Tuesday, June 29, 2010
IPP/OCT/ESMD partner on new student competition: an inflatable loft for space exploration habitats. More at: http://tinyurl.com/xhab-comp
The eXploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge is a graduate and upper level undergraduate student competition involving a senior level design class to build an inflatable space habitat. The eXploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge Solicitation (PDF) has details on the competition. From the solicitation:
The challenge is for a senior and/or graduate level design course in which students will design, manufacture, assemble, and test an inflatable loft that will be integrated onto an existing NASA built operational hard shell prototype ... In June of 2011 the NASA-Habitat Demonstration Unit (HDU) Project will conduct a head-to-head competition for successfully designing and demonstrating an attachable inflatable habitat “Loft” ... The head-to-head competition will determine the winner that will be awarded additional funds to integrate their design with the HDU-Lab during the August-September 2011 HDU-Hab/Lab integrated field testing.
Funding can come from NASA and team sponsors:
The Foundation anticipates that up to three awards will be made under this solicitation for $48,000 each. Up to an additional $10,000 will be awarded to the team that wins the head-to head competition to offset their costs of participating in the HDU-Hab/Lab integrated field testing. ... As part of this solicitation the universities are encouraged to innovatively seek additional sponsorship and collaborations (Project Teaming) with other universities and organizations to meet the design requirements and test objectives.
It is interesting to see how some of NASA's exploration efforts are concentrating on certain new technologies. NASA is considering four initial Flagship Technology Demonstration Missions (PDF):
Solar Electric Propulsion Stage
CRYOGENIC Propellant STorage And Transfer (CRYOSTAT) Mission
Inflatable Module Mission
Aerocapture, Entry, Descent & Landing (all PDF)
In addition to the main technologies associated with each mission, these space missions would also involve demonstration of automated rendezvous and docking technology demonstrated on a new tug vehicle that will deliver 3 of the demonstrations to their test start locations (e.g.: ISS or GEO). The inflatable module mission could also be the home for Environment Control and Life Support (ECLS) technology demonstrations at the ISS. You can find much more information about these tentative flagship technology demonstration plans at the Flagship Technology Demonstration Request for Information (RFI) site.
However, NASA is not leaving these key exploration technologies to just these flagship technology demonstration missions. NASA is approaching these challenges at multiple scales, levels of ambition, and application areas. The X-Hab competition is an example of this, where the flagship inflatable module mission tackles the problem at one scale, and the student competition does the same in a way that develops new ideas related to the concept of inflatable habitats and a new workforce to make the most of the technology.
Here are some other examples where the 4 flagship technology demonstration missions have counterparts:
Announcement of Opportunity - DISCOVERY 2010 (PDF) - The next opportunity for missions in NASA's Discovery program that brought us the Mars Pathfinder and many other planetary science missions includes an incentive to encourage Discovery mission proposals to include certain new technologies:
SMD’s In–Space Propulsion Technology (ISPT) program has developed several technologies that are nearing TRL 6 and that are, therefore, potentially applicable to Discovery missions. Three of these technologies are: 1) the NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) ion propulsion system, 2) the Advanced Material Bi-propellant Rocket (AMBR), and 3 aerocapture. ...
For missions that utilize NEXT, the cap on the PI-Managed Mission Cost will be raised by $19M (FY 2010);
• For missions that utilize AMBR, the cap on the PI-Managed Mission Cost will be raised by $5M (FY 2010);
• For lander missions that propose to use aerocapture, the cap on the PI-Managed Mission Cost will be raised by $10M (FY 2010).
• For orbiter missions that propose to use aerocapture, the cap will be raised by $20M (FY 2010).
The tentative robotic precursor plans also include the potential for a Mars mission involving aerocapture:
Explorations Precursor Robotic Missions (xPRM) (PDF) - The third large robotic precursor mission described here is a potential 2016 Mars Orbiter mission:
Favored Option: Mars Resource Explorer with Operational Aerocapture
– Aerocapture critical to mission success, but much more valuable than a smaller fly-along demo.
• Could perhaps restructure as separate aerocapture demo ...
In addition, NASA plans a number of exploration technology demonstrations that are smaller than the flagship missions:
Exploration Technology Development & Demonstration (ETDD) (PDF) - One of the technologies described here is High Power Electric Propulsion. This would involve greater power than the SEP from the initial flagship missions, but it would be demonstrated on the ground at the subsystem level. If successful, it could be included in a later flagship technology demonstration mission.
To promote a robust domestic commercial space industry, departments and agencies shall:
Cultivate increased technological innovation and entrepreneurship in the commercial space sector through the use of incentives such as prizes and competitions; ...
