Friday, August 31, 2007

X PRIZE Cup, Space Elevator Game Tags

As the X PRIZE Cup and associated Lunar Lander Challenge approach, as well as the Space Elevator Games and their Tether and Beam Power Challenges, a lot of the traffic here has been for these events. For those new to the site, you'll find plenty of posts on these events, but they'll be mixed with posts on other space prizes and innovation incentive prizes.

If you're just interested in these particular Centennial Challenges, you can filter out the rest by clicking on the tags (below) for the event you're interested in.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Automotive X PRIZE Blog on Detroit

This post advocates that auto makers all over the world, not just, or even primarily, those in Detroit, should be selling more fuel-efficient cars.

AIAA Awards at SPACE 2007

Spaceref has a press release about a number of awards that will be given at the AIAA SPACE 2007 Conference & Exposition's Award Luncheon. Award winners and awards include:

Burt Rutan - AIAA Engineer of the Year
Antal Bejczy- Space Automation and Robotics Award
NASA's Thermal Protection System Tile Repair and Reinforced Carbon-Carbon Repair Teams - AIAA Space Operations and Support Award
XSS-11 Team - AIAA Space Systems Award
Glen Fountain - AIAA von Braun Award for Excellence in Space Program Management

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Heinlein Prize Trust at the Heinlein Centennial

At the Heinlein Centennial I went to a talk on the Heinlein Prize Trust. The link is to my writeup on the talk. Well, I just ran across a writeup from the Heinlein Prize Trust on their experiences at the Centennial. Their writeup includes a number of interesting photos. The 2 blue-outlined posters were at their talk, and showed students that participated in their Flight into the Future competitions. Buckner Hightower, who represented the Heinlein Prize Trust in this talk, is featured in one of the photos, and Peter Diamandis, winner of the first Heinlein Prize, is featured in 2 others.

Speaking of the Heinlein Prize, in my earlier post from the Centennial in early July I wrote "They expect to award the 2nd Heinlein Prize in the near future. Two or three individuals are under consideration right now." I wonder if we will be hearing about a new winner soon? Space entrepreneurs, you'll have to redouble your efforts so there's no doubt you deserve the next Heinlein Prize!

McGill Beam Power Team

The Space Elevator Blog posts some news with pictures about the McGill Space Elevator team.

NASA Space Elevator Games Announcement

RLV News posts on a NASA press release on the upcoming Space Elevator Games. There's some interesting content in the comments section, too, emphasizing that the competitions aren't just about the futuristic Space Elevator; they're also about improving technologies with many near-term practical uses in space and here on Earth. As the NASA press release says:

"The innovations from these competitions will help support advances in aerospace materials and structures, new approaches to robotic and human planetary surface operations, and even futuristic concepts," said Ken Davidian, program manager for NASA's Centennial Challenges, Headquarters, Washington."


"The Beam Power Challenge promotes the development of new power distribution technologies that can be applied to space exploration. ... Technologies demonstrated in this competition could have applications for future planetary surface operation with robots or humans."


"The purpose of the Tether Challenge is to develop very strong, lightweight material. Super-strong tethers could enable advances in aerospace capability, including rocket weight reduction, habitable space structures, solar sails, or tether-based propulsion systems."

This is the key to achieving many difficult space concepts like the Space Elevator - get there in small steps that are achievable because they address some near-term need (eg: a current run-of-the-mill business need).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Radio Report on PAV Challenge and Personal Air Vehicles

A few days ago Space for All posted a link to a radio report by the Bay Area's KQED with a good overview of the NASA PAV Centennial Challenge. The report also has some links on the challenge, including the some of the photos and videos I've linked in earlier (but less convenient to access) posts. Here's a link they provide to their Quest Community Science Blog, with an overview and some interesting reader/listener comments on the PAV radio report.

X PRIZE Cup Promotion

Spaceports posts about some X PRIZE Cup promotional material. I already pointed out the video in an earlier post, but Spaceports has some more information and promotional material about the Air Force contributions to the Holloman Air and Space Show.

Meanwhile, the New Mexico Museum of Space History has an event listing for the nearby X PRIZE Cup (more here). With the Personal Spaceflight Symposium Wed-Thu, and the X PRIZE Cup Sat-Sun, I wonder if the museum will have any events on Friday to tie in with the other events? The X PRIZE Cup has a media and education day Friday, but that might leave a lot of space fans in the area looking for something to do on Friday.

RLV News also recently posted another X PRIZE Cup update, this time on an X PRIZE Cup overview article by Leonard David. There are some interesting comments in the article about the Air Force's interest in the possibility of private companies being able to do space work cheaper than the government.

Update (August 29): Leonard David has a Lunar Lander Challenge Update with some newer information on some of the teams mentioned in the earlier article on LiveScience Blogs.

Update (August 30): Cosmic Log has a detailed look at the Lunar Lander Challenge. If a number of teams are ready at the Challenge, it could be a fast-paced show. According to the article:

"We've designed for two pad zones, so you can have two competitors with heavily concurrent operations," Pomerantz explained. "While one team is getting ready to pump their gas, the other team is flying - and once the first team touches down, the next team is ready to go."

LaserMotive Meet the Team and Custom Box

With the Space Elevator Games approaching, the postings by the teams continue their high rate. The Space Elevator Blog points us to another Meet the Team post as LaserMotive. The same day they've already posted on a customer-built electronics case with the LaserMotive logo in the picture.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Antelope Valley Press on Rocketeers

In The sky's not the limit: High-flying citizens fund space travel, the Antelope Valley Press writes on the book Rocketeers and its coverage of the X PRIZE and Mojave companies.

