Friday, June 20, 2014

Proposed New NASA Centennial Challenges and Formats

It's been almost a year and a half since my last blog post. I have some time today so I thought I'd give an update on the NASA Centennial Challenges, and also give my opinions on them. NASA has issued a NASA Request for Information on some potential new challenges and a new format for some of the challenges.  The potential new challenges listed in the RFI are:

Europa Ice Challenge: Demonstrate innovative, scalable solutions to penetrate a very thick, low-temperature, surface ice layer found on Europa ... An analogous Earth environment such as a polar region ice sheet may serve as a stage for the Challenge Competition ...

Cache Capture Challenge: ... The Challenge would advance our understanding of a potential capture scenario that involves a Mars surface material cache placed in Mars orbit that must be recovered ... a ground demonstration would utilize a velodrome track to simulate the constraints of orbital mechanics. ...

Aerial Robotic Explorers: Demonstrate a miniature (flying insect scale) sensor package able to sense and transmit data and fly for the greatest endurance possible at Mars surface conditions. ...
competitors would fly within a large vacuum chamber at simulated mars atmospheric conditions ...

Earth Entry Vehicle Landing Shock Attenuation: ... The capsules and their sample volume containers would drop from a significant altitude with landing loads within the sample container measured upon impact with the ground. ...

Mission Architecture Studies
: ... Challenge teams would develop, analyze and prototype concepts for challenging future NASA missions such as a Human Mission to Mars or Europa Lander Mission. Mission requirements provided by NASA would establish constraints, such as launch vehicles or number of astronauts, and detailed mission objectives. ... Selection of Challenge winners would rely upon a highest overall score based on such parameters as technical feasibility, assessed affordability, accuracy of analysis, and inventiveness of concept and approach.


Here are some details on the proposed new format for some challenges:

... Domestic institutions of higher education would be able to submit proposals for funded support of their participation in the challenge under the funded track. Unsuccessful proposers to the funded track could still participate in the unfunded open track. Additionally, instead of a first-to-demonstrate format the new challenge structure would utilize a repetitive best-performer format. The Challenge would operate on a yearly basis for 3 to 4 years. Each year of the competition both funded and unfunded track competitors would compete for the best performance with the winner in each year awarded part of the total purse. ...

Here is a presentation New Challenge Model to Grow University Participation (PDF) that gives more details on the thought process behind the new proposal.  In addition to the above proposed challenges, this mentions a Micro Lander Challenge that sounds like a version of the Lunar Lander Challenge for smaller vehicles, a Precision Lander Challenge, a Venus Thermal Challenge, and a Mars Ascent Vehicle Challenge that appears to address another part of Mars Sample Return.  The funding for university teams would be for 5-10 teams at about $100-200K each, which is about the typical amount of the actual prize purse for past Centennial Challenges.

Before giving my comments on the new proposals, let me provide some context.  In the early years, Centennial Challenges held a larger number of prizes that grew to roughly the $1-2M level per competition as the challenges grew in difficulty over the years.  These included the Lunar Lander, Power Beaming, Strong Tether, Astronaut Glove, MoonROx ISRU, Regolith Excavation, and Green Flight Challenges.  As these competitions expired or were won, the number of challenges gradually decreased.  The next wave of challenges, the Lunar Night Rover, Sample Return Robot, and Nanosat Launch Vehicle challenges promised to revive the dwindling Centennial Challenges portfolio, but for the most part these fizzled out as the original set faded away, and only the Sample Return Robot challenge remained, sort of following the Regolith Excavation Challenge as a robotics challenge.  The UAS Airspace Challenge is also now filling in the Aeronautics niche vacated by the Green Flight Challenge. Centennial Challenges has indicated some interest in funding in-space beyond LEO cubesat challenges related to propulsion and communication.

Now here are my opinions.  Take them with a grain of salt, since lately I haven't been following the challenges nearly as closely as I used to.  First, I do think Centennial Challenges should have a broad portfolio of technology prizes.  I think robotics is an excellent domain for a challenge, and Aeronautics is another. Cubesats are appropriate, given their relatively low cost allowing small teams to participate and Cubesats' need for improved capabilities.  Actually holding cubesat competitions in space is a compelling idea.

However, the current number of active challenges (2) being held is sad.  Really, at a minimum there should be a half dozen or so around the size of the original set of challenges, a couple more ambitious
ones, and perhaps one "flagship" challenge in the $10-30M range. It's absurd that NASA hasn't been able to (or tried to) fund challenges at this level when it's had so many years to accumulate a bank account for prize purses.  Even without this level of funding, Centennial Challenges needs to get its foot in the door and fund a few challenges at a lesser level (e.g.: $250,000 - $500,000) if it can't manage higher budget levels. If needed, let NASA fund a "base" prize and expect the Allied Organization running the prizes to raise more prize purse funds, or fund an initial "easy" version of a challenge at a more affordable level and try to go to the next prize level if the initial round succeeds.