Monday, June 21, 2010
IIIT-H's team Mission Gaganyaan wins CanSat 2010 - SiliconIndia
City lad part of team to bag first prize at CANSAT-10 - The Times of India
From the official site:
IIIT Hyderabad's Photos - Cansat 2010 - This is from the team's Facebook page.
Team IIIT-H at CanSat 2010
Queen's Space Engineering Team - This team came in 2nd place. It has also been a contender in the Space Elevator Games.
i6 Challenge - U.S. Economic Development Administration:
The i6 Challenge is a new $12 million innovation competition administered by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, in partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF). EDA will award up to $1 million to each of six winning teams with the most innovative ideas to drive technology commercialization and entrepreneurship in their regions. ...
The 2010 X-PRIZE Benefit - San Francisco Luxury Living gives a summary of the event accompanied by lots of photos.
RoboSpartans MoonBots Team to conduct Google Lunar X prize Missions - WKTV.com (Utica, New York)
@jeff_foust: NASA to announce 3 new Centennial Challenges prize competitions at space tech industry forum next month: http://is.gd/cZdII
@NASAMICI: Presentation at 3pm 2day from Dr Antonio Soares of FAMU regarding Space Elevator Photovoltaic Cells. http://nasamici.com/ #NASA
@PaulSecor: Im running the controls on Dr Soares presentation right now in NASA MICI http://twitpic.com/1ysynn
@glxp: Want to see the amazing rovers & spacecraft being built by teams around the world for the Google Lunar X PRIZE? Video: http://bit.ly/acdFGm
@alias_amanda: Follow @progautoxp to get the live webcast and real-time telemetry updates from the #PIAXP cars. Knockout competition happening all week.
@fineri: David, Dad & Keith, fixing a valve.Some more pics on facebook, search kiwi 2 space. Didn't get a lot of pics sorry http://twitpic.com/1yyysy
@TeamPrometheus: "P" Motor in flight test! Same motor as Rockoon Launch. http://fb.me/unuzxf6n
@wikkit: I gave Xombie a hug, and I am out of here. Keep it crazy, Mojave.
Monday, June 14, 2010
MAVERICKS J-PRIZE COMPETITION
Mavericks Competition Community
The ISEC 2009 Space Elevator Poster - The Space Elevator Blog
National Space Society Announces “NSS in Second Life” Machinima Contest Winner - National Space Society Blog
International Youth Art Competition - Deadline Septempber 30, 3010 - Oregon NASA Space Grant Consortium
Parts Came in... - Unreasonable Rocket
Sponsors Sought For NASA's Centennial Challenges Competitions - NASA - This is a brief news release about the RFI I mentioned in the last post.
How to Get Purty (Part 9)
How to Get Purty (Part 10) - Team Phoenicia
@TeamPrometheus: Launch Tower going up! Matagorda, Texas! And some antennas! 150' antenna tower and 3 meter Dish. Setting date for... http://bit.ly/9An7QZ
@rocketshadow: Plane Crazy, Sat.19 June @ Mojave Airport. Come see the Dick Rutan's new Berkut, with the FINEST paint job I've seen in a while. 10 am-2 pm
@NASAMICI: Getting ready for online presentation From Dr. Antonio Soares re: Robitics and the Space elevator on http://nasamici.com/
Saturday, June 12, 2010
I was wondering what was happening after reading the following tweet:
@wikkit: I'm moving away from Cali. Should I have an Escape From Mojave party this week, or just slink off into the night like the vagabond I am?
Here's the answer:
Brockert moving to Armadillo Aerospace - RLV News
@airshipz: Have been working hard with traditional sources for 1.5 years without success even though individuals agree with project it doesn't fit mold
Sci-Fi short film contest - Space for All
June NASA MICI Newsletter - NASA MICI
SpeedUp hybrid test - RLV News
Sunday, June 06, 2010
There are far too many posts and tweets from people in the space prize community on the successful Falcon 9 flight to cover here. I'll just give a small sample of tweets here:
@PTScientists: Congratulations #SpaceX for the first succesful launch of Falcon9 ! :-) It's an important day for the GoogleLunarX-Prize #glxp #space
@PeterDiamandis: Against all the odds, SpaceX has pulled off the 1st Falcon-9 flight. This will herald a new era of private launch at a much reduced cost!