NASA Life and Work on the Moon Art Contest

Space for All and Out of the Cradle point to a NASA art contest called The Moon: Back to the Future. This contest is for university art students (with art broadly defined to include fine arts, architecture, computer design, etc). Realistic depictions of the lunar environment are required for the art to win. The rules show categories for two-dimensional art, three-dimensional art, and digital art. There will be cash prizes and exhibits of the winning art at NASA sites. Collaboration with science and/or engineering departments is encouraged. A number of resources are provided to familiarize the students with possible lunar scenarios.

Media Advisory for X PRIZE Cup

Here's a media advisory from the X PRIZE Foundation: Media Registration Open for 2007 Wirefly X PRIZE Cup and Holloman Air & Space Exposition. From the advisory:

"The schedule for this year’s Air and Rocket show will include:

• The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge – a two-level, $2 million competition requiring a vehicle to simulate trips between the moon’s surface and lunar orbit. Nine teams are currently registered.

• The Double Vee – the only remaining aircraft to train Tuskegee airmen

• Wings of Blue and Red Bull skydivers

• F-22, F-117, F-16, F-15 and F-4 flyovers

• Aerobatic Demos

• WW II Airplanes and Heritage Flights

• 30 acres of ground displays featuring spaceships, Air Force aircraft, robots and rovers

Education and Media Day (Fri., Oct 26th)

highlights include: Educational activities and competitions for students; Astronaut talks and aircraft demo flights."

Journalists, mark your calendars!

Several Automotive X PRIZE Articles

The X PRIZE Foundation news ticker has been pointing out a lot of articles on the Automotive X PRIZE. I haven't kept track; I may have run across some on my own, too.

Calling Inventors to Create a Gasless Car - Opinion article in by the President of the Heritage Foundation - urges inventors to improve on the automobile engine. It also suggests that private foundations offer a prize like the Ansari X PRIZE to create an alternative fuel car. That's not an exact description of the Automotive X PRIZE, which is looking for fuel efficiency, but you can see why they pointed out this article.

The summary quote: "Lawmakers have failed to solve our oil problems because they've tried to pick winners. Only the market can do that successfully. We need to set up a reward and then get out of the way." For a second I thought he was talking about the Space Access problem ...

Milwaukee-Based Valentin Technologies, Inc. Announces Intent to Compete in Multimillion Dollar Competition for 100 MPGe Vehicle - This is a press release from Valentin Technologies.

Ale: Another X PRIZE Entrant - from Edmunds Inside Line. The car pictures are pretty cool.

USST Beam Power Team Updates

The Space Elevator Blog reports on a big update of the University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team. Recently they have been posting frequent news updates. It sounds like they're really getting into gear with their Beam Power Challenge entry.

Space Elevator Games Discussed on The Space Show

The Space Elevator Blog reports on yesterday's Space Show interview of Ben Shelaf, Spaceward Foundation CEO. I haven't listened to this interview yet, but (as you can see from my Sunday post on the Orbital Design Challenge) that's only because I was listening to an archived Space Show interview that day. From the description it sounds like it was a good interview.

Space Review on the V-Prize

Today's Space Review has an article on the V-Prize written by Paul de Brem. This prize is in the concept and development stage. The organizers of the prize would like to create a $10-25M prize, similar to the Ansari X PRIZE, for a 1-hour flight from Virginia to Europe.

If you can read French, you should be able to find references to a recently-published article by the same author in "Le Journal du dimanche".

It sounds like a tough prize to organize (even the X PRIZE Foundation hasn't come out with a follow-on to the X PRIZE, and that's a lot of money to raise!), but they'll need a big incentive because it's a tough prize to win, too. Best of luck to them.

Here's an earlier post I had on this prize.

Update: Spaceports, run by V-PRIZE's Jack Kennedy, has some comments.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Orbital Design Challenge - Space Tourism Society

The July 15 Space Show radio show discussed the Space Tourism Society. The discussion included an Orbital Design Challenge (link currently under construction as of this post) the society plans to hold.

Here's my take on the Orbital Design Challenge part of the interview; check out the radio show link for more details, or just to make sure I got it right (I have trouble hearing sometimes).

The Space Tourism Society wants to change the language of space so it isn't directed just to aerospace engineers. (This seems reasonable to me; after all, cruise liners don't merely invoke ideas of marine engineering). They want to emphasize the entire "Space Tourism Lifestyle". When thinking about space tourism destinations, they don't want you to think about space stations, but rather about shopping, entertainment centers, and all the other types of things you do when you vacation on Earth. Just get in this frame of mind, and then take this idea to the outer space environment.

The plan is for the the Orbital Design Challenge to be a multi-year event. They plan to start with an architectural challenge using the Bigelow Nautilus destination as a framework. This year's contest will be treated as a testbed, so they will be focusing their attention on getting competitors from schools related to architecture and/or space.

The plan is for the winner to have their work showcased at the 2008 Space Experience Symposium and also in Second Life. The competition will be held in LA and in Second Life.

In future years, they plan to focus on other aspects of the space tourism lifestyle, including fashion, interior design, and food design.

Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition

Here's another human-powered vehicle prize (which reminds me of the prizes for human-powered flight and human-powered land speed records): the Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Prize. You can learn a lot more at The American Helicopter Society offers $20,000 for a controlled flight of a human-powered helicopter.

SpaceChannel.TV and Prizes

I thought I'd post a link to They post a lot of news updates, and divide them into categories similar to the tags used here and on many other blogs. The tag I used in the link above is "Prizes", so you should expect to see a number of articles on space prizes. Currently the link brings up few articles on related topics; for example, like me, they include the X PRIZE Foundation's Automotive X PRIZE, even though noone is going to get into space with those vehicles. I'm not sure how their article on alleged astronaut drinking got into this category, though ...

RLV News on Lunar Lander Challenge

RLV News has a number of interesting Lunar Lander Challenge links for you to check out.

