Rocket Racing League Announces First Team

From Mark Reiff <markreiff@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date Mon, 30 Jan 2006 16:49:55 -0600


"Rocket Racing League Announces First Team"

: Two F-16 fighter pilots have tossed their hats into a high-flying
: ring as the first team to join the nascent Rocket Racing League.

: Pilots Robert "Bobaloo" Rickard and Don "Dagger" Grantham, of
: Phoenix, Arizona, announced their Leading Edge Rocket Racing team
: and presented a $100,000 deposit to league officials during a
: presentation here Monday.

: "We consider it a huge, exciting thing to be on the leading edge
: of our new sport," Rickard said, adding that he and Grantham
: continue to fly F-16 jets with the U.S. Air Force reserves. "It's
: kind of a unique to talent [to fly]."

: To race in the rocket league, Leading Edge pilots and their
: competitors are destined to race for best times and prize money
: while zooming through a three-dimensional race course that comes
: complete with refueling pit stops. The league's X-racer rocket
: planes are based on the EZ-Rocket design developed by XCOR
: Aerospace in Mojave, California.

: Based in Las Cruces, New Mexico, the Rocket Racing League formed
: last year to meld rocket aircraft and the auto racing format into
: a completely new competitive sport. Co-founders Peter Diamandis
: and Granger Whitelaw hope the sport will encourage interest in
: rocket technology and human spaceflight in a way unavailable to
: larger government space agencies.

: "[Spaceflight] should be sexy, it should be edgy and fun," said
: Diamandis, who also founded the $10 million Ansari X Prize
: competition for private, manned suborbital spaceflight, as well as
: the Zero Gravity Corp. for commercial weightless flights aboard a
: modified airplane, in an interview. "It should be more like Star
: Wars and Star Trek, and that's what private enterprise can do."

: The rocket league's first Mark-1 X-racer - featuring a modified
: airframe built by Velocity Aircraft and a single liquid oxygen and
: kerosene rocket engine - will debut during the October 2006
: X Prize Cup in Las Cruces.

: A contest is underway to name that rocket vehicle, league
: officials said.

: With only four minutes worth of fuel aboard and 10 minutes of
: unpowered flight available, X-racer pilots will be challenged to
: fire their rocket engines at vital times to overtake competitors
: before having to land and refuel during a planned 90-minute race.

: In addition to announcing the league's first team, Diamandis and
: Whitelaw also launched an official call for new competitors and
: four additional race venues.

: At least 10 different teams - of which Leading Edge is the first
: - are expected to compete in the Rocket Racing League's first full
: season in 2007, league officials said. No less than six courses
: will be laid out for the competition's first year, with four more
: to follow in the 2008 season, they added.

: Prospective teams must lay down a $100,000 deposit - to be put
: toward the group's Mark-1 X-racer - as well as be able to cover
: the rocket ship's $1.2-million cost and annual operating costs of
: up to $1 million. Once chosen, the teams will function
: independently, and are responsible for all hiring, training and
: meeting requirements set by the league and the Federal Aviation
: Administration (FAA).

: Whitelaw, a two-time Indianapolis 500 champion team partner, said
: talks are currently underway with three additional groups
: - including a female pilot - which may result in additional league
: teams.

: "From our website alone, we've been approached by 50 different
: groups," Diamandis said, adding that they are being pared down to
: only the most serious contenders.

: Two venues - the Reno Air Races held yearly in September at the
: Reno Stead Airport in Reno, Nevada and the annual X Prize Cup in
: October - have been tapped for the Rocket Racing League's semi-
: finals and national championship contests, respectively, Diamandis
: added.

: Individual cities, airport authorities or other entities can
: compete for the initial four open slots, league officials said.
: Letters of intent for new teams and prospective race courses are
: due by March 31, with written proposals due by May 31, 2006, they
: added.

: Meanwhile, Leading Edge co-founder Grantham said his team has
: begun seeking pit personnel to pilot, service and refuel their
: vehicle during future races.

: "This is a new age of flight...we've got one goal," Grantham said.
: "We're going to win, we're going to be champions."

Mark Reiff <markreiff@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>

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