Monday, April 30, 2007

2007 X PRIZE Cup at Holloman Air Force Base

RLV News points to an article in the Las Cruces Sun-News on the move of the X PRIZE Cup from the Las Cruces airport to Holloman Air Force Base. This was discussed by Will Pomerantz as a possibility at the 2007 Space Access conference. There will still be a related (and from what I read last year probably well worth while) conference in Las Cruces, but the actual X PRIZE Cup will be at Holloman. This allows the X PRIZE Cup to combine an air show with their space show. It also gives them access to a lot more facilities like hangars, parking, and launch pads. Las Cruces is still the likely "home base" for many travellers.

X PRIZE Cup Competitions for Future Spacers

In addition to the rocket launches and Rocket Racing league rocketplanes, the X PRIZE Cup is going to include a number of fun competitions designed for the younger space fans. This includes driving rovers on a moonscape, model rocket painting and launching, balloon rockets, rocket designs to protect a delicate egg payload (I've seen something similar in a science museum), and Lego space elevator climbers.

That's just through grade 8!

For high school students, there will be a space art contest, and also a contest to come up with the best design (as judged by the public with votes) space contest that will be promoted later, with a scholarship going to the winner.

No matter if you're 8 or 80, get to the 2007 X PRIZE Cup this year!

Remembering the Great Moonbuggy Race

Spaceref has another post on the Great Moonbuggy Race, this time looking back on the event.

Mars Robotic Construction Challenge

The Spaceward Foundation has a lot of space prizes on the agenda. They are going to be running the Space Elevator Games again later this year, but this post is on another prize - a Mars robotic construction prize. I'm not sure what the status is of this one, but whether or not it really ends up happening, it's an interesting idea. This idea was in the works for the NASA Centennial Challenges program, but hasn't (yet?) been funded. Contestants would send Mars robots they build to the Spaceward Foundation. Spaceward would put the robots in a simulated Martian environment. They would control the robots over the internet with a time delay similar to that experienced by JPL controllers of real Mars robots. The plan is to use the test environment for a continuing series of difficult $250,000 prizes like connecting ISRU components. The prizes would be geared towards complex tasks that require multiple Mars robots cooperating. Smaller prizes would be available for less difficult tasks designed for science high schools. The simulator and computer setup could also be used for ongoing testing of Mars robotics with large time delays.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Astronaut Glove Challenge in a few days

Spaceref has the first reminder I've seen that the Centennial Challenges Astronaut Glove Challenge will be held on May 2-3, which is next Wednesday and Thursday. (Update: The Spaceports blog has the 2nd such reminder, and RLV News also has information about the competition). The total prize purse for this year's glove challenge is $250,000. The update has some additional information I hadn't run across before, so I'll give these details. In addition to noting that the Challenge will be held at Windsor Locks, Connecticut, at the New England Air Museum located by the Bradley International Airport, it gives the times of the event. The first day the challenge runs from 3:00 to 6:00, and the second day is a full-day event from 8:00 to 6:00. As noted earlier, there are 2 Challenges, $200,000 for the best overall astronaut glove improvements, and $50,000 for the best Mechanical Counter Pressure gloves. Here is the original NASA press release.

Here are some more links that should be of interest if you're following the astronaut glove competition.

Here's an older, slightly out of date, but still good introduction to the glove prize at Cosmic Log.

Rand Simberg's original suggestion to have an Astronaut Glove Centennial Challenge is an interesting read. It shows some of the reasons this Challenge is so important. The article is even more striking given more recent developments in NASA's Vision for Space Exploration. Rand wishes the contestants good luck.

Update: New Scientist posted an article on April 30 on the Glove Challenge. It has some information I haven't seen from other sources. There are no contestants for the mechanical counterpressure challenge this time around. (Typically with these challenges you have to pay a reasonably significant registration fee, so even if you're working on the problem you're not likely to enter unless you think you have a good chance to win.) There are 6 teams competing for the bladder restraint challenge, which has a $200,000 prize.

Here's my post on Ken Davidian's Centennial Challenges talk at Space Access '07 that gives some context on where the glove challenge fits into the overall program, and how the total $1 million for the challenge is spread out over the next few years. Ken manages NASA's Centennial Challenges.

Here are the Centennial Challenges links for the glove challenge.

Volanz Aerospace is running the challenge. Their site has more information about the competition. A lot of the information is here. Some of it is a bit out of date (part of it says the challenge is in April, but the current dates are displayed prominently). I'd also like to see more information about the competing teams and the sponsors. A Centennial Challenges update from October 2006 noted that as of that time there were 2 teams registered for the challenge.

Update: The folks at Spaceflight America kindly sent me an "Announcement of Dates" document that gives some more information on the contest. This goes into more details than I knew before about the corporate sponsors. Since I can't find some of this information on the web, I'll post it instead of linking to it. The 2 main sponsors, which have provided "major financial and technical support" to the glove challenge, are Hamilton Sundstrand and ILC Dover, 2 companies with expertise in the space suit glove area. “We would not have been able to hold this type of technical challenge without the incredible support of Hamilton Sundstrand and ILC Dover”, said Dr. Alan Hayes, Chairman and CEO of Volanz Aerospace Inc. Their expertise and on-going commitment to our efforts have been instrumental in our ability to hold this competition”, said Sigmund Gorski, President and CIO of Volanz Aerospace. In addition, 2 other corporate sponsors are recognized for their support: OST Global and EDS.

