Saturday, March 31, 2007

Centennial Challenges on Selenian Boondocks

Jon Goff has posted an analysis of Ken Davidian's Space Access '07 talk, and has some comments and questions on political support for the program in the future.

Space Access compilation

RLV News has an easy-to-use compilation of various posts and other resources from the recent Space Access '07 Conference, as well as earlier Space Access conferences.

Centennial Challenges radio show

For those who couldn't see Ken Davidian's Space Access '07 talk on NASA's Centennial Challenge prize competitions I posted about recently, here's a highly recommended Space Show radio interview where he talks about many details about the program.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Other Space Elevator Competition

Jack Kennedy at Spaceports has more on the Space Elevator Centennial Challenges that Ken Davidian talked about at Space Access '07. Whether or not the advances expected from the Space Elevator Competition result in a space elevator some day, they are definitely useful technologies for many other applications, including space applications.

Another Space Elevator competition

The Space Exploration 2007 conference has a robotics competition for students they refer to as "Space Elevator, Jr."

Update on Mars Society Rover Challenge

I'm taking a break on the Space Access '07 posting to work on my backlog of other space prize posts. In this one, I'll note that the Mars Society has recently updated their University Rover Challenge competition site. The winning team (up to 5 members) gets conference tickets, rooms, and transportation to this year's Mars Society Conference (at UCLA), as well as $5,000. The Society anticipates this will be an annual competition that will grow in the future. They have sponsorship opportunities for those want to support the prize and to be recognized as sponsors in various ways.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Space Access '07 - Centennial Challenges

Ken Davidian – NASA Centennial Challenges

(Note: Select "Space Access '07" below for all posts related to that conference.")

This talk opened with a backdrop of a computer screen background of an inspirational photo of Earth clouds from space. The photo is credited to Brian Binnie, courtesy of Scaled Composites.

As I noted in other posts I’m doing my best to represent what was said during the Space Access talks I’m posting on, but I couldn’t always hear or keep up with the speakers. I took notes with a pen and a little notebook, so I could only go so fast and put things in my own, briefer words. Ken Davidian is a rather high-energy speaker, so I probably missed more on this talk than the others. Ken actually had an earlier talk on how the branch he works for is interacting with New Space companies. This, second talk (exchanged from the original Space Access schedule) itself was broken into 2 talks. Ken gave the audience a choice of having the planned talk of “Orbital Prizes: a Discussion on ARocket Listserv”, an overview of Centennial Challenges, or both talks. The audience chose both talks.

For the Orbital Prizes talk, Ken gave background on an orbital prize that was investigated by NASA. One internal study and 2 external studies were done. Some ideas from the studies were that bigger is better, since there would be more sponsors and more market transformation from a major prize challenge. Having more competitors is better too. One thing they decided on for the prize is to not specify reusability, and to not specify a high flight rate like 50 flights in 1-3 years. One concept was $10 Million for the 1st 100 people in orbit.

In 2004 Ken did a study on the prize. NASA was contacted by Bigelow Aerospace. They discussed an idea for a shared $25 Million/$25 Million NASA/Bigelow prize. The study wound up having issues with authorization. The NASA human rating board medical officer and safety officer had issues with the prize. Because of the issues they decided they could not cross the hurdle this time.

Major variables considered with the prize were number of crew, mission length, and repeatability. They could minimize the require crew number, mission length, and repeatability requirements to maximize the number of competitors and the chance that someone would win. They could also try to increase the benefit of the challenge by increasing the number of crew. They did first order mass calculations on what the challenge would involve. The studied docking, which added a lot of complexity to the challenge. As a result they were not going to require docking, they would require a crew of only 1-2, the mission would only have to be for 6 hours, or something similar like 1 crew member at 12 hours. They would require a U.S. launch system. If they decided to go with 2 prize purses, they would divide it into something like $75 Million for first prize and $25 Million for second prize. They presented this to Bigelow. Bigelow wanted 4 crew, docking, etc to help satisfy their business needs.

They had the X PRIZE Foundation and Paragon also do studies on the orbital prize. The X PRIZE Foundation called people in a survey type study. Paragon took a design/analysis approach.

