Thursday, February 28, 2008

More About New Lunar X PRIZE Teams

Here's a YouTube video from Google on the Google Lunar X PRIZE team announcement. Apparently it's been watched (or started) over 20,000 times in 6 days. It's an hour long, and I've only had a chance to watch the first few minutes so far, but it looks like you'll see statements by the various teams as well as Google and X PRIZE Foundation representatives. I originally got the link from an article about Google at Teaching 2.0: A Professional Development Resource.

Astrobotic also has a YouTube Video on their Lunar X PRIZE team. This one is much shorter - 4.5 minutes.

The Inquisitive Mind ponders criticism of Google for getting involved with lunar missions and alternative energy. A factor that the critics might not be considering: brand loyalty.

The University of Arizona paper The Wildcat Online discusses the university's role in the GLXP.

The GLXP teams keep up the rapid pace of posts at the Teams site:

- Micro-Space discusses the Lunar Lander portion of the challenge, and the increasing cost of space access

- Team Italia introduces their concept and points out publicity the team has been getting. They also offer the following website:

- Odyssey Moon notes that their partner MDA will have robotic helper Dextre on the next Space Shuttle mission.

- LunaTrex mentions work with Purdue, breaking down the necessary work items, space access, and educational outreach.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Keeping Unreasonable Rockets Simple

Unreasonable Rocket shows some pictures of rocket hardware that arrived, and tells us about an experiment planned for this weekend.

USST Status; Possible Tether Team

In 2 separate posts, the Space Elevator Blog notes that a Cambridge University team that has recently announced carbon nanotube progress is considering entering the Tether Challenge, and sends along some responses by experienced laser team USST to some SE Blog questions.

Lunar X PRIZE Team Chandah

The Earth Times has a press release about Google Lunar X PRIZE competitor Team Chandah. The team is in the Houston area, which may help them as they recruit space professionals.

Lunar Ventures with Earth Applications

CNBC has a press release about this year's Lunar Ventures student competition for space business concepts. Businesses with immediate application on Earth are encouraged. A lot of the press release covers last year's winner, Lumedyne Technologies, called Omega Sensors at the time they won $25,000 in the 2007 competition. Lumedyne's product is a small accelerometer with a number of Earth, and potentially space, applications. CEO Brad Chisum states:

Not only was Lunar Ventures instrumental in helping refine our business model, 8C made it possible for us to get an audience with the new Space Angels funding network and Space Investment Summit 3, resulting in $1 million in funding just one year after winning Lunar Ventures.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Apophis Winners Announced by Planetary Society

Recently I mentioned that the Apophis Mission Design winners were expected to be announced soon (I don't know why I didn't just give the date since the Bruce Betts interview said it was today). Now, RLV News has a number of links to key information about the winners. The proposal offered by SpaceWorks Engineering, which I discussed here when the nice, focused proposal was publicized, was the winner with a $25,000 prize. There were several other winners in professional and university categories. You can see discussion of some of the teams that eventually turned out to be winners in this post about some Apophis information that I found at the Planetary Defense blog.

Speaking of Planetary Defense (linked on the right), that blog has had a recent interface overhaul. Most importantly today, though, it has a detailed collection of links about the announcement. I think they were particularly pleased at which team won the competition!

As Planetary Defense said, congratulations to the winning teams. Not only that, but congratulations to all the other teams that contributed to this effort that might turn out to be extremely important, and congratulations to the Planetary Society for this competition that raised awareness of the issue, gave numerous professional and university teams something to focus on, and produced engineering proposals that may form the basis of future space missions.

Behind the Scenes at the Google Lunar X PRIZE Teams Announcement

William Pomerantz goes behind the scenes at the Google Lunar X PRIZE annoucement of 9 more officially registered teams and a new bonus prize from Space Florida. There was a lot of networking, good food like "Dark Side of the Moon Cake", and presentation work that went into the annoucement.

I should also mention that the teams are actively posting to the Google Lunar X PRIZE Teams page. When there was just one officially registered team, I could keep up, but with 10 teams each posting every week or so, I probably won't be able to keep up posting about them, even if I read them. I recommend that anyone interested in the competition check the page periodically. Here's a sample of recent posts:

- Deborah Castleman on why team leader Harold Rosen formed SCSG (Southern California Selene Group) decades after observing fellow engineers working on the Surveyor lunar landers

- Red Whittaker introduces his ~40 person team Astrobotic and mentions the rover and lunar lander prototypes they've already worked on

- Lunar Lander Challenge veteran Richard Speck, leader of Micro-Space, discusses entrepreneurial space, rocket regulations, high-powered rocket societies, and the history and business model of Micro-Space

- Pete Bitar of LunaTrex, which includes contributions from such companies as Orion Propulsion, High Altitude Research Corporation, and several others, discusses their plan to make each subsystem a business profit center on its own and make space access and lunar transportation sustainable businesses. In another post, he mentions, among other plans, that they plan to start their own lunar rover competition that sounds designed for students.

- Quantum3 offers a press release blog entry that describes some of the well-known team members like Courtney Stadd, Paul Carliner, and Liam Sarsfield, as well as their spacecraft Moondancer.

