Saturday, February 28, 2009


Carnival of Space #92 - The Launch Pad:

The biggest news over in our neck of the woods, though, was the announcement of a new competitor to the Google Lunar X PRIZE. Team SYNERGY MOON, which we wrote about earlier today, has proposed a pretty cool looking rover design, and we can't wait to see more from them. Check out the official press release, and then head over to their forum to wish them good luck.

From the press release:

The team, comprised of 48 members from 15 countries across the globe, is sponsored by, the world’s oldest space tourism contest organization. SYNERGY MOON has also partnered with rocket manufacturer Interorbital Systems (IOS), which competed in the historic 2004 ANSARI X PRIZE $10 MM Race to Space.
The SYNERGY MOON team was created through the collaboration of three interrelated organizations: InterPlanetary Ventures (IPV), a private sector space promoter; the Human Synergy Project (HSP), a multi-national sustainable projects group; and Interorbital Systems’ rocket team, led by Roderick Milliron.
As part of SYNERGY MOON’s efforts to raise awareness of their efforts and participation in the Google Lunar X PRIZE, they’ve organized a variety of global promotional events, including space-themed concerts, art festivals, space-related fashion shows, and breathtaking core technology demonstrations including rocket engine hot firings, suborbital and orbital hardware testflights, and ultimately their X PRIZE lunar missions.
To learn more about SYNERGY MOON’s sponsors and partner organizations, visit and

synergy moon - brian's blog: astronaut for hire -

Back in late 2007, some members of Interplanetary Ventures approached me via Facebook and asked if I'd be interested in discussing options for their proposed lunar project. I agreed and ended up suggesting several possible science targets for the mission. Over time, the team designated me as Science Officer and is now calling me Principal Investigator. ... Another unofficial press release from a couple of weeks ago is available here.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Space Prize Roundup - February 27, 2009

Masten Space - two engine test - RLV News

Briefs: More free Lurio reports; Astrobotic stackup; JPA - RLV News - Note: you can click on the picture and then zoom in on it to see the details, including the flight system poster below the stackup. Downloading it is another option for greater detail.

Here are a couple of articles on some events from the last few months from Space Lifestyle, Winter 2009:

Small Steps Lead to Success At Lunar Lander Challenge - There are lots of details in this one.
Three New Entries In Google Lnar X-PRIZE, BonNova's Lauryad Lifts Off

Prizes at ISDC 2009

The schedule for the National Space Society's 2009 ISDC in Orlando already includes a number of topics on space prizes:

Thursday, May 28: Commercial Space
Featuring: Elon Musk of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX)
Will Pomerantz of the X PRIZE Foundation

Saturday, May 30: Science Development & Education
Featuring: Finalists from the NASA Ames Space Settlement Contest
Finalists for the Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Awards


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Obama's 2010 NASA Budget Proposal

What Is “The Bush Moon Plan”? - Transterrestrial Musings -

Whatever it is, AvWeek says that the Obama administration is going to “stick with it.”

I wonder if we should read anything into the choice of word "stick" (sometimes used as a reference to the very controversial Ares 1 rocket)?

I agree with Rand that whether or not keeping the human lunar return is a good thing depends entirely on how it's going to be done. It could be very good ... or very bad.

The article gives more hints about the Obama Administration 2010 NASA budget proposal, which it says is to be released tomorrow (February 26). It's fairly easy to predict Obama will follow through on the Earth Science, Education, International Cooperation, and Aeronautics proposals from the policy document. It will be interesting to see if, and how, the budget proposal addresses the following from the Obama Space Policy Fact Sheet (as well as a number of other important proposals in the document related to commercial space) -

Using the Private Sector: Obama will stimulate efforts within the private sector to develop and demonstrate spaceflight capabilities. NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services is a good model of government/industry collaboration.

Jumpstarting Consumer Technology: Obama will expand the use of prizes for revolutionary technical achievements that can benefit society, and funds for joint industry/government rapid-to-the-consumer technology advances.

Establishing Teacher/Researcher Fund for High Schools: Barack Obama will support nontraditional approaches, such as student design competitions and internet-based collaborations to engage students and develop the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Update: Per Space Politics, this is expected to be an "outline" of the 2010 budget proposal.

Pete Conrad Awards Email Update

Here's an email update from the Conrad Foundation:

The finalist teams for the Pete Conrad Spirit Innovation Awards are now busy working with their incredible and dedicated coaches. In this phase of the program, they've improving their product development plans and preparing for the Innovation Summit on April 2-4. If you haven't visited our website recently, now's a great time to take a look and follow their stories. The innovation and determination of these kids is truly impressive. Several teams have loaded videos this week including:
  • Beamers
  • Final Frontier,
  • Harwell Asturias
  • Seattle Instruments
  • Team168
  • TJ Alpha
  • We Miss Pluto
View all of our 21 finalist teams at, where you can offer them your support and encouragement.

Swigert Award to Phoenix

Phoenix Mars Lander mission wins Swigert Space Exploration Award - Kentucky Space

Name Node 3

Name the New ISS Node - San Diego Space Society (NSS chapter)

Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup - February 25, 2009

Astrobotic Technology and Carnegie Mellon Researchers Show Small Robots Can Prepare Lunar Surface for NASA Outpost - Astrobotic Technology (David Gump) -

Small robots the size of riding mowers could prepare a safe landing site for NASA’s Moon outpost, according to a NASA-sponsored study prepared by Astrobotic Technology Inc. with technical assistance from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute.

Astrobotic Technology and Carnegie Mellon researchers analyzed mission requirements and developed the design for an innovative new type of small lunar robot under contract from NASA’s Lunar Surface Systems group.

A presentation by Red Whittaker is planned for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Programmatic Workshop on NASA Lunar Surface Systems Concepts, February 25-27, 2009 -

Agenda - Friday, February 27 (8 am - 12 pm)

Regolith Moving Methods, Astrobotic Technology, Inc.
Red Whittaker / Chris Skonieczny (Astrobotic Technology, Inc.)
Reference Material - Reference documents to be posted. ...

Astrobotic has what looks like the presentation here (PDF).