X PRIZE Cup Videos from the X PRIZE Cup video site. That video archive site has a lot of X PRIZE Cup videos from the 2006 X PRIZE Cup, and it even says "Watch highlights of - and stories behind - Earth's Great Space Exposition of 2006!", but it's starting to get some 2007 content. RLV News points out the following:

The Pomerantz Report Lunar Log 1 - from William Pomerantz, Director, Space Projects, X PRIZE Foundation - with lots of clips of rocket tests showing what it takes to compete in the Lunar Lander Challenge. From the dialog it sounds like it must have been taken during the recent Team Summit.

Unreasonable Rocket Team Profile - Introducing the father-son team, explaining where the rocket name "Burning Splinters" came from, and mentioning a record-breaking test.

SpeedUp Team Profile - Introducing Bob Steinke, President of SpeedUp, showing how he got into the the personal rocketcraft business. He describes SpeedUp as the "Bad News Bears" of the Lunar Lander Challenge.

Masten Space Systems Team Profile - Introducing David Masten, President and Founder of Masten Space Systems. He's working in this field because he was born right before Apollo, and the time is past due for him to be going there, too. He explains where the Lunar Lander Challenge fits into the overall Masten vehicle development plan. The control of the vehicle is also covered.

A couple other 2007 video clips (I may have missed some) you might want to check out from the X PRIZE Cup video site (you'll have to go to the link above and select the appropriate thumbnail) include:

Holloman AFB: October 2007 - Introduces Capt. Keith Butler, Dr., Holloman Air & Space Expo, shows why the Air Force (which of course plays a major role in space) is interested in working with the X PRIZE Cup and the commercial space players, and why the base with its facilities, history, and major air show is a good place to hold the X PRIZE Cup.

2007 Teams: Lunar Lander Challenge - Introduces some of the teams and the 2007 Lunar Lander Challenge, and invites you to go to the X PRIZE Cup and cheer them on.

There are also lots of 2006 LLC videos in the archive.

RLV News also posts a link to Unreasonable Rocket's latest update showing vehicle progress.

There's also more about the Texel crash. I also wanted to post a link to an article from Gamer Node on the Texel crash, not so much for the content, but just to raise the possibility that there may be another audience (video gamers) with some members that might become interested in space through John Carmack's work in both fields.

Update: Showing that the Texel crash hasn't stopped them, RLV News reports that Armadillo has done two more 180-second tests using Pixel.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Planetary Society Award Celebration

The Planetary Society is planning a celebration in New York City on Friday, October 19, to honor 2 space prize winners. Tickets are available at the link above.

One prize winner is Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems, the company that made many of the cameras on the Mars missions (and is working on other missions like Juno and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter). They also investigated many of the images. The prize is the "Thomas O. Paine Award for the Advancement of Human Exploration of Mars".

The other prize winner is Paula Aspell, executive producer of NOVA. She won the Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science.

Speakers include Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye the Science Guy. Other noted Planetary Society leaders will also be there.

MPrize $100,000 Donation

Actually the donation is to the Methuselah Mouse Foundation that runs the prize to investigate longevity with a contest to dramatically increase the life span of a lab mouse. The foundation also sponsors research in aging.

TechX News Article

The Singapore Defense, Science, and Technology agency points to an article describing details of the TechX military robot challenge. The robots will have to navigate an obstacle course, climb stairs, use an elevator to get to a specific floor, and find targets like a soldier, a bag, or a dustbin.

10th International Mars Society Convention

August 30 - September 2 are the dates, and the location is UCLA. As you might expect, the conference will involve many of the most well-known Mars authorities.

As for space prizes, the schedule includes a talk on Thursday by X PRIZE Foundation President Peter Diamandis. It also includes a whole track on the Mars Society University Mars Rover Challenge (linked as long as the challenge exists on the right under Student Space Prizes).

Details taken from the schedule:

2:00 p.m. –Peter Diamandis, President of the X-Prize Foundation

Track 5 – The University Mars Rover Challenge - Grand Horizon B-D

3:00-3:30 K. Sloan - The University Rover Challenge: 2007 Review & 2008 Preview

3:30-4:00 The University Rover Challenge: Experiences of the University of Nevada, Reno

4:00-4:30 Experience of BYU team at the 2007 University Rover Challenge

4:30-5:00 UCLA 2007 University Rover Challenge Team

Prize4Life Job

Prize4Life is looking for a Chief Development Officer.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Posts on U of Alberta team, Solar Lasers, and more

The Space Elevator Blog discusses Solar Lasers. A new post from Beam Power competitor Andromeda Connection clears up the questions.

The Space Elevator Blog also discusses an article on the University of Alberta team.

Update: The latest post is on another "Meet the Team" entry at LaserMotive.

Practical Genomics

The X PRIZE Foundation news scroller points to an article on practical genomics on some huge health benefits (and thorny social controversies) that may result from the kind of cheap genome sequencing that the Archon Genomics X PRIZE is trying to encourage.

FAA and Beam Power

The Space Elevator Blog posts on FAA requirements for the Beam Power Competition. There are different requirements and recommendations for teams using spotlights and those using lasers.

Armadillo Loses Texel in Test

RLV News posts that Armadillo has lost Texel, one of their vehicles they're working with as they prepare for the X PRIZE Cup Lunar Lander Challenge, during testing.

Update (later August 22): RLV News now has an update from New Scientist. Rand also has a discussion on the incident at Transterrestrial Musings.

Update (August 23): Here's still more from RLV News.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Space Elevator Competition Team Blogging

The Space Elevator Blog has a number of posts on Space Elevator Teams that are also blogging:

Kansas City Space Pirates start blog - They start with a more optimistic outlook than earlier information showed, and also get more media coverage, making it a great day to be a Space Pirate.

KC Pirates reach another fundraising goal - They're a land lubber no longer!

News from the Andromeda Connection - The Progress Report points out the photos on the site, how much hard work is going into the project, and items for sale.