The X PRIZE Foundation emphasized that they define their goals up front. Do they want innovation? Do they want the cheapest possible system? They felt that tiered prizes were important, and that the X PRIZE should have had a 2nd prize to keep the competition going after the initial prize was won. They considered that $50 million was too low, $100 million was borderline, and $250 million would be ideal for the prize purse. $500 million would be too much because it would result in political issues, since it would be a tempting target. The X PRIZE Foundation suggested that the prizes be tax free, but that, although it sounds nice, is not realistic since it would require innovative arrangements with the U.S. Treasury on top of all of the other hurdles.

Paragon estimated $200 million to be needed for a competitor to compete, so the orbital prize should be at least $100 million. Other factors such as markets should close the gap. A market is also needed to inspire investment. They thought the prize would probably be won in about 6 years.

All of these studies had a ballpark agreement with the discussions in the ARocket list, which gave some credibility that they were reasonable. However, as mentioned above, NASA did not actually offer the orbital prize. Bigelow of course offered the $50 million America’s Space Prize. (Ray’s note: many commentators are still saying that they don’t expect this prize to be won, suggesting that it’s too ambitious and the prize is too small. One wonders what would have happened if NASA’s funding augmented that amount, NASA’s conclusions about the needed prize amount boosted it some more, and NASA’s assessment that the requirements should be less ambitious all factored into a different orbital prize. Even if the $50 million prize isn’t won, I suspect that Bigelow will be able to make effective use of the unawarded prize money.)

At this point Ken moved on to the Centennial Challenges discussion. Centennial Challenges provides benefits to NASA, including new sources of innovation and leveraging taxpayers’ dollars. (Ray’s Note: Personally I don’t consider the benefits to NASA – other than helping NASA do what it’s supposed to be doing to solve problems external to NASA in areas like commercialization, education, security, economics, and actually getting into space in a profound and sustainable way - as one of the more important rationales for Centennial Challenges, but I guess if you’re selling the idea inside NASA it might be easier to use that approach).

Ken mentioned that the Centennial Challenges program is lean. Out of $12 million appropriated so far over the years, $10.9 million went to prize purses. About $250 thousand went to administration. (Ray’s note: Congress was concerned about the overhead costs for Centennial Challenges a year or 2 ago, but this makes that concern sound extremely unfounded compared to other government programs.) The rest were for taxes. (Ray’s note: I’m not sure how taxes within the government work, but it seems like just shifting money from one account to another, and not a real government/taxpayer expense.)

The prizes enhance awareness of science and technology, and Ken expects a lot of media coverage during prize events to enhance this benefit.

Ken mentioned 5 organizations that are actually running the prizes for NASA (so NASA has virtually no prize administration costs). These organizations include the X PRIZE Foundation, the CAFÉ Foundation, the California Space Education and Workforce Institute, the Spaceward Foundation, and Volanz Aerospace/Spaceflight America. Why do these organizations administer the prizes for NASA? One reason is “exposure with the meatball”. (Ray’s note: that’s the affectionate reference to NASA’s logo).

Ken showed a chart of upcoming competitions:

May 2-3, 2007 (very soon!) Astronaut Glove Challenge in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Hamilton Sunstrand is helping with this challenge. $250K is up for grabs. $50K of this is for the Mechanical Counter Pressure glove demonstration. They aren’t sure how they’re going to test the MCP challenge.

May 11-12, 2007 (also very soon!) Regolith Excavation Challenge. They just got 2 tons of simulated regolith, and they will get 6 more tons soon. They are compressing it, etc. They don’t expect a winner on the first try, but who knows? They are wearing masks, etc, because of safety rules. This challenge also comes with a $250K purse.

August 4-12 Personal Air Vehicle Challenge. (Ray’s notes: I wrote “where?” in my notes, but I looked it up. The rules say at the “CAFÉ Flight Test Center at Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, California.”)

October 2007 Beam and Tether Challenges. This time the purses for these challenges are both $500K. Last year at the X PRIZE Cup the Beam challenge went down to the wire. The best team was 2 seconds slow. Four teams got to the top. The previous (first) year no team made it to the top. This is an example of how leaving the prizes out there year after year mightily increases the chances that the innovation will happen.

The time for some of the challenges is 3 years for the glove challenge, 2 years for the regolith challenge, and 5 years for the personal air vehicle challenge.