- Finally, Michael Potter of Odyssey Moon, the team that's been posting all along, compliments Google and welcomes the other teams. Michael also mentions his film Orphans of Apollo.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Responsive Space and Smallsat Conference Scholarship Competitions

Last year I posted on a Smallsat Conference Student Scholarship competition and a Responsive Space Conference Student Scholarship competition. Well, the annual competitions are still in play this year:

Smallsat Frank J. Redd Student Scholarship Competition

Responsive Space Conference Student Scholarship

SpeedUp Father and Son Team and Armadillo RocketCrane

RLV News links to 2 new updates: 1 for Armadillo (don't miss the 3 videos because they're all cool in their own unique ways) and SpeedUp.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

San Luis Obispo Rocketeers

San Luis has a short article about a local team of students getting ready for the Team America Rocketry Challenge.

Update (Feb 25): Here's another article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentiel on a local team that's going to be part of the Student Launch Initiative. They're in the SLI because they placed 15th in the nation at TARC last year.

Wisconsin Student Rocket Design Competition

The Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium plans to hold a Student Rocket Design Competition where launches will be held this April in Richard Bong State Recreation Area, a spot that Tripoli Wisconsin uses for their launches. The prizes aren't just for engineering presentations and rocket launches to a specified altitude; the teams also have to land with a "Ground Excursion Module" that needs to move quickly away from the landing spot to win. Multiple prizes are at stake; the first place prize is $5,000.

Punkworks and Space Miners videos

The Space Elevator blog has more videos from last year of microwave beam power team Punkworks working, and also goes back to 2005 for Space Miners.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Videos and Articles on New Lunar X PRIZE Teams

San Francisco's ABC Channel 7 has a news video about the new Google Lunar X PRIZE teams. The link also has a separate video interview of Googles Sergei Brin. Free Space includes a video by Peter Diamandis about the announcement right in front of the Google SpaceShipOne replica, where William Pomerantz's video blog post yesterday was from.

YouTube has a video on the origin of the GLXP by Peter Diamandis. The two X PRIZE Foundation videos I mentioned above have also been loaded to YouTube.

Finally, the Space Fellowship discusses Interplanetary Ventures, a potential GLXP team that hasn't been officially register yet, but that appears to be busy nevertheless.

Update (February 24): FREDNET posts a bit about the event, and may post more later.

Asteroid Prize Proposal

Mark Whittington has a proposal for an asteroid prize. The prize suggestion is on page 3 of the article.

One problem with the current implementation of the Vision for Space Exploration, NASA's ESAS architecture, is that it doesn't plan to return exploration results until 2020. That's a long time for taxpayers and politicians to wait. If a human asteroid mission done with, if we must, the traditional contracting approach can be done before a comparable lunar mission, it's tempting to hope for that route, followed by either Mars or lunar missions. However, I suspect that an asteroid mission using that approach would also involve a huge time gap between the decision to do it and any actual results.

However, the proposal that was publicized before the Stanford meeting Mark describes actually didn't suggest an asteroid as the next step. It suggested adding the capability to an Ares I/Orion baseline, using commercial assistance like a Bigelow module, to do Lagrange point satellite servicing missions to maintain multiple assets like the James Webb Space Telescope. This sounds like it could be achieved much sooner, in which case it would be a quite interesting stepping stone whether the next step is an asteroid or the Moon. It wouldn't solve all of the current problems with ESAS, but it could be an improvement over current plans. Perhaps it would keep Ares 1 productively busy before Ares V is built, allowing commercial vendors to supply the ISS without political resistance from Ares 1 operational supporters.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Mars Project Challenge

The Mars Society has started a Mars Project Challenge, which is an effort for Mars Society members to suggest ideas for the next project the Society should do to "take it to the next level". It seems like a pretty ambitious level as space society projects go, too, if they have the funding to match their proposal. There isn't a cash prize for the winner, if one is chosen from the suggestions, but the satisfaction of knowing your idea is being used.

Since this is Space Prizes I'll note that there are a lot of ideas already out there in the prize world that might work for the Mars Society. Their own University Rover Challenge could form the basis of a more ambitious Mars rover prize. The idea of the Mars Robotic Construction Challenge held at a Mars Barn is a similar idea, and could get even better if some Centennial Challenges money could be added. Another possibility would be for the Mars Society to pitch in some bonus prizes to give some of those existing Moon-oriented prizes like the Lunar Lander Challenge, Google Lunar X PRIZE, Regolith Excavation Challenge, or MoonROx Challenge a Mars twist.

Of course there are also a lot of non-prize ideas that might also work. Maybe they'll come up with something they can actually get into suborbital or even orbital space using commercial space services, or even hitch a ride to Mars on a government mission.

Pomerantz Video Blog on Google Lunar X PRIZE

William Pomerantz has a video blog from Google headquarters right in front of their SpaceShipOne replica. He gives an overview of the announcement of the current Google Lunar X PRIZE teams, and of the status of the prize. He also has some suggestions on how to keep up with GLXP events.

Unreasonable Rocket Makes Room

Unreasonable Rocket had a bittersweet day taking the first rocket to the place where all rockets must one day go. However, this leaves room for the next generation.

Apophis Mission Design Winners To Be Announced Soon

Here & Now has a radio intereview of the Planetary Society's Bruce Betts on the Apophis Mission Design Contest. He gives some flavor of the kinds of innovative proposals that were sent in. The winner should be announced in a few days ...

More on New Google Lunar X PRIZE Teams

Guest reporter Robin at RLV News gathers some more articles on the Google Lunar X PRIZE teams and Space Florida announcement. This SF Chronicle article gathers links to some of the team's sites (apart from the Google Lunar X PRIZE Teams page). It also includes a video of Google's Sergei Brin talking about the origin of the prize. This related article, also by the San Francisco Chronicle, has some interesting and in some cases entertaining comments from members of some of the competing teams.

