Image: Thunderhawk
MSNBC.com
A prototype for the Thunderhawk rocket plane, the first craft built for the Rocket Racing League, is unveiled at Las Cruces International Airport during the Wirefly X Prize Cup festival on Friday, October 20.
By Senior Space Writer
updated 10/20/2006 5:37:27 PM ET 2006-10-20T21:37:27

Its official. The Rocket Racing League announced today that its first Mark-1 X-Racer will be known as the Thunderhawk.

The Rocket Racing League is an aerospace entertainment organization which combines the competition of racing with rocketry.

Unveiling the Thunderhawk today at the Wirefly X Prize Cup, RRL officials said that the moniker beat out names like Banshee and Sky Warrior in an online contest that generated more than 2,000 submissions from fans around the planet.

The world headquarters of the Rocket Racing League is based here. The RRL aims to debut its first NASCAR-style races in late Fall 2007 — a first-of-its-kind aerospace sports and entertainment league formed by X Prize founder Peter Diamandis and Granger Whitelaw, a two-time Indy 500 champion team partner.

Bird of prey
The fan submitting the winning name is Michael Higgins of New Market, Maryland. He’s an engineer and manager working in the composite pressure vessel industry serving life-support and aerospace/defense applications.

Higgins outlined today how he came up with the Thunderhawk moniker.

“The aircraft, with its rocket propulsion, combines thunderous sound with brilliant flame and light. So I worked up several names focused on thunder and light, and tried to connect those with a bird of prey,” he explained. 

Higgins said he expected the RRL races will put rocket propulsion technology in front of thousands of people through thrilling events.

“They should generate public interest in rockets and space, much like the famous air races of the 1920s and 1930s did during the golden era of aviation,” Higgins said.

The contest began January 30 and attracted over 2,000 submissions. The top 1,000 names were whittled down to 10 semi-finalists by a panel of RRL judges. Fans then were able to vote for their favorite name from the top ten on AOL. 

Nearly 20,000 votes were cast via AOL, selecting Thunderhawk the most popular name.

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