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Armadillo Aerospace

Located in Mesquite, Texas, Armadillo Aerospace is a company dedicated to creating space vehicles. This fairly new company was created in 2000 and became incorporated in 2001. The original goal of Armadillo Aerospace was to build a suborbital spacecraft intended for space tourism. This spacecraft would reach space but not enter a stable orbit.

Armadillo Aerospace places much value upon quickly building their vehicles and testing them. Armadillo Aerospace has created many different models using various propellants.

Each of their vehicles each contains some common components. Armadillo Aerospace uses new computer technologies and electronics to make it easier to control the vehicle and to lower production costs. A common component also used is the use of liquid propellants and VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) to assist in shorter launches.

Armadillo Aerospace also competed for the Ansari X-Prize. This competition was held in 2004 and had a prize of $10 million USD for the winner. The prize would be awarded to the first non-government organization to send a space vehicle to low earth orbit. This had to be done two times in two weeks. The vehicle that Armadillo Aerospace entered was different from the others in that they created a vehicle, which was aerodynamically inconsistent and the control was largely based on feedback received from fibre optic gyroscopes. These gyroscopes use the interference of light to detect mechanical rotation. This was an unusual site to see in the competition as the other vehicles had a type of stabilizing fin.

Armadillo Aerospace also proved their desire for simplicity by mixing hydrogen peroxide and methanol for the vehicle entered for the X-Prize. This reliable engine needs only one tank and includes easier plumbing along with less complicated hardware. However, since then Armadillo Aerospace has chosen to change to liquid oxygen. This is because peroxide catalysts and high concentration peroxide is difficult to obtain for some companies.

Armadillo Aerospace also competed for the 2006 Wirefly X-Prize Cup. This competition encouraged innovation in the private sector. The Wirefly Cup offered up to $2.5 million in prizes for different competitions related to the general theme, and are awarded to select teams. Armadillo Aerospace stood as a lone competitor in the Lunar Lander prize challenge. Two vehicles were entered, which were very similar in design and build, to the competition.

Both vehicles spent almost five minutes air-borne before failing to land and they both eventually crashed on the last attempt. For this reason, neither vehicle won the award. The vehicles had repeated landing failures, due to a breakdown of the undercarriages, which contributed to not landing fully on the pad due to misguidance. Even still, the flights of these vehicles were a big attraction during the competition.

Armadillo Aerospace is run and largely funded by John Carmack, a creator of video games such as the Doom and Quake series. The company's employees work on a volunteer basis twice a week and hold other full-time jobs. The company has announced itself as self-funded and does not receive funding from any government agencies.

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