Please Keep All Engine Parts Inside the Vehicle at All Times

Life is busy here at the Granade compound, what with hating on Guitar Hero and keeping Eli and now Liza in cages. All I have time for is to point out, once again, that rocket science is indeed hard. Armadillo Aerospace tried to win the X Prize Lunar Lander Challenge at the end of October. They didn’t make it. Among other things, Pixel, their test craft, tilted far enough that the software triggered an abort. Here’s the money quote.

There were some very disturbing impulse events during the flight over, which were probably pieces of the engine departing the vehicle. I was letting the clock run out only a few feet above the ground when, with only a few seconds remaining, something (probably half of the nozzle retaining ring departing) pushed the vehicle hard enough to cause it to tilt past the abort limit even with the gimbal scrambling over to maximum compensation. The vehicle tilted over and fell to the ground on its side.

“Disturbing impulse events” indeed. Euphemisms aside, I’m impressed Armadillo Aerospace has been as upfront about what happened. Their entire report is full of interesting details, including their fixing a clogged fuel orifice using a manually filed-down paper clip. Now that sounds like the kind of testing I’m familiar with.