LaserMotive Problems and Solutions - The LaserMotive post Not All Roses - We Have Problems, Too describes some of the gritty engineering difficulties they've encountered. The Space Elevator Blog post shows that these types of problems are an inevitable part of any significant engineering challenge. I think the competitors in the other Centennial Challenges that have posted about their difficulties would agree.

LaserMotive also has a newer post on a type of sponsorship/fundraising/meeting challenge they don't teach in Business or Communication school called Breaking the Flow of Conversation.

I should also mention the latest (August 8) newsletter from The Spaceward Foundation, which announces Euro Spaceward. Euro Spaceward is holding a workshop on the Climber (Beam Power) and Tether Competitions in Luxembourg on November 12-14. They also provide information on the Spaceward-managed Space Elevator Games, as well as the expected European Space Elevator Games, here. They also have an interest in a European Mars Challenge and promote the Regolith Excavation Challenge and Moon Regolith Oxygen Challenge.

The newsletter also gives an overview of expectations for the Beam Power Competition, and discusses volunteer and sponsorship opportunities.

LoReMo and the Automotive X PRIZE

The X PRIZE Foundation news scroller has a couple articles on the Automotive X PRIZE:

Business Week reports on LoReMo, a fuel-efficient car by a company with a similar name that plans to compete for the Automotive X PRIZE, pending the funding and official start of the competition. also has a short article about this company and car.

Clarence L. Kelly Johnson Aerospace Vehicle Design and Development Award

RLV News reports that Bob Hoey has won this award from the Society of Flight Test Engineers.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

New VP, Alliances for X PRIZE Foundation

The X PRIZE Foundation issued a press release announcing that Mahasti Afshar will be Vice President, Alliances, for the Foundation. They would like to raise $300 million in the next 5 years, and would like to sponsor 10 to 15 prizes competitions.

2007 International Symposium for Personal Spaceflight

Spaceports posts on the 2007 International Symposium for Personal Spaceflight to be held in conjunction with (although physically farther from this year) the X PRIZE Cup. Speakers include prize-related personalities like Anousheh Ansari and Peter Diamandis, as well as numerous other people involved in the new personal spaceflight industry.

Unreasonably Disappointing Weekend

Rounding out this trio of Lunar Lander posts is one by Unreasonable Rocket on difficulties during testing. There are always problems like this in any complex engineering effort, and the Lunar Lander Challenge certainly qualifies as one of those. Hopefully they can work through the problems and give the LLC a shot this year. If not, showing the hardware at the X PRIZE Cup, and trying again next year (hopefully there will be wins this year and more LLC next year) would still be impressive.

Two Armadillo 180 Second Flights

Here's another Lunar Lander Challenge post ... again linked by RLV News. Armadillo posts on some supplier and testing issues. They are also continuing with multi-module vehicles. They're going to buy a crane to make their test process smoother. A whole bunch of pictures round out the post.

Another RLV News post points us to more Armadillo information (and if you saw the original RLV News post when it came out on August 13, John Carmack had a comment on August 17 you might have missed).

Detailed Masten Update and Pictures

While I was away Masten posted a detailed update on what they've accomplished and plan with their current XA-0.1 vehicle. They also have details on advances they plan with XA-0.2. The Lunar Lander Challenge is just one part of their plan. Some pictures and comments complete the post.

RLV News has a post on this with a discussion in the comments on whether or not the frontrunners in various NewSpace niches are too far in front for cliff-hanger competitions.

Personal Air Vehicle Challenge Results

Space for All has a good collection of links on the PAV Challenge that completed a few days ago. You can check there for the main articles; here are a few more to supplement those:

Pipistrel Virus the Big Winner at PAV Challenge - EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) News

Pipistrel Big Winner at NASA Challenge - from Pipistrel

ZDNet Photo Gallery of PAV Challenge - each photo comes with a paragraph or 2 showing what's going on, so you get a good sense of what happened

Far from 'The Jetsons', air cars for commuters - from ZDNet, gives an overview of the challenge. As sometimes happens with first-year events like this, it sounds like there weren't a lot of attendees at this one, according to the article. I wouldn't expect a lot of spectators at the actual challenge since it ran from Aug 4-12. Hopefully at least the post-challenge display event was better attended, and by next year the word will be out and the CAFE Foundation will hone their promotional skills.


Anders' Personal Air Vehicle, CAFE Foundation, RV-4

Vance Tuner's Personal Air Vehicle, PAV Challenge, CAFE Foundation

Rodger Musso's Personal Air Vehicle, PAV Challenge, CAFE Foundation

Video Update (August 27):

John Rehn's Personal Air Vehicle Challenge, CAFE Foundation

Here are some older, but fun, videos I ran across on the same site:

Flying Car 350Z - Westin's Personal Air Vehicle - a lighthearted, fictional account of Westin, who finds out about the cool PAV Challenge and decides to start with what is presumably his Dad's car as a starting point. According to the text this was a test video for a CAFE fundraiser.

RC Demo for the CAFE Foundation - a radio-controlled mini-PAV demo

Update (August 19): CAFE has posted a slide show of photos from the event, including lots of small planes and a large check. They've also posted a summary of the event and a breakdown of the scores in the various parts of the competition in a 2007 NASA PAV Challenge Results page.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Another Brief Centennial Challenges Mention

I'm away from the computer during a vacation, but I'm making a quick exception today. Clearly I'll have to catch up later - there's a lot out of recent prize news out there.

Space Politics has a discussion on "How to Build a Political Consensus for Space". Prizes are just one facet of the discussion in the comments, but I'll include some brief excerpts on that topic.

Mark: "COTS and the Centennial Competitions are both things that would have been unimagined in the bad old Goldin/Abbey era."