Western goes boldly into space - The Unversity of Western Ontario:

In a bold venture uniting scientists who study space with engineers who design space systems and robotics, The University of Western Ontario is launching the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) and the Canadian Lunar Research Network (CLRN).
The opening event on Feb. 27 includes:
7:00 p.m. - Keynote address: "Odyssey Moon - Preparing for Moon 2.0,” Bob Richards, Odyssey Moon 9 (private commercial lunar enterprise headquartered in the Isle of Man competing for Google Lunar X Prize.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Unreasonable Story Continues

I mentioned the Unreasonable Request to Rocket Moonlighting, but it looks like there was a follow-up post by Rocket Moonlighting the next day:

The Rest of the Story - Rocket Moonlighting

Unreasonable catalyst test goes well - RLV News

Cool new Vehicle.... - Unreasonable Rocket

2009 Regolith Excavation Challenge Date and Overview

Here's an email announcement from the Regolith Excavation Challenge:

Hello All,

Plans are coming together well for the 2009 Regolith Excavation Challenge, and we are planning to hold the challenge event on the weekend of August 15, 2009. The rules will remain very similar to the 2008 competition, with the exception that we plan to allow teams to utilize telerobotic operations. In this case, the definition of telerobotic operations will include some of the limitations consistent with operating a robotic system on the lunar surface from a control station on the earth. A formal announcement with information about the CA location, draft rules, and team registration is forthcoming.

At the moment the Challenge site has the above note, and also This site is offline temporarily while we make updates.

Hopefully when they make the updates they keep the earlier competition information online, too.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Prize Roundup - February 20, 2009

MATRIX V - MVHE-TARC - This is a Team America Rocketry Challenge team's blog. They're from Twin Falls, Idaho. They're doing a lot of fundraising activities, and have a rocket launch scheduled for Saturday, February 28.

NASA Centennial Challenges 2009 Power Beaming and Tether Challenges - Spaceref:

The 2009 Power Beaming and Tether Challenges are now scheduled and teams that wish to compete may now register. ... The 2009 Power Beaming and Tether Challenges will be held from April 29 through May 1, 2009. ... The 2009 Power Beaming and Tether Challenges will be held at the Innovative Science and Technology Experimental Facility (ISTEF), Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899.

Innovative Science and Technology Experimentation Facility - Missile Defense Agency

Beam Me Up - NASA Watch pointer to the above Spaceref press release post

Unreasonable rocket making update - RLV News

Adler, ComEd Challenge Students to Shoot for the Moon With Essay Contest - Spaceref:

ComEd and the Adler Planetarium today announced the Third Annual Shoot for the Moon essay contest. This year, high school students are asked to write an essay about a teacher who has inspired them to "shoot for the moon" and succeed in science. The student with the winning essay will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Space Camp in Alabama, and - new this year - the winner's inspirational teacher will also win their own weeklong trip to adult Space Camp.

NASA / USA TODAY No Boundaries Project and Student Contest - Deadline May 15, 2009 - Oregon Space Grant Consortium's Educational Resources Blog:

NASA has teamed with USA TODAY Education to create the “No Boundaries” project and national student competition. This project is designed to help students explore careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and learn more about NASA.

No Boundaries National Competition - Prizes:

1st Place Individual/Student Group (max 4) - $2,000Teacher/Coach/Sponsor - $500
2nd PlaceIndividual/Student Group (max 4) - $1,000Teacher/Coach/Sponsor - $500
3rd Place Individual/Student Group (max 4) - $500Teacher/Coach/Sponsor - $500

Winners also receive free VIP passes to a shuttle launch and may be asked to present their project to NASA officials.

Consumer Reports Comes on Board As Official Safety Testing Partner - Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE blog

Automotive X Prize deadline draws near - LA Times blog

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Aviation Prize Roundup - February 19, 2009

Humanitarian - Airship Z-Prize: The post is marked February 14 2009, although it's listed as October 15 2008 when you follow the link. Anyway:

One key goal of the Airship Z-Prize to develop a viable transport airship industry is focused on the potential for the application, renewal and update of the airship transport mode for the safe and effective provision of transportation support and distribution for humanitarian purposes.

Whether reacting to major disasters or providing links to remote or dangerous/disadvantaged communities airship transport shows great potential as a viable solution. Following major disasters requiring humanitarian relief, oftentimes existing transport infrastructure such as roads, bridges and airports are destroyed or damaged rendering them unusable. ...

There are a number of posts from this month on airship developments in general.

For a similar theme without the prize, Up Ship! blog continues its active posting.

The 2009 CAFE Foundation Electric Aircraft Symposium - CAFE Foundation: I mentioned this symposium in an earlier post, but now they are listing an initial draft of presentations for the event. One of them is on their Centennial Challenge plans:

3:10 PM The AGP: Aviation’s Green Prize—The Flight Competition for 100 MPG Aircraft, Brien Seeley M.D. President CAFE Foundation

Here are some links that give hints how the contest has developed:


Unofficial and Not Yet Approved Rules Draft - 2009 CAFE AVIATION GREEN PRIZE CHALLENGE (PDF):

The 2009 CHALLENGE will be the third annual competition that will demonstrate new technologies for small aircraft that are applicable to a wide range of future aviation missions, including Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Air-Taxi operations, homeland security surveillance, personal transportation, etc. ...

Aviation Green Prize blog - There are only a couple posts here, but there are quite a few comments in 1 of them (from last year, asking for comments on the rules). Brien Seeley summarizes the contest here:

Like the Progressive Automotive X Prize, the rules reward best speed among those achieving ≥ 100 MPGe.

The EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) Chapter 124 newsletters have a couple mentions of the contest:

November 2008 Newsletter (PDF):

November 5, 2008 PROGRAM: Brien Seeley of CAFE will speak on "CAFE and The Aviation Green Prize".

