Armadillo Aerospace's Stig-A hovering, tethered (via Armadillo Aerospace)
Armadillo Aerospace, founded by John Carmack, of video-game fame (Doom, Quake and Rage), has recently been issued their Operator License from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) for their Stig-B reusable launch vehicle (rocket). The license gives the team from Armadillo the ‘go-ahead’ to launch the reusable sub-orbital rocket through to July 2014 from Spaceport America in New Mexico. The Stig-B rocket itself is similar to its predecessor (Stig-A), but it has a wider fuselage diameter (around 20 inches) and stands 35ft tall. Stig-B features an LOX (liquid oxygen)/ethanol engine based off of their Super Mod platform and is capable of lifting payloads of up to 110lbs to a sub-orbital altitude of around 62 miles for roughly three minutes before returning to earth. The rocket then deploys a set of super-sonic balloon parachutes (known as ballutes) that are designed to maneuver the rocket safely back to the ground using a GPS guidance system.
It is the company’s goal to create a reusable/refuellable rocket platform for commercial space-flight, adaptable into the 2 person space-capsule they are developing with Virginia-based Space Adventures. While the Stig-B is currently awaiting its final assembly, the company hopes to start its test flights with two experimental payloads by the end of August (2012). In the meantime, Mr. Carmack has shown additional interest in the growingly popular Oculus Rift VR headset, which he is looking to adapt to up-coming games such as the revamped Doom 3 BFG edition as well as Doom 4.
Game designer/rocket scientist Carmack immediately became interested in the VR headset that was designed and developed by Palmer Luckey (see Project Holodeck post for detailed hardware and design parameters) after getting his hands on one of the prototypes. Carmack states that he ‘did a software correction’ (on the ID Tech 4 engine) that gives the re-release of Doom 3 BFG edition an option to play in a 3D VR environment using the headset. Luckey recently put the Oculus Rift on Kickstarter and received over $1.4 million US, with a target goal of $250,000 US, in only its first few days online. Those interested in acquiring the headset can make a pledge of $300 US and receive the developer’s version (for PC and mobile devices at this time), which includes the SDK as well as a copy of Doom 3 BFG edition.
Otherwise you’ll have to wait for the final build which is already slated to be bundled with the release of Doom 4 (unknown on the actual release date for both the headset and Doom 4 but has been speculated to be when the next gen consoles are released next year - 2013). It looks as though we could see a revolution in interactive gaming when more developers embrace the VR world (Epic Games, Unity and Valve along with ID are already onboard). Carmack certainly has a history of bringing these software and hardware developments onto the mainstream gaming platforms (PC, consoles and mobile devices).