@Way to go Spacex!!!!! - Unreasonable Rocket
@Eurospaceward: August 6-8. 2010, Japan University Futawa Campus, Japan SE Technology and Engineering Competition JSETEC regulations up at http://jsea.jp/
@glxp: Are you 10-17 yrs old? Share your vision of future human space exploration in this art competition: http://bit.ly/drPLu9 (via @lealem)
@TeamPrometheus: I posted 28 photos on Facebook in the album "Ah oh what's this?" http://bit.ly/9OITul
@Doug_Comstock: Discussing technical objectives of next Centennial Challenge prize competitions at NASA HQ today, plan to announce 3 new competitions soon.
Armadillo - 2000ft boosted hop, engine shutdown/restart, safe landing - RLV News
Some Data - Unreasonable Rocket:
As I've said several times this year, I currently have more rocket time than rocket $, I can continue to do interesting things with my leftover LLC hardware, but it does not match the far end goal. The far end goal is a 100Km 5Kg payload rocket that is reusable and can be reproduced for less than 10K.
Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup #20 - Luna C/I: Moon Colonization and Integration
Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup #21 - Luna C/I: Moon Colonization and Integration
8 Scientists Share $3 Million in Prizes - The New York Times covers this year's winners of the Kavli Prize, including the one in astrophysics.
This is from a few weeks ago: Google announces the winner of their "Model Your Town" competition - Google Earth Blog
The 2010 Annual Texas CanSat Competition is scheduled for June 11 - 13 in Amarillo, Texas.
Cansat 2010 preliminary design - Student Space Programs Laboratory
According to POTROCS,
The CANSAT event this year will be an non rocket event. The CANSAT's will be dropped from a helicopter. This change is necessary because of the wheat harvest in the Wayside area.
Team Phoenicia keeps up its recent surge in posts with pictures:
Material Science Testing
How to Get Purty (part 8)
How to Get Purty (part 7)
How to Get to Purty (part 6)
Friday, June 04, 2010
To compound that confusion, however, NASA's communication concerning the Moon has not been consistent or clear. That's not surprising considering that NASA is a large, diverse organization, and some of the communication is actually from outside NASA itself.
Here is an example where NASA's plans are presented: A Bold Approach for Space Exploration and Discovery - Fact Sheet on the President’s April 15th Address in Florida (PDF) - OSTP
... a set of stepping-stone achievements in space that will take us further and faster into space, allowing us to reach a range of destinations including lunar orbit, Lagrange points, near-Earth asteroids, and the moons of Mars, and eventually Mars itself. This sequence of missions will begin with a set of crewed flights to prove the capabilities required for exploration beyond low Earth orbit. After these initial missions, our long-duration human spaceflight technologies will enable human explorers to conduct the first-ever crewed mission into deep space to an asteroid, thereby achieving an historical first; venture into deep space locations such as the Lagrange points (potential sites of fuel depots that would enable more capable future missions to the Moon, Mars, and other destinations); and then send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth.
It's obvious from this statement that NASA's astronaut plans, just like the Augustine Flexible Path, include lunar orbit, Lagrange points, NEOs, Mars moons, and ultimately Mars. However, although lunar orbit missions and Earth-Moon Lagrange point fuel depots for, among other destinations, the Moon are mentioned, the statement doesn't specify that the Moon's surface is one of NASA's destinations.
With the understanding that reaching the Moon, like reaching all of the other destinations, will be subject to future results from various efforts like technology demonstrations and robotic precursors, NASA needs to formulate a specific, if tentative, policy position on the Moon.
If the Moon is one of its destinations, NASA should find an appropriate spot for it in its tentative but official sequence of future destinations. Given the confusion about the Moon up to this point, it then should present a document that lists and explains all of the steps it is undertaking that will make it easier to reach the Moon and that will make reaching the Moon more productive. This could include technology development, Lunar Quest science missions, robotic precursor missions, early beyond-LEO missions, and more. It should be done at a detailed level. For example, this document should identify how each relevant technology demonstration mission helps us to reach the Moon.
If the Moon isn't one of the destinations, NASA representatives should consistently say so. If reaching the Moon depends to a greater extent than the other destinations on future events, and thus should be treated as a possible but not mandatory destination (as was done in the Augustine Flexible Path), NASA should consistently explain how and why this is the case.
Let's assume that NASA does intend to return to the Moon at some point. The decision making and communication I described should help NASA gain support from at least some lunar surface advocates. This high level decision making and communication may also improve lower level decision making within NASA itself.
Let's suppose NASA's roadmap includes lunar surface missions before Mars surface missions. If that is the case and it's understood by all NASA decision makers, different technical decisions consistent with the larger policy decision might be made.