Ken didn’t talk much about the Lunar Lander Challenge, but the Centennial Challenges overview was in part to inform about the other challenges that people at “Space Access” might not be as familiar with than the LLC (which many in the audience were closely involved with).

Ken discussed the Tether Challenge at the X PRIZE Cup. He stressed reading and understanding the rules. Three out of four teams couldn’t compete in 2006 because the tether was not the right size. He also noted that the house tether that the competitors must beat can be 3 grams (not 2 grams for the challenges) which is how the house tether gets an advantage that requires innovation to beat.

The MoonROx challenge may be held in 2008. This one is for $250K.

Overall 6 challenges will be held this year, which means that the time of Centennial Challenges has hardly begun yet.

Ken found out about funding issues and decided to shore up the existing challenges so there would be prizes in outgoing years. He gave a chart that showed how the prizes are spread over the years. Note that if a challenge is not won in a given year, the prize funds for that challenge are moved into later years. He gave the following chart (that I hastily copied, and hopefully got right - the originally nice chart is depicted unelegantly because of constant width formatting issues):

Total: Glove (1M), Regolith (750K), PAV (2M), Beam (2M), Tether (2M), LLC (2M), MoonROx (1M)

2006: Beam (200K), Tether (200K), LLC (2M), MoonROx (250K)
2007: Glove (250K), Regolith (250K), PAV (250K), Beam (300K), Tether (300K), MoonROx (750K)
2008: Glove (350K), Regolith (500K), PAV (300K), Beam (400K), Tether (400K)
2009: Glove (400K), PAV (400K), Beam (500K), Tether (500K)
2010: PAV (500K), Beam (600K), Tether (600K)
2011: PAV (550K)

For the MoonROx challenge, he just got the administrator’s signature on the $1 million prize. (Ray’s note: I think this might be because the 250K in 2006 didn’t happen, so the funds go to $1 million which is a threshold that requires the signature. At least that’s the sense that I got although it’s not in my notes).

NASA is asking for $4 million per year over the next couple years for Centennial Challenges. At any rate the rollout of the current prizes keeps the doors open for the next few years in case of new opportunities.

There was a question and answer session.

Question: Other prizes shouldn’t have medical issues, so are you looking for collaborators actively? (referring to the earlier discussion on Orbital Prizes)? There should be lots of potential collaborators. Answer: Yes, they are looking into it. He recommends leaving NASA out of your prize if you need to control it, since naturally if you collaborate you will need to work together with NASA and you may encounter issues like they did on the Orbital Prize.

Question from Henry Vanderbilt (major Space Access force): If NASA got more money for Centennial Challenges, could they put it to good use? Ken: Yes. Henry (to the Space Access audience): This seems like a non-controversial topic. Just about everyone here can agree that more money for Centennial Challenges would be good. This is the kind of thing we can get out of Congress if we try, since we are talking about a small amount of money. (Ray’s note: This is a similar theme to one that is often heard. The Coalition for Space Exploration, Space Frontier Foundation, National Space Society, etc all support this, but so far it hasn’t happened).

Question: What prizes were cancelled when the funding stopped? Answer: There were 6 prizes, including a micro reentry prize, rapid reflight, and human lunar ATV. They try to pick prize that support the Exploration group in NASA. They also looked at a lunar lander 5K payload actually reaching the moon. They decided that a 45KM purse would be needed for that challenge.

Question (follow-up to Henry’s comment above): The Space Frontier Foundation plans a roundup on the Hill soon on Centennial Challenges.

More references:

NASA Centennial Challenges

2007 Astronaut Glove Challenge

2007 Regolith Excavation Challenge

Personal Air Vehicle Challenge

2007 Beam Power and Tether Challenges

Lunar Lander Challenge

Moon Regolith Oxygen (MoonROx) Challenge

Space Access '07 - X Prize Cup Operations Panel

X Prize Cup Operations Panel – Russell Blink, Randall Clague, Nicole Jordan, Dave Masten, Will Pomerantz

(Note: Select "Space Access '07" for all posts on that conference).

Advice for contestants: You need to work with the X PRIZE officials. You also need to practice and practice more.

“Be flexible”. This year there will be even more going on. There will be more teams, possibly an air show, etc. That’s why you need even more to practice your flights. The X PRIZE folks will ask you again and again when you’ll be ready.