In case you've linked directly to this post instead of the blog's main page, here's my post from yesterday on the same topic.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

10 Google Lunar X PRIZE Teams (9 New) in Major Announcement

Yes, the Google Lunar X PRIZE went from 1 team to 10 teams all in 1 announcement!

Some of the new teams are already familiar because although they weren't officially registered they were well publicized ahead of time as Google Lunar X PRIZE teams. Some of them are familiar from past prize competitions like the Ansari X PRIZE and the Lunar Lander Challenge. Some are brand new, as far as I know. There's lots of reporting and commentary already on the announcement, so I'll present some links but I'll try to keep them to ones that strike me as providing different information.

First, check out the official press release from the Google Lunar X PRIZE. Don't overlook the fact that not only does the press release announce and describe all of the teams, but it also announces a new $2M prize for the first place winner from Space Florida, as long as that winner launches from that state. Here's the press release from Space Florida on their strategic partnership with the X PRIZE Foundation. I've had other posts where I've hoped that more bonus prizes would be added (or existing ones ehanced), and this one makes perfect sense all around. Maybe Space Florida should even allow the 2nd place team to win their prize, or some of it, if the Grand Prize winner happens to launch from somewhere else. Second place brings just as much launch business to Florida as first place ... especially if there are a couple successful Florida launches in the middle somewhere that don't happen to win either prize.

Now I'll present some of the other news on the announcement with briefer commentary:

Cnet - This includes some comments from Google's Sergei Brin, the CMU Team's Red Whittaker, Micro-Space, and Odyssey Moon, not to mention some skepticism on the idea of Space-Based Solar Power built from lunar resources from one of the teams.

Red Orbit - This one goes into a lot of detail on the Carnegie Mellon University Moon Prize Team, which is working with Raytheon and the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Lab and Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering in the combined form of Astrobotic Tech. This is a "don't miss" article for anyone interested in GLXP teams. It has a great overview of this prominent GLXP team, demonstrating what each team member brings to the table. From the article:

LPL will provide its premier expertise in designing, building and operating imaging camera systems, Lauretta said. LPL will also convert the Phoenix Science Operations Center by adding such facilities as a clean room and a high bay because the spacecraft will be assembled on campus.

Silicon Valley Mercury News - features one of the team leaders, Adil Jafry, who like many space entrepreneurs has succeeded in another industry and now is trying his luck (a phrase that generally means "skill and motivation") at the space industry.

WBST - An Indiana station covers a local team, LunaTrex. You may have heard of some of the people leader Pete Bitar is working with:

He said the team includes Orion Propulsion and High Altitude Research, both based in Huntsville, Ala.; MC Squared of Phoenix, Ariz.; and Orbit Frontiers of Lafayette.

Other group members come from the University of Dayton (Ohio) and Purdue University, along with several aerospace professionals.

IndyStar - gives another view of the same team.

Popular Science - shows us the logos of the 10 teams.

MSNBC - has a general article with some artists' depictions of 2 of the teams' systems. It's also at

Wired Science - gives an overview of the 10 teams.

You can also learn about the teams the same way we've been learning about Odyssey Moon: go to the Google Lunar X PRIZE Teams page. Odyssey Moon has been blogging for a couple months now - since they were officially registered - and now the rest of the teams are expected to do the same. You'll find an enormous amount of information about the teams if you click on their links and followed their detailed team descriptions and initial posts, as well. Speaking of posts, with this long post I actually haven't had a chance to read the Teams' information myself yet ... I'll probably absorb it all gradually, maybe 1 team per day.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Google Lunar X PRIZE Discussed at International Space University

In his latest X PRIZE Foundation blog post, William Pomerantz discusses his recent (return) visit to the International Space University, where he discussed the Google Lunar X PRIZE with the current students. He also mentions ways for teams who haven't officially registered yet to let the world (including potention team members) know they're out there, like posting to the GLXP Forum and attending the GLXP Team Summit.

Latest Draft of Space Access '08 Speakers With Prize-Related Additions

The first draft of speakers at Space Access '08 has been updated, and since 2 of the additions are prize-related, I'm going to make a copy of the latest speaker list here:

Confirmed SA'08 presentations so far: AFRL FAST/RASTE/Commercial Partnerships, Armadillo Aerospace, Ken Davidian/NASA ESMD Commercial Development, FAA AST, Flometrics, Frontier Astronautics, Jordin Kare/LaserMotive, Masten Space, Jim Muncy/PoliSpace, Misuzu Onuki, Rocketplane LLC, Space Propellant Depots Panel with Jon Goff, Dallas Bienhoff, Frank Zegler, and Rand Simberg, Space Studies Institute, SpeedUp, Henry Spencer, Unreasonable Rocket, XCOR Aerospace. Keep an eye on this space for more as the conference approaches.

The prize-related additions to the list are Ken Davidian, recently manager of NASA Centennial Challenges (and who in all likelihood will be able to discuss these challenges if asked, whether or not they're in his official presentation plans) and Jordin Kare from Space Elevator Games team LaserMotive.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Unofficial Regolith Excavation Forum and CSA Spacebound! Newsletter

Regolith Excavation team ACME Robotics has started an Unofficial Regolith Excavation Challenge Forum similar to those used by the Automotive X PRIZE, the Google Lunar X PRIZE, and others. Currently it has categories like rules, robotics, and announcements. Here's their blog post announcing the forum, and here's a press release on it.