My gut feeling about the content of the 5 proposed competitions is that the first 4 are too oriented towards planetary science missions, and in particular extremely difficult far-future flagship planetary science missions, Mars Sample Return and Europa Lander, both of which could only be considered after an earlier round of flagship missions to gather Mars samples in Mars 2020 and map Europa in detail in something like Europa Clipper.  The Mars flying sensor challenge is also oriented towards far-future planetary science technology.  NASA Planetary Science is my favorite NASA area, but I think Centennial Challenge subject matter should be distributed more evenly among NASA's project areas and also among industry areas.  Where are the challenges related to astrophysics, Earth science,
heliophysics, human spaceflight, and so on?  Where are the challenges that take advantage of the ISS (which needs more customers)?  Where are the challenges that dovetail with the NewSpace movement, such as the commercial suborbital RLV aspirations that started the original Ansari X PRIZE that came before NASA Centennial Challenges?  Where are the challenges that address the needs of the broader commercial space industry, or of NOAA, DOD, etc?  If Planetary Science is to be the main funding area, why pick topics that are so "out there" in terms of missions that would actually happen any time soon?

As for the Mission Architecture Studies challenge, I don't have anything against such "paper/presentation" challenges. However, my gut feeling is that Centennial Challenges should be for technology demonstrations with clear-cut measurable results that limit the scope of judge opinions.  Architecture Studies challenges probably belong in a different category, probably with lower prize amounts.

On the proposed format changes to allow funding of University teams, I would rather see more "pure/fair" competitions without funding some of the teams.  It seems like Centennial Challenges
hasn't had enough funding to even run a minimal portfolio of challenges, so I'd first want a basic set of a half dozen or so regular challenges with a level playing field for all teams funded before trying different variants.  One way to increase university involvement is to have concurrent or follow-on challenges similar to the "main" Centennial Challenge that is strictly for university teams.  These might have considerably lower prize values and might also have easier technical requirements than the "main" prize.  Of course university teams would still be welcome to compete for the main prizes.  Examples include the Micro Lander Challenge mentioned above and the Lunabotics/Robotic Mining challenges that followed the Regolith Excavation Challenge. 

Here's how I might structure Centennial Challenges if presented with a small but viable budget:

Sample Return Robot Challenge (existing) - replaced with another robotics/space themed challenge after this is won or expired. Ideally, also start a similar student-level challenge similar to how Regolith Excavation was replaced with Lunabotics / Robotic Mining challenges.

UAS Airspace Challenge (existing) - replaced with another aeronautics themed challenge after this is won or expired.

Cubesat Challenge (similar to proposed BLEO propulsion/communication challenges) - replaced with another in-space Cubesat challenge after this is won or expired.

Rocketry Challenge - This might take the VTVL Lunar Lander challenge to the "next level".  It might be another variant of the Nanosat Launch Challenge.  It might involve a reusable sounding rocket demonstration.  It might involve taking the Ansari X PRIZE to the "next level".  It might involve use of vehicles like the suborbital RLVs currently in development. The point is that since the days of the Ansari X PRIZE and the Northrup Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, small-team rocketry has been the core of space prize interest, and Centennial Challenges is crippled if it doesn't engage this community.

Planetary Science Technology Challenge - Pick any 1 of the current set of proposed planetary science themed challenges (Europa Ice, Cache Capture, Aerial Robotics, and Earth Entry Vehicle Landing Shock Attenuation). As each one is won or expired, then continue to the next one. Only do more than 1 at a time if the prizes purses are low enough to not hamper the other areas or if some external source (NASA Planetary Science, Planetary Society, etc) is helping with the funding.

Asteroid Challenge - The Asteroid Redirect Mission is questionable, but many of its pieces taken as separate things (asteroid search, asteroid science, commercial asteroid interest, human spaceflight missions to asteroids, planetary defense, asteroid ISRU, SEP technology demonstration) are valuable.  A Centennial Challenge with appropriate funding should ride the (likely temporary) ARM wave and address an area like NEO search, characterizing a NEO with a small spacecraft, retrieving tiny samples of a NEO on a budget, or some similar task.  These will still have value even if the ARM fades away.

Lunar Surface Challenge - This would in some way work with the Google Lunar X PRIZE.  It might encourage additional capabilities beyond the initial GLXP.  It might encourage less ambitious lunar surface tasks that could get a ride (at a price) along with a GLXP team.

