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Images: Rocket racers ready for blastoff

It's Nascar in the sky as the Rocket Racing Association launches a new sport.

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Topic: Innovation
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racing

Peter Diamandis, founder of the Ansari X Prize that awarded $10 million to the first private craft to twice reach 100 kilometers, launched the Rocket Racing League on Oct. 3, 2005. The rocket planes, or X-Racers, will compete on a course two miles long, one mile wide and about 5,000 feet in altitude--right over the spectators.

The first race is scheduled for September 2006. Competitions will then be held throughout the United States at air shows and auto races with pilots vying for the X Prize Cup, which will awarded at a final race, in New Mexico in 2007.

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Commander Searfoss

Col. Rick Searfoss, former space shuttle commander and three-time astronaut, will serve as the chief pilot of the Rocket Racing League. He will fly the EZ-Rocket X-Racer prototype Oct. 9, 2005, at the X Prize Cup in Las Cruces, N.M.

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engine

Here's a look at the engine in the EZ-Rocket X-Racer prototype. X-Racers will shoot a 20-foot rocket plume to make themselves more visible to spectators.

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real racer in flight

A look at the X-Racer prototype in flight. Pilots will fly a course based on Grand Prix automobile racing, except it will feature long straightaways, vertical ascents and deep banks.

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rocket tunnel

Each pilot will have a virtual "tunnel," or space track, to follow, and will use GPS navigation systems to keep a few hundred feet away from other planes.

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rear view

The rear view of the X-Racer.

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runway

X-Racers will take off either in a staggered formation or side by side.

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dogfight

The Rocket Racing Association hopes for heated competition, which fans can track on large-screen televisions and handheld GPS tracking devices. Spectators will receive streaming video of the cockpit, side-by-side views and wing-angle views.

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Space Adventure

The founders have modeled rocket racing after auto racing. Wings could be used to sell advertising space similar to the way Nascar vehicles are used to market sponsors' products. The first Rocket Racing League video game is scheduled for release in 2007.

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black racer

Here's an artist's concept of what an X-Racer would look like.

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red and white

Colorful X-Racers should be easy to spot.

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wings

If the league becomes a success, X-Racer drawings will appear in countless notebook margins during boring lectures.

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