A recent comment made by Armadillo Aerospace’s President and CTO, John Carmack, at Quakecon 2011 has been misconstrued and we need to correct a widespread misconception. John indicated that he was not “… accepting any more contract work, because he doesn’t want to get trapped as a small company that does government work.”
John’s fear, and justifiably so, is that our small team becomes distracted from the primary goal of developing space capable vehicles initially for scientific payloads but also as a foundation for subsequent manned space capable vehicles for both the scientific and “space tourism” markets. As many are aware, Armadillo has a very small team by comparison with others in this industry and the government work undertaken to-date has been somewhat of a “time sponge” that we can ill afford.
At the time we undertook Project M, which later morphed into Project Morpheus, the QUAD in super-sized version was one that we were considering as a platform foundation for manned vehicles. We also had a longer term interest in LOX-LCH4 (liquid oxygen, liquid methane) propulsion technology which was also part of this project. However, as we got deeper into the project, our thinking changed and the QUAD style vehicles became less relevant as a technical direction. It is not that we did not gain any benefit from the program; we certainly learned a lot about welding from NASA and it was good to exchange ideas and interact with their propulsion and GNC experts. However, as John has succinctly put it, “we need to focus on job one, reaching space.”
The NASA CRuSR program, now Flight Opportunities Program, we see as being copacetic and complementary to our technical direction of record in that the vehicles we are developing and need to routinely test fly (specifically the STIG family of RLVs) are capable of launching the scientific payloads that FOP is promoting and supporting. Other than the integration exercise we do not have to change anything in our development program to accommodate what we perceive to be a burgeoning embryonic market. To further emphasize the point, we were pleased to hear NASA’s announcement yesterday that Armadillo Aerospace was one of seven companies to be awarded a contract under the 2011-2012 Flight Opportunities solicitation “Flight and Payload Integration Services for Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicles.” We intend to be one of the leading players in this new market.