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Rocket Racing League Ready To Launch

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the like-nascar-with-patents dept.

Transportation 79

capnkr sends us to Wired for the story of the long-delayed Rocket Racing League, which we discussed when it launched in 2005. It seems the league is finally ready to get off the ground. At a press conference at the Yale Club in New York, RRL CEO Granger Whitelaw said rocket-powered planes will fly their first exhibition race in August at the EAA AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, with at least three more races to follow in 2008. "The Rocket Racing League on Monday detailed plans to move from a sci-fi fantasy to a full-fledged commercial enterprise — including 'vertical drag races' using rockets."

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oh yea (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23073508)

anal sex won't do anything but make your dick stink

Space future? (2, Interesting)

billy901 (1158761) | more than 6 years ago | (#23073520)

They could possibly use this idea for future space technology testing. They could use a much smaller version of the rockets and see how well it works with earth parameters. Nasa has programs where they test rockets by racing them like this, but it's not nearly as well funded as this because this rocket program with Nasa is very experimental.

Re:Space future? (3, Informative)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 6 years ago | (#23073884)

That's exactly what they plan, having worked their table a couple of years ago at the X-Prize Cup. Peter Diamandis (X-Prize Foundation) and the rest of that gang are involved so their ultimate goal is to have a testing bed for new rocket technologies in the same way that Formula 1 and the rest develop automotive technologies.

Of course this is all with the provision that concept works in the first place... but then again I don't understand the popularity of watching car races either, so I can't really judge.

mamma (-1, Offtopic)

nawcom (941663) | more than 6 years ago | (#23073528)

vertical racing? that's what yo momma and i practice on every night! no-one can beat mah manhoods propulsion system any day y'all.

Re:mamma (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23073592)

I second that, little jewel jankins. And on that statement, I'm off to bed. Someone better suck me off tonight, and it fuck as well should be sloppy. where's mah hooch?

Re:mamma (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23073608)

squiggly drum cakes! that sounds like cum!

The rules (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23073534)

First one back to the ground wins!

Re:The rules (1)

The Ancients (626689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23073562)

First one back to the ground wins!

err - considering what we're talking about here, I don't know if I'd necessarily call getting back to the ground first 'winning'. Unless you call it the ultimate win, that is...

Re:The rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23073662)

First one back to the ground wins!

err - considering what we're talking about here, I don't know if I'd necessarily call getting back to the ground first 'winning'. Unless you call it the ultimate win, that is...

Perhaps you don't fully understand the competition. You place two teams 20 miles apart and the team that survives wins (though there isn't always a winner).

Re:The rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23073846)

First one to the ground wins, but bonus points if you can't complete it.

Re:The rules (0, Redundant)

Kagura (843695) | more than 6 years ago | (#23074502)

The thing that makes this sort of competition very worthwhile is the fact that the faster a rocket gains altitude, the faster it travels from the surface of the earth. This should not be understated.

Re:The rules (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23075624)

What is your point, exactly? That's just stating the fact that if it's moving faster, it's moving faster? Are you possibly referring to the fact that the atmosphere is thinner and therefor provides less resistance? Even if you are I don't see what you're getting at :P

I'm a yachtie... (4, Insightful)

The Ancients (626689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23073538)

...and I see plenty of coin being tossed about, both here in New Zealand, and especially in the U.S. and Europe circuits. For these guys $5-10m a year is nothing to throw away on their favourite pastime. This surely has to top them all for finding ways to part overgrown rich boys and their money!

What I really wonder (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 6 years ago | (#23074810)

Well, the mention of drag racing makes me think more of the car scene, and people tacking fake disc brakes (without calipers=, badly designed wings (my favourite are rear wings behind the rear wheels... on front drive cars;), and 5" exhausts (on a 1.1 non-turbo car), on a lemon and pretending that it makes it teh uber-racecar.

So, hmm, kinda makes me wonder... how long until we'll see people tacking fake rocket boosters on a second-hand crop-duster biplane? :P

Re:What I really wonder (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23075628)

Nothing wrong with having a rear wing on an FWD vehicle, it will still provide a bit of high speed stability... not much use for quarter mile drag racing of course.

Re:What I really wonder (3, Informative)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 6 years ago | (#23076070)

On your typical car, rear wings are completely ineffective unless speeds of 120-150MPH are reached. And at that point, it only starting to exert any significant down pressure. On production sports cars, the effective speed is somewhat lowered to 100-125.

In reality, the rear wing on most any streetable car is there strictly for cosmetics.

What's even more funny are the cars that have wings that pop up and down (some Porches and Crossfire, for example). The mechanism can't support more than 200lbs of downward force yet were supposed to believe it helps the handling of the vehicle. To be effective, these things really need to exert many, many hundreds, if not thousands of lbs of downward force. Remember, it needs to counteract the forces which are attempting to lift the vehicle off the ground. This is one of many reasons why breaking 200mph is so dang hard. It also explains why the 200-club is still so small, even at point in time.

