Friday, July 30, 2010

America COMPETES Includes Competitions

I recently took a look at a Senate Appropriations report that gave details on proposed funding levels for NASA Space Technology. That report didn't specify funds for Centennial Challenge prizes.

Interestingly, the same day that the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation put forth the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 that seems to have served as a model for the Senate Appropriations bill, that committee also issued the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. Here is a working draft of the bill. There is a prize section of the bill that starts at page 15 of the draft. As noted by the OSTP blog, the Senate Advances Prizes in America COMPETES. From the OSTP comments:

The Prize Competitions section of the Committee bill would provide Federal Agencies across the Executive Branch with explicit authority to conduct prize competitions.

Here are some excerpts from the draft bill:

IN GENERAL.—Each head of an agency, or the heads of multiple agencies in cooperation, may carry out a program to award prizes competitively to stimulate innovation that has the potential to advance the mission of the respective agency.



‘‘(1) PROHIBITION ON THE GOVERNMENT ACQUIRING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS.—The Federal Government may not gain an interest in intellectual property developed by a participant in a competition without the written consent of the participant.

‘‘(2) LICENSES.—The Federal Government may negotiate a license for the use of intellectual property developed by a participant for a competition.


‘‘(A) NOTICE TO CONGRESS.—No prize competition under this section may offer a prize in an amount greater than $50,000,000 unless 30 days have elapsed after written notice has been transmitted to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Science and Technology of the House of Representatives.

‘‘(B) APPROVAL OF HEAD OF AGENCY.— No prize competition under this section may result in the award of more than $1,000,000 in cash prizes without the approval of the head of an agency.


the General Services Administration shall provide government wide services to share best practices and assist agencies in developing guidelines for issuing prize competitions. The General Services Administration shall develop a contract vehicle to provide agencies access to relevant products and services, including technical assistance in structuring and conducting prize competitions to take maximum benefit of the marketplace as they identify and pursue prize competitions to further the policy objectives of the Federal Government.


REPEAL OF SPACE ACT LIMITATION.—Section 314(a) of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (42 U.S.C. 2459f-1 is amended by striking ‘‘The Administration may carry out a program to award prizes only in conformity with this section.’’.

It will be interesting to see how this develops across the various agencies, including the agencies with an interest in space.

There is also a section of the bill on NASA starting at page 27 in the draft. Part of this section covers space technology:

It is the sense of Congress that a renewed emphasis on technology development would enhance current mission capabilities and enable future missions, while encouraging NASA, private industry, and academia to spur innovation. NASA’s Innovative Partnership Program is a valuable mechanism to accelerate technology maturation and encourage the transfer of technology into the private sector.

The bill also includes a section specifically on various cybersecurity competitions at levels appropriate for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students, and also for universities and research labs.

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, directly or through appropriate Federal entities, shall establish cybersecurity competitions and challenges with cash prizes ...

There are authorized to be appropriated to the National Institute of Standards and Technology to carry out this section $15,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2011 through 2013.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Prize Roundup: Electric Aircraft at AirVenture, Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE, Lunar Hopper, More

Tomorrow (July 30) the World Symposium of Electric Flight will be held at 2010 EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Register Today for Electric Aircraft Symposium - EAA AirVenture - Here's some information about the event:

Among the confirmed participants for the symposium are Scaled Composites founder Burt Rutan; FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt; Electric Aircraft Corporation founder Randall Fishman; Yuneec founder Tian Yu; Sonex Aircraft founder John Monnett; and Earthstar Aircraft founder Mark Beierle, who displayed his eGull ultralight aircraft at AirVenture 2009. Commercial pilot and flight instructor Erik Lindbergh, grandson of aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh and founder of the nonprofit Creative Solutions Alliance, will also be on hand to announce the LEAP (Lindbergh Electric Aircraft Prize) winners.

AirVenture 2010 World Symposium At Eagle Hangar - CAFE Foundation Blog

Introducing The Oil Cleanup X Challenge - Wendy Schmidt at The Huffington Post

X Prize Foundation Unveils $1.4 Million Oil Cleanup X Challenge - Fast Company

Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE:

The judges will select the top teams to demonstrate their ability to efficiently and rapidly clean up oil on the ocean surface in a head-to-head competition. These demonstrations, which will determine the winner, will take place at the National Oil Spill Response Research & Renewable Energy Test Facility (OHSMETT) in New Jersey, USA.