Anonymous: "Despite promises in Griffin’s early speeches, Centennial Challenges hasn’t received any new funding in years. The program is running on fumes. It was started under O’Keefe, and Griffin has all but killed it through neglect."

and later:

Anonymous: "Even today, NASA should not be allowed to get away with one, underfunded COTS program. Why isn’t NASA using Zero Gravity Corporation’s vomit comets? Where are the commercial suborbital microgravity solicitations that Griffin promised? Now that Orion is light enough to fly on commercially available EELVs, why isn’t NASA using those launch vehicles? Why isn’t NASA soliciting commercial demonstrations of in-space propellant provisioning? Why isn’t NASA soliciting or offering prizes for commercial robotic demonstrations of resource extraction on the Moon?"

There is a lot more in the comments. Much of it deals with whether or not NASA should be melting away its robotic science program and reducing its human space program to a monolithic government designed and operated space trucking "business", or should develop more smaller missions and use (or when not available, provide incentives for the creation of) commercial space services. Prizes are one part of this more complex issue.

You can tell where I currently see the issue by my view of NASA's current approach as akin to betting an entire baseball career on getting a major league home run on a single pitch with no practice that season. However, you should see the full discussion and the links in the original post so you can form your own opinion.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Catch a Star! Competition

This past April, the ESO (European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere) announced the winners of the Catch a Star! competition for students. This is the 5th year of this competition, so we can hope that there will be more years to come and we'll catch the competition in progress next time.

The Catch a Star! competition has a category for student research, in particular in areas of astronomy that are suitable for the large ESO telescopes. There's also a lottery competition that also involves a project paper, but in this case perhaps in a large group. Finally, there's an art competition (and here's the 2007 art gallery).

The big prizes are for research projects, and involve trips to ESO observatories in Chile, Austria, Germany, and Spain.

Here's an older article from Innovations Report that describes the launch of the competition, expanding on some of the details I got from the ESO site. Another article, this one from Science In School, reports on the results of the competition. The article has some of the artwork. It also describes the winning team's successful eclipse observations in Chile, in what could have been bad observation weather.

Methuselah Mouse (Anti-Aging) Prize Updates

The Mprize has a blog with a lot of recent posts:

Bruno Giussani Interviews Aubrey de Grey - on a $3.5M donation the foundation has received (much of which requires matching contributions), on anti-aging research they're sponsoring, and a book "Ending Aging" that Aubrey de Grey is writing.

Announcing the Methuselah Foundation Logo Competition - logo competitions seem to be a popular idea!

The Second 300 Member Dinner - for those who have pledged $1000 per year to the Foundation

Please Welcome New Members to the 300 - Several new long-term donation members have joined.

The Glenn Award for Research in Biological Mechanisms of Aging - The foundation wins a $50,000 prize.

Methuselah Foundation Announces New Mprize Competitor - This post gives some background on the (currently) $4.5M prize to be the team that does the best job lenthening the lifespan of a mouse. The article gives some background on the new competitor, why she decided to join the competition, and what types of research she intends to perform while going after the prize.

Welcome Ben Zealley to the Methuselah Foundation Scientific Team - welcomes a new researcher.

Article on Prize4Life (ALS Prize Competition)

Prize4Life, the innovation incentive prize to combat ALS, is the subject of an article in The article focuses on Avichai Kremer, founder of Prize4Life, and how he went about creating Prize4Life when he found he had ALS.

LaserMotive on Laser Safety Signs

LaserMotive shows an example of the kind of safety signs that their Beam Power Competition laser is required to have.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

More Prize Competitions in Several Fields

Also from the X PRIZE news ticker, Business Week has an article on several innovation prizes:

- The Picnic Green Challenge to generate ideas for products and services to help reduce greenhouse emissions with a 500,000 euro prize

- The Buckminster Fuller Challenge, an annual $100,000 competition to design solutions to our biggest problems

- The Knight Foundation News Challenge, a contest with $5 million in prizes for ideas to "use digital communities to enhance physical communities".

Automotive X PRIZE Dream Wheels

The Press-Enterprise has an editorial on the Automotive X PRIZE. The link is from the X PRIZE Foundation new ticker.

OnOrbit Logo Contest

The NSS had a banner redesign contest. NASA just released a "Graphic Element" and "Message Construct" that has received a lot of criticism from Spaceref. Now Spaceref is starting their own logo contest for their emerging OnOrbit service to see if they can do a better job for themselves using the creativity produced by competition. Prizes include several iPods and an Apple TV. You'll have to check back later after the results are in to see how they compared to the NSS and NASA efforts.

SEDS Space Art Contest Starting

I posted on the SEDS Space Art Contest in early June. Now Spaceref reports on a press release from SEDS that this student space art contest is officially open for business. There are prizes in several art subject categories - Space Exporation Systems (vehicles and stations), Life in the Final Frontier, and First Contact. Here's the contest page. Finalists can display their work at the SEDS Space Vision 2007 conference.

NASA Plant Growth Chamber Challenge

Spaceref posts on a NASA challenge for students to study plant growth using seeds flown on the Shuttle. Students will make a plant growth chamber using engineering design principles, and when that's done, get seeds to test it using scientific principles. The prize at the end is a certificate, plus valuable experience in hands-on science and engineering. Here's the challenge site.

Friday, August 10, 2007

PAV Challenge Article and Opinions on NASA Direction

From the CAFE Foundation News press coverage site comes an article from the local paper, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, on the Personal Air Vehicle Challenge. The article gives a lot of background on the challenge, including these details:

"The competitors this week feature modified aircraft already flying, including a Cessna and an Australian-made ultralight, with the potential in future years for more outlandish designs."

"Boeing has given the CAFE Foundation $50,000 to help with the aircraft challenge."

Finally, here's one that would fit right in with the recent Space Politics discussions:

"The fact that it hasn't happened yet may have more to do with politics than technology. NASA is devoting billions of dollars toward the goal of sending a manned flight to Mars, whereas the personal air vehicle division that Moore oversaw was disbanded in 2005. "It galls me that ... literally billions of dollars are going toward something that has no impact on people's lives, and honestly, never will," Moore said."

