Lunar Lander Challenged

One small step for NASA, One giant leap for the X Prize

Revelation, reporting, remote review

Is there something to the rumor that Armadillo skimped on landing gear so they could compete in a fair contest next year? John Carmack wrote yesterday to the Alternative Rocketry discussion group:

Subject: Pixel lives!
Date: October 30, 2006 12:10:14 PM PST

We hydrotested everything to 600 psi on Saturday without any problems. There is a dent in one of the tanks where the roll thruster mount pushed in, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt the strength.

We should have new landing gear on tomorrow night, with a 3″ diameter sliding piston that should handle coming down at our worst case (non-crashing) velocity and orientation.

In-depth reporting from X Prize Cup by someone who was there: Private Spaceflight Industry Drawing Private, NASA Capital By Frank Morring, Jr. Aviation Week & Space Technology 10/28/2006

Grumbling and scoffing from someone who only watched the webcast: Space Daily OPINION SPACE – A Second Childhood For The Rocketeers by Jeffrey F. Bell Honolulu HI (SPX) Oct 27, 2006

Written by spacefaring

October 31, 2006 at 12:07 pm

Posted in lunar lander

4 Responses

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  1. Robin,
    I highly doubt they threw the competition. The incentives aren’t there. If they had pulled off a succesful win, they would’ve been a lot better off. John’s a nice guy. He’s been very helpful over the years. But I think the simplest answer is that he just really didn’t get a good chance to test the subsystem until the X-Prize cup, and he took the gamble.

    If I were in his shoes, I probably would’ve done some ground takeoff and landing tests under a slack tether before coming to the show, but I wasn’t in his shoes. We will definitely make sure though that as soon as we’ve got some good, solid tether tests out of the way, the next stop is ground takeoffs and landings.

    I was always skeptical that his gear would be up to the Level 2 terrain, but I was personally rather surprised that they failed on the Level 1 flights as easily as they did. John’s got a talented team. He’ll figure out the landing gear situation, regardless of how many iterations it takes him.

    Here’s to hoping ours work as well as designed.


    Jonathan Goff

    October 31, 2006 at 5:07 pm

  2. The phenolic insulator which broke was visible in the June update. The shock absorbers don’t have much screw-in depth but more importantly the phenolic itself isn’t supported where it does.

    It’s just about plausible this was a conscious decision to limit the on leverage at the base of the tanks should they ever hit at a bad angle, but using a 3″ piston might tend to discount that.

    In the October 3 update it looked as if they might have changed the support to the phenolic somewhat,

    but on reflection it’s just the drip guard they had previously mentioned. One thing which didn’t look in it’s favour in the more recent photo is that the spherical skid makes the leg even longer than before, so without the phenolic tearing apart the leg was even more more sensitive to sidewards loads.

    Unless I’m mistaken Mastens system still only has one damped degree of freedom per leg, but having three different mounting points (as well as not having to interface directly with a pressure vessel) is a major benefit.

    Nicholas Lynch

    November 1, 2006 at 12:04 pm

  3. >Is there something to the rumor that Armadillo skimped on
    >landing gear so they could compete in a fair contest next

    Don’t be silly. We just didn’t have time to do a proper test series on them. If we hadn’t been rained on the Sunday and Monday before the cup, we likely would have found the issue and cobbled something together that would do the job before the show.

    I finished fabricating all the parts for our new gear on Tuesday, we should be doing a bunch of angled and swinging drop tests this weekend.

    John Carmack

    John Carmack

    November 2, 2006 at 9:31 pm

  4. See, I said they would never ever admit it. 🙂

    okay, John, I believe you… who starts these silly rumors, anyway?

    happy landings this weekend!


    November 3, 2006 at 8:33 pm

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