ISS Based Challenge - This challenge would involve use of the ISS.  It might be a challenge that is launched from the ISS, like a Micro-Reentry Vehicle that returns a small payload to Earth, or a Cubesat.  It might involve a payload that is deployed to the exterior of the ISS.  It might involve adding capabilities to the ISS.  It might stay with an ISS commercial cargo or crew spacecraft.  One possibility would be for the challenge to involve instruments of interest to Earth observation science, astrophysics, or heliophysics on the ISS itself, on an ISS-deployed Cubesat, or on a visiting vehicle.  Another possibility would be for the competition to address some aspect of HSF technology such as ECLSS.

This list of Centennial Challenges still prominently features the Planetary Science theme.  However, the asteroid and lunar surface challenges also could be of interest to "new wave" commercial robotic companies.  They could also serve as robotic precursors or partners for near-term (compared to Mars and icy moon) HSF missions.  There is also the possibility that these challenges could actually take place in space, or at least lead to use in space in a reasonable time frame, given budding commercial interest in reaching these destinations.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sporadic Tweeting

I've been tweeting a bit at @SpacePrizes.  That might become a low-level substitute for my roundup posts here.  Roundups can take quite a while by the time I've read articles, written a roundup post, and formatted it, but an occasional tweet is a lot easier.  I do have some ideas for non-roundup posts that I may or may not get around to.

I'm still quite busy.  I've done a lot of thinking and research about what I'd like to do if I switch to a new job.  I actively looked into a small number of possibilities, and that went well.  I've even thought about some career ideas somewhat related to space prizes, but those haven't gelled into anything that would feed my family, let alone support my ambition to take daily SS2 flights.  Most of my job ideas are for fairly traditional jobs.  At the moment it looks like I might wind up staying at what I'm doing now after all, but most of my team has already dispersed and that could easily change again.  I've been fixing things up around the house in case I end up needing to move, which has taken lots of time since I've been putting off a lot of house maintenance ever since my first kid arrived on the scene.  I'm also taking a class that might change some career options for me. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Space Prizes Job Search

It's been a long time since I've posted, and I expect that this blog will go silent, or at least hibernate for a long time.  I expect to need to find a new job in a few months in a tough job market, and probably to move as well.  Some of the people in my group at work have already lost their jobs, and ultimately that group will be completely disbanded.  As a result, I've been busy preparing for a job search and for a likely move, and that takes a lot of time.

If I do find some more time to post, I probably will tend to stay away from roundup posts.  You can keep up to date on a lot of that kind of space prize activity by following sites like the Google Lunar X PRIZE teams and staff blogs, HobbySpace, and the web sites of your favorite competitions and teams.  I might do more "conversational" posts, or if I do a roundup just cover items you might miss otherwise.

Anyway, here are a few items from the last month or so.  Yes, it's a mini roundup ...

11/18/2012: Big Hybrid Test - former Northrup Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge team SpeedUp

Updated Rules Posted - Sample Return Robot Challenge

ImproveSF - Energy Data Challenge - Night Rover Challenge

Updates from the Kansas City Space Pirates - Space Elevator Blog

Monday, October 01, 2012

Space Prize Roundup: Skybox Imaging and Conrad Foudation, UAV Outback Challenge, Reach for the Stars Rockets, More

NASA Set to Kick Off 2012 OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Video Contest - NASA

Nick Azer's Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup posts, which were on the Lunar C/I blog and then on MyMoonSpace, are now appearing on the X PRIZE Foundation's Staff Blog.  Here's the most recent one:
Lunar Roundup: A Watch-Worthy Week

Weekly Update 9.26.2012 - Space Florida on the latest for the Nanosatellite Launch Challenge (the update is towards the bottom of the page)

The UAV Outback Challenge is happening October 1-3.

Six Kids Win Top Honors in the Reach for the Stars National Rocket Competition - Space for All

Conrad Foundation News - September 2012 - Conrad Foundation - This includes news of a new competition for the Skybox Imaging Out-of-the-Box Scholarship: 

The Conrad Foundation and Skybox Imaging are joining forces to add an additional opportunity for students to win a $5,000 scholarship for answering the question, “If you had access to daily high-resolution satellite imagery and high-definition video of thousands of locations on the planet from space, how would you use that data to change the world?”