December 2008 Newsletter (PDF):

New Business: Brien Seeley, of the CAFÉ Foundation, has approached Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) about the possibility of PG&E being a major sponsor of the upcoming Green Aircraft Challenge. One of the emerging technologies seems to be for electric power plants. Brien sees a tie in to PG&E’s electric business. Brien is hoping that their sponsorship role would include upgrading the power line that supplies the CAFÉ hangar. (The same line that feeds the CAFÉ hangar also supplies the power to the Chapter’s facilities.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

N-Prize: New Team, Team Activity

The N-Prize news keeps coming in:

New N-Prize Team - Aerosplice - Space Fellowship:

Aerosplice blends together many innovative and often overlooked technologies such as pulsejet engines, ramjet engines to boost rockets into the upper atmosphere and switching to a full rocket propulsion system at that point, and inflatable Delta Wing Gliders controlled with GPS to guide rockets and their payloads safely back to a specified location on the ground for an extremely inexpensive and surprisingly effective way to access space or at the very least a method of very high speed transportation of people and goods.

They have several videos, including this Matthew Mason Chapman Bio which includes a lot more rocketry than you'll see in most bios.

Meanwhile, Team Prometheus blog is pretty active and filled with pictures. For example:

Team Prometheus Aquires a Launch Site!
SkyCam for Near Space Expedition

Team Prometheus News

The Cambridge University Spaceflight News site is also showing off their astronaut teddy bears:

Teddy bear media page
Teddy bear press release (PDF)

Automotive X PRIZE and Consumer Reports; Efficient Car Review

Electric Vehicle Update - R-Squared Energy Blog - This post gives a rundown on some of the Automotive X PRIZE cars you can, or may soon be able to, buy at a dealer soon. A number of other fuel-efficient cars are also featured, along with tips on tax credits and the like.

I've been reading this blog a lot the last few months. I'm not an expert in the areas it covers, but it seems to be a balanced, realistic but still optimistic blog.

Consumer Reports to Partner with X PRIZE Foundation on Automotive Safety Testing and Education - Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE press release:

Consumer Reports will bring a critical perspective on vehicle safety, features, and technology to the competition. David Champion, Senior Director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Division will also join the Prize Administration Board of the competition.

The two organizations are exploring others ways to further accelerate consumer education and advocacy efforts, specifically on such topics as alternative fuels and fuel efficiency. Also, in future testing of plug-in and alternative fuel vehicles, Consumer Reports is planning to report MPGe (miles per gallon energy equivalent) as one of several measures that will help consumers understand and compare vehicle efficiency.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Space Prize Roundup - February 17, 2009

Pittsburgh Innovates - Pop City: Red Whittaker of Google Lunar X PRIZE team Astrobotic joins the National Academy of Engineering:

Dr. William “Red” Whittaker, founder of the Field Robotics Center at Carnegie Mellon University, and John Swanson, ANSYS founder and University of Pittsburgh engineering alumnus and trustee, joined the illustrious national panel, an honor that will give them a voice on important issues to Congress and the Obama administration.

Initial Designs - Kiwi 2 Space - Some early engineering thoughts on an N-Prize entry are shown. The author plans to be at Space Access 2009. Maybe he can hash out some of his ideas there. Here's an earlier N-Prize post - there are more on the N-Prize and Space Access 2008 in the archives.

Speaking of Space Access, SpeedUp is listed on the Space Access 2009 speaker list, but where's the SpeedUp Website?

Speaking of the N-Prize, it's featured on Another Food Blog. The N-Prize may not have the biggest cash reward at the end, but they sure know how to live. Additional proof: N-Prize chocolate (from Qi Spacecraft blog).

The Commercial Space Wiki makes an update to the Prize Bookmarks page. You can see it using cswiki twitter id:

Added link to the PRIZES folder, "Prize Bookmarks" page, to 15USC Ch84, "Commercial Space Achievement Award" authorization for DoC's OSC.

The actual change to the PRIZES folder starts like this:

Pub. L. 102-588, title V, Sec. 510, Nov. 4, 1992, 106 Stat. 5129.), aka
15 USC CHAPTER 84 - COMMERCIAL SPACE COMPETITIVENESS Sec. 5808. Commercial Space Achievement Award

It looks like this prize was even awarded fairly recently! This is an excerpt from the
Virgin Galactic Newsletter January 2009

Commercial Space Achievement Award - Space Commerce (NOAA)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cal Poly Students Get Help Going to NASA Competition

Two journalism students going to nationwide business competetion - Cal Poly Journalism Department College Based Fees Committee

Unreasonable Moonlighting

Unreasonable Request - Rocket Moonlighting lends Unreasonable Rocket a helping hand.

There's also a lot more in the Rocket Moonlighting blog history that's in the Lunar Lander Challenge style of work including lots of hands-on rocketry details, videos, and pictures. SpeedUp is mentioned in an old post here.

Here's the Rocket Moonlighting web site, added because information can be organized by project on the website which may make it more useful that the blog format for some purposes. The web site includes sections on Projects and Valves.

Briefs: Unreasonable update; NG-LLC status - RLV News

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Energy/Environment Prize Roundup - February 15, 2009

Exclusive: Aptera 2e - Yahoo! Autos - This was on the Yahoo! front page today, featured in the main picture.

Automotive X Prize News: Feb 12th, 2009 - X PRIZE Cars blog:

Yours truly sits in an Aptera outside TED. Also, news from Axon, Western Washington University (pictured), Tesla, Electric RaceAbout, and a couple of messages from the PIAXP blog.

Tesla Motors Update - Elon Musk (link from the previous X PRIZE Cars post) - There are updates on a lot of Tesla information, but for the space readers I'll mention this one:

On March 26th, at the Tesla design studio located within the SpaceX rocket factory, we will unveil a street-drivable prototype of the Model S four door sedan.

In light of the SpaceX COTS-D promotion, it will also be interesting to see how this goes:

Regarding funding, I am excited to report that the Department of Energy informed Tesla last week that they may disburse funds from our $350M Model S loan application within four to five months.

Who's the best recycler of all? - MIT News:

This is the fourth year that MIT will participate in the national RecycleMania contest...

Top high school students to compete in Blue Lobster Bowl at MIT - MIT News:

Sixteen teams of students from 12 Massachusetts high schools will answer quick buzzer questions and more complex team-challenge questions in areas such as biology, marine science, chemistry and ocean engineering.

