Playing With Fire

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For fun and profit. Big profit, in fact. 2.5 million dollars worth of prize money is up for grabs at the Wirefly X Prize Cup competition in Las Cruces, New Mexico. There will be rocket powered devices of every conceivable type. Lots of enthusiasts and, hopefully, a great future including races to space someday.

Next week, countdowns will ring through the air. Rocket engines will spark to life and roar. Prototype spaceships will fly and vie for cash prizes.

All manner of rocket, be it strap on, ride in, or a project-in-progress, will be found at the Wirefly X Prize Cup being staged October 20-21 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The Las Cruces International Airport, roughly seven miles from the center of the city, is home base for this year’s Cup.

“The goal of the X Prize Cup is to create an event that actually attracts real spaceships and demonstrates them in front of the crowds,” observed Peter Diamandis, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the X Prize Foundation of Santa Monica, California. “This year’s Cup has $2.5 million in prize money up for grabs.”

The Cup this year is also themed as “Moon 2.0”, Diamandis said, given NASA’s commitment to the Moon, Mars and beyond vision agenda and a space agency-sponsored $2 million Lunar Lander Competition.

"There will be a large amount of educational and display content looking back at Apollo and forward…towards both the public and private return to the Moon,” Diamandis told SPACE.com.

Looking out into the coming years, the X Prize Cup will expand even further, with more rockets, multiple flights and finals of the Rocket Racing League X-Racers, amateur rocket flights crafted by people from all over the world, as well as actual races to space.

Keep on trucken’

“Rocketizing” various modes of transportation—be it a bicycle or a 2003 Chevy SS—is the propulsion province of Tim Pickens, president of Orion Propulsion in Madison, Alabama.

For the Rocket Truck at the upcoming Cup, Pickens and his team are using an asphalt and nitrous-oxide-powered hybrid rocket engine. It spits out 2,750 pounds of thrust, enough to give the driver and co-pilot a nice kick in the coveralls.

The rocket engine is run by a hand-held gaming controller—a user-friendly and ergonomic device. Another Rocket Truck add-on are dash-mounted LCD screens providing the pilot and co-pilot a view of the firing engine, adding to the ballistic buzz one gets from riding in the Rocket Truck.

Other highlights will be flights by Dan Schlund wearing a rocket belt. You can see more about that here. We just want to know if one of these will be there:

It was last seen over Christchurch, New Zealand. Honest.

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