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Space Prize Roundup: Poking Fun, Nanosat Launch Seminar, Other Space Florida Prizes, More

Here's a space prize roundup for the last couple weeks:

The Ridiculous Rocket Space Prize - Space for All - In addition to the Ridiculous Rocket Space Prize Facebook event page linked there, there is also a RidiculousRocket Facebook page celebrating the SLS in all of its grandeur.  The image that occurs to me is something like this, but Photoshopped with mighty, if a bit waterlogged and immobile, SLS rockets replacing the columns holding up the bridge.  Or maybe the columns are replaced by barnacle-covered SLS boosters and the road is the SLS core having a rest.  I'm sure someone with graphics art talent and too much free time could do justice to this goofy image.


Team Phoenicia hosting 3rd Nanosat Launch Challenge seminar - Space for All - Team Phoenicia also has some updates:

3rd Team Phoenicia Nanosat Launcher Seminar: Draft Agenda
3rd Annual Team Phoenicia Nanosat Launcher Seminar: Registration Now Open - Team Phoenicia

CubeSats get big - The Space Review - The Nanosatellite Launch Challenge is featured in the article.

CanSat Competition Guide - 2013 - Mission: Sensor Delivery System - Cansat Competition (PDF)

Happy Birthday, GLXP - InstaPom (Will Pomerantz)

Google Lunar X Prize: Hardware Progress - Citizens in Space

The Low-Cost Spacesuit Challenge - Citizens in Space

Space Florida International Space Station (ISS) Research Competition - Space Florida

Space Florida Awards BioCurity $100,000 at Second Annual Igniting Innovation Showcase - Space Florida

Round-up of news coverage of the 2012 Space Elevator Conference - Space Elevator Blog

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Prize Roundup: Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundups, Challenge.gov Milestone, NRL CanSat Support, Back of the Napkin, Prometheus ChipIn, Much More

Here are some more Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundups from Nick Azer:

GOOGLE LUNAR X PRIZE ROUNDUP #6
GOOGLE LUNAR X PRIZE ROUNDUP #7
GOOGLE LUNAR X PRIZE ROUNDUP #8 - MyMoon

The Google Lunar X PRIZE has brought back an online forum: Google Lunar X PRIZE forums

Here is a sample conversation there: Alright Gentle(wo)men, place your bets!

The Ardusat Kickstarter succeeded, and now Team Prometheus set up a ChipIn site for their Ardusat Test Launch.

NRL Supports 8th Annual CanSat Competition - Naval Research Laboratory

2012 Zero Robotics Tourney Kicks Off Saturday! - NASA Television video on YouTube

Challenge.gov: Two Years and 200 Prizes Later - Cristin Dorgelo for The White House Blog

Space Florida and NanoRacks host ISS research competition - NewSpace Watch - Here is the competition site: International Space Station Research Competition

Weekly Update 8.30.2012 - Space Florida again mentions NASA's RFI on the Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge, and suggests that NASA might move ahead with the challenge rules in October.

Weekly Update 9.07.2012 - Space Florida mentions the possibility of TV coverage for the Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge

Teenagers Worldwide Invited to Innovate Commercially-viable Products, Services - Spirit of Innovation Challenge: 

The top five teams from each category will travel to the Conrad Foundation’s annual Innovation Summit, hosted at NASA-Johnson Space Center, April 10 – 13, 2013, where they present their innovations and vie for $10,000 next-step grants and commercialization opportunities.

The Back of the Napkin Challenge - Top Gun Maine

NASA sponsors student contest for naming an asteroid - Space for All - The asteroid is the target for the OSIRIS-REx mission.

Centennial Challenges: After the Challenge - NASA Centennial Challenges gives some examples of what happened to competitors after the competition.  The link is from Peter Homer, one of the Astronaut Glove Challenge winners.

Homer Hickam to attend October Sky Festival and Reach for the Stars rocketry competition - Space for All

UAV Demonstrates Utility Of Laser Power - Aviation Week & Space Technology

Galactic Unite awards first scholarships - Space for All

NASA360: Robots, Rocks, and Rovers Premiere! - Sample Return Robot Challenge - In addition to the NASA 360 shout-out, there is a hint of more news coming soon.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Prize Roundup: Strong Tether Status, Sikorsky Challenge, NSF Video Contest, Lunabotics 2013, More

The most recent update at the Nanosatellite Launch Challenge site at Space Florida discusses the NASA Request for Information I mentioned in my last post on some potential big changes to the challenge: Weekly Update 8.14.2012

Video Contest: Graduate Research Fellows Creating the Future - National Science Foundation

NASA'S 2013 Lunabotics Competition Open For Registration - SpaceRef

Space elevator ideas rising again - Cosmic Log includes the status of the Strong Tether Challenge in this overview.  Although the NASA Centennial Challenge expired, ISEC is still interested in the competition.  From the Space Elevator Blog post from a couple weeks ago Space Elevator Conference registration deadline approaching… : 

ISEC is funding the prize purse for this year’s Tether Strength Competition and the rules have been updated to lower the bar a bit and increase the chances that someone will win the competition this year.  Competition rules are now available on the conference web site.  One or two teams are interested in competing this year and we’re working to get them registered for the challenge.