On the one hand, even the figure "billions" doesn't give a sense for how much is planned to be spent on the new human spaceflight program, which is expected to be over $100B. However, in defense of the program, the goal isn't (in spite of what some NASA employees think) to send a manned flight to Mars. The original goals were to fly out and retire the Shuttle, finish building the Space Station, transition to a new system to explore the Moon, and then go to Mars and beyond. All of these human missions were to be assisted by a series of robotic missions, for example to the Moon and Mars, as well as to other destinations like Europa. And all of this was to be done in the context of economic, security, and science benefits, with a major emphasis on using commercial space services. It was a lot more than a mission to Mars, and yet a lot more achievable because of the incremental achievable steps and the self-sustaining use of commerce. It would have been well worth the $100B.

... but most of that plan has fallen by the wayside, or has been postponed to the far future. The Mars robotic missions have actually been scaled back, the lunar robotic missions have been reduced to 1, the Europa mission is gone, and numerous other NASA exploration programs have been cancelled ... to fund the Shuttle, ISS, and the follow-on vehicle. Meanwhile, the follow-on vehicle is a government-designed and operated one, not a commercial one, and the main exploration program doesn't use commercial services. There is the Centennial Challenges space prize program that in some ways resembles use of commercial services, but it's tiny.

With all of that, Moore's assessment may very well be accurate. Hopefully I'll have to eat those words in 15 years ...

Space Frontier Foundation on Teachers in Space

With Educator and Astronaut Barbara Morgan now in space, the Space Frontier Foundation plans to get hundreds of teachers into space on suborbital rides. This will involve a competition. The rules for the competition will be presented at the 2007 X PRIZE Cup. I'm not sure if this is separate from the Teachers in Space proposal I saw recently from the Foundation that involved a government-sponsored program to reward excellent teachers with suborbital trips.

Space Pragmatism on Rocketeers

Here's another review of Rocketeers, this time from Space Pragmatism. The X PRIZE competition is featured strongly in this review.

36 DARPA Urban Challenge Semi-finalist Teams

Space for All has a link to a post by Cosmic Log on the DARPA Urban Challenge. This post also links to some articles about the GM Volt plug-in hybrid car that may be of interest to those following vehicle prizes like the Urban Challenge, or more likely the Automotive X PRIZE.

The Cosmic Log article is on the DARPA announcement of 36 semi-finalist teams in the DARPA Urban Challenge. The announcement also included the location of the "National Qualification Event", which will trim the list of teams down to 20, and the finals. Both events will be held at a military training base in Victorville, CA. The Cosmic Log article also has links to all 36 teams.

Also from the Cosmic Log article, here's a press release from the Carnegie Mellon University team, one of the teams that made the cut.

Centennial Challenges Mentioned in Space Politics Discussion

Space Politics has a discussion about why the public doesn't know about, or doesn't seem interested in, NASA's Vision for Space Exploration. Check out the article for the whole debate; I'll just include this anonymous comment that invokes NASA's Space Prize program as part of a potential different implementation of the Vision than the one that is happening:

"NASA is obviously not a private sector organization, but the agency’s human space flight programs could do a much better job harnessing lean, mean private sector innovation and competition in highly visible ways, even if the agency wasn’t sending astronauts beyond LEO. But instead, we spend tens of billions of our taxpayer dollars on bloated, uncompeted, fatally flawed, government-designed and -operated systems while only paltry hundreds of millions go to competitively selected commercial human space flight services (COTS) and practically no funding goes to private technology innovation competitions (.e.g., Centennial Challenges)."

It's a mystery to ponder, although to be fair a few years ago there was no NASA Centennial Challenges program at all. However, less than one quarter of 1/1000th of NASA's budget isn't much for a series of national technology prize competitions.

Unreasonable Rocket Newspaper Article

RLV News posts on the latest from Unreasonable Rocket. There's a link to an article from the Del Mar Times, as well as some notes on the article in the comments section. It's a pretty good article for getting the background on the Unreasonable Rocketeers.

More Masten Pictures

Masten Space posts more pictures of new hardware.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

More on the Personal Air Vehicle Challenge

... but not very much about what's happening during the PAV Challenge itself this week.

The CAFE Foundation's PAV Challenge page announces:

"The 2007 PAV Challenge is Underway!

August 4, 2007

Pilots, Researchers and Volunteers are actively testing aircraft at Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport this week as the PAV Challenge kicks off. Check back here for updates. We will be updating the PAV Video page with updates as well."

On the updates page, they state:

"Important updates on the PAV Challenge

The 2007 PAV Challenge is Underway!

August 4, 2007

Pilots, Researchers and Volunteers are actively testing aircraft at Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport this week as the PAV Challenge kicks off. Check back here for updates. We will be updating the PAV Video page with updates as well."

Update (August 9) on this section: These videos (inside the "=" lines) have been removed, but they now appear on Youtube in the CAFE Foundation Channel. I've updated the links to point to the channel but you're probably better off checking the channel to see what the latest videos are. There's currently a third video on the channel titled "CJ Stephens Flight Handling Qualities of the RV-4.

Currently the PAV Video page has an older video with an interview about PAVs and the PAV Challenge. In case they update that page, here it is on YouTube: CAFE Foundation President Brien Seeley on Local Edition.

I also see that today the CAFE Foundation posted a video of flight testing during the Challenge called CJ Stephens Flight Handling Qualities of the Pipstrel Virus.

Hopefully we'll find more like this in the coming days.

CNet News has a recent article that gives some background on the challenge, some of this year's competitors, and what the CAFE Foundation hopes to see in coming years.

