Since I own an ad agency that specializes in aviation clients, I read (skim) way too many flying magazines and newspapers. I try to stay up on everything out there, so it was like getting kicked in the head by a ticked-off mule when I read about the upstart ROCKET RACING LEAGUE coming to a sky near you.
Yes, you read that right. Guys racing rocket powered aircraft around a closed course. Bet it’s not a coincidence that these racing rockets will be made in – where else – Mojave, California, which is ground zero to the exploding (no pun intended) commercial space travel industry.
So what the hell is rocket racing anyway? Well, this is so new – and so out there – I cannot possibly describe it fully in a blog post. I recommend you visit the Rocket Racing League website for complete details.
But here is the nutshell version:
The Rocket Racing League is an aerospace entertainment organization which combines the competition of racing with the excitement of rocketry. Each rocket-powered vehicle, or "X-Racer", will be based on an existing airframe, which will be modified to carry a 1,500 pound thrust rocket engine burning liquid oxygen (LOX) and kerosene. The first-generation of Mark-1 X-Racers will reach maximum speeds of more than 320 mph on a course that is one mile high, two miles long and one-half mile across.While the action in the air ought to be a rush, there is a ground element to rocket racing that may be even more thrilling:
X-Racers will have the ability to be rapidly refueled, with initial refueling times on the order of 5 to 10 minutes per pit stop. Each vehicle will be capable of approximately 4 minutes of intermittent engine boost and 10 minutes of un-powered (glide) flight, allowing for 3-4 laps around the course between pit stops.So every 3-4 laps, every racer must dive in, refuel and relaunch without "trading paint", as they say in NASCAR. This ought to me interesting indeed.
One notable pilot with a legendary name has already signed on to pilot an X-racer. Erik Lindbergh, grandson of Charles Lindbergh and an experienced commercial glider and test pilot is also a spokesman for the league.
The Rocket Racing League plans to have a debut exhibition race at the X PRIZE Cup event in September 2006 in New Mexico. In the following 6 months, races at an additional two air shows and two auto race events are planned to take place, yielding the semi-finals at the Reno Air Races and a championship event in New Mexico at the X-Prize Cup 2007. There will be a total of six racing venues for the year. Plans for 2008 expand the circuit to include approximately seven venues, followed by approximately ten venues in 2009. Starting in year three, the Rocket Racing League will procure additional venues with the goal of keeping approximately one third of the venues outside of the United States, preferably in countries with viable X PRIZE Cup teams.