However, according to the Competition rules link above,

The Strong Tether Challenge will not be held at the 2012 Space Elevator Conference and is postponed until next year.  We were not able get the competition organized in time to allow participants to adequately prepare for the conference.  However, we are now prepared to have the competition organized and announced well before next year's conference and also have time to look for additional sponsors to increase funding for the prize purse.

Engineering TV Video from AUVSI on Laser-Powered Stalker - LaserMotive, the winner of the other NASA Centennial Challenge presented as a Space Elevator competition, the Beam Power/Climber Challenge, shows its work with Lockheed Martin.

Conrad Foundation News, August Newsletter, 2012 - Conrad Foundation Spirit of Innovation Awards

The Sikorsky Entrepreneurial Challenge - Sikorsky - Although Sikorsky is focused on helicopters, some of the current challenges are relevant to spacecraft, too:
  1. How can your business concept enable safe, high-speed manned and unmanned vehicle operations in complex, obstacle-rich environments?
  2. How can your business concept utilize vertical flight to better serve or create new markets?
  3. How can your business concept introduce new approaches to preserve, stabilize or heal damaged systems and structures?
  4. How can your business concept reduce the cost and time of the design-build-test-qualify process for new complex vehicles?
  5. How can your business concept realize cost savings and lead-time reductions by using 3-D printing and additive manufacturing to produce or maintain components in vehicles?
Documentary about UK student space design competition - Space for All

NewSpace Competition a Potential Model for Canada - Commercial Space

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Prize Roundup: New Nanosat Launch Challenge Approaches, Network Visualization, SLI, NRC Response, More

European Southern Observatory holding two public contests - Space for All

Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup #5 - MyMoon

Visualize This! NSA Network Visualization Contest - Challenge.gov for the National Security Agency

NASA HEOMD Announcement of Cubesat Launch Initiative - SpaceRef

Weekly Update 8.6.2012 - Space Florida for the Nanosatellite Launch Challenge, with a brief note on rule changes and sponsors.  There isn't much activity on the forum, but there is now an effort to make an external forum for the competition: Nano Sat Launch Pad.  SpaceRef posted the following RFI from NASA on the challenge: NASA Request for Information: Centennial Challenges Nano Satellite Launch Challenge.  Here is an excerpt discussing possible big changes to the competition, which started as a $2M competition, and is currently for $3M: 

Several approaches to the NSL Challenge are being considered by NASA. In one approach an initial competition would require delivery of payloads to LEO twice within a one-week period using a launch system sized to deliver up to 10Kg to LEO. The competition would be for one year and a $3M prize purse would be divided between all successful competitors. Subsequently, a second competition would be held that would require successful competitors to deliver payloads to LEO at least ten times within a one-year period using a launch system sized to deliver up to 10Kg to LEO. A total prize purse of $6M would be offered for at least 10 successful payload deliveries: 1st Place receiving $3M for most deliveries; 2nd place, $2M for next most deliveries; and 3rd place, $1M for next most deliveries. ... An alternative approach to the NSL Challenge would be initially to focus on component and subsystem technology development. In particular the avionics for small launch vehicles is considered a significant cost item and novel approaches will be required to achieve a launch cost that is attractive to most nano-satellite developers. This phase would be followed by launch vehicle demonstration competitions along the lines of the approach described above.

Here is the NASA document, complete with RFI questionnaire for potential Nanosat Launch competitors and their potential customers: Request for Information - Centennial Challenges Nano Satellite Launch (NSL) Challenge (PDF)

An Open Letter to the National Research Council’s Committee on the Strategic Direction of NASA - Dennis Wingo includes a section on "Large Scale Prizes" in his answer to the NRC question on commercial space ventures.

2012-2013 NASA's University Student Launch Initiative - SpaceRef

Lockheed Martin Launches Innovation Contest - SpaceRef: 

The "Innovate the Future" contest creates a global forum for interested participants to share their ideas on how innovation can enable a more secure future for the planet. Participants are invited to submit their thoughts on a range of topics facing the world community, including the need for sustainable energy, cyber security, and healthcare. ...

There will be up to one $25,000 grand prize, one $10,000 second place prize, and three $5,000 third place prizes. The grand prize winner will also receive an incubation contract with the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute at the University of Maryland to help validate and develop the idea.