Behind the Prize at the X Prize: A New Model For Venture Capital - Xconomy San Diego (link from X PRIZE Foundation) -

His research led him to New Mexico for the X Prize Cup, which was conceived as an annual two-day Air & Space Expo. During the trip, he met four aerospace engineering graduate students from Romania who told Stein they had developed a composite rocket engine. “When I asked them if they had filed patents on their design,” Stein recalls, “they said, ‘Patents? We don’t even have enough money for lunch tomorrow.’ ” ...

“So basically, if we can place a bet on every horse in a race, we don’t care who wins,” Stein says. The contest rules will be structured so that Prize Capital charges each entrant a “fee,” which consists of several options. It could be the right for Prize Capital to take a small percentage of the entrant’s technology royalty sales, or it could be the right to join future venture capital investors when they enter the picture to fund technology development. In such deals, Prize Capital would invest only as a passive “tag-along” investor without a board seat. Prize Capital also can provide loans of roughly $100,000 to contestants for various needs, such as filing patents. ...

Stein is especially keen on the idea of developing a biofuels competition. His concern for deforestation also has led him to sign a letter of intent with a large foundation in Brazil to create a series of small prizes to develop what he calls “small-scale, distributed energy systems.” With an environmental X Prize focused on the right kind of technology breakthrough, Stein says the next “Netscape moment” could trigger a 21st Century gold rush that will save our global forests from destruction.

ESRI Code Challenge

Get In On the Code Challenges - $16,000 in Cash Prizes Up for Grabs - ESRI Developer Summit Blog -

Participating developers will have the opportunity to review and vote for the top two entries in each challenge based on creativity, applicability, and relevance of each code sample. Entries must be a mobile GIS application developed using the ArcGIS Mobile Software Development Kit (SDK) or a Web mashup built with ArcGIS Server SDKs.

GIS mapping software often uses satellite imagery and GPS data.

Prize Store

A few days ago I added the Space Prizes Amazon Store. The main store is in the link above the 2 book graphics on the right. This is an area where I'll feature books and videos with some connection to space prizes. In some cases they feature space prize teams or innovation prize history. In others the item itself is the subject of a prize (like the book from the National Space Society Return to Luna contest on display to the right). Some of them aren't specifically about prizes, but they feature technology related to prominent space prizes.

I used some of this material in my grad school paper on prizes (including a few on business innovation in general). Hmmmm ... I got busy ... I was close but never did get that degree. That's ok, I got what I wanted out of the program, and I suppose it delivered as much for my career and personal life as the degrees I did get (unrelated to space, prizes, or this blog). They all delivered.

Setting up the store let me clear away a few links that became redundant. It also let me feature a few where I'd long since cleaned up the links not because I didn't want them, but because there were too many links on the blog for my taste.

Feel free to browse ...

Saturday, February 14, 2009


If you have no Valentine this year, this will keep you busy today:

Vote for Russia's 'Miss Atom' 2009 - Wired Danger Room

Fusion X PRIZE?

I don't know how old this is, but here's a Fusion X PRIZE petition directed to the X PRIZE Foundation. It's not the first thing I think of when picturing small teams working in their garages, but it's an interesting idea. What would the rules be to make it an effective prize? Who would fund it?

Salvage/Deorbit Prize Suggestion

Space law and satellite collisions; A space salvage challenge - RLV News -

I think a space prize program for salvage or deobiting might be feasible. For example, the first organization to deorbit successfully a spacecraft from a given set of derelicts, whose owners have agreed to the operation, would win a substantial purse. I'm thinking of a small vehicle, most likely with electric propulsion, that would rendezvous with a derelict and place, say, a deorbit tether on it to increase its drag substantially. Perhaps instead of deorbiting, they would "tug" the derelict to a specific parking orbit.

SINC '09 Competitions

A number of space competitions are featured at the SEDS India National Conference '09 on Feb 28-Mar 1:

1. NS3 (National Small Satellite Symposium):- The National Small Satellite Symposium is an effort by SEDS India to bring together university students interested in satellite technology on a common platform for a better and collaborative effort towards contributing to the National Space Programme. Many Indian universities have been making efforts to bring space technology to the students through involvement in projects like nano- satellite design, payload design for sounding rockets etc. Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) also aims to involve more graduate and under-graduate students in the national space programme, thus bettering their interest in space technology. Read more

3. CanSat:- The workshop about CanSat’s (A lower atmosphere study projectile) will gain hands-on experience in development of a CanSat!!... A competition focuses on the testing various possible designs for subsystems such as the sensor module, the communication module and the ejection & landing module. Read more

4. Lunar-Trek:- This competition calls for the young engineers of India to build a Moon Rover. A problem statement will be defined, and a moon-like arena built, to pit the rovers against the tough lunar terrain and check their performance! Read more

7. Spac-E-Mulate:- This competition requires the participants to solve a space-related physics problem and simulate results on programming platform. Discrete data about certain event in a space mission will be provided along with a problem statement.Read more

As you can see from the numbering there are a lot of other events, too.

It may not be obvious why I included the Small Satellite Symposium unless you follow the link. Here's part of what you'll find if you do:

1.Satellite Design Review: The design reviews of student satellites under progress in the country. Teams of 5. Prizes will be given to best subsystem from amongst all designs. There will also a prize for the best overall design. The design review will be done subsystem wise i.e. a particular subsystem of all teams will be presented first, then moving on to the other subsystems.

SINC '09 broucher (PDF)
SEDS India Blog

2009 Space Elevator Games Hints

2009 Space Elevator Games Update - Space Elevator Reference -

Word has it that perhaps within a week or two there might be some important news about this years Space Elevator Games. While a firm date has not been set, the target is for April 29th as the beginning day of competition at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

If it turns out that's really where it will be held, it's an interesting and symbolic choice. If it's open to the public, I wonder if the event could be held a few weeks later to brush against the dates for the 2009 ISDC on May 28-31 in Orlando? I imagine there'd be some mutual interest in the 2 events.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Active NSS Blog

The National Space Society Blog looks like it's pretty active. Here's a post by Jim Plaxco on Space Art, NASA, and NSS that features the NSS Space Settlement Calendar Art Contests.

