Armadillo Out of Money, in “Hibernation”

John_Carmack
John Carmack

As had been rumored for several months now, Armadillo Aerospace is currently inactive. Jeff Foust at NewSpace Journal reports that company is essentially out of money and is currently in “hibernation.”

“The situation that we’re at right now is that things are turned down to sort of a hibernation mode,” Carmack said Thursday evening at the QuakeCon gaming conference in Dallas. “I did spin down most of the development work for this year” after the crash, he said.

The current situation was the result of a decision Carmack said he made two years ago to stop accepting contract work and push for the development of a suborbital reusable sounding rocket. “We thought we were within striking distance of the suborbital cargo markets, the NASA CRuSR payloads,” he said, a reference to NASA’s Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research program (now part of the Flight Opportunities program) that funded launches of vehicles like Armadillo’s STIG rockets for carrying various experimental payloads. The contract work Armadillo had was generating an operating profit, Carmack said, but “I reached the conclusion that we just weren’t going to get where we needed to go with that.”

Carmack said he instead funded the company out of his own pocket, for “something north of a million dollars a year.” He said he hoped this focus solely on vehicle development, making use of many technologies already developed, would allow the company to make faster progress on its STIG family of suborbital rockets, but instead the opposite happened: things slowed down. “What happened was disappointing,” he said. “What should have been faster—repackaging of everything—turned out slower.”

…With Armadillo currently in hibernation, Carmack said he is actively looking for outside investors to restart work on the company’s rockets.

A look at Armadillo’s launch history as provided by the FAA shows Armadillo’s failure to follow-up on a series of successful flights from 2006 to 2008 2009 that saw the company win the first stage of the Northrup Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.

Armadillo Aerospace Launch History

#DateVehicleSiteObjectiveResult
19Jan 05, 2013STIG-B IIISpaceport AmericaLaunch Scientific Payload
Failure
18Nov 04, 2012STIG-BSpaceport AmericaLaunch Scientific Payload
Success
17Oct 06, 2012STIG-BSpaceport AmericaLaunch Scientific Payload
Success
16Oct 25, 2008QUAD (Pixel)Las CrucesNorthrop Grumman Lunar Lander ChallengeFlight Test
15Oct 24, 2008MOD-1Las CrucesNorthrop Grumman Lunar Lander ChallengeFlight Test
14Oct 24, 2008MOD-1Las CrucesNorthrop Grumman Lunar Lander ChallengeFlight Test
13Oct 24, 2008MOD-1Las CrucesNorthrop Grumman Lunar Lander ChallengeFlight Test
12Oct 28, 2007MOD-1HollomanX Prize Cup CompetitionFlight Test
11Oct 28, 2007MOD-1HollomanX Prize Cup CompetitionFlight Test
10Oct 27, 2007MOD-1HollomanX Prize Cup CompetitionFlight Test
09Oct 27, 2007MOD-1HollomanX Prize Cup CompetitionFlight Test
08Oct 20, 2007MOD-1OklahomaFlight TestFlight Test
07Jun 02, 2007QUAD (Pixel)OklahomaFlight TestFlight Test
06Jun 02, 2007QUAD (Pixel)OklahomaFlight TestFlight Test
05Oct 21, 2006QUAD (Pixel)Las CrucesX Prize Cup CompetitionFlight Test
04Oct 21, 2006QUAD (Pixel)Las CrucesX Prize Cup CompetitionFlight Test
03Oct 21, 2006QUAD (Pixel)Las CrucesX Prize Cup CompetitionFlight Test
02Oct 20, 2006QUAD (Pixel)Las CrucesX Prize Cup CompetitionFlight Test
01Oct 19, 2006QUAD (Pixel)Las CrucesX Prize Cup CompetitionFlight Test

Four years passed after the last Lunar Lander Challenge flight before the company began flying again in late 2012 with its new STIG-B launch vehicle. The most recent flight in January ended in failure after the parachute failed.

Editor’s Note: The above list is actually incomplete and does not include Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge flights in 2009. It also doesn’t include a number of flights that took place between 2008 and 2012 that were not covered by FAA permits and licenses but rather amateur waivers rules, as Jonathan Goff points out in his comments below. So, the company was quite busy over the past five years.

I regret the error and did not wish to mislead anyone concerning the company. There was a combination of an incomplete FAA database and my own ignorance of launch rules. This is something I should have checked more thoroughly before publishing.