Monday, August 30, 2010

Prize Roundup: XHab Award, Zero-G Benefit, CRuSR Test Flights, ARLISS, Lunar Architecture, More

Today is the "anticipated award date" for the inflatable structure eXploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge, and we already have:

@glxp: Congrats! RT @nathanpwong: Just found out my team got accepted for the xhab competition.

A Personal Odyssey - Bob Richards: B-LOG - Musings on our Future in Space, Earth and Life.

Armadillo Aerospace & Masten Space to get $475k from NASA - RLV News

ZERO-G flight with James Cameron benefits X-PRIZE Foundation - RLV News

Google Lunar X-Prize teams progress - Lunar Networks

Moon Capital: A Commercial Gateway to the Moon - Commercial Space Gateway gives another look at this competition I mentioned in the previous post.

Weare NH Project ARLISS - The Goffstown Edge

X PRIZE, Govt. of India & IIT Delhi Announce Partnership to Create Global Competition to Develop Clean-Burning Cookstoves - X PRIZE Foundation press release

Friday, August 27, 2010

Prize Roundup: NASA and TopCoder/Yet2/InnoCentive, LaserMotive Copter, Armadillo Office Space, Moon Capital, More

Laser-Powered Helicopter Demo At AUVSI Trade Show - LaserMotive

@lasermotive: Update: here's the url for our article in the Unmanned Daily News at the AUVSI trade show. page 12

LaserMotive is getting a lot of interest in booth 227 at the AUVSI trade show!

We have arrived at trade show setup.

Laser-powered helicopter in our AUVSI booth:

Booth 227 at AUVSI is now complete!

@pomerantz: #GLXP competitors @JUXTOPIA_JURBAN are co-hosting another Space Entrepreneurship Forum on Capitol Hill this fall:

@soldthemoon: Caterpillar joins the sponsors supporting Astrobotic's Moon expedition Their slogan: Madagascar to the Moon

Expo displays progress toward Google Lunar X Prize - Astrobotic at the Google Lunar X PRIZE Teams page

@hobbyspacer: Students program ISS robots in NASA/MIT contest: NASA and MIT are sponsoring the Zero Robotics competition in whi...

Office cubicle workers, feast your eyes on this one:

@wikkit: Like any job, at 7:30 on a Friday you want to go home, but it's hard to walk out without noticing that it's the on

@unrocket: Did first pass garage cleaning last wk. Last night made a pressure test fixture for printed motor. Hope to do static motor test 9/18.

Out of this world - My South

The competition, called the Moon Capital Competition 2010, calls architects, urban planners, artists, and engineers to submit innovative lunar concept designs for two categories of judging.

Robots explore a Lego lunar surface (photos) - CNET News

NASA Technology Innovation - Volume 15, Number 3 - Magazine for Business & Technology - This 56-pager includes the various Centennial Challenges and LAUNCH:Health in its Upcoming Events section. It also has an article "Open Innovation: A New Business Model for NASA's Space Life Sciences Directorate" on ways for this Directorate to work with external problems solvers using open innovation mediators InnoCentive and Here's a descriptions of the Yet2 approach:

The posting was for a technology need seeking accurate measurement techniques for bone density and structure. acts as an actual technology scout by searching their network of companies, development organizations and experts for potential solutions based on the specific challenges or gaps, bringing together buyers and sellers of technologies who then establish technology development partnerships.

The Directorate also used TopCoder, the Harvard Business School and the London Business School in an approach where

competitors develop algorithms to help NASA make decisions involved with optimizing the contents of a medical supplies kit that may be carried onboard long-term space missions.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Prize Roundup: European High School CanSats, NASA Data Purchase, LAUNCH Health Challenge, NASAMICI Kick Off, Start-ups

@wikkit: Machining is the art of removing everything that isn't a rocket engine.

@fineri: Started welding my new engine up...