Fast has a post that's critical of the PAV concept, but some of the commenters are more in favor of it and offer counter arguments. Some of the arguments don't persuade me too much. The worry about terrorists crashing PAVs into buildings or teenagers crashing PAVs into just about everything doesn't seem too persuasive, since the point of PAVs is that they're tiny vehicles that would cause about as much damage as a car... and cars already exist. Also, PAVs should not simply be the same as existing small airplanes. For example, they should be flyable by address, which isn't comparable to today's small planes. There are certainly hurdles to be overcome in these areas, both technically, legally, and organizationally, but it doesn't seem insurmountable ... just difficult. In the space area, we're accustomed to difficult problems that take decades to whittle away.

The actual course of events may be more of an evolution of today's car and air commuting towards something with some characteristics of both. It may or may not end up like the PAV vision of the CAFE Foundation. It will depend not only on the technological evolution of the PAVs themselves (Will they meet the safety and security challenges? Will they be as fuel efficient, reliable, and comfortable as hoped?), but also on public perception (which the competition may help to change over the years), reaction to the first PAV accidents, business interactions and pressures (for example from the auto and plane industries), legal changes, insurance, infrastructure (for example, will repairs be comparable to auto repairs? Will landing spaces be short enough that they can be found close enough to destinations for walking?), economics (PAV development costs, consumer price, ownership costs), and fashions (will PAVs be considered cool? Will they get good movie/TV/celebrity press?). As all of this takes its course, it will be important to consider the arguments of skeptics like

In other words, it's just like the new entrepreneurial space business!

Automotive X PRIZE Blog on the Third Rail

The Automotive X PRIZE Blog has a post on the third rail of "automotive politics", "VMT" or vehicle miles traveled.

Lunar Lander Challenge Teams Down to 7?

RLV News notes that at the recent Lunar Lander Challenge summit meeting to prepare the competitors for the competition, 2 of the 9 teams didn't show up. This has implications for their ability to compete and win the prize.

More on NASA Advertising Platforms for Centennial Challenges

Space Politics has an update on the proposal to supplement NASA Centennial Challenges funding with revenue that NASA would earn with advertising.

Here you can get to my earlier posts on this controversy.

Some Masten XA-0.2 Hardware

Masten gives us some pictures of some new hardware.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

More on the 100mpg Car

The X PRIZE Foundation news scroller continues to point to numerous news media articles on the 100 Mile Per Gallon car:

The first is from the Wall Street Journal on a test drive of a Prius modified to use a lithium-ion battery.

Next is an article about Automotive X PRIZE competitor ZAP Motors from

Finally, ASM (American Society for Metals) International has an article on a survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research arranged by the X PRIZE Foundation that they contend shows that the American public has great interest in buying 100MPG cars, and that the public sees this as one of the most important ways to prevent global warming.

Meet the LaserMotive Team

From the Space Elevator Blog, the LaserMotive Beam Power team starts introducing us to their team members.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

X PRIZE Cup Lunar Lander Summit

RLV News also gives a link to a newspaper article on the meeting of the Lunar Lander Challenge teams. This is a meeting that's been planned by the X PRIZE Foundation. At the Space Access '07 Conference, they mentioned that they had a team summit like this before the 2006 X PRIZE Cup, and they were considering doing one or more of these this year. Here are more details about that X PRIZE Cup Operations Talk.

Here's the article from the Alamogordo Daily News. There are some factual mistakes or typos in the article ($2.3 million? Grumman Corporation (I forget if that was one of the names before the merger, but it's wrong now)? Richard Diamantis?), but I have to assume the new material on the meeting is fine. I also think the following statement made during the summit, although presumably reported correctly, goes way too far:

"The point of this competition is that the company that wins will be able to negotiate with NASA ... So that when NASA is ready to land another crew on the moon, they will have the craft to do it with."

If it were true I don't think NG wouldn't be too happy about sponsoring it since they want to make the next lunar lander. It would be more realistic to say that calling it the Lunar Lander Challenge makes the challenge more fun and gives it a publicity boost, and maybe they will learn some things that will help with a lunar lander. However, what these companies are really after is vertical takeoff vertical lander rockets, which have a lot more near-term applications than lunar landers.

NewSpace 2007 Link Collection

RLV News has posted a collection of organized links from the NewSpace 2007 conference that was recently held in Washington D.C. If you're interested in the whole conference you should be able to find what you want there. If you want to find specific information related to space prizes, you could also try to cross-reference the particular item of interest from this subset of the conference events with the RLV News links. The only space prize item I'm aware of that I didn't include in that link (because I didn't know about it) is that Lunar Lander Challenge competitor SpeedUp (Rob Steinke) had one of the presentations in the Business Plan Competition.

Just a Reflection

I upgraded the blog template software to a version that has a UI to make it easier to make simple changes, and in the process actually did make a few changes, so you may notice some differences. Some of them were intended, and some sort of just happened. I'm not inclined to do a lot of blog debugging. I intend to spend the absolute minimum amount of time possible maintaining the UI of the blog, and maximize my time on the part I'm interested in, which is the content.

One change I want to mention is the picture "Just a Reflection" created by my wife to give the blog some visual character. This is a print she made by carving a design into a block of wood and applying ink to the wood and some paper, which as far as I'm concerned is just about impossible.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Numerous Space Elevator Games Blog Posts

The Space Elevator blog has been posting something on the Space Elevator Games every day for a few days now:

8 degrees spells trouble for Solar power teams - a post that discusses the reduced power levels that solar-power based space elevator game competitors can expect at this year's Utah location compared to last year's New Mexico location because of solar angle and possibly weather. The post also covers other troubles some teams may be having.

A story from last year's Space Elevator Games - which covers LiteWon, a high school Beam Power team that came in second place last year. Here's the story, and here's a version with more (and bigger) pictures.

The Canadians are Coming! The Canadians are Coming! - a post on the Canadian Space Elevator Games teams. Here's a recent post on these teams.

