Frustration in New Mexico
October was also the month of the X-Prize Cup, which featured Armadillo Aerospace's attempt to win the Northrup Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. I won't go into detail here, but sadly the LLC prizes are still up for grabs. Armadillo Aerospace(AA) got remarkably close to winning the LLC 1 challenge, but was ultimately stymied by engine problems, especially a hard start which shattered their engine's graphite nozzle and pretty much put the kibosh on further flights at the challenge. The details of AA's trials and tribulations can be found here. The entrepreneurial space industry is still young. There is still much learning to be done and it suffers a bit from a paucity of flight hardware. In almost all cases, flight hardware consists of single flight article per team with limited spares. As the industry matures, this will undoubtedly change, although right now teams would benefit from a series of standard issue engines or at least open-source style standard designs. ITAR probably wouldn't allow that, but on the other hand, who in their right mind would build an ICBM with reusable LOX-alcohol engines?
By the way, the Northrup Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge patch at the top of the post is courtesy of the X-prize Foundation. Thanks Sarah!