It's good for these challenges to have active official and unofficial news and communications tools like these, and I hope we see more of this type of thing from participants in, or just people interested in and supportive of, the other Centennial Challenges like MoonROx, General Aviation, and Astronaut Glove that don't have (as far as I know) this type of help.

They also have a map of the teams. Although the official teams haven't been announced, some teams have announced their intention to enter, and the Regolith Excavation blog has mentioned that all of the teams that competed in 2007 plan to return this year. It will be interesting to see how this map develops.

Meanwhile, page 5 of the Winter 2008 California Space Authority newsletter SpaceBound! has an article on the 2008 Regolith Challenge and the MoonROx Challenge. Here's a little bit of information from the article about 2 teams I haven't heard of before:

New to the competition this year are Toy Garden, led by Charles Sink, and a team led by William Cushman. Charles Sink is a self taught toy designer and prototyper with 19 years of experience designing innovative high tech remote control and microprocessor driven robotic toys. A number of his creations have been licensed and made available on toy store shelves by nationally recognized toy companies. William Cushman, Ph.D. is a research scientist, formerly employed by the US Navy and now in the private sector focused on product development and solving production problems.

Queen's Space Engineering Team

The Space Elevator blog features another Climber team that I haven't heard much about before, the Queen's Space Engineering Team. Like some of the other teams, they're looking for new recruits, and they're registered for the 2008 games. Check out the link to their site, which I'll add to the Space Elevator Teams list on the right. I'm also going to make a few other updates to the list based on the 2008 Teams list at the Space Elevator blog, although I'm going to leave the 2007 teams with accessible websites there, too.

Aubrey de Grey on the Colbert Report

The latest post on the Methuselah Foundation blog features a fun interview of de Grey by Steven Colbert. The interview doesn't cover the Foundation's M prize, but that is briefly mentioned in the rest of the post.

Tony Spears on the CMU Lunar X PRIZE Entry

Guest blogger Robin at RLV News posts about an article in the Carnegie Mellon University student paper The Tartan about Tony Spears discussing the CMU Moon Prize Team. The talk was at CMU. Here's a quote that I thought was interesting, especially since Mars Pathfinder's landing doesn't seem all that long ago to me:

“It’s a very fun project. As a child, I created a LEGO model of Spear’s Pathfinder robot,” said John Thornton, a Carnegie Mellon alumnus and research engineer on the project. “It is a chance of a lifetime to work with Tony Spear, the man who was behind that,” he added.

Monday, February 18, 2008

UK Space Conference 2008 Space Prizes, Awards, and Competitions

Here's an article from Rocketry Planet about the UK Aerospace Youth Rocketry Challenge (UKAYRoC), which is similar to the Team America Rocketry Challenge. There's more on it on their blog.

This is happening at the UK Space Conference 2008, which also features the Student Space Experiment Competition where the winner actually gets to have their experiment launched on a smallsat, and the Sir Arthur Clarke Awards for "Recognising UK achievements in Space".

If that's not enough space prize aspects of this conference, one of the guest speakers is William Pomerantz from the X PRIZE Foundation. The program also mentions the Eggs Prize (I'm not sure if they mean the X PRIZE Foundation EGGS PRIZE, or if they mean TARC or UKAYRoC, both of which involve launching model rockets without breaking egg payloads). There's also a water rocket competition.

It sounds like a lot of fun! Not only that, but there are lots of interesting speakers there that I won't go into any details about because I can't think of any current or future prize connections for them (I could mention Alex Tai from Virgin Galactic because of the Ansari X PRIZE connection, but I don't want to start covering Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic because they're well-covered elsewhere already, and doing too much for me to keep up with).

Update: The X PRIZE Foundation news ticker links to this overview of the event.

NSS Space Elevator Team Recruiting

The Space Elevator Blog has more on the National Space Society Space Elevator team, including details about their search for more team members. Both LaserMotive and the NSS team have had recent announcements of recruiting efforts -- what about the other teams?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Automotive X PRIZE: Tesla, Zap, TriTrack, Congressional Prize Proposal, and More

There's more at the X PRIZE Cars blog, including a big news roundup, including Elon Musk's Tesla getting its first production car built (guess who gets it) and the associated celebration, and a potential Tesla IPO. There's also news of a proposal by Rep. Dan Lungren to take the X PRIZE Foundation's Automotive X PRIZE idea to $1 Billion. There are news links about Zap, AXP video links, and more.

X PRIZE Cars blog also gets an update, and covers the Roane Inventions TriTrack.

Unreasonable Helicopter Autopilot Flying

Unreasonable Rocket recently made more progress.

Friday, February 15, 2008

V Prize Workshop Slides

The V-Prize folks promised to post the slides from the recent V-Prize workshop, and it looks like they're there. The topics address questions like

What is the 'V'?
Why Virginia?
Why have a suborbital point to point prize?
What is the status of the V Prize effort?
What should the rules of the prize be?
How will the prize money be raised?
What's the schedule?

However, some of these - especially the rules and financing - remain questions, at least as far as the slides are concerned. Presumably they were discussed in the workshop (in fact Will Pomerantz's post gave some insight into these discussions).

Odyssey Moon at Next Generation Exploration Conference

Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides sends out an article in Wired Science about the Next Generation Exploration Conference as NASA Ames. One of the speakers is Bob Richards from Lunar X PRIZE team Odyssey Moon.

