When Popular Science sent me to the X Prize Cup in Las Cruces, New Mexico last October it was with strict orders to come back with material for future PopSci articles. It was a productive trip; number three of the resulting articles ships to the printer today. It’ll be the February cover story, about the Rocket Racing League (RRL).

Also at the X Prize Cup I shot photos for a photojournalism class I’ve been taking. For one of my assignments I put together this photostory on a test flight of XCOR Aerospace’s EZ-Rocket, which is the prototype for the RLL’s Rocket Racers. Enjoy.

John Carmack (left) and Matthew Ross of Armadillo Aerospace watch a test flight of XCOR Aerospace’s EZ-Rocket in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Safe Landing
Rick Searfoss, test pilot and three-time space shuttle astronaut, exults after a successful flight of the EZ-Rocket. The EZ-Rocket is a homebuilt aircraft whose rear-facing propeller has been replaced by twin rocket engines powered by liquid oxygen and isopropyl alcohol. It’s the prototype for a fleet of rocket-powered race planes now under construction.

Gearing Up
Searfoss (49) gears up for a test flight of the EZ-Rocket.

Ground Crew
Engineers from Mojave, California-based XCOR Aerospace fuel the EZ-Rocket in preparation for a test flight in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Rocket Fuel

Searfoss waits for engineers to finish prepping the EZ-Rocket before he flies.

Searfoss reviews his flight profile before flying the EZ-Rocket. Highlighted sections of the flight path represent rocket burns.

A pickup truck tows Searfoss to launch position. Sitting in the truck bed are, from left, XCOR Aerospace president Jeff Greason, XCOR photographer Mike Massee, and XCOR chief engineer Dan DeLong.

Going, Going…
The EZ-Rocket in flight.

A photojournalist takes aim at the EZ-Rocket.

Rocket Burn
Searfoss powers through a turn with both engines lit in the EZ-Rocket.

Rocket Man
Rick Searfoss, XCOR Aerospace chief test pilot and former space shuttle commander, expects to return to space in the near future in an XCOR-built spaceship now in the planning stages.