WASHINGTON — Armadillo Aerospace of Rockwall, Texas, earned $350,000 in NASA prize money during the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge in Las Cruces, N.M. The challenge is a two-level, $2 million competition designed to accelerate commercial space technology and is sponsored by NASA’s Centennial Challenges program. After Armadillo’s $350,000 first place win for level one this year, $1.65 million remains as available prize money for future competitions.
Armadillo’s winning vehicle successfully demonstrated some of the technologies needed for a lunar lander capable of ferrying payloads or humans back and forth between lunar orbit and the lunar surface. During the first day of competition at Las Cruces International Airport on Oct. 24, the vehicle rose to a height of 50 meters, translated to a landing pad 100 meters away while staying aloft for at least 90 seconds, landed safely and later repeated the flight.
Armadillo attempted to claim the $1 million first place prize for Level 2 on Oct. 25 with a larger vehicle designed to stay aloft for twice as long and land on simulated lunar terrain with craters and rocks, but they were not successful.
"We’re going to keep working towards Level Two, which we can hopefully compete for again soon." said John Carmack, the Armadillo team leader.
"By completing multiple flights in the matter of a few hours, Armadillo demonstrated a remarkable level of rocket engine reusability, a feature that will be essential to more efficient operations on the moon and beyond. The TrueZer0 team, a newcomer to rocket development, deserves a lot of credit for flying their vehicle to 50 meters on its first untethered flight. Armadillo and TrueZer0 represent the spirit of innovation that NASA hopes to encourage with the Centennial Challenges program," said Andy Petro, manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
The $350,000 prize won by Armadillo represents the largest prize yet awarded under NASA’s Centennial Challenge program. The Armadillo team will be recognized for their achievement at a ceremony in Washington next month.
Centennial Challenges is NASA’s prize program to promote technical innovation through competitions open to all Americans. The Lunar Lander Challenge is one of seven current competitions designed to tap the nation’s ingenuity in support of NASA’s goals. The program is managed by NASA’s Innovative Partnerships Program Office.
The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge is supported by the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, the State of New Mexico, and Northrop Grumman. The X PRIZE Foundation manages the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge for the NASA Centennial Challenges Program, which provides the $2 million prize purse for the competition.