Armadillo’s Carmack Reviews the Competition

In a candid blog post, Armadillo Aerospace founder John Carmack offers a spirited defense of his company’s efforts at developing a commercial suborbital vehicle. He also provides candid assessments of his company’s major competitors. Carmack praises some, questions the viability of others, and dismisses one European company with two words.

Some quick highlights:

  • Virgin Galactic: “The safest bet for success.” However, the company is “spending a frightful amount of money, their schedule has slipped a lot, and the configuration is inherently much lower in operability than the others. The fatal explosion at Scaled [Composites] has also forever ended the ‘nitrous hybrids are inherently safe’ argument.”
  • XCOR: The Mojave, Calif.-based company is working with technology that is largely developed and seems likely to raise the money needed to fly its Lynx Mark 1 and Mark 2 vehicles.
  • Rocketplane Global: The Oklahoma company has already spent tens of millions of dollars without flying anything. Carmack doubts this will change.
  • SpaceDev: Although the company has done some fine work, its “hybrid-powered VTHL [Verticle Takeoff Horizontal Landing] DreamChaser is about the worst design for commercial suborbital flights.”
  • Blue Origin: The company is still shrouded in secrecy. Just what exactly is Jeff Bezos up to over there?
  • EADS Astrium: “Oh, please.”