LaserMotive Recruiting

The Space Elevator Blog mentions a post from Beam Power/Climber team LaserMotive. The LaserMotive post is about an open house they'll have to recruit new members, on Saturday, Feb 23 at their new shop (discussed in a previous post). The SE Blog also has an interview with Jordan Kare from LaserMotive dealing with their laser vendor selection (DILAS), the Photonics West conference, and their general plans.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day Space Prize News Roundup

There are a lot of great things in the prize world to post about, and a lot of them deserve separate posts, but I hurt my back dealing with, of all things, some cat litter, so I skipped yesterday and am making it quick today. I'll by lying down more than sitting at the computer.

The Space Elevator Blog tells us about a surprise team in the 2008 Climber Competition: The National Space Society. The specifics are a surprise, but I've been expecting space advocate societies to get into the prize business on the team side for a while (I think I even posted about it - ?). Actually I thought it would have happened a long time ago. It's a great activity for societies or chapters to get involved with, and makes a great story in magazines or other society communication media. The SE Blog gives details on the team and their approach.

RLV News and the Space Elevator Blog post on the Kansas City Space Pirates' agreement with TRUMPF to us an industrial laser during the 2008 Climber competition, which helps with one part of the competition but presents some other engineering challenges.

RLV News also posts on a Space Fellowship interveiew of Google Lunar X PRIZE team FREDNET. It's an open source project, so ITAR is an issue that is discussed. The team's progress so far, what parts of the job are they going to do in-house vs. buying off-the-shelf systems, what is their schedule, and what their plans are after the prize.

The X PRIZE Foundation has the latest update from Odyssey Moon. Will we see "One small step for Isle of Man"? The post covers some of the bigger reasons to go back to the Moon, and they aren't about "the human spirit of exploration" or anything impractical-sounding like that.

One of the commenters at this RLV News post about UK space plans notes that prizes are mentioned in the 2008-2012 and beyond UK Civil Space Strategy. It states:

The NSTP will be a national programme to support the development of common space technologies and new services. It will identify emerging technologies and opportunities, and use R&D grants and prizes to enable technology development and knowledge exchange between commercial, Government and academic organisations.

One of the 5 parts of the NSTP is:

competitions and prizes to stimulate innovation and wider interest in the benefits of space.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Space Elevator Jr.

The Space Elevator Blog has a notice on the side about a student competition called Space Elevator Jr. It seems to be something along the lines of a smaller version of the Space Elevator Games' climber competition. It still sounds very challenging to me. It's part of the Earth and Space Conference to be held in Long Beach, CA on March 3-5. Here's more information on the competition.

There's also an Active Vibration Control Student Competition.

Get Your Lunar Legacy

William Pomerantz, with a timely post, tells us about some of the reasons people are getting Google Lunar X PRIZE Lunar Legacies, from Valentine's Day wishes, to ways to remember loved ones that have been lost, to friends, to the next generation. Check the post, especially if you don't know about the Lunar Legacy.

University of Cincinnati Department Goes for Prizes

This PDF newsletter from the University of Cincinnati Mechanical Engineering department features a lot of prize competitions:

I have to say that if you're doing a senior project, graduate thesis, or similar major academic effort with the potential for hands-on "real-work" application of theories learned in other classes, getting involved with a prize competition seems like a great way to give motivation and focus for your work.

CNN Money on Red Whittaker

CNN Money has a career history of William "Red" Whittaker in "Whittaker Unleashes the Robots". This covers his DARPA Urban Challenge work in a reasonable amount of detail, and gives a little space to his Google Lunar X PRIZE work.

It's good to see some prize-related content appearing in the "Money" section rather than the "Science" or "Space" sections.

Monday, February 11, 2008

PacBio Eyeing the Genomics X PRIZE?

The X PRIZE Foundation links to an article in The Ledger that describes the race, in the business world as well as the Genomics X PRIZE, to be able to sequence a human genome for $1,000. Although it reviews several companies, a lot of the article focuses on PacBio, which isn't registered as one of the Genomics X PRIZE competitors. However, the article says:

Pacific BioSciences, which was founded in 2004, says it can make the leap. “If we ever make this work, there would be no other technology applicable in the sequencing field,” said Hugh C. Martin, the chief executive.

Mr. Martin, who previously ran ONI Systems, a telecommunications equipment company, is nothing if not self-assured. “When we’re ready,” he said, “we’re just going to win the X Prize.”

LaserMotive Motivated

Space Elevator Team LaserMotive was once one of the most frequent beam power team blog posters, but understandably they've been recovering from the big effort last year. Now the Space Elevator Blog catches a new post that describes visually and in words their new workshop. Besides the shop, here's an important note from the post:

For those who are interested in maybe joining the LaserMotive team, I will announce shortly an opportunity for people to visit our shop. Check back soon!

Team America Rocketry Challenge and the RocketBlog

Spaceref has a press release from the Aerospace Industries Association on the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) that gives an overview of this year's competition, and some details on who is contributing to the prizes. Meanwhile, the TARC site has a RocketBlog with a recent post asking teams to tell their stories in the "TARC Spotlight Team of the Week".