New Look, Same InnoCentive - Perspectives on Innovation Blog

Evadot Podcast #30 – NextGiantLeap

Archon Genomics X PRIZE Powers Into Phase II: Genomics Technologies Progressing Towards Prize Vision - neXt PRIZE

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Centennial Challenges and the Senate Appropriations Report

The Senate Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2011 is accompanied by a report (PDF) that gives more detail on what the Appropriators intend. The NASA section of the report starts on page 115. Here are the amounts for NASA's Space Technology account. Figures are in millions of dollars:

Space Technology:
Early Stage Innovation
........................... 193,000
----Space Technology Research Grants
.............. 20,000
----NIAC Phase I and Phase II
...................... 2,000
----Center Innovations Fund ....................... 10,400
----SBIR/STTR .................................... 160,600
Game Changing Technology .......................... 53,000
----Game-Changing Developments .................... 50,000
----Small Satellite Subsystem Technologies ......... 3,000
Crosscutting Capability Demonstrations ............ 64,000
----Technology Demonstration Missions ............. 42,000
----Edison Small Satellite Demonstration Missions .. 5,000
----Flight Opportunities .......................... 17,000
Partnership Development and Strategic Integration . 15,000
Subtotal, Space Technology ....................... 325,000

As with commercial space, exploration technology development and demonstrations, robotic precursor missions, and various other accounts, the Senate dramatically cuts NASA's request in certain areas to support a government heavy lift rocket, a crew vehicle, and an additional Shuttle flight. Although cut significantly, Space Technology does much better than some of the other accounts, perhaps because it is built on an existing NASA program. For comparison, here are the Space Technology figures from NASA's FY2011 budget request (PDF) for FY2011 (most amounts are considerably larger in later years in that budget's outlook):

Space Technology:
Early Stage Innovation ........................... 298,600
----Space Technology Research Grants .............. 70,000
----NIAC Phase I and Phase II ...................... 3,000
----Center Innovations Fund ....................... 50,000
----SBIR/STTR .................................... 165,600
----Centennial Challenges ......................... 10,000
Game Changing Technology ......................... 129,600
----Game-Changing Developments ................... 123,600
----Small Satellite Subsystem Technologies ......... 6,000

Crosscutting Capability Demonstrations ........... 102,000
----Technology Demonstration Missions ............. 75,000
----Edison Small Satellite Demonstration Missions . 10,000
----Flight Opportunities .......................... 17,000

Partnership Development and Strategic Integration . 42,000
Subtotal, Space Technology ....................... 572,200

The line for the Centennial Challenges space/aeronautics prize program continues at $10M per year for the 5 years covered in NASA's budget request. Note that the Senate report doesn't contain a line for Centennial Challenges.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Prize Roundup: Steps to Green Flight, Penn Manor, Oil Cleanup, NewSpace Awards, More

Green Flight Challenge: Six Steps to Synergy - CAFE Foundation Blog

CAFE News: Become a Part of Aviation History – Help Fund the Green Flight Challenge - CAFE Foundation Blog

Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup #27 - Luna C/I: Moon Colonization and Integration

Penn Manor Rocket Team Beats the World! - Penn Points - The Student News Magazine of PMHS
U.S. Team Wins International Youth Rocketry Challenge - Raytheon

X Prize Contest Coming For Oil Clean Up - EarthTechling
X Prize Foundation to Announce Multi-Million Dollar Incentive Competition to Clean Up Oil - MarketWire:

Who: X PRIZE Foundation
What: Press Conference to Launch the Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE
When: Thursday, July 29, 2010
Where: National Press Club - Holeman Lounge
529 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20545
Time: 1:00 PM (ET); Noon (CT); 10:00 AM (PT)

Armadillo posts 2010 Space Access Society video in HD - RLV News

Power-Beaming competition postponed… - The Space Elevator Blog - They anticipate a date somewhere in the March-April 2011 timeframe. The Tether Challenge is still on for the Space Elevator Conference this August 13-15, and so are the Artsutanov and Pearson research paper prizes. Speaking of that conference:
Watch this space… - The Space Elevator Blog:
Coming very soon - a special announcement about the upcoming Space Elevator Conference.