Here's a link to the site: Innovate the Future Challenge

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Prize Roundup - Arkyd Hosting CubeSats, EuSPEC, Aerial Robotics, New Physics Prize, More

A Spacecraft Within A Spacecraft (link from NewSpace Watch) - Planetary Resources announces that each of their Arkyd 100 spacecraft will be able to deploy a CubeSat, and that they will hold a competition for one of them: 

Planetary Resources is proud to support this community by providing a 1U Cubesat spot to the public – free of charge – through its Arkyd CubeSat Challenge. And, best of all, our online community – YOU – will help to select the winner! ... In the coming weeks, we will be announcing additional information regarding the Challenge’s structure, requirements, and timeframe. Stay tuned here for more details.

EuSPEC 2012 planning well underway… - Space Elevator Blog on the 2012 European Space Elevator Challenge

Citizens In Space - SpaceHack

2012 International Aerial Robotics Competition - This is being held in Grand Forks North Dakota (July 31-August 3) and Beijing China (August 7-9)

Russian tycoon kicks off physics prize with $27 million in awards - Cosmic Log

Life Technologies to Compete in $10 Million Archon Genomics X PRIZE - X PRIZE Foundation

Here's a prize-related Kickstarter project that successfully met its funding goal: Atlas: A Human-Powered Helicopter for a Historical First! - A helicopter, powered solely by the pilot, designed to achieve one of the greatest challenges in aviation history: the Sikorsky Prize.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Prize Roundup: GLXP Roundup Restart, Nanosat Challenge, Water Rockets, More

The $3M Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge run by Space Florida has been issuing frequent updates recently.  Here are some of them:

Weekly Update 7.6.2012 - on a logo contest that is now over (see the winner on their main page)
Blog Comment by Jacob Chancery - looking for a team to help
Weekly Update 6.11.2012 - update on rules, team forum, and judges - The forum doesn't have a lot of activity (yet?), but it has started with posts from Microlaunchers and Team Prometheus, among others.

Discover the Future of Space Exploration with X PRIZE Founder Peter Diamandis - Omaze:

Conrad Foundation News - July Newsletter, 2012 - Spirit of Innovation Challenge

24 hour Water Bottle rocket challenge - NASASpaceFlight.com topic, including a video, on an attempt to break the record for most water rockets launched globally in 24 hours

GOOGLE LUNAR X PRIZE ROUNDUP #1!
GOOGLE LUNAR X PRIZE ROUNDUP #2
GOOGLE LUNAR X PRIZE ROUNDUP #3 - Nick Azer at MyMoonSpace brings back the GLXP roundup series, starting the counting at 1, presumably because it's at MyMoonSpace and not Lunar C/I

Not Science Fiction, Science Reality, in the Palm of Your Hand - Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE blog

Nokia Sensing X CHALLENGE - Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE blog

Changing the Conversation about the Economic Development of the Moon - Dennis Wingo features the COTS approach and prizes in this discussion.

Annual Space Elevator Conference Set for August 25-27 - Space Elevator Reference - This is at the Museum of Flight, and includes competitions like RoboQuest for kids and the Strong Tether NASA Centennial Challenge

International rocket challenge nets silver for U.S. teens - USA Today

@unrocket: Making larger canards for guided rocket test.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

ArduSat, Southern Stars and SkyCube

I'd like to continue the story I started in my post about NanoSatisfi, ArduSat, and Prizes.  In my previous follow-up, I noted that they had reached $82,453, exceeding their second goal of $75,000 which would add capability such as another CubeSat.  Now their Kickstarter campaign is done, and they've reached $106,330, which is quite a bit more than the baseline level to fund the project.

In their latest update, they point out another Kickstarter campaign for a CubeSat: SkyCube: The First Satellite Launched by You!  SkyCube is a project of Tim DeBenedictis and Southern Stars. They are looking for $82,500 to fund the SkyCube, and so far are up to $10,344.  Here is their summary of SkyCube: 

A nano-satellite that lets you take Earth images and "tweet" from space, then inflates a visible balloon, and de-orbits cleanly.

 They plan to launch on a Falcon 9 rocket using payload integration services of Spaceflight Services.  You can find more about the SkyCube project at the above links and at SkyCube Project Status.  This tells more of their story, including a substantial sponsorship and the following item about competitions that fits nicely with the Space Prizes theme: 

We're pleased to announce that Southern Stars and SkyCube won 2nd place at the Life 3.0 forum sponsored by Funders and Founders on May 31st, 2012, out of 25 startups competing before a panel of venture capitalists!