Question: Will we have hangars this time? Answer: (Will) Probably yes, if it’s at Holloman Air Force Base. Holloman has lots of hangars.

The date for the event is tentatively the last weekend of October.

Question: What is the amount of various propellants that will be available? Answer: Unknown. There are lots of variables: how many teams show up, etc. Advice: Get your propellant and similar needs to the X PRIZE Cup officials as soon as possible. They may use the same propellant supplier as they did last year.
Meet with them earlier. Teams should com onsite ahead of time to do a dress rehearsal. One month ahead of time is planned. There will be the same provider at that time as during the event, so you will be able to work out any problems then.

Question: Will the X PRIZE Cup organize an insurance pool? Answer: (Will) We know it’s a big cost driver. We will look at group policies, but don’t know what the rates will be. IT would be nice if the teams could organize themselves.

They had an issue with the local police and fire groups in ’06.

They can’t say how many teams are registered. The maximum number of vehicles at the actual cup is 5 per level (or 10 total). The first 5 to get an AST permit will be the ones to get in if that becomes an issue. Also you need to have a test flight to have been done. The actual rules are a bit more complicated but that’s the bottom line roughly.

What about media? Will: There may be even more media coverage in ’07 than in ’06. There are 2 levels, 1st and 2nd place in both levels.

Question: What about the “Gold Box”? Answer: (Will) The gold box … it’s neither gold nor a box … (laughter). It gets telemetry. He encourages the teams to find their own gold box.

Question: Can vehicles share a gold box? Answer (Will): Need to check with the judges.

Randall: He’s impressed with the judges. Don’t be worried about the judges. And they’re unpaid … what more could you ask for?

For more on this talk see For more see RLV News.

I'll post on a few more of the talks (the prize-related ones) as I get a chance over the next few days.

The Space Access web site has more interesting information about the issues with cheap access to space over the years, up to this year's conference. Mark your calendars for next year's highly recommended conference.

The X PRIZE Cup site has more information about the 2006 X PRIZE Cup event.

The X PRIZE site has more information about the X PRIZE Cup rules and other background information. Here's where to go to donate to or get involved with the X PRIZE Foundation to help them run the LLC and other incentive prizes.

Space Access '07 - Armadillo Aerospace

John Carmack – Armadillo Aerospace

(Note: Select "Space Access '07" below for all posts on that conference).

John talked about the developments leading up to Armadillo’s Lunar Lander Challenge vehicles, which started well before the LLC was announced. He showed a video on the team. They have spent $3 Million so far, over 6 years. The have a well-equipped shop. Most of the work is from volunteers. He showed some concepts of combinations of Pixel-like vehicles strapped together in a layer. He also extended this to multiple layers or stages. For the Lunar Lander Challenge, they have really tested the landing gear a lot now. It won’t break. They have also tested software updates that make the vehicle easier to control. There will be tests soon on an improved engine. They are looking into an essentially infinite duration engine that would not wear out under use. They have enough performance for suborbital flight. The system is configurable and modular. You just bolt them together. Just build more when you need more. Economies of quantity are better than economies of scale (ie more modules are better than bigger modules). This reminds me of computer concepts of multiple CPU chip architectures, or parallel processing in software. In these cases, depending on the architecture and problem to be solved, there are limitations on how much improvement each new “node” will bring. I’m not sure what the corresponding limitations are in the case of the Armadillo modules. Various configurations of these modular structures built on LLC-like modules are planned.

The vehicle has a slow ascent – about 250 mph. He expects to lose some vehicles. Now the vehicles are more “savable”. They have had about 6 major tests since the X PRIZE Cup in ’06. They spent about 25% of their time on the FAA license, which they don’t consider to be too bad, especially for a bigger team. Maybe they will apply for a commercial launch license. Now they have some commercial customer prospects. By the end of the year they expect to be space capable. (I have to caution that I don’t have any way to really assess these plans, but they seem ambitious to me.) John said the insurance wasn’t too bad either. They are trying lots of engineering trades and really testing a lot. They aren’t trying to be perfect on the first attempt in the traditional rocket development style.