Here are a few tweets from Jeff Foust about awards at the NewSpace 2010 conference:

@jeff_foust: @dmasten recalls being asked what his conpany's ultimate goal is when accepting his #newspace2010 award. "Solar system domination."

Duncan Jones, director of "Moon", accepts his award at #newspace2010:

Congrats to @spacevidcast for the Best Presentation of Space award at #newspace2010!

Art Dula gets the Pioneer of NewSpace award. "How the heck am I supposed to get this into my suitcase?" #newspace2010

Lori Garver's acceptance video at #newspace2010:

Miles O'Brien on the big screen accepting his award: #newspace2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Space Prize Roundup: SpeedUp Update, Spacesuit Flair, Phoenicia Video, more

07/16/2010: Another Hard Start - SpeedUp

A Bit of Goofiness - Team Phoenicia

New Private Spacesuit Unveiled With New York Flair -

Two private spacesuit designers unveiled their first steps toward serious attire for future space travelers Friday night in front of a young, hip crowd of artists and tech geeks in Manhattan. ... Moiseev and Southern first combined their talents as former competitors to win a $100,000 second place prize in NASA's 2009 astronaut glove challenge. Now they have expanded their partnership under the name of Final Frontier Design to go from glove to full-fledged spacesuit designed to be worn inside a spacecraft during launch and re-entry.

Here's the Eyebeam Art and Technology Center notice for the event. There's more information and links about the gloves and spacesuit at that site, and at Spacesuit Gloves. For example, check out Lasercut Glove Patterns.

LaserMotive Video – Who We Are, and What Is Power Beaming - LaserMotive

“Vision of the Future” and “Best Presentation of Space” Winners Announced - Space Frontier Foundation

Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup #26 - Luna C/I: Moon Colonization and Integration

The Lurio Report - July 17, 2010 - RLV News - This includes some information about the Google Lunar X PRIZE.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Centennial Challenges and More at the Forum

Here's some prize news from day 1 of NASA's Space Technology Industry Forum.

NASA annoucnes three new Centennial Challenges - RLV News

Nanosat Launch Challenge - RLV News - As mentioned here, although there are definitely huge differences (payload mass, prize amount, etc), there may be some interest from N-Prize competitors.

The forum presentation by Brant Sponberg on the Franklin Small Satellite Subsystem Technology Program & Edison Small Satellite Demonstration Missions Program (PDF) also notes that future plans for small satellites include

Dedicated Small Spacecraft Launch
– Follow-on launch service procurement to Centennial Challenges Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge or industry developments

Briefs: New NASA Challenges; An "almost perfect" Challenge; X-Hab student challenge - RLV News

The summary for the new Centennial Challenges (from the NASA Centennial Challenges site) is:

The Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge: to place a small satellite into Earth orbit, twice in one week. The prize purse is $2 million.

Night Rover Challenge: to demonstrate a solar-powered exploration vehicle that can operate in darkness using its own stored energy. The prize purse is $1.5 million.

Sample Return Robot Challenge: to demonstrate a robot that can locate and retrieve geologic samples from a wide and varied terrain without human control. The prize purse is $1.5 million.

In addition,

NASA is seeking Allied Organizations as partners to manage each of these new challenges.

Here are more details from Centennial Challenges Program (PDF), the presentation at the forum by Andrew Petro:

Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge:

Satellite mass - at least 1 kg
Satellite dimensions - at least 10 cm cube
Must complete at least one Earth orbit
Task must be accomplished twice in one week

To stimulate innovations in launch technology
To encourage creation of commercial nano-sat delivery services

Night Rover Challenge

Vehicle generates and stores it own energy using a renewable source available on the Moon and operates over several daylight/darkness cycles

To stimulate innovations in energy storage technologies of value in extreme space environments and in renewable energy systems on Earth.