Now, contrast that with wings on dragsters. Make note of where the wings are typically placed and the overall scale of it. Notice it is placed directly into or above the slipstream of the vehicle; which is in stark contrast to most production vehicles, where it is placed well under the slipstream of a vehicle at any legal street speed.

Downforce (1)

capnkr (1153623) | more than 6 years ago | (#23076442)

I lived in Indy for a few years, and worked for a guy who had a winning race team. I was told that the Indy cars, which weigh approx 1200 lbs at rest, produce over 6,000 lbs of effective downforce when running at speed.

This is due to the *overall* aerodynamics of the car. Not just because of the wings/spoilers, it is as much a factor of the underbody shape of the car as well.

I'm with the above poster, I don't see conventional street cars being able to use aerodynamic forces at the speeds they commonly run, not for downforce or handling reasons, at least. I wouldn't be surprised if the stock spoilers/wings on street cars are there simply for looks and 'gee whiz', and perhaps to improve fuel efficiency by changing the shape of the airflow around the car.

Re:What I really wonder (2, Insightful)

Fifth Earth (1172333) | more than 6 years ago | (#23085354)

*sigh*

You, like so many supposedly "rational" people, have fallen into the aerodynamics trap. Yes, 90% of bolt-on aftermarket aerodynamic devices are useless crap. On the other hand, the simple truth is that 1: almost everyone overestimates how fast you have to go to generate meaningful force from a well-designed wing, and 2: almost everyone overestimates how much force is needed to be meaningful.

Wings can produce significant downforce at speeds significantly less than 120 MPH. How do I know this? Basic real-world examples. Rally cars rarely top 100 mph, and yet feature prominent wings and other aero devices (it's worth noting that the sort of bizarre crap they stick all over rally cars also most closely resembles the exact sorts of modifications people criticize most on road cars--the difference of course being that rally teams know what they're doing and the crap actually works). If they didn't work, the teams wouldn't use them. Even Formula 1 cars spend most of their cornering time, when aero devices are most needed, at sub 120 mph speeds. In fact, a modern F1 car generates its own weight in downforce at around a mere 80 mph.

You say that wings have to produce many hundreds or even thousands of pounds of force to be meaningful. This is ridiculous. "Thousands of pounds of force" are only generated by the most extremely tuned cars--most common racing cars (nascar, rally cars, touring cars) produce far less. Yes, a F1 car can generate perhaps 3000 pounds of downforce at its highest speeds. However, ANY amount of downforce is valuable, even the 200 pounds you say Porsches can't handle more than. On a typical car, that's an extra 7%+ relative to the real weight of the car, a small but not trivial amount.

Besides, a wing doesn't have to produce net downforce to be useful. It can shape the airflow over the car to reduce or eliminate aerodynamic lift, a problem that plagues most production cars. A prime example is the older Audi TT, a car that was notorious for generating so much rear lift at freeway speeds that it was potentially unsafe. Later versions all came with a small spoiler that fixed this issue, before the car was totally redesigned. These changes don't have to be huge and dramatic to work--compare a Nissan 350z with the zero-lift package to the standard model. It's also worth noting that the zero-lift Nissan also has less aerodynamic drag than the normal model, which raises another point--aerodynamic devices aren't just for producing downforce, but can in some cases actually make the car more aerodynamic.

Re: the 200 mph club, the problem is not so much a matter of aerodynamic stability as it is just one of drag and horsepower. Yes, it is important to have a reasonably stable car at those speeds, but just look at a Bentley Flying Spur, which has no outwardly obvious aerodynamic devices at all (okay, so it "only" goes 195). The reason it doesn't go any faster is not because it's unstable--it's because the poor Bentley's "mere" 552 Hp can't push it any faster. Many older Le mans cars could top 200 mph, but they actually generated lift at those speeds (drivers had balls of titanium in those days). Stability is good, but it's not why 200 mph is uncommon, it's because you need a honking huge engine and few cars have that.

Dragsters are such an extreme example that they basically don't even matter to the argument. A vehicle that can reach speeds in excess of 300 mph within 400 meters, and which can accelerate at over 5.5 Gs, is not a reasonable comparison to anything one might consider a normal car. Yes, they raise their wings high up into the clean air to get maximum effectiveness, and this principle universally applies, but this doesn't mean that any wing that isn't ludicrously tall is useless. It just means that normal cars don't have the same ultra-extreme requirements of dragsters.

Okay, I'm done now.

clarification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23086506)

That was a good post, but I just wanted to add some clarification.

Re: the 200 mph club, the problem is not so much a matter of aerodynamic stability as it is just one of drag and horsepower...it's because you need a honking huge engine and few cars have that.
This is correct, but it's good to understand why it works out that way. The drag force on a vehicle (e.g. car, aircraft) is a function of the vehicle's velocity squared (except nearing the speed of sound in the fluid, which we're not talking about). Sounds bad, but it gets worse. The power required to overcome this drag (that is, maintain a given speed) is the drag function times velocity again, so the power required for a given speed is actually a function of velocity cubed.

That's why a well-streamlined car (Veyron, heh) can do ~150mph on ~250hp, but requires needs all its remaining 750hp to break 250mph.

