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A real rocket race

— The Rocket Racing League - a still-developing aerial racing association that's been compared to "NASCAR with rockets" - has set the stage for actual competition with today's announcement that a second team has entered the fray. The Bridenstine Rocket Racing Team, led by a veteran Navy pilot, will go up against the Leading Edge team and as many as four others in rocket-powered contests due to begin a year from now.

The newly entered team takes its name from its leader, Navy Lt. James Bridenstine, who has nine years of experience with E-2C and F-18C jets. The team's secondary pilot and the chief of staff are Navy men as well. In contrast, the Leading Edge pilots are from the Air Force, which should set the stage for a "good-natured competition," said Granger Whitelaw, the league's president and chief executive officer.

Whitelaw said there's a clear pattern emerging in the types of pilots who are getting involved in league competition.

"The profile we're seeing emerge is that these guys are real heroes," he told me. "They are exactly what you want to embody in a professional athlete and a competitor. They're clean-cut, all-American, highly trained, highly skilled pilots ... with a barnstormer attitude."

The rocket-powered Mark1 X-Racers to be used in the competition are still under development, but Whitelaw said the first teams should take possession of their aircraft sometime in the next four or five months. The cost of each racer has been estimated at $1.2 million.

Whitelaw said he was talking with four other teams about joining the league - and further announcements, including the league's "production partner" and next year's inaugural racing schedule, are in the works.

Some of those announcements could come during next month's X Prize Cup in New Mexico. The league plans to show off some of its hardware at the event - and eventually conduct its rocket racing finals at the annual X Prize Cup. Stay tuned for race updates from Las Cruces.