Getting the Odyssey Moon Word Out

The Google Lunar X PRIZE site has the latest post from Odyssey Moon, this time from Loretta Whitesides. It's on different speaking events, past and future, with Bob Richards.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

First Draft of Space Access '08 Speakers

The Space Access Society site has displayed a list of early confirmed speakers for the Space Access '08 conference. More additions are expected later. Here's the list so far:

Confirmed SA'08 presentations so far: Armadillo Aerospace, FAA AST, Flometrics, Frontier Astronautics, Masten Space, Jim Muncy/PoliSpace, Misuzu Onuki, Rocketplane LLC, Space Propellant Depots Panel with Jon Goff, Dallas Bienhoff, Frank Zegler, and Rand Simberg, Space Studies Institute, SpeedUp, Henry Spencer, Unreasonable Rocket, XCOR Aerospace. Keep an eye on this space for more as the conference approaches.

Many of these presenters were in (as competitors or suppliers) the 2007 Lunar Lander Challenge competition. I'm not sure in all cases who will go for it in 2008, but this year's competition will probably be well-represented at Space Access '08.

X PRIZE Foundation YouTube Channel Updates

According to the X PRIZE Foundation YouTube Channel, several videos have been uploaded to the channel recently.

  • Added yesterday, here's a video directed at the Google Lunar X PRIZE teams where Peter Diamandis describes the BlastOff Story.
  • Here's one where the X PRIZE Foundation gives an overview of the Foundation's vision. It gives a quick look at all of the current X PRIZEs (Lunar, Genomics, and although it doesn't have the "X PRIZE" title, Lunar Lander Challenge), hints about future ones (Automotive, Medical, Education, Energy, Global Entrepreneurship), and a look at the one that was won (Ansari).
  • This one describes the Genomics X PRIZE, and the reasons for having it, in detail. This one very quickly hints at X PRIZEs related to Water and Nanotechnology, but that's a second in the 5 minute video mainly on the Genomics prize.

I'm not sure how old the videos are, but the YouTube site says the last 2 were uploaded to that site 3 weeks and 3 days ago, respectively.

There are other recently loaded ones that I happen to already have mentioned in earlier posts.

FREDNET Discussed at Control Engineering

Google Lunar X PRIZE team FREDNET's blog points to an article at Control Engineering, part of which is about the team.

Miltary Prize Roundup

The British MOD (Ministry of Defense) Grand Challenge had some announcements in January. They're looking for a contractor to support the MOD Grand Challenge event. They also made some changes to the MOD Grand Challenge plans based on observing the U.S. DARPA Urban Challenge, such as making it a 2-phase competition.

Here's a blog from one of the MOD Grand Challenge teams - this one from Reading University. The MOD site has much more on all the teams on their teams page.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Wearable Power Prize site has some fairly new updates involving Instructions and Guidelines for teams as they make and send in certain required documents:

Fuel Plan Instructions
System Description White Paper

Finally, in the Military Prizes section on the right I've updated the Singapore TechX Challenge link which apparently moved.

Next Big Future and Liftport Staff on 2008 Space Elevator Games

Colony Worlds has Carnivals of Space 39 and 40. One of the articles in the carivals is by Next Big Future, and it's on the 2008 Space Elevator Games. The post covers some of the material you know already if you've been following the Space Elevator Blog, but if it's new you get the information in a quick format and can go to the SE blog if you want more.

The comments are also interesting. One mentions a related post at the Liftport Staff Blog expressing safety concerns with the difficult and complex 2008 climber challenge.

Centennial Challenges Allied Organization Summit; IPP and FAST Commercial Flight Services

The NASA IPP (Innovative Partnerships Program) Events Page lists the following:

Mar 10-11, 2008: Centennial Challenges Allied Organization Summit, Washington, DC

This is the third annual meeting of representatives from each of the five Allied Organizations (AOs), the non-profit organizations that administer and execute NASA's seven Centennial Challenges (CC) competitions at no cost to NASA. The goal of the meeting is to foster communication and support among the AOs. During the two-day meeting, each AO will provide a status on their organization, their competitions, and on affiliated activities. The CC program office will status the AOs of internal operations that affect them. Discussion will be held to share lessons learned from past experiences and to coordinate future competition plans.

There are some interesting non-prize IPP sections in the 2009 NASA Budget proposal. For example, right after Centennial Challenges is FAST, which I think would be a new $2M program, if it gets funded:

Facilitated Access to Space Environment for Technology Development and Training (FAST)

The Facilitated Access to Space Environment for Technology Development and Training (FAST) program objective is to mature technologies for future space flight use, especially those technologies that need to be proven in the microgravity environment. FAST will provide access to commercial microgravity flight services to advance NASA technologies, reducing risk levels and enabling more verification and validation of these technologies for space flight missions. FAST also facilitates the procurement of commercial space services by NASA to support the development of future space flight-certified technologies.

Judging for the NSS 2009 Space Settlement Art Contest

Artsnova Digital Art and Space has the inside scoop on the judging for the 2009 Space Settlement Art Contest. The winners were recently announced.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Multiple Voices of Space Advocates

Here's an interesting post on the different factions in the pro-space community. Of course NewSpace is one of the factions, and the Lunar Lander Challenge is briefly mentioned in that context. The main point of the post, however, is to show how the focus and interests of the space community have diversified over the years, much as the TV or musical interests of the general public have split into many sub-genres. In both cases this is due not only to technological changes (lower development costs, cable TV, Internet, satellite radio, etc) but also business and cultural shifts. Clearly there are advantages to being able to pursue excactly the area you're mosts interested in, but the post also points out the disadvantages.