The picture, just in time for Valentine's Day this Saturday, is called "Lover's Lookout". It's the February image for the 2009 calendar.

Space Access '09 Program Additions

The list of past (?) and present Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge teams presenting at Space Access '09 has grown since I posted on it a week or 2 ago. LLC teams now include:

  • Armadillo Aerospace/John Carmack
  • BonNova/Bob Noteboom
  • Masten Space/Dave Masten
  • SpeedUp/Bob Steinke
  • Unreasonable Rocket/Paul Breed
In addition:
  • FAA AST/Ken Davidian

Ken is the former NASA Centennial Challenges manager.

Update (evening): Here are some posts from RLV News featuring two of these Lunar Lander Challenge teams:

Armadillo Aerospace update

Briefs: SA'09 update; Unreasonable Rocket update

Monday, February 09, 2009

Prize Roundup - February 9, 2009

sh00ting-st4rs - This journal features an internship involving lunar regolith diggers and lunar landers at NASA MSFC.

Gregory Pappas of Chicago, Ill., Named Special Advisor to The American College - Greek News -
... He also serves on the Advisory Council of the X Prize Foundation ...

International Aerial Robotics Competition - Wiki

Space tourism contests - RLV News - In the comments to the Popular Mechanics article, there's a mention of a Rovers on the Moon student essay contest and a Google Lunar X PRIZE team sponsorship.

Briefs: Unreasonable update; Euro space tourism challenges - RLV News

The X PRIZE Foundation has some posts about TED:

The Odds are Good, but... - The Launch Pad

X PRIZE at TED and a Crazy Green Idea - Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE blog

Here's another from the PIAXP:

Progressive Automotive X PRIZE at The Washington Auto Show

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Update on Florida's Reusable Space Vehicle Industry Prize Program (RSVIPP)

I haven't run across news on the Florida RLV Prize since early last summer when the bill was signed. Since I consider this as potentially one of the most important and exciting prize developments out there, I was interested when I ran across the following:

Reusable Space Vehicle Industry Prize Program

That link just goes to another collection of links that I'll reproduce in full here, interspersed with some excerpts and my comments. It's still a work in progress, but it looks promising. Some of the content seems to have been borrowed from Google Lunar X PRIZE documents, so it's hard to say what will really be in the final document.

Reusable Space Vehicle Industry Prize Program (RSVIPP) Work Plan and Meeting Schedule

The Grand Prize will be awarded to the first team to launch at least seven humans to an altitude of 185 kilometers in a repeatable and safe fashion.

This strikes me as about the right level of difficulty for a $40M prize, but I'm no rocket engineer.

... Additionally, prize money or other incentives may be offered in the future to the Team or Teams that do the best job of reaching out to the public. ... For Teams registering on or before June 30, 2009, the registration fee shall be $10,000. ...

RSVIPP Application


Each PRIZE competition qualifying flight must carry at least three people. The vehicle must
be built with the capacity to safely carry a minimum of seven persons ... The same vehicle must complete two flights satisfying all competition requirements within a 14-day period (measured from touch-down to touch-down). ... No more than 10% of the vehicle's first-flight non-propellant mass may be replaced between the two required flights. For multi-stage vehicles, the 10% figure applies to the combined stages. ... TEAM is required to accommodate and carry a SF-provided package that includes two externally mounted cameras, two internally mounted cameras and the associated video recording and transmitting hardware. This package also includes position and acceleration sensors.

RSVIPP Task Force Meeting Agenda for 12-11-08

Comments for 12-19-08 Meeting by F. Alvi

- Shouldn’t we require launch from Florida?
- Similar requirement for future launches if a commercial vehicle is finally designed?
- Stipulate a reduced fare for x seats on the first y flights to be sold to Space Florida?

I'd expect some kind of Florida-specific requirements of this sort for the prize, since Florida taxpayers would be footing a good chunk of the prize money.

Meeting Highlights for 12-19-08 Meeting

Names mentioned for consideration are: Space Shot Florida; Florida Voyager, Sunshine State Prize and Sunshine State Space Prize.

The prize name might be something they could have a contest on to drum up interest and get ideas (but do leave room for a sponsor's name, too). The same goes for logos, etc.

There's discussion of COTS, Shuttle, and ISS, so I'm not sure they're completely settled that it will be a suborbital prize.


Mayor Menino and the Cloud Foundation Announce Boston 100K ArtScience Innovation Prize - City of

Boston 100K ArtScience Innovation Prize

Building Innovation Ecosystems

How to Build a Successful Innovation Ecosystem: Educate, Network, and Celebrate -Creativity, Marketing and Innovation -

A successful innovation culture can generally be identified by the answers to the following questions: Is the entrepreneurial spirit celebrated? Are there visible role models who are the proverbial “rock stars?” Are they the extreme exception or not? Are entrepreneurs held in high esteem for taking a chance and making a difference? Is failure understood to be part of the learning process in business, as it is in experimental science? Are there serial entrepreneurs? What is their level of ambition? Do young people aspire to be global entrepreneurs? Or are young people encouraged to get “safe” or “prestigious” jobs in large companies or government?
To get things going you start with a select group of entrepreneurs and you feed them, you celebrate them, and you give them visibility with focused events, workshops, and competitions. And when done properly, this celebration of entrepreneurship will suddenly become contagious and start to grow on its own. We have developed programs at MIT and elsewhere to do just this, including holding American Idol-like entrepreneurial contests in various regions—but with much kinder, gentler, and more supportive judges—and coupling them to educational programs.

Open Innovation Conference

I noticed the following at Innocentive:

3rd Annual Open Innovation Conference -

Enhancing the Scope of Your Creative Enterprise through Co-Innovation Relationships
Event Date: 6-8 Apr 2009

Location: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, NV, USA
One discipline in the innovation toolbox that is gaining recognition as the go to method for securing or sustaining market share during an economic downturn is the practice of Open Innovation. This collaborative model structures a flow of knowledge, technology, and ideas between internal and external stakeholders allowing for the development of innovative products and services as well as the recouping of expenditures resulting from shelved technologies and intellectual property.