NASA's 2011 exploration budget proposal (PDF) describes the initial large robotic precursor missions. The suggested missions include
- a lunar surface robot
- an asteroid or Mars moon lander
- a lunar or asteroid lander to demonstrate resource use
- a lunar resource technology demonstration is also mentioned in another section of the exploration budget
In contrast, the Exploration Enterprise Workshop: FY 2011 Exploration Precursor Robotic Missions (xPRM) Point of Departure Plans (PDF) presentation includes the following tentative xPRP (i.e. larger than xScout) missions:
- 2014: NEO Exploration Rendezvous Orbiter (NERO)
- 2015: Teleoperated Lunar Lander
- 2016: Mars Orbiter
- 2018: Mars Lander
- 2019: NEO TBD Mission
Compared to the original budget proposal, this is a big step in favor of Mars missions at the expense of the Moon (and, for that matter, Mars moons). Given the following considerations, it is likely that more emphasis would be placed on lunar precursor missions if the Moon were clearly put on NASA's roadmap:
- The Martian surface is a far future destination compared to lunar orbit, and is also probably farther in the future than the lunar surface in our hypothetical policy scenario.
- There will probably be a number of opportunities for Mars robotic precursor instruments to be hosted on NASA SMD or international Mars science missions, so dedicated Mars robotic precursors aren't quite as essential for Mars as lunar precursor missions are for the Moon. NASA has an ambitious Mars planetary science program. The Lunar Quest program is much smaller, although the Moon can also be addressed in Discovery or New Frontier missions. NASA's robotic precursor plan includes MOOs, which are Missions of Opportunity to fly precursor instruments on non-precursor missions.
- Lunar resources could potentially enable more ambitious missions. For example, fuel extracted from the lunar surface could be delivered to in-space fuel depots to be used in deep space exploration missions.
Similar decisions might be made in other areas.
A clear lunar policy could shift the balance of NASA science missions. For example, who will win the next New Frontiers competition: MoonRise (lunar sample return), OSIRIS-REx (asteroid mapping and sample return) or SAGE (Venus lander)? With a NEO visit early in NASA's astronaut plans and climate change as a high priority Administration concern, without a clear lunar policy decision and communication MoonRise would seem to be at a disadvantage if policy finds its way into the evaluation of the missions' science merits.
How ambitious will NASA's initial beyond-LEO astronaut mission(s) to lunar orbit be? How much solid lunar work will they do? A clear lunar policy could guide these decisions.
You get the idea.
Of course, if a policy decision and corresponding clear communication result in a shift in emphasis that is a bit more in favor of the Moon, while still maintaining the broad exploration goals of NASA's new plans, NASA is likely to win more supporters for its new plans from the lunar community.
One part of this discussion is NASA's plan for the Moon. There is a perception that NASA has forgotten the Moon. In contrast, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver stated that NASA isn't abandoning the Moon, and she expects NASA to send astronauts there before the Program of Record could have done that.
A similar message was briefly mentioned at another ISDC talk. I only caught the later parts of the talk, since I was at another one on Spaceport America (I was really surprised how much work has already been done on that!), but I believe it was by Bruce Pittman. Here are my brief notes on that part of the talk:
We haven't stopped the Moon program. We do have plans to go back. First we will go back robotically. We have instruments that haven't been flown - for example, backup instruments from other missions, etc. We could get these ready cheaply. Could we hitch a ride on a Google Lunar X PRIZE team's mission? The idea of such a hitchhiker mission isn't official; it's just something NASA is looking into.
I'm not sure if he meant a prize mission or a later mission. One consideration is that the prize itself includes limits on government funding.
Thursday, June 03, 2010
John and Eric gave more details about the recently announced suborbital RLV partnership between Space Adventures and Armadillo Aerospace. John noted that there have been many press releases in the space community, and in many cases, not much happened after that. As a result, he has a rule: don't get up in front of an audience without a check cut. Well, Space Adventures has cut a check for Armadillo Aerospace to develop suborbital spaceships.
John has known Eric since the Tito flight. John doesn't want to go from NASA or Air Force contract to contract. He will continue with contracts, but will focus more on spaceships.
Armadillo is pushing ahead on multiple vehicle configurations. They will probably build more than 2 configurations per year, which is about what they've been doing up to this point. John expects 100 or more flights for science. (I suspect that it was clear at the time, but my notes don't mention what timeframe that's under - before passenger rides start? Per year?) They are looking ahead to test pilot class flights as well.
John is willing to kick in some funding, too. He wants development to go faster. Armadillo is at a special point where they are getting all the ducks lined up in a row - FAA, insurance, spaceports, etc.
