By Senior Space Writer
updated 8/10/2004 8:33:26 PM ET 2004-08-11T00:33:26

Armadillo Aerospace of Mesquite, Texas, has reported a crash last weekend of their prototype X Prize rocket.

The launch took place in a 100-acre test site, with high expectations of seeing another successful boosted hop. The vehicle had been operating perfectly on all tests prior to the mishap.

The unpiloted vehicle shot up to nearly 600 feet in Saturday's test, but then ran out of fuel, crashing to the ground. Telemetry from the vehicle was received from the rocket all the way to the time of impact, not too distant from its takeoff point.

“The vehicle hit the ground basically sideways, a little tail first,” reported John Carmack, leader of the group. He is co-founder and chief technical engineer of id Software, responsible for the highly successful Doom computer game, among others.

“$35,000 of rocket is now a whole lot of primo Armadillo Droppings,” Carmack reported on the Armadillo Web site. “It’s a good thing Doom 3 is selling very well,” he added.

Back to flight
“Everything else operated perfectly, so we still feel good about the general configuration, but we have a number of improvements for robustness and operability that we will be making in the next vehicle we put together,” Carmack said. “A couple of the necessary items are fairly long lead times, so we are probably grounded for five weeks.”

Armadillo is one group among over two dozen teams around the world attempting to win the Ansari X Prize — a $10 million offering that expires on Jan. 1. That cash purse will go to the first team that privately finances, builds and launches a craft capable of hauling three individuals up to 62.5 miles (100 kilometers) altitude and back safely, then duplicates that suborbital flight with the same vehicle in the span of two weeks.

“Any last glimmers of hope we had of being able to field a full performance vehicle by the end of the year are now gone, but this really doesn't change our direction at all.  We should be flying again in September with a greatly improved vehicle,” Carmack told Space.com.

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