October 28, 2005 Think of a cross between Star Wars Pod Racing and Formula 1 and you have the Rocket Racing League (RRL) – a new formula racing competition with nuclear levels of spectator appeal. The first demonstration flight of the new RRL series was held earlier this month at the X PRIZE CUP in New Mexico (USA). Former astronaut Colonel Rick Searfoss piloted the RRL's EZ-Rocket in a series of crowd-thrilling manoeuvres. The EZ-Rocket is the precursor vehicle to the Mark-1 X-Racer, which is currently under development with planned test flights in the Spring and Summer of 2006. The Mark-1 will utilise a modified airframe from Velocity Aircraft and a single 1,500 - 1,800 pound liquid oxygen (LOX) and kerosene rocket engine. This engine will have twice the thrust of the development vehicle and will be extremely bright and visible in contrast to the development prototype EZ-Rocket which uses LOX and alcohol. As an aerospace entertainment organization, the RRL will combine the competition of racing with the excitement of rocketry with a series of competitions across the United States, with the finals taking place each year at the X PRIZE Cup in New Mexico. RRL races will operate much like auto races, with the exception that the "track" will be in the sky. Courses are expected to be around two miles long, one mile wide, and about 5,000 feet high, running perpendicular to spectators. The X-Racers, will take off from a runway both in a staggered fashion and side-by side and fly a course based on the design of a Grand Prix competition, with long straight-aways, vertical ascents, and deep banks. Each pilot will follow his or her own virtual "tunnel" or "track" of space through which to fly, safely separated from their competitors by a few hundred feet.
Highly skilled X-Racer pilots will employ state-of-the-art differential GPS technology to ensure minimal chances of physical contact between the racers.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,200 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
Upon take-off, onlookers will easily follow the race as the rocket planes remain in view and sport 20-foot rocket plumes. Fans can also track their favorite pilots' progress via large screen televisions and hand-held GPS tracking devices using WiFi to stream video of the cockpit, live "on-track" shots, "side by side" views and wing angle views.
Fans at home will be treated to a three-dimensional course where the "tracks" pilots are following can be seen. Special effects for lap completions, barrier violations and penalties will also be a part of the show.
The Rocket Racing League has entered into a design and engineering partnership with XCOR Aerospace and Velocity Aircraft to build the first generation of X-Racers.
The RRL is dedicated to providing safe and thrilling experiences for families through live events, television broadcasts and interactive technologies. Co-founded by Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, founder of the X PRIZE, and Mr. Granger Whitelaw, two-time Indianapolis 500 champion team partner, the league's mission is to serve as a technology accelerator in the areas of airframe, propulsion and spacecraft design, and reach for the future to inspire the next generation of spaceflight enthusiasts.
"The Rocket Racing League will inspire people of all ages to once again look up into the sky to find inspiration and excitement," said Dr. Diamandis. "New aerospace technologies coupled with the spirit of competition will not only extend the boundaries of entertainment, but continue the public's appetite for space ignited a year ago when the Ansari X PRIZE was awarded."
"The success of the Rocket Racing League is limited only by the excitement of the public," noted Mr. Whitelaw. "Given the millions of fans who enjoy race car driving, and the wider audience enthralled with humanity's next step into space, we are confident Rocket Racing will become a mainstream event in the decade to come."
Similar to auto racing organizations, the RRL will organize, host and run competitions across the United States, with the finals taking place each year at the X PRIZE Cup in New Mexico. The league also plans to produce nationwide tours of its rocket planes and pilots to answer the public's demand for high-excitement entertainment. A video game based on the RRL is slated to launch in late 2007.
"The FAA salutes the Rocket Racing League on its mission to usher in a new era in aerospace entertainment," said Patricia Smith, Associate Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. "We look forward to working with the RRL to secure all the necessary licenses and permits to ensure safe and exciting events for the public."
The RRL plans to host a variety of races as it grows and each race will result in points awarded to its top finishers and qualifier. Timed qualifying rounds can be incorporated into the races, comparable to the 24-hour Le Mans race.
The RRL has contracted with XCOR Aerospace of Mojave California to design and build the first generation of X-Racers. The X-Racers are based on the design of XCOR's EZ-Rocket. Next generation vehicles will be using an airframe provided by Velocity of Sebastian, Florida.
Colonel Rick Searfoss (ret.), former commander of the space shuttle Columbia, and three-time astronaut, has been appointed Chief Pilot by the RRL and flew the EZ-Rocket X-Racer prototype in its inaugural launch on October 9 at the X PRIZE Cup in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Searfoss is expected to become one of the stars of the new series and will be used in demonstrations across the country in the lead-up to the competition.
The RRL will generate revenues through six channels:
1 Sponsorships The RRL's core demographic will be led by families, teenagers and young adults similar to mainstream car racing audiences. Companies will be able to sponsor the X-Racer aircrafts, pilot uniforms and helmets, and endorse awards such as fastest lap, fastest pit stop, and overall series champion.
2 Ticket sales Though the price of tickets will vary based on the type of race held and the venue in which it is performed, the RRL will ensure the prices are comparable to other mainstream sporting events.
3 Broadcast rights The RRL is initiating talks with major broadcasters to sell the rights to air Rocket Racing League™ events.
4 Merchandising League-braded items such as hats, t-shirts, posters, key chains, and model X-Racer planes will be available at RRL events, sold online through
5 Tours Rocket racing fans will be able to see an X-Racer up-close, meet RRL pilots and enjoy educational initiatives which focus on aviation and aeronautics.
6 Gaming A RRL-based video game will be launched in 2007 and is expected to operate on popular platforms such as the X-Box, Game Cube, PlayStation and PC. The game will enable fans to race their own X-Racers and compete against friends online.
The league has also filed for extensive patents in the area of Rocket Racing to aid its growth initiatives.
A Request for Proposal program will be initiated in coming weeks to enable cities and states around the U.S. to bid on hosting Rocket Racing League events.
About the Rocket Racing League
The Rocket Racing League is an aerospace entertainment organization which combines the competition of racing with the excitement of rocketry. The RRL is dedicated to providing safe and thrilling experiences for families through live events, television broadcasts and interactive technologies. Co-founded by Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, founder of the X PRIZE, and Mr. Granger Whitelaw, two-time Indianapolis 500 champion team partner, the league's mission is to serve as a technology accelerator in the areas of airframe, propulsion and spacecraft design, and reach for the future to inspire the next generation of spaceflight enthusiasts.View gallery - 18 images