Sample Return Robot Challenge

Autonomous robot
Easily identified samples
Terrain maps provided but no use of GPS

To encourage innovations in robotic navigation and sample manipulation technologies

The Night Rover Challenge reminds me of the earlier Lunar Night Power Source Centennial Challenge proposal described on slide 25 here (PDF). That one was for $500,000 for power storage that could pass lunar vacuum and thermal tests, recharge quickly, and meet volume and power requirements. The Night Rover Challenge will involve a full vehicle. Will it be similar to the $1M Human Lunar All-Terrain Vehicle proposal on page 22 at the same link?

It will also be interested to see how the Night Rover Challenge interacts with the Google Lunar X PRIZE bonus for surviving a lunar night. Will Google Lunar X PRIZE teams be interested in the Night Rover Challenge?

Should I assume that the nights in the Night Rover Challenge are 14-day nights, given the lunar picture in the slide presentation, and the mention of the Moon there?

The Sample Return Challenge reminds me a little bit of the Telerobotic Construction Challenge idea. However, in that case there was "minimal human intervention" with the robots. The Sample Return Challenge case is "without human control". Of course sample return and construction are different types of assignments, too.

Meanwhile, Doug Comstock's presentation at the forum, Partnerships, Innovation & Commercial Space (PDF), describes the Innocentive NASA Innovation Pavilion (slides 11-12) and new X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge for inflatable habitats (slide 13). On the Innovation Pavilion:

Radio Frequency Engineer from Lempster, NH awarded $30,000 for a mathematical model to be used for solar forecasting. 579 “project rooms” participated

Mechanical Engineer from Foxboro, MA awarded $20,000 for novel compact and resistive exercise device design. 564 “project rooms” participated

Sunday, July 11, 2010

NASA Space Technology Industry Forum

NASA's OCT (Office of the Chief Technologist) will hold a space technology meeting this Tuesday and Wednesday to go over NASA's new general Space Technology research, development, and demonstration program. The technologies covered by this program are intended to be broadly applicable, as opposed to the new exploration-specific Flagship Technology Demonstrations, Enabling Technology Development and Demonstrations, or Heavy Lift and Propulsion Technology (all PDFs) efforts, or the existing technology efforts associated with areas like Science. From the meeting link:

The first day will also feature the announcement of three new Centennial Challenges prize competitions. There will be a Q&A session with the news media on July 13 at 10:30 a.m. to discuss the importance of innovation and technology to NASA’s future exploration plans, the planning status of NASA’s new Space Technology Programs, and the three new Centennial Challenges.

The Forum Agenda shows that Andy Petro will announce the new Centennial Challenges. There will also be a discussion of Centennial Challenges from 9:30 to 11:00 on Wedneday, July 14.

Other topics on the agenda include:
  • Technology Demonstration Missions
  • Flight Opportunities
  • Franklin Small Satellite Subsystem Technology
  • Edison Small Satellite Missions
  • NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC)
  • Space Technology Research Grants
  • Game Changing Development
  • Partnership, Innovation & Commercial Space
Here's a presentation that explains NASA's Space Technology program (PDF) in the context of NASA's overall efforts, including exploration. NASA's FY2011 budget proposal also includes details in its Space Technology section (PDF). The forum will undoubtably provide many more interesting details.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Prize Roundup: Lunar Lander Teams Still At It, Resistance to Prizes, Oil Cleanup Prize, Moon Art

Multi-million Dollar Oil Spill Cleanup X PRIZE Announced at TEDxOilSpill -
Official Statement Regarding Oil Spill Clean-up - X PRIZE Foundation - Just to be clear on where that competition stands:

The X PRIZE Foundation is considering, but has not yet developed, a multi-million dollar competition to help alleviate the effects of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup #25 - Luna C/I: Moon Colonization and Integration

2010 NASA art contest winners - Space for All

It's good to see all sorts of activity from former Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge teams continue:

Armadillo Aerospace Mod flight with roll vane - RLV News

More printed Motor Progress - Unreasonable Rocket

New Sponsor: The Graphite Store!
Team Phoenicia Needs You! - Team Phoenicia

@mastenspace: Students: Want to intern this fall with @mastenspace? Applications due Sunday!

Why is there resistance to prize funds? - Knowledge Ecology International