European Cansat 2010 - AndoyaRocketRange on YouTube

The first European CanSat Competition for high-school students opened at ARR - Andøya Rocket Range, the Cost-Effective Entrance to Space

Truailliú: ESA's CanSat Competition - This has numerous posts from one of the teams - a bit too many to link to individual posts. Here's one, though: The prize winners of the first European Cansat Competition

Laurel Hill students represent Ireland in Norway - Limerick Post on the web

Teens to launch rocket in Nevada - New

Next Giant Leap Offering Lunar Mission Data To NASA - Aero-News.Net

A hop, skip and a jump on the moon — and beyond - MIT News

Racing to the moon turning lucrative for Oakland's Astrobotic Technologies - Pop City

USAID Partners With NASA, NIKE and State Department to Address Global Health Challenges - press release on SpaceRef:

People can submit their ideas through the InnoCentive website, which allows hundreds of thousands of problem solvers throughout the world to collaborate on the posted challenges. Innovators can submit their health related proposals via the LAUNCH Health challenge at: ... Those who are selected will be invited to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida Oct. 30-31 where the LAUNCH: Health forum will take place.

Minority Innovation Challenges Institute Kick Off - SpaceRef

Start-up enterprise: Launching the new space race - New Scientist briefly mentions Masten Space Systems, Centennial Challenges, and early aviation's competitions in this article about new commercial space companies.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Space Elevator Prize Activity

It's an active time for prizes with a Space Elevator theme:

@SEGames: The "Strong Tether" Competition of the Space Elevator Games is scheduled for Friday, August 13th. Watch this space for more details.

The SEGames twitter account linked above tweated a number of times recently about the games and the related conference. I wouldn't be surprised if more updates will happen from there soon, since there is also the 2010 Space Elevator Conference.

The Space Elevator Blog has been quite active, too:

Yuri Artsutanov and Jerome Pearson are HERE - ... and you'll see more pictures of them in some of the twitter links below ...
Latest updates on the Strong Tether Challenge - From this post: Ben Shelef ... tells me that there will be at least two contestants, and possibly a third, in this year’s Strong Tether Challenge. All of the contestants are bringing entries made out of carbon nanotubes.
Results from Japan’s 2010 JSETEC Competition - This includes a summary of the competion, and also some good links. Here's one of those, and it features a couple teams from the earlier NASA competitions: Kanagawa University Egami Team B wins 2nd Japan Space Elevator Technical and Engineering Competition Grand Prize (PDF)
Strong Tether challenge just 3 days away… - ... and that was 3 days ago! I like the tug-of-war theme ...
Looking for a few good teams… - The Kansas City Space Pirates want more competitors ... to get over the funding hump!
The Mighty Tether - now on YouTube - on Team Astroaraneae

You can see more about the games and conference from Michael Lane. Here are a few examples:

@mlaine: RT @piboeing: Space elevator pioneers take part in Redmond conference

Jerome Pearson for #SE2010 kick-off dinner. They are discussing Dyson Spheres.

Historical meeting. Yuri Artsutanov. #SE2010

Laubscher - Now talking about @NASA_Technology Centennial Challenges - Power Beaming $1.1M left to win!

Laubscher - "But tomorrow..." is the #NASA Strong Tether competition. $2M at stake tomorrow! #SE2010

It might be worth trying that #SE2010 hashtag to keep up to date on the games and conference, but there's no guarantee that everyone will use that.

Here's some other Space Elevator prize news:

Next giant leaps for NASA tech - Cosmic Log:

... There's also a project to be conducted jointly with the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, looking into beam-powered space propulsion. That follows up on NASA's Power Beaming Challenge, which paid out $900,000 to the Seattle-based LaserMotive team during last year's Space Elevator Games.

Here's more about Japan's Space Elevator Games:

@newspacenews: Japan hosts an international space elevator competition representing 15 different engineering universities

From the article linked by NewSpaceNews:

Fifteen teams from Japanese, US and German universities took part in the two day event which kicked off as teams, one-by-one, attached their mechanical climbers to cabling suspended from a balloon 300 meters above ground. ... While many teams, including last year's Munich University champions experienced trouble, Nihon University's team's climber was the only climber to make it to the top during the morning competition.

Update (Friday afternoon):

@SEGames: Finally - URL for Strong Tether Competition is

Competition is scheduled to start at 4:15pm US Pacific time - less than two hours from now

We have 3 competitors and all of them have carbon nanotube entries.

@NASAPrize: At the Space Elevator Conference. Talking about Centennial Challenges at 3:45 PDT

Carbon nanotubes are HERE - The Space Elevator Blog
Another Tether entry - The Space Elevator Blog

There are plenty of updates on the whole conference at twitter hashtag #SE2010, but I'd also recommend checking NASAPrize and SEGames twitter accounts, since they haven't been using that tag (yet?).

