The US State of New Mexico’s attempt to attract more high tech industry state via its recent US$500,000 funding of the US/Romanian launch firm ARCA Space has recently come under fire. This is mainly because it was given on the basis of attracting business which might have gone to another state, when, in fact ARCA Space was never in danger of going elsewhere. However, there was worse news for the Las Cruces-based ARCA Space and for the State of New Mexico. ARCA CEO Dumitru Popescu, has been arrested for fraud, embezzlement and forgery. According to a report by Parabolic Arc the charges apparently relate to alleged offences against the Chicago-based telecommunications company Anova Technologies.
This column recently gave its support to ARCA Space’s concept of building a single-stage-to-orbit rocket as cheaply as possible on an expendable basis as a possible way of competing against reusable two stage designs of the likes of SpaceX and Blue Origin. As such we roundly supported the US/Romanian launch firm ARCA Space and its HAAS 2CA design. This idea even gained support from NASA.
It is true that we had our doubts about whether going the untried aerospike rocket engine for the concept was the right thing to do. While having a lower performance and hence less attractive payload size, a simple ablatively-cooled ceramic design would have been much cheaper to build. Nevertheless we remained in support of ARCA’s concept. So it is sad for us, that ARCA’s critics may be proven right. They have always suspected the technical credentials and motives of ARCA – a one time Romanian research organisation before it became a commercial company in America.