Here's the Innocentive blog.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Smarts and Sweat, or Super-Subsidize Syndrome?

Not Obtained Too Cheaply… - 62 Mile Club - This post considers the hard work at Unreasonable Rocket in the context of current mainstream headline events:

NewSpace companies, if they are to succeed, need to run like hell from the disease spreading throughout this world, the disease of the “bailout” mentality (or what I like to call, the “Would you like to Super-Subsidize that?” Syndrome).

It's All About the Incentives

Eye on the Prize - Advocates of Liberty Grassroots Activism on Iowa Campuses

I heard someone say once that if you pay someone to search for something, they will search for it, but if you pay someone to find something, they will find it. It's this basic idea that I think makes our current system of government funded research inefficient.

Balloon N-Prize Launch

More than rocket fuel to launch Team Prometheus - News 8 Austin -

"What we wanna do is launch from a balloon, this is like a balloon launch platform," he said, drawing a diagram of how to accomplish the mission.

Once that rocket gets 20 miles into what scientists call "near space," the rocket will blast off.

Yuri's Raffle

Space Raffle by Yuri's Night - Space for All

Space Suit Design: Function and Fashion

Outer Space Suits - Burda Style - Open Source Sewing -

The other week when I was looking for some information on gloves I came across a curious announcement, the 2009 Astronaut Glove Challenge, to "promote the development of a highly dexterous and flexible glove for space and planetary surface excursions". What inspires space suit designers? And is there any inspiration that we can draw from them?

Space Fashion Design Contest - Space for All -

In an exciting departure from the typical luxury fashion shows during its semi-annual New York event, one of the runway shows to be presented during Couture Fashion Week this season will be Space Couture, a sampling of the highly creative winning designs of a series of competitions. This inventive fashion show will be held on Sunday, February 15, 2009 at the world-famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.

Couture Fashion Week - Fashion Calendar -

Location: The Waldorf-Astoria, 301 Park Avenue (between 49th & 50th Streets), New York City ...
Sunday February 15, 2009 ...
8:30 p.m. -
CRISTINA NITOPI MENSWEAR SPACE COUTURE Performance by Violinist Jane Hunt - The Official Space Fashion Site

Automotive X PRIZE Roundup - February 6, 2009 Will Excite Students About Energy Efficiency - X PRIZE Foundation -

Today, the X PRIZE Foundation, The United States Department of Energy and Discovery Education launched the first phase of an online knowledge center to ignite imaginations and fuel student curiosity in the areas of science and math. The website,, was inspired by the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE, the goal of which is to inspire a new generation of viable, super fuel-efficient vehicles that offer more consumer choices.

Progressive Automotive X PRIZE and DOE Launch - Automotive X PRIZE blog -

In addition to the educational content available today at launch, will evolve with updates throughout the life of the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE. And viewers can look forward to following the race series by means of a real-time, telemetry-based online experience. is the first of three components of the DOE-funded Education Program. Later we will be launching a national high school student contest, and organizing educational events in host cities of the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE race series.

Automotive X-Prize Draws 25 Teams So Far - Wired (link from X PRIZE Foundation) - There are lots of pictures in this one, and overviews of the officially registered teams.

Automotive X Prize News: Feb 3rd, 2009 - X PRIZE Cars

XPC Talk at BIL in Long Beach - X PRIZE Cars -

I'll be giving an X Prize Cars talk at BIL, in Long Beach, sometime on Saturday or Sunday (Feb 7th & 8th). BIL is the sister unconference to TED. It should be an excellent adventure!

ZAP Alias Electric Car to Compete for the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE - MSN Money (press release) - link from X PRIZE Foundation

Avion Posts Exhibition Challenge - Automotive X PRIZE blog - One of the teams dares the rest to have a competition before the official race. Practice makes perfect.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Crazy Green Idea Winners

X Prize announces green-idea winners - CNet News (link from X PRIZE Foundation) -

The first-place winners, which will receive $25,000, were University of California at Irvine students Kyle Good and Bryan Le on the Capacitor Challenge team, for their idea that someone should develop a more efficient energy storage device to replace batteries, for everything from iPods to cars.

X PRIZE Foundation and Prize Capital Announce Winner of $25,000 YouTube Contest - X PRIZE Foundation press release

Announcement of the Winner for the Crazy Green Idea - This includes "Highlights from the Announcement".

French Coverage of Space Elevator and Tether Challenge

L'ascenseur spatial a du mal à prendre son envol - Rue89

TED Prize Wishes Unveiled Today

TED Prize Webcast - 5:00-6:45 PST ... I'll try to post on it later.

Update: I tried to capture the actual text of the first 2 wishes but they went by pretty quickly. Here's my best shot:

Jill Tarter: "I wish that you would empower Earthlings everywhere to become active participants in the ultimate search to become cosmic participants." The slides and discussions made me think they're trying to take the Allen Telescope Array, pattern recognition algorithms, manual pattern recognition like the Stardust at Home program, and SETA at Home to the "next level".

Sylvia Earle: This talk included a lot of analogies between ocean exploration and space exploration (such as Earth without oceans as being like the surface of Mars, life support in space vs. life support under the sea), satellite images, etc. Google Earth with its new Ocean features was heavily featured. A quote from the talk: "How about some X PRIZEs for ocean exploration? Hmm..." The wish: "I wish you would use all means at your disposal ... to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas ..."

Update #2: You can see the actual text of the wishes, how they progress, and ideas on these pages:

Jill Tarter's Wish -

The Plan:

To assemble a group of engineers to advise on and create a system to facilitate mass collaboration over the web and incorporate innovative data processing methods, including the ability to input alternative search algorithms, The aim would be to tap into the power of open-source initiatives, to globalize the search for extra-terrestial intelligence and empower a new generation of SETI enthusiasts. We would back the launch of this new system with a major storytelling and awareness campaign whose goal is to inspire millions to participate.

