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John Carmack's private space program 'in hibernation' after progress stalled

John Carmack's private space program 'in hibernation' after progress stalled

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Armadillo Aerospace, the private rocket-building enterprise founded by gaming godfather John Carmack, is being put on hold. At QuakeCon, Carmack told New Space Journal that in the face of a failed landing in January and growing organizational problems, "things are turned down to sort of a hibernation mode." Armadillo, the Journal reports, had hit a snag after giving up private contract work to chase a reusable cargo craft of the kind used by NASA. That meant that instead of operating at a profit, Carmack paid over a million dollars a year to finance the company and narrowed its focus to producing working suborbital rockets with existing technology.

"What happened was disappointing," he said. "What should have been faster — the repackaging of everything — turned out slower." He blamed the issue partly on his giving up a certain amount of day-to-day control and partly on a culture of "creeping professionalism" that delayed development. Instead of prototyping and testing quickly, Carmack said teams were spending more time on reviews or plans that did more to reassure potential buyers than get results. By focusing on one line of rockets, a single failure also became much more risky than if they'd had backup designs to turn to.

Armadillo was never on the scale of a company like SpaceX, but it's been around for over a decade with a combination of volunteer and full-time employees. Now, Carmack doesn't seem optimistic about ambitious projects in the near future. "I've basically expended my crazy money on Armadillo, so I don't expect to see any rockets in the real near future unless we do wind up raising some investment money on it," he said.