That's why WWII fighter aircraft only went from ~350mph on ~1000hp around 1940 to ~450mph on ~2000hp, sometimes a little less but often much more, around 1945. And this speed increase includes major efforts to reduce drag during this period, in recognition of this very problem (and that of weight creep).

That's why ships' and aircrafts' most fuel-efficient cruising speed is lower (often significantly so) than their maximum speeds. They carry X amount of energy and can go farthest by avoiding large energy per time (i.e. power) since they can go nearly as fast, say 18 knots instead of 22, while burning fuel at only half the rate.

It also explains the utility of the "survival swim/stroke" technique: you can swim farthest on your limited store of energy (fat and glycogen) at the lowest possible speed. That's why the very slow, regular kicking stroke in a very relaxed state (wherein you even let your heat float in the water) is prescribed for open-water survival.

Power and drag are the most important general concepts in vehicle engineering outside of space travel, and even then atmospheric travel is a huge complicating factor in rocket engineering.

Re:What I really wonder (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 6 years ago | (#23089730)

*sigh*

You, like so many supposedly "rational" people, have fallen into the aerodynamics trap.


LOL. *sigh* What I stated is from a car designer specializing in aerodynamics. But I sure his math has fallen into your superior trap. Should I roll my eyes now or latter? LOL.

Rally cars rarely top 100 mph, and yet feature prominent wings and other aero devices

Your own statement indicates you've missed the boat. The wings on rally cars are prominent and they normally lift them higher so as to move them INTO the slipstream of the car (remember, like all wings, air must actually move OVER it to be effective). While the air is unstable, it still can produce a downward force. Given their speeds, an unstable downward force is still better than no downward force. By moving it higher, they are effectively reducing the speed required for the wing to become effective.

I suggest you find some videos of cars being aerodynamically tested with smoke. Notice at highway speed tests, the smoke is generally no where near the rear wing on a normal production car. For the wing to be effective, the smoke must be traveling directly over it, or under it (meaning it is outside the vehicle's slip stream, which is ideal placement; excluding drag).

The rest of your comment can be ignored because it is not about production streets cars, as was the topic. The body of F1 cars are specifically designed, including the under carriage to produce suction (sucking it to the ground) and are completely off topic, as is the rest of your post. Production cars are too high off the ground to benefit from this strategy, which then allows them to use small, more strategically placed wings to great effect.

As for the 200mph club, actually, HP is the easy part of the equation. It's well known how to roughly calculate the required HP to overcome estimated drag. The biggest problem people have is aerodynamic stability and traction on the salt flats...which is why wings and aerodynamics are important. As more and more production sports cars break the ~600hp (generally considered the rule of thumb lower limit), and are more and more aerodynamic, more production sports cars are joining the 200mph club.

I suggest you go out and do some more reading on the subject. By in large, wings on production vehicles are there strictly for cosmetics as the vehicle will normally never see an effective speed. Once poster did point out that they may be there to aid aerodynamic efficiency (fuel economy, and he was right). Yes, there may be exceptions as with any rule of thumb...but it seems you still missed the boat.

Re:What I really wonder (1)

LakeSolon (699033) | more than 6 years ago | (#23133238)

dammit. "Use 'em or lose 'em" indeed! My mod points had to disappear just before I read this post.

As the saying goes: Mod Parent Up.

Re:What I really wonder (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 6 years ago | (#23105530)

I had a 1990 VW Corrado with a small active spoiler on the rear that activated at around 65mph. At 70, from memory, VW claimed 80lbs downforce. Sure, it's not *massive*, but it's there. It's not only useful if it delivers 1000's of lbs of downforce - a little, over the rear wheels, can make a difference. See http://forums.mwerks.com/zerothread?id=3792800&page=2 [mwerks.com] for a short technical summary specific to the Corrado. On mine, I noticed the car felt a lot more planted at triple-figure speeds with the wing up.
For another example, consider the small lip spoiler fitted to Audi TTs after the first cars were implicated in high-speed lane changing accidents.

Re:What I really wonder (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 6 years ago | (#23146874)

Something to keep in mind is that most cars produce a lifting body action because of the shape of their under carriage. At really high speeds, this is often enough to cause problems ranging from minor loss of steering to flipping a vehicle.

If you will allow me to *play* with some *imaginary* numbers, let's say the upward force, from the lifting action is 200lbs and the downward force on the rear is 100lbs. You are still at a net loss of 100lbs. Worse, while traction may be improved, it likely further reduced steering effectiveness because the increased angle of attack.

Obviously, a net loss of 100lbs is far better than a net loss of 200lbs, but it is still not a net gain. Once you experience a net gain, you now have an effective spoiler. 100lbs to the negative is not an effective spoiler.

Well, there was a jet engine on a biplane... (1)

capnkr (1153623) | more than 6 years ago | (#23076308)

Jimmy Franklin [wikipedia.org] mounted an engine from a jet fighter/trainer under the fuselage of his Waco biplane. It was an incredible thing to see flying, something that was so powerfully implausible it just made you sort of giggle.