For commerce, they started with T shirts, speaker fees, and sponsorship. Now they expect to win the Lunar Lander Challenge. This year they have the time they need to win the challenge. They are ready to start putting people full-time so they can go faster. They could effectively go twice as fast this route, but not much more. They plan on a vehicle that can take people to space.
They are making steady progress. They have a variety of potential business deals. They expect the business case to be easy. There is no need to earn lots back because they won’t spend lots. The vehicle will have 360 degree views (not portals). Some people will want to take off like a plane, others will want to take off like a Real Rocket”. (laughter).

The plan is to start with 4 modules, test, then go to a 9 module cluster. This gives engine out redundancy. Then they will put a capsule on the top to reach space. An upper stage would be used to reach orbit. There are lots of engine options – different propellants, etc. The above plan gets a minimal satellite to orbit. However, you can keep adding modules. (Note: I’m not sure how strong the materials to hold the modules together would need to be – maybe they need the Centennial Challenge Space Elevator Tether to produce something really strong. I’m not an engineer so I’ll leave it up to the Armadillo team. It sure is an ambitious plan.) For example, you could have 64 engines. They would have to be reliable enough for such a configuration. This is possible – for example, Jumbotron CRTs, golf course sprinklers, etc. When the modular approach hits diminishing returns, they can make the modules bigger. They expect to be able to do a Falcon 5 class delivery.

They want to get into vertical drag racing. If commercial deals don’t come in they will go for those deals instead. Similarly the X PRIZE Cup could be overruled by a commercial deal. Assuming no commercial deal overrides the LLC, they expect to do 20+ flight tests before October, to win the Challenge money, and then plan a 4000 foot flight in Oklahoma.

They are using 3-axis GPS. The new system is cheap. They should be able to land if there’s a problem. There are many opportunities to improve the vehicle. Even without the improvements a 3-stage configuration should get to space. Even if they only get to 150,000 feet, there should be commercial opportunities.

They have a simple capsule planned, but an external company could build a capsule with a lot of safety features.

That was the whirlwind tour of the plans of Armadillo, with the Lunar Lander Challenge prize as an important incentive and source of focus and enthusiasm on their path to a commercial service. We will just have to wait and see if these ambitious plans pan out.

For more on this talk see RLV News (conference notes and conference video update) and Why Homeschool. Also check out Rand's post at Transterrestrial Musings on the talk (including a commentor asking why we don't have more Centennial Challenges, and later discussion and more discussion on the talk.

The Space Access web site has more interesting information about the issues with cheap access to space over the years, up to this year's conference. Mark your calendars for next year's highly recommended conference.

The Armadillo Aerospace site has information on their module development concept, the 2006 Lunar Lander Challenge event, the video they showed at the Space Access '07 event, and much more.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Space Access '07 - X Prize Cup Operations

X PRIZE Cup Operations – Nicole Jordan and Will Pomerantz

(Note: Select "Space Access '07" for all posts on that conference).

They gave a 2006 recap. The 2006 event had a live webcast, 7,000 kids attending, and 20,000 attendees overall. The event featured a rocket belt demonstration, high powered rockets, fly-bys from various aircraft, a rocket racing league trainer, and the Space Elevator games. The schedule for the event was complicated. In planning they tried to leave room for errors in the schedule. They tried to have something happening every 15 minutes. The schedule was designed to be flexible.

They discussed the event site’s layout. They considered where the crowd is, where the challenges will be held, and so on. They, and also the FAA, wanted safety first. They investigated insurance costs. They had 5 staff on operations, plus White Sands Missile Range staff. There were volunteer safety officers from the Air Force, etc. They had a fuel depot manager.

Organizationally their safety responsibilities were depicted as follows:

Participant <---> X PRIZE Cup <------> Emergency Response

The Bureau of Land Management controlled land that they couldn’t ride into, although access to this land was needed to recover amateur rockets. They were thinking they might have to ride into the area on horses (laughter), but got to use jeeps finally.

The rules for the Lunar Lander Challenge were discussed. Northrop Grumman gave a major donation for the challenge. NASA Centennial Challenges provided the prize money. Other donors also helped with the event. As an aside, the overall X Prize Cup event will be “Wirefly” for the title sponsor again. The Lunar Lander Challenge demonstrates vertical takeoff, vertical landing rocketry. 2 flights in 150 minutes are required. The “Junior Varsity” version requires 90 seconds of flight, while the “Varsity” version requires 180 seconds of flight and landing on a simulated lunar surface.