Note to other teams - wanna buy some equipment? - where the USST Space Design Team puts some Beam Power equipment up for sale.

LaserMotive issues blogging challenge - where competitor LaserMotive urges the other Space Elevator teams to post more news/blog articles. Of course the teams don't want to give away their secrets, and they're probably very busy, but on the other hand having an active multimedia public discussion does help to build a community of interest in the games, which in turn makes it more likely for all of the teams to get sponsors and other help (and more fun for all involved). The teams are competing with each other, but they're also competing against the possibility that noone wins the prize, so to a point it does make sense, to a point, for the competing teams to work together in areas like news posts.

Space Prize in Rocketeers excerpt

Here's another cool article linked by the X PRIZE Foundation news ticker. This one is from Wired, and gives an exerpt from the book Rocketeers, which, by the way, I see is now on the shelf at a local book mega-store. This excerpt covers the winning X PRIZE flight, which is what it calls "the end of the beginning of the commercial space age".

Numerous Automotive X PRIZE Articles

With all of the recent activity on the Automotive X PRIZE, can you believe that I can't even keep up with the posts on it? This post is going to be a collection of links to articles on the Automotive X PRIZE. A lot of them are related to the recent announcement by the X PRIZE Foundation of 31 teams announcing before the prize is kicked off that they intend to compete. (Many more teams are interested, but these already paid the $1000 registration fee). Most of them are linked by the scrolling news list at the X PRIZE Foundation site.

The one you should go to if you only go to one is Cosmic Log's Green Teams Go for Auto Race. This gives you all the essential overview (with ample links) of the background and status of the prize, future plans, and links to all of the teams.

Great Lakes IT Report has an article that briefly mentions one of the competitors, local favorite Michigan Vision from Ann Arbor.

Next is an article by WardsAuto discussing the X PRIZE Foundation finalizing the rules for the challenge. They have a link to a previous article about a "$25M Auto prize", but this article discusses a $10M prize. I guess it all depends on how much the sponsors donate.

Next up is an article by the UK's 4Car from Channel 4 giving a high-level overview of the recent announcement, as well as the global nature of the teams that have signed up.

Edmunds Inside Line has a brief article that also cites the lower $10M prize figure. This article links to one of their earlier articles that goes into a lot more detail on the prize, and also includes lots of car pictures from potential competitors.

As with the DARPA Urban Challenge, I hope somebody steps up and does a prize-specific blog or news website on this challenge like Robin's Lunar Lander Challenge site did, and the Space Elevator Blog does (in this case covering more than the prize). Thirty One teams is already way too many for a general site (like this one, or general auto sites, etc) to cover the way it should be outside of the "official site".

SpeedUp Test Firing and Permit Application

RLV News links us to a news post by Lunar Lander Challenger SpeedUp. The application for experimental permit has been given the go-ahead for review by the FAA AST, meaning that in a preliminary review there was enough material available for them to do the full review. Here's the FAA letter.

The previous day, SpeedUp had another post on their first rocket engine test firing with certain direct measurements. This post with all of the details about the test and what they learned is right below the one on the permit application. This post comes with the video Throttle Mapping and Thrust Vectoring.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award Registration

Spaceref and RLV News have posted about the opening of the Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award, which is to be held at the X PRIZE Cup, and will involve a competition among high school students to come up with the best idea to help the personal spaceflight industry.

Here are some earlier posts about the Pete Conrad Award. In case I miss any updates, I'll also keep the link in the Student Space Prizes section on the right of the blog's home page.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Update on Space Elevator Games

RLV News has an update on the Space Elevator Games, including a couple links to articles by CNET News and CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) News. The 2nd article is on the 5 Canadian teams, and the article notes that the although the prize purse is greater, the challenge is a lot more difficult (double the height and speed), too. Some teams have a lot more resources than last year (and can build on what they'd achieved then), too, so we can hope for a lot of impressive accomplishments. Lasers are featured in some of the teams' designs.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Driving on Fumes

Here's another quick look at Automotive X PRIZE challenger FuelVapor from The link is provided by the X PRIZE Foundation news ticker.

LaserMotive and Snowstar Getting Ready

The Space Elevator Blog posts on a couple of LaserMotive blog updates (one mentioned in an earlier post here; the new one is on a yellowish picture of the mirror. This picture is of the other (coated) side of the mirror.

There's an even more recent LaserMotive post on the announced date and location of the 2007 Space Elevator games and how that drives LaserMotive's planning.

Meanwhile, UBC Snowstar posts some updates on their Science World presentation and their construction progress.

Automotive X PRIZE Announces Over 30 Teams Planned

In this press release, the Automotive X PRIZE announces that over 30 teams intend to compete for the Automotive X PRIZE. The announcement gives an overview of the prize, and describes some of the support (in addition to the number of interested teams) that the prize is getting, including support from members of both large U.S. political parties, and involvement and support by a number of government agencies.

From the announcement:

"In addition, non-governmental organizations supporting the AXP include the National Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, the Apollo Alliance, the Consumer Federation of America, Global Green USA, CALSTART and Greenpeace among others.

The AXP has recently finalized a supporting sponsorship from Adobe. Other early AXP sponsors and donors include Idealab, Ray Sidney of Big George Ventures, the Elbaz Foundation, and the Jack D. Hidary Foundation."

They are still doing more fundraising before officially starting the prize.

See the press release for a list of the teams, including links to most of them.

Update: It shouldn't be too surprising that Elon Musk's (more well known to space folks because of SpaceX) Tesla Motors is one of the teams that has signed up. I don't remember all of the details of the draft rules, and I also don't remember all of the details of Tesla's cars. My vague recollection is that the AXP is looking for a "car for the masses", and Tesla's current offering is sporty, fuel efficient ... and not very cheap. However, they may have plans for sedans: check out the Automotive X PRIZE discussion and judge for yourself.