Post-Games Update:

Results from the 2010 Strong Tether Challenge - The Space Elevator Blog
Tethers tortured in $2 million contest - Cosmic Log (through Tether contest wrap-up at RLV News)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

More on Planetary Society NEO Competition

Report from the Exploration of Near-Earth Objects Objectives Workshop - Day 2 - The Planetary Society Blog: Bruce Betts gives an overview of NASA's Explore NOW workshop. Some of his notes concern a new competition planned by the Planetary Society:

I also discussed the Planetary Society's Human Mission to an Asteroid competition that will challenge people to design a human mission to an asteroid. We will have open and college design competition categories, and an essay competition for high school and below. We are currently assembling our advisory committee and partners and determining the details of the competition. Stay tuned in coming weeks and months for more information.

Speaking of competitions, at this meeting I ran into the Principal Investigator of the winning entry from the Planetary Society Apophis Mission Design competition, Mark Schaffer from SpaceWorks Engineering, Inc. Though the content will be quite different, the human asteroid mission will follow the same type of process as the Apophis competition did, and we expect lots of spectacular entries like we got for Apophis.

Bruce's slide presentation from the workshop, Public Participation in the Exploration of NEOs (PDF), offers a lot of information on the Planetary Society's experience with public participation through space prizes and competitions. This is depicted through a pyramid of prizes and participation opportunities where the base of the pyramid includes the largest number of participants for more accessible competitions and other forms of participation, and the tip of the pyramid includes the most difficult challenges and richest rewards. In this context, the presentation offers the following information, and more, about the NEO competition now under development:

TPS Human Asteroid Design Competition
  • In coming months, Planetary Society will hold an open competition to design a human mission to a near Earth asteroid.
  • Will emphasize the portions of the mission when near or on the asteroid (input invited on details) ...
  • $20K prize from Google ...
  • Doing in collaboration with NASA and other organizations and agencies ...
The open competition mentioned above is expected to be at the level of aerospace companies, while the college competition is expected to be at the level of design classes. The goals of the competition include contributions to actual NEA plans, NEO education, and making the concept of HSF missions to NEOs familiar to the public.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Prize Roundup: NSF Robotics Competitions, Asteroid Prize Plan, Many Space Elevator Prizes, NASA Lunar Lander Data Purchase, More

Here's an excerpt from the 2011 Departments of Commerce and Justice, and Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill report (PDF):

Promoting STEM Education Through Competition.—The future of U.S. competitiveness rests on our ability to train the next generation of scientists and engineers. The Committee has acted on the ‘‘Rising Above the Gathering Storm’’ recommendation to improve K–12 STEM education by robustly funding the National Science Foundation and other science agencies. The Committee also recognizes the important contributions of groups and organizations that have developed nationwide STEM robotics competitions to inspire and train America’s students. The Committee directs NSF to set aside $2,000,000 for a competitive program of grants to promote STEM education through robotics competitions.

BLOG: Update on the NASA Authorization Bill - The Planetary Society - The reason that I included this here is that there's an interesting hint about a possible new Planetary Society prize at the end of the post:

A big first step will be consideration of the human asteroid mission. The Planetary Society will be participating in an upcoming NASA workshop on this subject, and we're getting ready to announce a new competition to advance the concept of humans exploring an asteroid. So stay tuned!

More Masten Space pictures
A brief glimpse of leg at Masten Space
Armadillo Aerospace flies Pixel - all 3 from RLV News

ISEC e-Newsletter #6 - August 2010 - International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) - This newsletter has a lot of information about Space Elevator Games Centennial Challenges and other prizes. Here are some excerpts, but the newsletter has many more details:

The Climber / Power-Beaming competition has been postponed until next year. ... The Strong Tether competition will be held at the upcoming Space Elevator Conference. The current schedule calls for this competition to be held on Friday, August 13th, at 4:15pm (US Pacific time) ...

In March, the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC) announced the Yuri Artsutanov and Jerome Pearson Prizes for Space Elevator research. ... the prize committee did not feel that any of them met the criteria; ... the prize committee did award an "Honorable Mention" to a paper submitted by Mr. Gaylen R. Hinton and he and his entry will be honored at the upcoming Space Elevator Conference. These prizes will be repeated next year. A new topic will be chosen for ... the Pearson prize ...