It was even more amazing as part of the Masters of Disaster [wikipedia.org] airshow routine, which was quite possibly the coolest thing I have ever seen (@ Oshkosh, in '04 IIRC). That they lost several people in just a few short years is testimony to the risk-taking feats that they were performing. That they performed their show so many times without any untoward incident was evidence of their skill. The show was so stupendously crazy, and done in such a small area, that I do think some sort of crash was an eventuality.

Experimental aviation (4, Interesting)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 6 years ago | (#23073546)

The aircraft are based off the Velocity, a popular homebuilt aircraft. Usually pushed by a prop, these planes are pretty flexible, as this novel use indicates.

There are other canard aircraft that have flown under interesting power. The LongEZ and Cozy have been built with everything from aircraft gasoline engines to jets to wankel rotaries, even rockets. Experimental aviation is the fastest developing part of general aviation, and anyone with the right commitment and willingness to learn can build a plane too.

Re:Experimental aviation (2, Funny)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 6 years ago | (#23073602)

I'll assume that the DIY aircraft kit also has a DIY hospital kit too..

Today's lesson: Howto build a self anesthesia surgery setup

Tomorrow: Self post-op care

Re:Experimental aviation (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23075652)

Wow.. this just got more interesting.. I had thought it was all about model aircraft until your post :) I can definitely see the fun in full sized aerobatic aircraft racing, though I'd probably still enjoy rally driving a lot more, unless someone figures out how to do handbrake turns in a plane (the one in Hotshots doesn't count :p )

Re:Experimental aviation (1)

skarphace (812333) | more than 6 years ago | (#23082244)

... unless someone figures out how to do handbrake turns in a plane (the one in Hotshots doesn't count :p )
This is actually possible, atleast with a prop-plane. In that History Channel show 'Dogfights' I remember them featuring one guy who used it in battle.

Basically, you roll the plane to the side a little, and nail the rudder in the same direction. This will put the under belly against the direction of wind resistance which will slow you down pretty damn fast. Then you nose down to pick up speed and return to normal flight. Pretty slick move if you ask me.

Re:Experimental aviation (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 6 years ago | (#23084088)

I can definitely see the fun in full sized aerobatic aircraft racing, though I'd probably still enjoy rally driving a lot more, unless someone figures out how to do handbrake turns in a plane

Something similar might actually be feasible with the rocketplanes... I know Armadillo Aerospace (one of the engine providers for the Rocket Racing League) has been working with redirecting the rocket nozzle exhaust to control flight. It would be neat if you could redirect the exhaust to the side to rapidly rotate the rocketplane.

No hospital necessary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23081602)

I'll assume that the DIY aircraft kit also has a DIY hospital kit too

Nope. No hospital is usually necessary. A DIY undertaker kit would be much more practicable.

Re:Experimental aviation (3, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#23073840)

As I'm sure you're aware, XCOR Aerospace [xcor.com] built both the EZ-Rocket (rocket-powered LongEZ) and the first of the Rocket Racers.

They've been mentioned here recently [slashdot.org] for the upcoming Lynx spaceplane, as well.

Re:Experimental aviation (2, Interesting)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 6 years ago | (#23073956)

Experimental aviation is the fastest developing part of general aviation, and anyone with the right commitment and willingness to learn can build a plane too.

I'm curious to know how that's possible. Last I heard, the FAA (in the US at least) have very tight regulations and certification requirements. It can take years and hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars just to break through all the legal red tape. In fact, I hear these expenditures dwarf that of R&D and material costs combined for a small company. Let's not forget that it also takes years just to pass certification on new designs.

Re:Experimental aviation (4, Informative)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 6 years ago | (#23073994)

Thats actually the reason why the home-builts and experimentals are so popular. It takes a lot of work to make a new factory-built plane with all the new FAA regulations, thus why you don't see that many new Cessnas around.

However, if you just sell the parts and have the customer build it themselves, and attach a big 'EXPERIMENTAL' tag to the outside those regulations don't apply. Not that I'm arguing that this makes much sense, but from what I understand thats the situation.

(I don't have much firsthand knowledge, I just read up on this a lot a couple of years ago.)

Re:Experimental aviation (5, Interesting)

biggles69 (110392) | more than 6 years ago | (#23074364)

I have a lot of experience with home-built/experimental aviation. Generally the aircraft built by enthusiasts from either raw materials and a set of plans or a kit are better quality and built to a much higher standard of finish than the crap Cessna, Piper and the other big commercial manufacturers put out. Light experimental aircraft had glass cockpits 10+ years ago using non certified equipment that is just as good as the over priced certified equipment just getting into factory built aircraft now. The performance is also generally much better and the cost much lower partly because the product liability insurance premium on a new factory built aircraft is something like $50,000.

FAA certification really isn't that onerous. The real reason little innovation goes on with factory built aircraft is liability. The companies play it safe by sticking with the tech they have and making cosmetic changes. Unfortunately the tech they have was mostly developed in the 50's.

Vans aircraft is a pretty typical kit builder and over 5000 of their kits are completed and flying. It's not much compared to the big companies but when you consider that each one was built by the owner in his/her garage, living room or basement (people build planes in all sorts of places and sometimes have to knock out walls to get them out) then this is pretty damned impressive.