More Review of V-Prize Workshop

Spaceports has a summary of the recent workshop on the V-Prize for a point-to-point suborbital trip. Here's something to look forward to, from the post:

The Power Points should be posted on the V-PRIZE web site soon.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Entrepreneur Alert: Cisco I-Prize

Calling all space entrepreneurs ... Cisco recently started a contest called the Cisco I-Prize. Here's the prize that could be on the line:

The winning team may have the opportunity to be hired by Cisco to found a new business unit and share a $250,000 signing bonus. Cisco may invest approximately $10 million over three years to staff, develop, and go to market with a new business based on your idea.

However, it's not easy to win. Phase I "Brainstorming" is almost over already (but it only started a couple months ago, so if you already have well-formulated ideas you've been pitching, you may be ok). You've got to convince them that you have a business plan that's worth their while investing in. Space businesses may be a tough sell ... but space entrepreneurs may have an advantage this time because they've done so much in the "prize" environment. If you have a "dual use" space concept that can work in space but can also work in terrestrial applications, all the better. Here's what they're looking for:

Ideas should have the potential to bring in at least $1 billion revenue to Cisco over a five- to seven-year period, and submissions must use the IP network as a platform.

Ground station infrastructure? In-space communications using IP and linking to ground networks? Some computer application using space data (imagery, GPS, etc.) like Google Earth? I sure don't know, but I think some space businesses could fit the model.

Check out the Cisco I-Prize blog. So far they've seen a lot of ideas in energy, healthcare, automotive (sounds like those non-space X PRIZEs!) and wireless. However, they're not unfamiliar with commercial space.

The California Space Authority has an article about Cisco and space:

- Cisco Increasingly Looks to Military Space Projects: Here's an excerpt:

Sanford said that by putting a so-called Internet protocol router in space, essentially a modified version of commercial technology used on the ground, the project could serve as a sort of test bed for future, multibillion dollar Air Force investments in a fleet of advanced military-communications satellites. He said it's also a way to get the military "user community directly involved" in specific technical issues and planning for future satellite projects.

The Space Show has an interview with Cisco's Richard Sanford.

Here's a CSA pdf on a Cisco space IP press release.

Planetary Defense Blog on Apophis Contest

I covered this earlier, but I'm always up for an excuse to link to a cool blog: Planetary Defense has a post on a Planetary Society press release on asteroid impacts and the upcoming anouncement of Apophis Mission Design Contest winners.

Pomerantz on Lunar X PRIZE, Virtual Lunar Reality, and Kamen

William Pomerantz has another major X PRIZE Foundation post.

One thing that he mentions is that you should check out the redesigned Google Lunar X PRIZE site. It's going to have a lot of activity, because they're going to announce a number of new teams soon. Like Odyssey Moon, the new registered teams will need to keep up regular posting activity at the site, so we know right off the bat there will be a lot of dynamic content on the page for that reason alone.

Spaceref confirms the new teams with a press release about an X PRIZE Foundation event at Google Headquarters to announce the new teams, and not only that, but a new "preferred partner". Preferred partners are organizations that may offer special deals that to help GLXP teams achieve their goal.

Back to Will's post ... he gives a demo of the GLXP requirement to take a 360 degree image with some regular photos of a famous site mosaicked together to make a full-surround scene. He also discusses some of the cool, useful, and important projects that X PRIZE Foundation board member Dean Kamen has worked on, and one promising new one.

Change In Centennial Challenges Management

RLV News has an important message from Ken Davidian and a change in his role in NASA's IPP that affects Centennial Challenges. Just to present another blog in case you're interested, I'll also note that Space Ventures has posted part of this message. Space Ventures is "the official blog of Space Angels Network".

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Will Pomerantz on V-Prize Workshop

A few days ago I posted on the V-Prize Foundation and CSIS workshop on the suborbital point-to-point V-Prize in development. The X PRIZE Foundation's Will Pomerantz has a detailed post on the meeting, as well as on innovation prize design in general. It's interesting to compare the real-world prize management perspective of people like Will to what you read about in books.

Early February Automotive X PRIZE Roundup

The X PRIZE Foundation announces that Congress has passed a resolution applauding them for the Automotive X PRIZE. Now, how do we translate that good will into federal funding for X PRIZE style innovation prizes?

The Automotive X PRIZE blog has a new post on computing miles per gallon equivalent for electric hybrids. The comments note how important it is to improve the efficiency of the least-efficient vehicles compared to improving the efficiency of the most efficient vehicles. The Automotive X PRIZE itself recognized that point right from the beginning when they described why the prize picked 100 MPGe instead of something much higher. This point makes you wonder - should someone do an "Automotive X PRIZE" for 18-wheelers?

The Foundation also links to an article in the Wisconsin Radio Network about a local competitor in the AXP competition with a car called IngoCar.

The X PRIZE Cars blog, a great place to go for AXP information, continues with a very thorough news roundup and a post that features Valentin Technologies Ingo, the Wisconsin team I just mentioned. Here's their site.

Update (February 9): The X PRIZE Cars blog has a lot more already, even though this post isn't very old. There's a thought-provoking analysis of why the big automakers should, or shouldn't, compete in the AXP, news on Malcolm Bricklin's plan to set up dealer and parts infrastructure for plug-in hybrids, a new page on the Zap Alias, and a post on the press release about Congress applauding the Automotive X PRIZE with an interesting tidbit of information on AXP plans.

Quick Unreasonable Rocket Update

Unreasonable Rocket has been busy with a lot of projects, weather issues, and Lunar Lander development, but they find time for a quick update.