From August 6th-8th, the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA) will host it's second annual JSETEC (Japan Space Elevator Technical & Engineering Competition) event. ... The 2009 competition was held on a 150 meter tether. This year's competition will be held on a 300 meter tether. Next year, they plan on using a 600 meter tether. But, unlike the Space Elevator Games, they plan on holding the tether aloft with balloons, not a helicopter.

NASA Centennial Challenges 2010 Strong Tether Challenge - SpaceRef

Astrobotic designs excavator to recover lunar volatiles - Google Lunar X PRIZE Teams page

NASA Seeks Data from Innovative Lunar Demonstrations - NASA:

NASA has issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) to purchase specific data resulting from industry efforts to test and verify vehicle capabilities through demonstrations of small robotic landers. The purpose is to inform the development of future human and robotic lander vehicles. ... The ILDD BAA challenges industry to demonstrate Earth-to-lunar surface flight system capabilities and test technologies.

Astrobotic to pursue NASA data purchase offer - RLV News

First Lindbergh Electric Aircraft Prizes Announced At AirVenture - Lindbergh Electric Aircraft Prize (LEAP) - You can find out about this year's prizes at the link. There is also some information about next year's prizes:

LEAP announced that in 2011, LEAP prizes will be awarded at Aero-Friedrichschafen in Germany as well as at AirVenture.

Fueling Innovation (100 MPGe at a time) - Energy Blog (Department of Energy)

See much, much more about the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE here.

And the winner is… Offering a cash prize to encourage innovation is all the rage. Sometimes it works rather well - The Economist

Sunday, August 01, 2010

More Details about 3 New Centennial Challenges

I recently posted about 3 new Centennial Challenges: the Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge, the Night Rover Challenge, and the Sample Return Robot Challenge. These links to the 3 challenges have some information that either I didn't catch and post about when these challenges were introduced, or that wasn't available then.

Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge

The current description of the objectives for the Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge is more detailed and nuanced than the one I originally saw:
  • Safe, low-cost, small payload delivery system for frequent access to Earth orbit.
  • Innovations in propulsion and other technologies as well as operations and management for broader applications in future launch systems.
  • A commercial capability for dedicated launches of small satellites at a cost comparable to secondary payload launches--a potential new market with Government, commercial, and academic customers.
The preliminary description also briefly mentions tracking, range safety, sponsorships and other partnerships, and FAA licensing.

The prize purse section mentions the possibility of additional prize money for a 2nd-place or a bonus prize. My interpretation is that NASA would like to have a 2nd-place prize and bonus prizes, but Centennial Challenges doesn't have the money to do that. Will someone else step up to the plate, or will Centennial Challenges fund these augmentations in a later year?

Night Rover Challenge

In my earlier post, I speculated about the length of the "night" in the Night Rover Challenge, given some hints about the Moon in the material on the challenge. I recall that some other observers on the Internet were wondering the same thing. The current description of the challenge's objectives makes it more likely that the Moon's day/night cycle will govern the length of the "night" in the challenge with the following point:
  • Innovations in energy storage technology for space operations and, in particular, to meet the demands imposed by the daylight/darkness cycle on the Moon.
That should make this challenge all the more interesting to Google Lunar X PRIZE teams interested in a bonus prize. However, in this case the energy storage system needs to survive more than 1 night cycle:

The Challenge would be to demonstrate a portable energy collection and storage system through several cycles of daylight and darkness. ... The winning system would be the one that moved the greatest distance during darkness in an allotted time period (over several day/night cycles) using only its own stored energy.

The competition could be held in a typical Earth environment, but

Competitors with successful and appropriate system designs might be invited to test their energy storage systems in NASA thermal-vacuum chambers to demonstrate applicability to the space and lunar environment.

Sample Return Robot Challenge

The description gives some ideas about what the sample return environment will be like:

The roving area should include rolling terrain, granular medium, soft soils, and a variety of rocks. A pre-cached sample and several other samples would be located in smaller sampling zones within the larger roving area.

There could be 2 levels of prizes in this competition:

In order to win a Level-1 prize, a robot must retrieve only the pre-cached sample. Robots should be autonomous, but periodic intervention with teleoperation would be permitted with penalties imposed for its use.

In order to win a Level-2 prize, a team must autonomously navigate at all times and must retrieve the pre-cached sample and several additional sample types that may include rock, regolith, gas, liquid, etc...