Rocket Racing League gets a boost

Tech Culture

Before this weekend's X Prize Cup, only one group of pilots had signed up to be regular contestants in the Rocket Racing League (RRL), an aerospace outfit that plans to host live rocket-racing events around the country in the mold of the Grand Prix.

Now, after a delay in the league's debut, the RRL has signed on two more teams and unveiled its first official rocket--the Mark-1 X-Racer ceremoniously named "Thunderhawk" this weekend at its headquarters in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Originally, the RRL had planned to fly its rockets at the 2006 X Prize Cup, but hiccups in team organization and engine technology pushed the timing back, according to event representatives. Don Grantham, former pilot and COO of the RRL's first team, "Leading Edge," said the league is also looking to line up sponsors and broadcasting deals for its inaugural race.

The RRL said this weekend that it now plans to kick off racing in late Fall 2007.

The new teams are "Santa Fe Racing" and "Bridenstine Rocketing Racing". The first was founded by Marc Robert Cumbow, an Albuquerque land developer and aviation enthusiast. Jim Bridenstine, an F-18 Navy pilot, heads up "Bridenstine." All three teams must have deep pockets, however. Grantham said he expects "Leading Edge" will spend between $3 million to $5 million over the next three years on operating expenses, on top of $1.2 million to buy "Thunderhawk."

Meanwhile, the RRL announced that former U.S. Congressman Robert Walker, a science expert, joined its advisory board and will handle public and government relations.

Walker said: "I believe that (the RRL) represents not only the next wave of exciting sports activity, but technology development for space."

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