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X-Prize coated in diller droppins

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Another team hoping to send a privately-funded rocket into space saw its craft crash and burn this weekend, littering the Texas plains with armadillo droppings.

Armadillo Aerospace lost a $35,000 rocket when the machine ran out of propellant at close to 600 feet and came tumbling back to earth. The small team has been working on hydrogen peroxide-powered rockets in their search for the $10m X-Prize. It is funded by John Carmack of id Software - Doom/Quake - fame.

"There are a few pipe fittings that survived, but that’s about it," Carmack said on the team's web site. "Amazingly, even though the on-board camera was destroyed, the tape did survive with only some scuffed sections.  It’s a good thing Doom 3 is selling very well…"

The team is now selling off bits of the broken rocket as Armadillo droppings. The armadillo is the Texas state animal - a peculiar shell-plated creature often found burrowing or coating local roads.

"We have a number of improvements for robustness and operability that we will be making in the next vehicle we put together," Carmack said.  "A couple of the necessary items are fairly long lead times, so we are probably grounded for five weeks."

Space Transport Corp. (STC) also saw their rocket crash over the weekend. Both Armadillo Aerospace and STC are making low-budget attempts at the X-Prize, which goes to any team that can reach space with three passengers on a privately-financed craft and then repeat the feat two weeks later in a safe fashion. So far, the well-funded SpaceShipOne has led the field of close to 25 competitors. ®

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