Thursday, April 08, 2010

Space Access 2010 - Armadillo Aerospace / John Carmack

John Carmack who founded Armadillo Aerospace, started off by showing a video of the Lunar Landing competition.

The video summarized the major accomplishments in the last year. There is a group called SPEAR - Students Performing Experiments on Armadillo Rockets. The audience chuckled.

Armadillo is going for altitude now. Their rockets have gone up to 4,000 feet. John said the boost to 4,000 feet was successful, but the landing wasn’t. They learned some important lessons.

John is going to talk about the business first. They have taken on more two more people. They have a couple customers who are paying their money. They are distracted by the customers. They are a marginal profitable aerospace company now. John doesn’t want to spend a lot of time chasing NASA contracts. He sold Doom. He is stepping up his investment in Armadillo.

On one side he is proud that Armadillo is profitable, but he wants to make progress on some specific projects.

John praised NASA’s centennial challenge. He is very frustrated with the decision to give him second place, as he lost a half million dollars. Still he thinks the challenge was a great thing.

He is rethinking getting work from NASA, because Armadillo is working on things they don’t think are the right way to do things. They did hand over two rockets to the Rocket Racing League. The league did their 50th flight just today. He doesn’t know if the league is going to be successful.

John said “There is a quality from quantity.” Armadillo did twenty untethered flights under a class 3 license last year. It is good to do lots of flights.

As the company has gotten bigger John no longer does the CnC machining or running the flight as much as he use to do. He has less time. He has a second son, six months old.

He wants to go faster.

Believes that with the current design they could go up to 100,000 feet, but not 100 km.

I counted about 110 people in the conference room. There are also some people in the hospitality room.

He talked some more about the work with NASA. They have learned from doing the work for NASA.

They have been building about two vehicles a year. He doesn’t mind crashing them, as long as they learn from them.

He hinted that there was some deal in the work, but it wasn’t done, so he couldn’t talk about it.

He said there is work from universities for putting experiments into space. He mentioned a $75 million range. That would provide for dozens of flights, and could learn more.

He is feeling pretty good about the industry.

He doesn’t think too much about the big picture with NASA. It is very discouraging. It makes you want to weep. It seems like every year there is some regulatory crisis, and once you get through it the remaining eleven months are pretty good.

They haven’t changed their mind about flying passengers via remote control. It is so expensive to include the second body.

The full agenda for Space Access 2010, with links

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