The experimental system actually makes a whole lot of sense if you want to foster innovation and are willing to let people take responsibility for their own actions. Shit it felt strange typing that in today's fucked up litigation mentality world. The aircraft are subject to FAA inspections throughout the assembly/construction process and have to fly off 40 hours in a restricted zone around a specific airport to prove they are safe but after that they can go anywhere. The only absolute prohibition on the use of experimental aircraft is in commercial operations. They are for private non profit use only. Aussie Jon Johanson flew his Vans RV-4 round the world twice http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vans_RV-4 [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Experimental aviation (4, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23075694)

people build planes in all sorts of places and sometimes have to knock out walls to get them out
I for one would certainly feel safe in a vehicle built and flown by someone who didn't realise that an airplane is generally bigger than a doorway ;)

Re:Experimental aviation (2, Informative)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 6 years ago | (#23076486)

I for one would certainly feel safe in a vehicle built and flown by someone who didn't realise that an airplane is generally bigger than a doorway

I know you're joking but the reason for this is because people often take a decade to build their plane. This means they build it in their garage. Otherwise, they'd be paying for a very expensive hangar at an airport for the entire build. While that likely means they would build it faster, it also means it would be a second jobs rather than a labor of love.

Even after saying that, it is extremely rare for walls to have to be removed to get the aircraft out of their garage. More often than not, it is because someone built it inside their home because they didn't have a garage or room in their garage to spare.

Re:Experimental aviation (3, Interesting)

capnkr (1153623) | more than 6 years ago | (#23076550)

Funny, somersault, I'll relay the comment. :)

For general consumption, though: My brother is building an RV-7A in his perhaps 10'x18' shop out in the garage, which itself is not large enough to hold the completed airplane. He started it in a 10'x15' miniwarehouse. He is building it in stages; tail kit first, wings nearly finished, and the fuselage kit is staged for his next step in the process. Eventually he'll load the completed parts on to a trailer, haul it to a hangar at the airport for final assembly before getting it checked over by an FAA inspector and the first flight.

It was surprising to me how little space it takes.

Mod Parent Up Please (1)

Saffaya (702234) | more than 6 years ago | (#23076510)

Lots of interesting information in the parent's post, worthy to be shared with everyone.
Please mod it up ~

Re:Experimental aviation (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 6 years ago | (#23077126)

FAA certification really isn't that onerous.

I believe most will disagree with you. It is directly because of the FAA that awesome airplanes like the Starship have been relegated to bone yards. The FAA is the source of much stupidity and significant expense for general aviation. The FAA is largely the reason much of general aviation is still flying with circa-1950s technology. They are also the second largest reason improved products are slowly introduced to the general aviation community.

Lawyers are the reason most large corporations have exited the General Aviation (GA) market. This in turn drove up the price of aviation because of lot of cross-over technologies no longer enter the GA cockpit. Lawyers are the reason all things aviation cost twice what they would otherwise. The FAA adds an extra 20%-100% to the cost of all things aviation; before it gets double for liability. If the FAA simply did their job product costs could drop 15% - 70% before it gets doubled. In turn, the market would naturally adopt
products with safer histories...which simply does not happen today because innovation is not allowed.

Vans RV airplanes RULE (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23079994)

I am a pilot, and currently own a Piper Cherokee 140 [airport-data.com] . I have many friends who own RV-4's [swrfi.org] , RV-6's [barnstormers.com] and at my local airport two groups of people are presently building an RV-8 [vansaircraft.com] and an RV-10 [vansaircraft.com] .

I have just bought the plans for an RV-7 myself, and hope to have it completed and flying within 4 years.

I'll be at Oshkosh this year to see the Rocket Racers up close and personal.

If you have any interest in aviation at all, you need to come to Oshkosh, WI [airventure.org] yourself, the last week in July of this year. It's a fantastic experience.

Re:Experimental aviation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23074312)

That's why the only affordable airplanes are homebuilt, not certified. The FAA has done more to prevent the average person from flying then all the other factors put together. 30 years ago, a brand new airplane cost as much as a new car, and had similar technology. Now a brand new airplane has a 30 year old design, costs 10 times as much as a car, and has more regulatory red tape then most folks can afford to wade through. That's why mroe people are building airlpanes then buying them. And, those who buy airplanes are generally buying 30 year old airplanes (e.g. me).

Re:Experimental aviation (3, Insightful)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 6 years ago | (#23076438)

I'm curious to know how that's possible. Last I heard, the FAA (in the US at least) have very tight regulations and certification requirements.

That's the magic word, "certification". Experimental aircraft are just that...and they are not certified. This does not necessarily mean they are dangerous. The words, "experimental" must be visibly placard and all passengers must be notified of aircraft's experimental status.

It can take years and hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars just to break through all the legal red tape. In fact, I hear these expenditures dwarf that of R&D and material costs combined for a small company. Let's not forget that it also takes years just to pass certification on new designs.

