Armadillo’s Carmack Snipes at Rivals, Threatens to Steal Their Engineers

Fresh off a cash infusion from new partner Space Adventures, Armadillo Aerospace CEO John Carmack spent some time this weekend sniping at rivals during the NSS International Space Development Conference in Chicago. Jeff Foust reports in The Space Review:

Carmack generated a little bit of controversy when he compared Armadillo’s efforts with those by competing suborbital developers. Virgin Galactic, he suggested, would not be able to fly as cheaply as Armadillo; Virgin currently charges $200,000 for a ticket while Space Adventures is asking for about half that, $102,000. “I think they have explicitly not chosen the most cost effective solution on this,” Carmack said. “I don’t think they will be able to compete on price, eventually, but some people will prefer their experience.”

Carmack was critical of another company, XCOR Aerospace, from a funding standpoint. “I believe that, if fully funded, they could build a vehicle that could fly, that could service passengers,” he said. “I do not believe they are fully funded.” He then issued something of a warning to other companies, after earlier noting that Armadillo planned to accelerate its development plans and hire more people. “I think one of the best things about having the other companies in the industry is that it’s developed some very skilled and talented people, and we’re probably going to steal some of them.”

XCOR officials, who just announced a partnership with Masten Space Systems to develop lunar landers for NASA, did not rise to the bait.

XCOR president Jeff Greason did not directly address those claims in his ISDC presentation the following day, but gave every indication that development of his company’s suborbital spaceplane, the Lynx, was going well. Engine work continue, he said, although their development and testing“are not my worry.” The company has been focusing more on aerodynamics, refining the design of the vehicle ever so slightly to deal with “subtle but incredibly stubborn” issues found in subsonic wind tunnel tests. Supersonic wind tunnel tests are scheduled to begin in several weeks, and the company has already started fabricating parts for a structural test article. Greason said they’re currently planning a mid-2011 rollout of the Lynx Mark 1 vehicle and start of its flight test program….

XCOR’s partner, Dave Masten, dismissed any suggestion that his company is lacking in money.

Masten also addressed the suggestion from Carmack’s presentation that Masten might be one of the underfunded companies from which Armadillo will seek to hire away engineers from. “We have plenty of money,” he said. “We’re in really good financial shape. We have lots of cash in the bank.” In addition, he said, “our pipeline is full on the sales side.”

Read Jeff’s full report.