The Needs:

  • An individual to oversee this initiative, reporting to SETI Institute as full-time contractor for a year
  • Engineers with expertise in digital signal processing and in open-source initiatives
  • Cloud computing resources
  • Significant need for servers and storage
  • Website development team
  • Social networking expertise
  • Marketing and creative campaign help
  • Media Space
  • Massive outreach to grow the TeamSETI network
  • PR Communications Partner
  • A film production company to develop and distribute this story
  • Spokespeople
  • Funding — for this project and for additional telescopes for the Allen Array.

  • Sylvia Earle’s Wish -

    The Plan:

    To bring knowledge of our oceans to a wide audience and galvanize support in favor of marine protected areas. We invite a variety of responses from TEDsters in pursuit of this goal.

    Possible Responses:

  • Development of technologies that would permit deep sea exploration in order to make the invisible visible
  • Supporting (or organizing) expeditions to explore proposed “hope spots”
  • Helping make the scientific case for a network of MPAs
  • Identifying and exploring candidate MPAs
  • Creating a media campaign in support of MPAs
  • Backing the upcoming Oceans documentary to ensure wide viewership
  • Offering media space/distribution
  • PR and marketing assistance
  • Offered use of a suitable boat or ship for TED@SEA, a “brainstorming expedition” on the oceans
  • Event management
  • Website that highlights the issue and nurtures a network of supporters.
  • …and/or your suggestion of what you could best offer.
  • Tuesday, February 03, 2009

    Prizes not Patents for African Universities

    Eyes on the prize - ex Africa semper aliquid novi -

    Some African universities are considering investing money, energy and political capital in pursuing patent strategies based on the 1980 Baye-Dohl legislation in the United States. However investing in decades old, pre-Internet, Reaganomics may cause them to miss the global trend towards awarding prizes rather than patents for innovation.

    This post mentions the following conference:

    Medical innovation prizes as a mechanism to promote innovation and access - The conference site shows a thorough discussion by numerous speakers on prizes, and the resources page includes a number of background papers, slide presentations, and pictures from the conference.

    Prizes over Patents - Africa semper aliquid novi - This post follows up on the one mentioned above, explaining advantages of prizes over patents to encourage university research teams.

    Teams at Space Access and Commercial Space Transport Conferences

    Space Access '09 Conference - RLV News - Past and present Lunar Lander Challenge teams Armadillo, Masten, and Unreasonable Rocket are on the early draft of the conference schedule.

    Speaking of Unreasonable: Unreasonable update - RLV News

    12th Annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference - RLV News - The "Wired for Space" session has a lot of prize personalities:

    Joshua Neubert, Executive Director, Conrad Foundation, San Francisco, CA
    Cassie Kloberdanz, Aerospace Strategic Communications Consultant, Denver, CO
    Mike Fabio, Google Liaison and Community Manager, X PRIZE Foundation, Santa Monica, CA
    Scott Zeeb, TrueZer0, Chicago, IL
    Todd Squires, TrueZer0, Chicago, IL

    Conrad Foundation Finalist Teams and Vote

    The Conrad Spirit of Innovation Awards announces its 2009 finalist teams. Some of the winning teams have posts today on the competition blog.

    From an email from the Conrad Foundation:

    Finalists will attend the Innovation Summit at NASA Ames Research Center on Apr. 2-4, 2009. Teams will compete for opportunities to commercialize their products. Overall winners will be announced April 4th.

    All finalist team profiles are now posted at The public can read about each team's product, cast votes, provide comments and financially support their favorite team(s). Grants will be used for research and prototype development. Public votes will be tallied along with the judges to determine the winners.

    "This is a dynamic way to take an active role in creating a future of innovation in science and technology," said Nancy Conrad, founder of The Conrad Foundation.

    Monday, February 02, 2009

    Space Prize Roundup - February 2, 2009

    Unreasonable update - RLV News

    'Your NASA Dream Experience' Contest Winner to Be Announced - SpaceRef

    Lockheed Martin/IISME Partnership Helps Bay Area Teacher Inspire Future Generations of Scientists and Engineers - CNN Money -

    Harrison and Raimondi hope this year’s event will be a launching point for next year’s national Team America Rocketry Challenge, in which the winning team will be awarded $60,000 in college scholarships.

    Team LaserMotive’s new laser… - Space Elevator Blog

    National Academy of Sciences Honors NASA's Neil Gehrels for Science Contributions - SpaceRef -

    His leadership of the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and the Swift Mission has led to new insights into the extreme physics of active galactic nuclei and gamma ray bursts. The Henry Draper Medal and a prize of $15,000 are awarded for an original investigation in astronomical physics.

    NASA Goddard Astrophysicist Peter Serlemitsos Wins Joseph Weber Award - SpaceRef -

    The Joseph Weber Award for 2009 was conferred on Dr. Peter Serlemitsos in late January in recognition of his innovative contributions to X-ray detector and telescope designs that have enabled decades of scientific advances in high energy astrophysics.

    2009 Thacher Scholar Awards, SPS, and Google Earth 5.0

    On the day of the Google Earth 5.0 rollout, it's good to feature a prize with the theme of satellite remote sensing, aerial photography, geographic information systems (GIS), and Global Positioning System (GPS):

    Thacher Scholar Award - SpaceHack

    2009 Thacher Scholar Awards - Entries Received by April 6, 2009 - Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) - The contest features prizes for both students grades 9-12 and teachers.

    Geospatial technologies and data have numerous uses in science research, ranging from climate prediction to archaeology. They can be used to improve our understanding of the Earth system, including interactions among the atmosphere, biosphere, geosphere and hydrosphere. They can also be used to improve the quality of our lives by supporting weather prediction, natural hazards monitoring, agriculture, land-use planning, coastal management, transportation, public health and emergency response.

    Here are some other activities from the IGES:

    IGES 2008 Calendar Art Contest for grades 2-4, sponsored by Lockheed Martin - This (or that) year's contest (in 2008 for the 2009 Calendar) had the theme "Trees: Making a World of Difference". I've included a picture called "Moving" from one of the winners.

    Powering the Planet - The Futures Channel features a preview of a movie "Powering the Planet" about Space Solar Power. The IGES links to it because their President Nancy Colleton is in the previous. John Mankins, and members of the NSSO SPS group are also featured.