They met with the LLC contestant teams ahead of time, and on site, to bring out any issues.

They pick the judges, not the winners of the prize.

They discussed the launch pad design. The launch pad needed to handle extreme heat. The “Varsity” challenge landing pad also required boulders and craters. They showed a picture of the rough lunar terrain being constructed, and discussed the enthusiasm of the group in making sure it was nice and rough enough (laughter). These helpers might be contestants next year, and regret their enthusiasm (laughter).

An FAA experimental permit is needed before a contestant can fly. The first one (ever granted by the FAA to anyone, I gather by tone of voice?) was granted the day before the event.

They allowed Pixel (Armadillo’s now famous LLC challenge vehicle) to get closest to the crowd when it was being worked on. This was arranged to allow the crowd an up-close-and-personal experience. For safety, the actual event was held far from the crowd.

They had some troubles that year. For example, there were loopholes in the rules. For example, there was some debate about what “vertical” means. How far off in degrees would be allowed?

In 2007, there is the possibility the event will be held at the Holloman Air Force Base in conjunction with the air show there. The base has good infrastructure for the space show. For example, they have the communications gear, pads, safety infrastructure, and personnel the space event needs. The combined event would be mutually supporting and it’s likely there would be overlap in audience interest.

For the Lunar Lander Challenge, there is still $2 million on the table. There have been some minor tweaks to the rules this year, such as the definition of “vertical”, and changes to the approved fuel list. An E85 standard Ethanol mix is now allowed. The contestants can repair the vehicle, but must the vehicle must carry any parts needed in the repair, in keeping with the theme of simulating a lunar landing where spare parts are not available in the local terrain. There is a $2,500 registration fee, and a $5,000 late registration fee.

There may be an event in late April, potentially at the Holloman Air Force base (presumably depending on whether or not it looks like that will be the event location), for “on the fence” teams. Compared to last year, the contestants have the luxury of time. For example, they have more time for the legal applications.

They are looking into some improvements this year. For example, the X PRIZE Foundation is planning to promote the teams more, and visiting with them more. The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge web site will have sections for the teams. It would be best if the teams could give the X PRIZE Foundation any data they may have as soon as possible. The helps them with the web site, with FAA interactions, and with operations.

There may team summits in April, July, and September. On-site flight tests should happen 1 month early (possibly). The experimental permit is difficult to get, so their advise is to start early, and have a pre-application consultation.

For more see RLV News, or Why Homeschool.

The Space Access web site has more interesting information about the issues with cheap access to space over the years, up to this year's conference. Mark your calendars for next year's highly recommended conference.

The X PRIZE Cup site has more information about the 2006 X PRIZE Cup event.

The X PRIZE site has more information about the X PRIZE Cup rules and other background information. Here's where to go to donate to or get involved with the X PRIZE Foundation to help them run the LLC and other incentive prizes.

looking back at Space Access '07

As a number of bloggers have done, I’m going to post my notes on Space Access ’07. In my case, since the theme of this site is “Space Prizes”, I’m just going to post on areas that are most pertinent to that subject. I just relaxed and soaked in the other talks. Also, I didn’t go to all of the talks, and couldn’t always clearly hear, or keep up with, the ones I did go to, so there could be important mistakes or missing information. For more information about the conference, check with Transterrestrial Musings, Personal Spaceflight, RLV News or any of the other sites they linked to. These sites all have numerous posts about the conference, so just look around their logs around the time of these posts to find the rest of the posts. Better yet, go to Space Access '08 and get it all first hand.

(Note: Select "Space Access '07" for all posts on that conference).

Saturday, March 17, 2007

X Prize Cup trip contest

Here's another post from RLV News on a space prize. You won't have to worry about whether or not the vehicles get developed this time, because it's a prize for a trip to Las Cruces, New Mexico to attend the X Prize Cup. To win, help the X Prize Foundation decide what X Prizes to offer by sending a video on "what you think is the most important issue facing humankind". If that issue involves space, or if space can help solve the problem, all the better.

another space tourism prize

From RLV News comes this post about another prize of a trip to space (assuming the suborbital rides are developed).