Give them the World! (Or a World)

The X PRIZE Foundation has an idea for Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Centennial Challenges in the 2009 Budget Proposal

From the Administration's 2009 budget document that was released yesterday, for Future Centennial Challenges (2007 and 2008 are shown for perspective):

FY 2007 - 0.0
FY 2008 - 0.0
FY 2009 - 4.0
FY 2010 - 4.0
FY 2011 - 4.0
FY 2012 - 4.0
FY 2013 - 4.0

Those figures are in millions - somewhat less than 1/4000th of NASA's total budget in future years (but even that's a lot more than Congress has actually been appropriating - $0.00 - in recent years...).

"Future Centennial Challenges

The Centennial Challenges program conducts prize competitions for revolutionary, breakthrough accomplishments that advance the Vision for Space Exploration and other NASA priorities. Some of NASA's most difficult technical challenges require novel solutions from non-traditional sources of innovations. By making awards based on actual achievements, instead of proposals, NASA is tapping innovators in academia, industry, and the public. This effort is modeled on successful past prize competitions, including an 18th century navigation prize, early 20th century aviation prizes, and more recent prizes offered by the U.S. government and private sector.

In 2007, a prize of $200,000 was awarded to an individual inventor in the Astronaut Glove Challenge for a new glove design that exceeded the performance of spacesuit gloves currently used by NASA. In the Personal Air Vehicle Challenge, seven prizes totaling $250,000 were awarded to three different competitors for demonstrating significant improvements in efficiency, noise reduction and other factors important to future aviation technology. In other challenges, such as the Lunar Lander, teams have demonstrated impressive technical capabilities and have come very close to meeting the demanding criteria for success. Overall, the amount of team diversity (representing small and large businesses, high school and university students, and enthusiastic hobbyists and garage mechanics) and the variety of technologies implemented exceeded Agency expectations.

As the prize purses increase, the amount of participation and level of technical maturity and ingenuity will also increase. In the past competitions where the prize purses were on the order of $300,000 each, it is estimated that the 10-15 participating teams represented an investment of $50,000 - $100,000 each. In the competition with a $2 million prize purse, teams invested on the order of $250,000 - $500,000 each.

Centennial Challenges is continually working with each of the NASA Mission Directorates to ensure that competitions selected are addressing the current set of NASA's technology priorities."

Tony Spear and Astrobotic

The South Mississippi newspaper has a press release about a prominent Mars Pathfinder team member, Tony Spear, joining a prominent Google Lunar X PRIZE team - Astrobotic. The Astrobotic mission is called "Tranquility Trek", a name I haven't heard before.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

See the 2009 Space Settlement Art Contest Winners

The National Space Society announces the winners of the 2009 Space Settlement Art Calendar contest. Check out the link to see the pictures. Also, if you check out the gallery you can see all of the winners, and you can get a larger view of the images you select.

Don't forget to order the 2009 calendar:

The calendars are scheduled to be published and available for retail purchase by the end of May 2008. Further details will be posted on

University Rover Challenge Team Information

This is a bit late, but the Mars Society recently put out an announcement that the Indication of Participation Deadline is approaching. I'm posting this after the deadline date of Feb 1 2008. More teams have signed up this year:

2008 URC Teams (listed as Indications of Participation are received)

Brigham Young University
York University (Canada)
University of Nevada, Reno
University of California, Los Angeles
Georgia Institute of Technology
Warsaw University of Technology (Poland)
Pennsylvania State University
Oregon State University
Iowa State University of Science and Technology

Here's an November 2007 article from Nevada News from University of Nevada, Reno, about last year's winning team looking for new members.

NASA Means Business Team NASAdvances to Finals

The Waltham, MA Daily News Tribune writes about the Bentley College NASA Means Business Team, NASAdvances. It's one of the four finalists.

Punkworks Test

Here's a video that's supposed to show some beam power work by Punkworks. The text:

Punkworks microwave wireless power transmission (WPT) beam testing in 2008 in preparation for the Space Elevator Games. The motor is being powered by the microwave beam.

Friday, February 01, 2008

V-Prize Workshop at CSIS

This collection of RLV News Briefs includes several interesting topics, and I'm only going to post about the prize-related one, so check out the whole thing.

Jack Kennedy continues to promote the potential of Virginia, and in particular MARS (Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport). The latest Spaceports post is on a workshop between the V-Prize Foundation and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Check out the link to the V-Prize Foundation; it gives a good impression on the goals of the workshop.

Odyssey Moon Contractor, Partners, and Customers

RLV News points to the latest Lunar X PRIZE post from Odyssey Moon. This one is by Loretta Whitesides. It sounds like they're overwhelmed with interest from the public on their GLXP activities. Here's an interesting part:

Meanwhile we have been busy with our own meetings with our prime contractor, other possible partners and even customers this month and have been enjoying the rush of doing something that has never been done before.

Of course this makes you wonder what additional partners they might be working with, and what customers they might get!

2008 EuroSpaceward Elevator Plans

The Space Elevator Blog posts on various activities of EuroSpaceward.

Pomerantz Report on Government Nanotech Prizes

William Pomerantz reports on a panel he was on concerning nonotechnology and government prizes. Here's more about the panel at Nanowerk. Will's talk compared government prize like the NASA Centennial Challenges and DARPA's Challenges. The problem with getting any funding at all to keep making progress with Centennial Challenges is mentioned.

One bill that's discussed in the post is the Reward Innovation in America Act sponsored by Senator Mark Pryor.