And that is exactly why certified generation aviation is so far behind modern technology. This is also why an engine designed in the 1950s or perhaps the 1960s costs $25,000 - $75,000 to replace. If it were not for the FAA's certification process and scummy lawyers in general who literally double the cost of all things aviation related, that same engine would cost $10,000 - $30,000 and be far more safe and reliable. And keep in mind, with these engines, the pilot must still manually control basic things like air/fuel mixture. Heck, just fuel injection is still considered a big step up in economy and performance. If you want electronic control (FADEC), expect to add an extra $40,000 - $80,000 to the cost of your engine; if it is even available for your engine/aircraft combination.

Once you step outside of the certified arena, suddenly a whole new gambit of newer, better, and safer level of modern technology becomes available. Yet the vast majority of this technology is strictly prohibited in a certified aircraft.

As an example, thanks to the FAA, instrument rated aircraft must purchase certified clocks. This made sense forty years ago when reliable, electro-mechanical clocks were hard to find. These days, $100-$400 dollars buys you a clock which may lose seconds to minutes in a day, assuming it stays running for the entire flight. Yes, that very expensive and unreliable clock the FAA requires is actually less reliable and less accurate than the average, cheap watch people wear today. Yet, non-certified aircraft get the pleasure of a modern, highly reliable, highly precise clock for $20-$100; depending on the number of cool extras (timers, count down/up) thrown in. And if you wonder how important a clock is, watch "Hunt for Red October" and take note of them maneuvering the sub by stop-watch. It is the same for planes flying by instruments.

Don't forget, the FAA's moto is, "We're not happy until you're not happy." Even worse is, in the last decade, the FAA was been working hard to actually endanger the skies (recent inspections in the news is the tip of the iceberg) rather than actually improve public safety. The FAA is working hard to avoid Congressional oversight would allows them to publicly be seen in bed with the airlines. For the last decade, they've been forced to meet in cheap motel rooms.

If it were not for inspectors breaking the news, the public would have continued to fly un-inspected and dangerous aircraft, with the FAA's unofficial wink and nod.

Lastly, don't think that plane owners are rich, wealthy men with top hats and cigars. The majority of pilots make less than $40,000 a year. You can actually own a nice, certified plane, for less than the price of a new SUV or less. Granted, this will be a used aircraft, but it is important to remember, aircraft are maintained far better than cars and in most cases, better than homes. The older aircraft fleet's safety record is on par with newer aircraft.

thing is.. (2, Informative)

type40 (310531) | more than 6 years ago | (#23073548)

this is not really exciting for an average year at Oshkosh.
I saw 17 P-51's sitting idling waiting for clearance to taxi. I was 20 feet away from Chuck Yeagers P-51 as it sat mid pack (flock?, fight?).
I saw a Long-EZ with a pulse jet a couple of years ago.
rocket planes....boring.

boring ? (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 6 years ago | (#23077430)

wait until rocket planes start crashing head butt into audience.

yes.. boring (1)

type40 (310531) | more than 6 years ago | (#23078120)

The EAA has rules about flying over the audience at AirVenture.
The rule is no, no, fuck no.
They have a pilot crash during the daily air show almost every year.
The EAA knows better than anyone that even when you have the best pilots flying the best planes, shit can happen.
So it's audience, safety margin, runway, air show performers.
It's the best air show on the planet. Ever.

vertical drags, that's so for n00bs.
I was at Oshkosh when pushy galore set a time to climb record. An aircraft powered by a Continental O-200 should not be able to go straight up that far that fast.

oblig: Is that a rocket in your pocket? (1)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 6 years ago | (#23073560)

Or are you just happy to see me?

*groan* (3, Funny)

The Ancients (626689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23073586)

It seems the league is finally ready to get off the ground.

That was really, really, bad. Even for a /. summary.

Yes, it was bad. (1)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#23073898)

It was never made clear what the rockets will be driving in the race. But the sharks with lasers will send down lightning bolts from the previous story and fix the race anyway, so I guess it doesn't matter.

I'm to be proven wrong again, I'm sure (1, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#23073606)

I've been wrong about this type of stuff before. A few years ago before LOTR was released, I made the assertion that only geeks would be interested in a movie about D&D characters. I predicted that for all the eye candy, the story wouldn't resonate with the average movie audience and that a lot of money was being spent on creating a huge movie with a small target audience.

Well, looking back on it now, I can say that I was totally wrong. Plenty of people are fascinated by pewter goblets and 20-sided dice. I never would have thought it, but apparently there is a very large underground geek community that is latent. It takes something like LOTR to bring them out, but when they are out, they bring with them tons of cash.

So I'm just going to go ahead and call this "NASCAR" of the skies a total flop. It's not interesting for anyone except geeks and only a small subset of geeks at that.

In two or three years when this rocket racing takes over the international sporting world, I'm prepared to eat my words.

F-Zero (1)

Plazmid (1132467) | more than 6 years ago | (#23073700)

*Cue Mute City Theme from F-Zero.

Race you to the moon and back!! (1)

JuzzFunky (796384) | more than 6 years ago | (#23073732)

Race you to the moon and back!!
Ready..
Set...
Go!