Eric mentioned that they are looking into approaches like raffles or sweepstakes where everyone has a shot to get a ticket even if most people can't afford to buy a ticket. They haven't selected a specific approach, so he's not giving details - the ones I mentioned are just to give an idea.
During the Question and Answer session, John noted that Armadillo is staffing up. He expects to be able to keep information updates happening more frequently. This has been difficult to do because they have been so busy.
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
honors those individuals who have made significant, lifetime contributions to the creation of a free spacefaring civilization.
I didn't take thorough notes at this talk or any of the others at this ISDC. I only took a few brief notes on items that stood out the most to me.
Peter noted that he has purchased his Armadillo Aerospace suborbital flight ticket. He hopes to be one of the first passengers.
He described a number of space prizes that the X PRIZE Foundation is considering. Some of these are the larger X PRIZEs; others are X CHALLENGEs. These aren't fully funded or fully developed prizes, so we will have to wait to see if some of these prizes make it through the difficult prize creation process.
Beamed Power Launch
There are 2 levels for this one - an X CHALLENGE and and X PRIZE. The more difficult X PRIZE objective is to launch 10 kg over 30 km. The prize would be $10M for first place, and $2M for second place. All of the power for the launch would be from beamed energy. The vehicle would need to fly a second time within 24 hours. Only 10% of the dry mass of the vehicle can be replaced between flights.
The corresponding X CHALLENGE is to transmit a large amount of power from a remote source. The teams would provide the microwave or laser power source. I wrote something about 10 kg for this prize, but I'm not sure if this one involves an actual flight. The winner would get $1M, and second place would be $250K.
Asteroid Deflection Prize
The goal of this $20M prize is to pick a 50 meter or larger asteroid whose orbit doesn't come close to Earth's orbit and to deflect it. We don't want to have a chance to bump an asteroid so it will hit the Earth. The asteroid's orbit should be predicted precisely. Then the asteroid should be moved 1 Earth diameter from the prediction over the course of a year. The method must be scalable for asteroids greater than 1 km or larger.
Orbital Debris Removal
The winner of this $20M X PRIZE would remove 5 objects.
Lunar Lander Challenge level 3
This $1M X CHALLENGE would be like the familiar Level 2 prize, but no refueling would be allowed. Staging would be allowed. Like the original prize, it would be for vertical takeoff/vertical landing flights. The total flight time would be 6 minutes.
Suborbital Science X CHALLENGE
This $1M prize would be for a suborbital reusable launch vehicle that goes over 200,000 feet 3 times in 3 days.
Martian Life X CHALLENGE
This X CHALLENGE is also for $1M. It is for development of life that can grow under Mars conditions, including radiation, pressure, and atmosphere. Growth levels of four doublings in 30 days would be required.
Electric Aircraft X CHALLENGE
This would be an annual $1M prize. It would be for the winner of a race from Washington DC to Oshkosh. In addition to winning the year in question, the winner would have to beat previous years' times by at least 15 minutes.
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Team Phoenicia - This links to the team's newly designed web site. From that site:
Team Phoenicia is undertaking a herculean venture of gloriously confounding proportions: we are entering the Google Lunar X Prize.
Here are some recent blog posts:
How to Get to Purty (part 5)
How to Get to Purty (part 4)
How to Get to Purty (part 3)
In The News
How to Get to Purty (part 2)
How to Get to Purty
05/02/2010: More Test Firings - SpeedUp
Briefs: XCOR/Masten Space combo; BonNovA test - RLV News
XCOR and Masten collaborate for NASA landers business - RLV News
Masten Space Re-Lights Rocket Engine in Flight - Masten Space Systems
At least one other view of this flight was shown at ISDC 2010. I think it was this heart-stopping one:
Xombie in-air relight view from the ground. - Masten Space Systems on YouTube
SPACE ADVENTURES ANNOUNCES EXCLUSIVE MARKETING AGREEMENT WITH ARMADILLO AEROSPACE - Armadillo Aerospace
Eric Anderson and John Carmack gave more details about this agreement at one of the ISDC 2010 talks:
ISDC 2010 - Anderson/Carmack, Diamandis, Homans - RLV News
The previous link also includes some comments from the Peter Diamandis talk at the ISDC. In addition to the potential prizes listed there, Diamandis also described a few other ideas (all presumably pending funding and additional development). The one I'll mention here is "Lunar Lander Challenge Level 3". I don't have my notes handy (I haven't unpacked from the conference yet), but as I recall the idea was to have a Lunar Lander Challenge that is similar to the one we know, but with no refueling allowed. Staging would be allowed.