A rocket contending for a $2 million NASA moon lander prize crashed Saturday at the Oklahoma Spaceport at Burns Flat, according to an industry news publication.
The New Scientist reports that Armadillo Aerospace's Texel moon lander prototype crashed during testing at Burns Flat, roughly two months before it was to compete in at the X Prize Cup in New Mexico.
According to the publication, Texel crash-landed and burst into flames. The craft was so badly damaged that it is cheaper to build a new one from scratch rather than repair Texel, according to the report.
Armadillo Aerospace founder John Carmack told the publication that he thought, "Crap, it's going to fly into the crane, I need to kill it." He said he hit a manual fuel shut-off, and the craft plummeted to the ground, breaking up on impact.
"It made a fireball that would make any Hollywood movie proud," he said.
Armadillo team members said several safety precautions were taken for the launch, which worked. Team member Phil Eaton pointed out that an explosion in July involving another civilian rocket company in Mojave, California, killed three people during a test flight. He said Armadillo's precautions worked.
"We try as hard as we can to eliminate those (risks) so that our team members are safe, but it doesn't eliminate every possibility of something catastrophic," Eaton told New Scientist.
Armadillo successfully launched another craft, Pixel (pictured), earlier this summer, previously reported by Oklahoma Gazette. That vehicle remains intact and is planned for part of the October contest. "Ben Fenwick