Armadillo Aerospace wants to take every opportunity to win $350,000 of NASA's money, even if they have to fly their Mod rocket craft in the dark, according to Brett Alexander, the X Prize Foundation's executive director for space prizes and the X Prize Cup.
Alexander also noted that Armadillo has been having persistent problems with "hard starts" - that is, having too much propellant in the chamber when the rocket engine lights up. That makes for a rough liftoff and puts stress on the engine. The hard starts occurred each time the rocket took off from the halfway point of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.
Will the problem still persist now that the engine from Armadillo's Pixel craft has been installed in the Mod? We'll find out when Armadillo makes today's second attempt to win the Level 1 prize in the Lunar Lander Challenge. The 150-minute clock starts ticking around 12:45 p.m. MT.
"They are determined to keep trying" for the $350,000 prize, Alexander said, rather than turning their attention to the $1 million prize for a more ambitious Level 2 flight - which would require putting the engine back in Pixel.
Team members, contest organizers, the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration are discussing the options for yet another run at the prize in case this afternoon's attempt fails. Among the options: trying again after the official close of the X Prize air and rocket show, or scheduling an attempt on Monday.
Neither of those options are that attractive. If it's tonight, "it would probably necessitate flying in the dark," Alexander said. If it's Monday, that would require adjusting schedules at the home base for this year's cup, Holloman Air Force Base.
While officials discuss the options, Armadillo is getting ready for this afternoon's crucial launch - which may or may not be its last gasp for this year's challenge.