ArduSat is also excited about their fellow CubeSat Kickstarter team because 

What is great for us is that they will build an iPhone App to show simple data from SkyCube and - drumroll – ArduSat!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Prize Roundup: Night Rover Update, International Rocketry, Jobs Prize, More

An X PRIZE for Jobs: Can We Radically Reinvent How We Create, Finance and Find Jobs in America? - Huffington Post - Peter Diamandis asks "what would your rules be for an X PRIZE intended to incentivize new ways to create, finance and find Jobs in America?"  You can answer at Design Your Own Jobs X PRIZE.

Hiring Entrepreneurs, Not Employees: Incentive Prizes Foster Disruptive Innovations - Forbes

French Students Win 2012 International Rocketry Challenge - AIA

The Night Rover Challenge website has gotten an overhaul.  Here are some blog posts and upcoming events from them:

The Future is a Funny Thing, or Why I wanted to launch the Night Rover Challenge - Joshua Neubert
Welcome to the Youth Ambassador Program - Shannon and Mikayla
Challenge America Summit: Public Forum - October 19-20, San Francisco - The panel includes Anousheh Ansari, Cristin Dorgelo (currently Assistant Director for Grand Challenges at the OSTP), and other prominent figures.

Videos: "Why Explore Space?" - Space for All

Ex-Google VIP Joins Private Moon Race Team - Space.com

Comic-Con fan gets Lynx ride via Warner Brothers and The Big Bang Theory - RLV News

Successful 48+ Hour Laser-Powered UAS Demonstration - LaserMotive

Here's a short twitter conversation that may be of interest: 

@FRCteam348: you guys should announce next years challenges soon! Don't you know some people look forward to these things!?!  

@NASAPrize: Patience :) Won't be long now!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Crowdfunding Space Prize Teams

As I mentioned in my previous post, NanoSatisfi is funding a cubesat project with a number of prize aspects with a Kickstarter project.  By the time of that post, they had already achieved their original funding goal, and were attempting to reach $75,000 by their deadline of July 15 for additional satellite capabilities (possibly a pair of separate cubesats or a single 2CU cubesat).  This is just an update to note that they are now up to $82,453, and thus have reached their second funding goal.  Here's an update from them on what that means: Update #8: We are deeply humbled and inspired by you!.

During the Climber/Beam Power NASA Centennial Challenge, I often covered the Kansas City Space Pirates team, one of the most prominent teams in that competition.  Now the KCSP team is moving on to a new record-breaking challenge, to keep a small plane flying for 48 hours using beamed laser power, in the spirit of what Climber team LaserMotive achieved.  They are using an Indiegogo Fundraiser to raise funding for this project.  As of this writing, they are at $2,442 with a goal of $6,000.  Here is the actual fundraising page: Dawn of Laser Powered Flight.

Google Lunar X PRIZE team Omega Envoy is using Kickstarter to raise funds for a CNC milling machine: Earthrise Space Inc. Launches Kickstarter Project - Omega Envoy GLXP Teams page.  They have quite a way to go to reach their goal of $200,000.  Many of the funding rewards involve scale models of their lunar rover made using the CNC machine, but the biggest reward, for $10,000 or more pledged, includes having your DNA taken to the Moon.  Naturally that last bit assumes they succeed in getting their rover to the Moon.  Even if they don't, the highest pledge level includes a lot of other unique rewards.  Here is the Kickstarter page: Student Built Lunar Rover Prototype for Google Lunar X PRIZE.  This is also covered at PopSci: For $10,000 on Kickstarter, Google Lunar X-Prize Contender Will Land Your DNA on the Moon.

Final Frontier Design's spacesuit kickstart a success - RLV News on a Kickstarter success for one of the winners of the Astronaut Glove NASA Centennial Challenge

Sunday, June 24, 2012

NanoSatisfi, ArduSat, and Prizes

ArduSat - run your experiment in space for a week - Space for All

As the linked article explains, company NanoSatisfi wants to build and launch a cubesat called ArduSat using funding from a Kickstarter project.  ArduSat would house a variety of small sensors and experiments, including those from some of the Kickstarter contributors.  There are a number of prize angles on this story, which I'll explain in good time.  Before that, though, I should note that currently $43,305 has been pledged out of a goal of $35,000.  In this case the goal is to add a second cube to the satellite, increasing its capabilities.  Additional goals they mention that also depend on funding include a higher altitude orbit enabling a longer mission and a third cube, making it a 3U or triple cubesat.  However, for now they are concentrating on that second cube.  One of the Kickstarter "Updates" has more on this: 

And now you are inspiring us to dream just a little bigger.