Space Access 2007 Conference

The Space Access '07 conference will be held next week in Phoenix Arizona as usual. It should be no surprise that there will be some prize-related speakers there. From the Usenet newsgroup comes the following excerpt from the Space Access Society's newsletter:

4:50 Nicole Jordan, Will Pomerantz: X-Prize Cup Operations & LLC Rules
5:20 Panel, X-Prize Cup Operations - Russell Blink, Randall Clague, Nicole Jordan, Dave Masten, Will Pomerantz
8:20 Ken Davidian, NASA Centennial Challenges - "Orbital Prizes: Comments on an A Rocket List Discussion"

Many of the other presentations will be by former X Prize competitors, supporters, and other people of a like mindset.

(Note: Select "Space Access '07" below for all posts on that conference).

Sunday, March 04, 2007

science fiction writing contest

Here is a science fiction writing contest. The winner will be paid and published in Jim Baen's Universe, and will be honored at the National Space Society ISDC (International Space Development Conference) in Dallas. Don't expect to win if you write a story set in some kind of science fiction disutopia, since the contest is for realistic, somewhat near-term achievable, and positive depictions of space settlement.

here is one reason to use prizes

... instead of cost-plus contracting.

about Apophis

Cosmic Log has a post about Apophis, the asteroid that the Planetary Society has as the target for its Apophis Mission Design Competition.

still more on X PRIZE plans and event at Google

Here are some more articles on the plans of the X PRIZE Foundation. One article from a member of the New America Foundation (also available from the L.A. Times) mentions capturing the ups and downs of the competitors as they try to win the prize to help glamorize the competition. The article does seem to downplay the importance of space prizes compared to prizes in other areas, but that seems to be a common point of view.

Another article from the Chronicles of Philanthropy reveals that the X PRIZE Foundation has already built up $17 million out of the $50 million that is its goal in the campaign that will be kicked off at Google Headquarters this month. Tom Vander Ark has an interesting answer to a question about whether or not he would take a commercial space ride if he had the chance.

Rocket Mavericks

RLV News posts about an organization called Rocket Mavericks. They present themselves as the most serious of amateur rocket enthusiasts. They want to hold some pretty intense sounding rocket and rover competitions with nice cash prizes. (I'm not sure if I meant the word sounding to be an adjective for rocket or to modify "intense".) Check again after March 30 when they hope to have more details and sponsorship for the competitions.

Florida space prize

Here's a discussion in Space Politics about lunar exploration funding for NASA. The first comment, by anonymous (this anonymous is easily distinguished from most because he/she makes sense), discusses space prizes and Florida.

Mike Griffin testimony to Congress

Here, care of Spaceref, is a transcript of the testimony of NASA Administrator Griffin to the Senate Committe on Commerce, Science and Transporation's Subcommittee on Space, Aeronautics, and Related Sciences. (Whew!). There is a little comment way at the end about Centennial Challenges:

"IPP also manages the Centennial Challenges Program. NASA has already benefited from the introduction of new sources of innovation and technology development even though the Program is relatively new and no prizes have yet been awarded. In addition, ongoing and future prize challenges will continue to inspire brilliant young minds."

I imagine that Ares I and Orion are getting more attention from NASA upper management than Centennial Challenges.

Space Politics discussion on prizes and more

Space Politics has a discussion on this year's March Storm. One of the proposals being advocated by ProSpace is a National Space Prize Board funded annually at $100 million that would be run by representatives from different space-related government organizations and other appointees. If you check the earlier March Storm post here you'll see that space prizes were an issue that they planned to address from the start. Selenian Boondocks also has a discussion about the proposal, and the Space Law Probe has a post on it. Here is the actual bill that ProSpace is presenting to Congress.

Brookings Institution paper and innovation prize

A poster on Space Politics points us to a paper, Prizes for Technological Innovation, on prizes from the Brookings Institution. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but at first glance it seems to cover similar ground to some of the other academic and policy papers posted on the right. It does address space prizes, as well as others covered to the right like prizes for African agriculture. The Space Politics poster also let us know about an Economic Policy Innovation Prize competition for undergraduate and graduate students by the same organization.

another prize blog

Here's a blog, called Prize is Right, that covers all sorts of prizes, including space prizes, robotics prizes, software prizes, math prizes, and many others.