ‘room’ to allow such an event to occur.

    My best to the league and all of New Space.

    John Kazeva: Shuttle-ELV-ISS-Orion “old space” Human Spaceflight Hardware Payload/Cargo Integration Engineer

  • I truly look forward to this league and all the technolgical advances it may bring to airframes. I envision racing would bring innovation to safety in the area of cockpit survivability similar to the way NASCAR and F-1 has done with the (NASCAR) HANS and F-1 driver compartment crash testing.
    I know Langley (NASA LaRC) has a ‘drop-test’ facility for cockpit survivability, I imagine they would welcome ‘new work’ in ensuring RRL cockpits are survivable crew compartments.
    If RRL innovation resulted in a survivable cockpit, imagine how that could be adapted to helicopter, single engine aircraft and even Personal jet/sub-orbital rocket powered ‘personal’ craft.

  • Rocket Racer would be more amazing if it could be powered by an aneutronic nuclear fusion reactor, propelling it at outstanding speeds that could thrust it to orbit.

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