What, Darwin isn't working fast enough? (3, Insightful)

Theatetus (521747) | more than 6 years ago | (#23073792)

Patience, people, the gene pool will weed you out on its own.

Re:What, Darwin isn't working fast enough? (1)

IdeaMan (216340) | more than 6 years ago | (#23079628)

That's right, all the hawt chicks go after the wealthy dashing adventurous types. All us introverted couch potatoes will be weeded out eventually.

Meanwhile, still no end to the gas shortage. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23073794)

Nice, lets waste the little oil we have on this nonsense.

The most important regulation for success (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23074044)

Rocket Racing Rule #1:
When passing by the inspection stands and banks of cameras, your vehicle must be in a favorable position to display sponsor's advertisement.
--
Hint: NASCAR got rich only after the TV cameras could focus on one car for more than three seconds at a time. This is why Formula 1 car racing isn't as successful in North America.

Re:The most important regulation for success (1)

lonesome_coder (1166023) | more than 6 years ago | (#23075956)

Hint: NASCAR got rich only after the TV cameras could focus on one car for more than three seconds at a time. This is why Formula 1 car racing isn't as successful in North America.
I thought it was the mental strain put on the average NASCAR fan by watching something other than two to three straight hours of left turns...

You learn something new every day.

Whats with all the offtopic (0, Offtopic)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 6 years ago | (#23074054)

This has got to be the largest amount of off topic posts I have ever seen on any article. Come on people were talking about giant rockets strapped to flying machines whizzing around with a hight probability of very large explosions, this is literally nerdvanda but the best you can come up with is all this useless drivel? I am very disappointed.

Who's it most fun for? (1)

The Bender (801382) | more than 6 years ago | (#23074068)

This is great and all, but I can't help thinking that it's the modern Jazz of racing: Interesting to see once in a while, but the real fun is only there for the performers.
To put it another way, this is mostly a highly publicized rich kid's hobby. I guess the rich kids enjoy it more if they can get the great unwashed masses to watch in awe. Not that there's anything particularly bad or unusual about all that, but don't expect it to be the amazing spectacle promised. The promotional videos show smooth-flying machines vying wingtip-to-wingtip, boosting and diving, with huge plumes coming from their exhausts, and a mid-air camera that somehow follows them perfectly. You ain't gonna get that. The clip I've seen of one of the real planes makes it look like a success that it gets off the ground at all.

Wait! I'm not done yet... (1)

hovercycle (1118435) | more than 6 years ago | (#23074154)

I just found the coolest design to turn into a rocket plane! This is actually good for amateurs because the engine technology that comes out of this might be usable by homebuilders some day. The Long EZ could be soo much cooler if the fuselage was shaped different, I mean it already has a really small cross section (equivalent to a standard sheet of paper, is what I once read in "Composites for homebuilt aircraft"), but it could be smaller! Clearly this is just for the advancement of the engine side of things... Well maybe one day there will be space races that test reaction control systems... Someone has to build the Swordfish II!!! See you at Oshkosh!

oh great (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#23074240)

You know, I live just far enough away from Oshkosh (coupld miles) to not worry too much when I hear a plane fly by every 5 minutes during the EAA airventure event but now if something goes wrong, I think a rocket engine could reach me :( and a couple nights ago I seriously had a dream that a massive plane crashed near my backyard after trying to do a move that often stalls them and CNN stopped by and we made all the cameramen homemade salsa. Coincidence? I think so lol. But still, there have been crashes in the past and I don't think experimental rockets going as fast as possible + tens of thousands of people is a really good idea.

Re:oh great (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 6 years ago | (#23074596)

You know, I live just far enough away from Oshkosh (coupld miles) to not worry too much when I hear a plane fly by every 5 minutes during the EAA airventure event but now if something goes wrong, I think a rocket engine could reach me :(
I wouldn't be too worried -- the max speed of these aircraft is 200-300mph. I think what sets them apart is their ability to accelerate, but the max velocity is similar to jet-powered aircraft with the same sort of airframe.

So instead of rocket racing (1)

Krommenaas (726204) | more than 6 years ago | (#23074518)

this will really just be slow airplanes flying circles in the sky? Can anyone see this actually succeed?

Relevant links and additional info (2, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 6 years ago | (#23074558)

The summary mentions the article but doesn't seem to actually link to it. I think it's referring to this one [wired.com] .

Here's the summary I submitted earlier, which includes a link to a different (IMHO more informative) article, mentions the surprise involvement of Armadillo Aerospace (John Carmack's company), and a liveblogging of the press conference:

Armadillo Aerospace Building Racing Rocket Engines

The Rocket Racing League made several announcements today [msn.com] , including a partnership with Armadillo Aerospace, the rocketry company run by game programming demigod John Carmack. The first exhibition races will be at the EAA AirVenture air show in early August, where League rocketplanes using engines produced by both XCOR and Armadillo will fly. The RRL hopes that the rocketplanes will be a testbed for new technologies [hobbyspace.com] which will feed into the wider aviation and aerospace market.
There's also a pretty spiffy photo showing Armadillo's rocket firing [armadilloaerospace.com]

Try keeping THAT "Carbon Neutral" (1)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 6 years ago | (#23074572)

Enough said in the subject, really...