    Since I mentioned the Google Earth 5.0 release, here's news from the Google Earth Blog:

    Google Earth 5.0 Now Released - Watch Video

    Google Earth 5 Released - 3D Ocean and More! - The new ocean features alone are quite impressive.

    Google Earth 5 - The New Google Mars - On a space blog I don't think I need to say much about this, since it speaks for itself. My only question is, when do we get a "Google Venus"?

    Google Earth 5 - Historical Imagery - I think this is quite important for studying changes over time. This will add value to space remote sensing operations that work over years or decades.

    Google Earth 5 - Record Tour Mode Features

    Sunday, February 01, 2009

    Les Trophées du Libre - Open Source Prizes

    Cash Prizes for Innovation: Trophees du Libre - Linux Magazine -

    The French international competition Trophees du Libre is again offering cash prizes for the most innovative open source solution for 2009, and the smaller the project, the better the chances of winning.

    Entries have to be registered by Feb.15 2009 for the competition which has a first prize of 3000 Euro, a second prize of 1000 Euro and 500 Euro for third. Categories include education, media, security, career, civil engineering and research.

    Les Trophées du Libre site (in English)

    Improving the Stimulus Package with Innovation Prizes

    Stimulus? What Government Should Learn From the X-Prize - Crossover Health blog has a different idea how the stimulus package should work.

    Airship Z-Prize

    The Airship Z-Prize is an effort to develop a freight transport airship for humanitarian logistics support and as a green transport solution using an innovation prize. The site provides numerous links and pages about the advantages and history of airships, and also has a blog section. I assume the "Z" stands for Zeppelin - or is it Zero Emission? Here are a few posts on the prize itself (rather than general airship news, which is also included in the blog):

    Airship Deutsch Prize - 1901 - some prize history

    Seeking Initial Sponsorship Support

    Z-Prize Criteria Development Workshop Planned

    Z-Prize Preparations in Progress!

    Can Modern Transport Airships Change the World? -

    Beyond the significant carbon reduction opportunities airship technology represents for transportation uses, their ability to take off and land vertically without fixed infrastructure such as runways would make transport airships an invaluable tool in the effective delivery of humanitarian aid and the servicing of remote communities. ...

    Sadly, many among the general populace, business world and governments immediately dismiss the potential of a transport airship solution because of the negative perceptions created and still enduring since the 1937 Hindenburg Disaster. This disaster was more than 70 years ago utilizing the most primitive of materials, methods and technologies. In 2008 and beyond, we have access to so many superior materials both for airship skeleton and envelope, as well as interior cells for lift and buoyancy. ...

    There is no doubt that the number one requirement for starting a major renewal and modern upgrade of airship transport technology is money. And given the tough economic times facing the world over the next several years, attracting such money on a pure research and development grant basis is unlikely. This is precisely why we truly believe the Airship Z-Prize is the most appropriate way of spurring the development of a viable transport airship industry forward.

    Meet the Airship Z-Prize Founders

    Maximizing Ocean Progress with Prizes

    Following up on my two recent ocean-themed posts about 2009 TED Prize Winners including a prominent ocean explorer, the recent MIT Ocean X PRIZES Workshop, and an announcement planned tomorrow (mentioned in both posts I just linked) that probably involves ocean-related features of Google Earth, here's more about the MIT workshop. It's all from Maximizing Progress, a blog with strong MIT content that summarizes itself with the following: Exponential Innovations Everywhere - Joost Bonsen's Opinions on Money, Ideas, and Talent Enabling Liberty, Prosperity, and Vitality for All.

    Deep Dive ~ X-Prizes for Ocean Exploration? - This was before the workshop. In addition to general information like the workshop flyer had, it mentions the participation of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

    Aquatourism ~ Emergent Oceanic Eco-Industry -

    At MIT's IAP X-Prize Workshop I was delighted to see for the first time Graham Hawkes speak about his Deep Flight family of submersibles. These currently luxury devices (~US$1 to 3M each) will soon enable aqua-limo services and ultimately be a class of readily accessible toursubs, thus transforming the aquatourism sector. ... Graham Hawkes is the creator-engineer, a multi-company entrepreneur, most recently operating both Precision Remotes and Hawkes Ocean Technologies.

    Precision Remotes is in the business of remotely operated reconnaissance, surveillance, and weapons systems. They depict scenarios where critical infrastructure is defended with remotely-operated, armor-protected machine guns, and forward military bases add a layer of remotely-operated machine or sniper guns to their defense.

    Hawkes Ocean Technologies offers the mentioned Deep Flight submersibles. From their web page:

    Deep Flight Challenger Deep Flight Challenger was built to enable adventurer, Steve Fossett, to set the ultimate solo dive record for all time (37,000 feet). Unfortunately Fossett perished in a plane crash before he could dive the submersible to record depth. Hawkes Ocean Technologies is now the only organization in the world that has full ocean depth technology.

    Deep Flight Super Falcon Now available for sale to private owners. The first full productionized submersible capable of sub-sea flight. HOT is currently building a Super Falcon for Tom Perkins, founder of Kleiner Perkins Venture Capital. Perkins owns the largest privately-owned sailing yacht, S/Y Maltese Falcon. ...

    Getting back to the Maximizing Progress posts on the workshop:

    Ocean X-Prizes ~ Exploring Possible Challenges -

    Organized by Erika Wagner, who runs the MIT X-Prize Lab, and Jaison Morgan from the X-Prize Foundation, this session brought together a couple dozen students, faculty, staff, entrepreneurs, journalists and other oceans enthusiasts. ... We split into four idea teams and in the end, proposed two preliminary concept themes:

    Treasure Quest -- Discovery and mapping of wonderous ecological, geological, and archaeological marine riches, and
    Blue Space Race -- a Tour de Oceans competition via Formula One-like manned submersibles in the briny deep

    Maximizing Progress is a potential source of more innovation prize and competition information. Here's the current post:

    Energy Innovations ~ MIT Yunus Challenge 2009 -

    This year the theme is... "innovative small-scale energy storage solutions to help alleviate poverty. Solutions must address the needs of people living on less than $2 per day. ..."

    In "My Activities", the first item Joost mentions is the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition.