Rocket Racing League primed for blast off

How cool will this be? A group of bleeding edge aviators says it is on track to unveil and fly its first competition rocket aircraft and conduct its initial rocket race at the huge airshow, EAA AirVenture 2008 in Oshkosh, Wisc. July 29-Aug. 2.

The Rocket Racing aircraft are liquid oxygen rocket-powered jets based on the four-seat canard propeller-based experimental plane built by Velocity Aircraft. The jet engines are being built by Armadillo Aerospace and reportedly will launch the craft to 200MPH in under 15 seconds. The cockpit seats for all Rocket Racers will be reinforced to withstand impacts up to 20G load and other safety measures will be added using a methodology similar to that of F-1 and Indy Car to better protect pilots and passengers alike, the League said.

The idea is the aircraft will take off like a regular small airplane, blast into the sky and fly through a virtual course with twists, turns and straight-aways like a souped-up Indy or NASCAR racetrack in the sky. Racing League pilots see the course superimposed on helmet-mounted 3-D displays, while the crowd monitors the race from large-screen TVs on the ground.

According to an article in Air&Space magazine, in a rocket racing event, each aircraft flies its own private proficiency race: The pilot strives to make the most efficient use of the racer's fuel, which will produce thrust for no more than 200 seconds. And therein lies the real contest.

Because the individual race courses all differ, they considerably reduce the potential for a mid-air collision, a scenario that the Reno Air Racing Association in Nevada spends a great deal of time training pilots who race around ground pylons to avoid, the article noted.

The Rocket Racing League has been in the developmental and planning stages for about two years. It is the brainchild of X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis and two-time Indianapolis 500 champion team partner Granger Whitelaw.

The League will hold exhibition races at venues around the country later this year at the Reno National Championship Air Races (Reno, NV) - September 10-14 and Aviation Nation, Nellis AFB, (Las Vegas, NV) - November 8-9.

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