Re:Try keeping THAT "Carbon Neutral" (4, Informative)

John Carmack (101025) | more than 6 years ago | (#23079092)

Not that I give a damn about being carbon neutral, but our rocket engines do burn ethanol.

John Carmack

Re:Try keeping THAT "Carbon Neutral" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23080680)

So not only are you not carbon neutral, you're contributing to high food prices. Double fail.

Will not take off (1)

viking80 (697716) | more than 6 years ago | (#23074632)

Next time you fly commecially, and look at the engines, you may wonder why that plane is not powered by a rocket also. The answer is quite simple: A rocket engine is incredible inefficient, and has absolutely no advantages over a jet or prop other than that it can operate in vacuum. Also in vacuum, you do not need wings.
A rocket powered plane is therefore almost an oxymoron.
So this sounds like an idea that is not very likely to take off.

Re:Will not take off (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 6 years ago | (#23075674)

But besides operating in a vacuum, they also have a much higher impulse? (correct terminology?) So if you want to drag-race, (fastest to hit mach 2, etc) shouldn't you be able to beat out a jet or any other technology with a rocket?

The question I have is won't they quickly hit the human limit? People can take what, 9G's of continuous acceleration? Once you hit that it doesn't matter how much you can improve on your design if it's going to kill the pilot or is at least guaranteed to black them out.

Divers change their gas mix (add nitrogen iirc) when going to depths to prevent "the bends". Is there anything like that possible to mitigate the effects of high G's? Hurry up Star Trek, we need those Inertial Dampers.

Re:Will not take off (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#23075746)


If they can work out the bugs, immersing the pilot in some sort of oxygenated Perflourocarbon [wikipedia.org] would enable then to withstand far higher G's. Right now it's still the realm of Sci Fi but it's quite possible.

Re:Will not take off (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 6 years ago | (#23076882)

they also have a much higher impulse?

That's correct. You'd be amazed how slowly a jet engine takes to spin back up. To go from idle to full throttle can take several seconds and then the aircraft still requires time to accelerate. A rocket engine allows for idle to full throttle almost instantaneously. Jet engines basically suffer from a kind of "turbo lag." [wikipedia.org]

So not only can a rocket engine produce more thrust for its size, it can also produce that thrust much more quickly.

People can take what, 9G's of continuous acceleration?

Only for short periods of time. You find the upper limit is around 6Gs for your "typical" (fighter jock) person. Some can take 7 or perhaps 8Gs for short durations. With a G-suit, 9Gs become possible, but again, only for very short durations. Of course, a G-suit makes taking lessor Gs easier.

Resisting 8Gs-9Gs is one of the hardest workouts you can imagine.

Just like F1 (1)

jlebrech (810586) | more than 6 years ago | (#23074636)

Except the 4 stroke engine no longer needs development. A few car manufacturers should join this league.

Re:Just like F1 (1)

bondjamesbond (99019) | more than 6 years ago | (#23078426)

You have a GREAT idea! One problem though - how are you going to draft behind a rocket powered car?

Selbstopfer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23074846)

I think people simply do not understand how damn dangerous those rocket-planes were. Rememeber the nazi Me-163 and Bachem Ba-349? Those killed pilots by the scores. The NASA X-15 exploded on more than one occasion. The propellants are volatile and toxic.

I think the organizers simply watched too much anime glorifying those Nakajima Kikka baka bomb riding young kamikaze and the antarctic reptile nazi ufonauts.

Airshows are dangerous enough as of now, we do not need any desperate end of WWII era axis technology reinvented just to create more accidents and hype.

Airborne flamebait (1)

Simon2000 (1128325) | more than 6 years ago | (#23075596)

Am I missing something? What happens when some guy lights up right in front of you? Hey this is actually sounding watchable, like a gameshow from the near future in some Steven King novel.

Re:Airborne flamebait (1)

IdeaMan (216340) | more than 6 years ago | (#23079772)

Jay Leno says that when someone comes to a stop too close to his bike at a stop light, all he he would have to do is rev his turbine engine powered motorcycle a bit to melt their bumper.

Rocket Jockeys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23076042)

Anyone remember the game Rocket Jockey? Classic game, very fun. I can see this sport catching on really fast.

Slow riser (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23076286)

Just imagine the custom job of the slow riser - a rocket who's goal it is to leave the pad then just sorrta hover.

The winners of slow riser competitions is the rocket that stays closest to the ground the longest.

(cue low rider song in head)

Old School winner! (2, Informative)

Lost Penguin (636359) | more than 6 years ago | (#23077224)

Rocket racing was old school, it went out in the 60s.Turboniques? [easynet.be]

N-Gen Racing (1)

^_^x (178540) | more than 6 years ago | (#23096198)

Wow, it's like the old PSX game "N-Gen Racing" come to life. (Though that was jet racing)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSN5YFZG-hg [youtube.com]

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