We want to build you a double sized ArduSat, with more power (always good), a much better camera and pointing accuracy for better pictures, and more sensors (we’ve seen some amazing suggestions, keep them coming!) for even better experiments. Or, we could even look into giving you two single-sized ArduSats so you can build communication experiments or games between the two satellites.

But for that to happen, we have to reach at least $75,000. In just three more weeks! This is a very short time but we believe that with your help we can make this happen. If you want a larger, more capable ArduSat – and we seriously hope you do – reach out to your local schools, art centers, universities, Hacker-centers and DIY-stores. Share your ArduSat story. Pass on your inspiration. Bring them into the ArduSat community and together we can build the most amazing open source satellite ever.

I'll let the Kickstarter page explain some of the prize aspects of their effort: 

Besides being first in line to use the satellite when it goes online (and the obvious bragging rights that come with it!), backers will also have the opportunity to propose additional sensors to include in the payload. Our mass budget currently allows for approximately 5 additional sensors, and we’re holding a voting competition for the best ideas.

Discover Magazine is also holding a competition for the most innovative experiment or application for ArduSat with a grand prize worth $1500 (for details see our extensive FAQ section at the bottom).

Here is a Discover Magazine post on this:

CONTEST: We Want You To Send an Experiment to Space. We’ll Give You $1500 To Do It. - Discover Magazine 80 Beats

One of the ideas that the developers suggested is a competition: 

ENTERTAINMENT: Photography Competition - See who among your friends can snap the coolest/most interesting picture from space. The eye of a hurricane, sunrise over the Indian ocean, even aurora from space – see what marvels you can capture!

The Kickstarter page includes the following updates (among others):

Update #1: Nanosatisfi makes finals of $100,000 NASA Business Plan Competition

Update #5: ArduSat will be tested in the stratosphere by Team Prometheus! - As you probably know, Team Prometheus has been active in quite a few space prize competitions.  Here are some details about this announcement: 

The first flight, scheduled for late September, will carry the payload prototype and flight computer to an altitude of 100,000 feet (roughly 30 km) using a balloon, and will allow for testing of the payload and sensor performance, onboard data handling protocols, and communication systems.

The second flight, scheduled for October, will launch a new payload prototype and flight computer to an altitude of roughly 40 miles (64 kilometres) atop a balloon-launched rocket.


Here's the NanoSatisfi twitter account.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Prize Roundup: Sample Return Event and Future, NewSpace Biz Plan, Diamandis Interview, Final Frontier Design, More

Finalists for the $110,000 NewSpace2012 Business Plan Competition Have Been Selected - NewSpace Business Plan Competition

Here are some photo sets and summaries of the recently-held Sample Return Robot Centennial Challenge and associated festival at WPI.  As you can tell from the excerpts I've pulled out, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens with the challenge in the future.

NASA Centennial Challenge, Touch Tomorrow Draw 7,000 Visitors to WPI - WPI Connection: 

“Touch Tomorrow, which we hope will become an annual event, is designed to inspire young people, their families and teachers through exposure to and interaction with advanced aerospace and robotics technology.”

...

Stafford said NASA will continue the Centennial Challenge competition at WPI again next year.

“Absolutely. We are happy with it, and from everything I’ve heard, NASA is thrilled by our venue. We will  certainly endeavor to have it. It will be a different competition site, but it will be hosted by WPI.”

Sample Return Robot Return Challenge at WPI Concludes - NASA
20120616 Robot Challenge - Photo set from NASAHQ with detailed descriptions attached to each photo
No bot wins robot challenge - Cosmic Log
Update from the Challenge - Sample Return Robot Challenge at WPI - From the comments:

The decision on whether or not this challenge will continue still needs to be discussed and decided. The goal is to have a decision and announcement on the future of this challenge as soon as possible.

Tongal/NASA Zero Robotics Video Challenge - Space for All

Utah State wins 2012 University Student Launch Project rocketry challenge - Space for All

2013 NASA Space Settlement Design Contest - NASA Hack Space

Students compete with Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts - RLV News

X Prize Founder Peter Diamandis Has His Eyes on the Future - Wired - This interview has the following interesting note on a potential X PRIZE: 

The Tri-State Carbon Capture X Prize is 50 percent funded. Sequestering carbon from a coal plant’s smokestack currently takes up to 30 percent of the plant’s energy. An energy company called Tri-State has put up not only half of the money but one of its plants as a test bed. Teams will tap the facility’s effluent at full pressure, temperature, and CO2 concentration. The team that captures the most CO2 and turns it into the most valuable product takes the prize.

Final Frontier Design creating budget space suit for private space industry - GizMag

New York startup pitches commercial spacesuit on Kickstarter - Wired.Co.UK on the second place winners of the final Astronaut Glove Challenge