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'Anomaly' ruins attempt

Armadillo Aerospace's Mod rocket craft tried to lift off on its return flight, but the flight failed. During its launch on the first leg of the flight, some observers had remarked about a pop that might have signaled a "hard start," and that may have figured in the failure.

The X Prize Foundation's Will Pomerantz reported from the field that during its prelaunch checks, Armadillo found that "there was some fuel somwhere where there wasn't meant to be fuel," but decided to go ahead with the attempt anyway.

When the rocket started to rise from its pad for the return flight, the folks at the launch site knew right away that something was wrong. "Standing from here, we could heatr some anomalous pops," Pomerantz said.

The ascent was aborted, and the Mod fell back to the ground. Pomerantz reported that the engine chamber was cracked, and as a result the rocket is "not flightworthy." There was not enough time to make repairs and try another launch during this morning's time frame.

"The mood here is a little somber, but still exciting," launch commentator Patrick Beatty said. At least one more opportunity remains for Armadillo to go after the $350,000 prize in Level 1 of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge - and Transterrestrial Musing's Rand Simberg reports that there could be two more attempts.

It doesn't sound as if Armadillo will try for the more difficult Level 2 contest, which carries a $1 million prize.

Last updated 12:17 p.m. ET