In addition, the document gives some information about the judges for the contest: "The three judges are Mr. Sigmund Gorski, President/CIO of Volanz Aerospace Inc., Mr. Carlos Rivera, Director of Airspace Services, Dimensions International, and Mr. Vijay Narula, President of Optimal Solutions and Technologies Inc. Dr. Alan Hayes, Chairman/CEO of Volanz Aerospace Inc. will act as the appeals judge."

I also don't see anything on the NEAM events page for the challenge.

A blog keeps track of the glove challenge.

Here's a slightly out of date presentation that gives the status as of that date (in 2006) of Centennial Challenges, including the Astronaut Glove Challenge (which is described on page 13).

Best of luck to the competitors next week, and thanks to Spaceflight America/Volanz Aerospace, NASA Centennial Challenges, and the corporate sponsors for organizing the challenge!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rocketplane Kistler Bridges Competition

Here's an old one, from last summer, that I missed. When you're just pseudo-randomly surfing and searching around the Internet, you're going to miss things. Rocketplane Kistler last summer announced the Bridges Competition to build bridges between microgravity researchers and launch companies. The announcement mentions that the Aero Institute of Houston will help them get corporate sponsorship, and also to get proposals from graduate students and from small companies. Proposals can result in prizes and Rocketplane or K1 trips for experiments. I couldn't find an Aero Institute of Houston on the Internet (there's one in Palmdale, but I didn't see anything about the Bridges Competition there), so it's not clear to me what, if anything, has happened since the original announcement.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Law, Legislation, and Lunacy

Here's a blog with some prize-related posts (most with some space prize aspect or other):

Gingrich Kerry debate climate change and prizes

Save Lives and Win Fabulous Prizes Grainger water-filtration prize

NetPrizes NetFlix Prize

Prize Watch list of prizes they're checking, most either space-related or X PRIZE Foundation prizes

Shafting the Space Elevator NASA and the space elevator concept - note that since this point, Centennial Challenges has committed to a series of tether and beam prizes with larger prize purses. Also note that NASA is *not* specifying the space elevator as their way to get into space. They offered prizes for tethers and power beaming, which have a variety of near-term potential uses in space with NASA and commercial applicability. The Spaceward Foundation that is administering these prize competitions for NASA is packaging them as Space Elevator competitions for their own purposes. It's a win-win for both.

NASA Wises Up ... Sort Of Replacing the Shuttle with a capsule design instead of letting the private sector do it

A Prize No More X PRIZE won

How Prizes Change the World thoughts on the X PRIZE and innovation prizes in general

Prizes for Innovation in African Agriculture

Purdue professor Dr. William A. Masters has done, and continues to do, a lot of work in the area of innovation prizes for African agriculture. You will see a lot of details and supporting documents on this site. His proposal is similar to the X PRIZE type of innovation prize concept, but more complicated in that it tries to measure the value of different agriculture innovations rather than specifying a particular desired innovation up-front. One recent update on the site is that there was a presentation to the X PRIZE Foundation recently, but I don't see any additional details on that presentation. The framework paper "Prizes for Innovation in African Agriculture: A Framework Document" was an important one in my thinking as I wrote the paper on space prizes shortly before starting this blog. In addition to explaining the need for innovation prizes in African agriculture and detailing a specific prize model to accomplish this, the paper gives a good overview of innovation prizes in general, including the CATS Prize and the X PRIZE.

Arthur C Clarke Awards

Here's one that I missed last year ... the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation has information about several awards. The 2006 Arthur C. Clarke Awards, the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Innovator's Award, went to Walter Cronkite and Robert Bigelow, respectively. The Innovator's Award is for innovation that supports communications satellites and their benefits to society, while the Lifetime Achievement Award is for contributions to arts and science that will benefit society now and in the future. The awards have been given to other notables in past years.

In addition, communications satellite company SES AMERICOM has set up the SES AMERICOM Arthur C. Clarke Challenge, which is for college students that produce significant ideas that would help communications satellites. The maximum award is $50,000.

The Foundation also offers scholarships for engineering, space, and space safety studies.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Buzz Aldrin and the ShareSpace Stakes

This has been widely reported in the traditional media and blogs, so I won't say much more about it, but Buzz Aldrin announced plans for a contest with prizes consisting of space experiences, including orbital rides.

NSF innovation incentive prizes

RLV News provides a link about an innovation incentive prize program that Congress asked the NSF to investigate. A committee wrote a significant paper suggesting approaches NSF should take to implement the prize program. Here's the Executive Summary in PDF format. The initial suggested approach appears to be similar to NASA's Centennial Challenges. More comments on the paper appear in the RLV News comments. We will see what happens with the funding and implementation of this program, and whether or not it turns out to be a major part of the innovation incentive prize world.

The Intangible Economy blog has a post about this report, too. The blog also discusses innovation prizes, the Virgin Earth Challenge prize, and a prize for helping a mining company find gold. The ACM also has a summary of the report (at the bottom of the page), as well as notes on how the proposal is having trouble because of changes in Congress and this year's budget freeze. Page 3 of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Research Matters report also has an update with a little politics thrown in.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Nothing more for private sector to do

Spaceref reports on a report released by the Generate Accountability Office (GAO). The gist of the report is that several Federal science-related agencies, such as NASA and NOAA, were required to compete commercial activities currently done in-house with private industry. It seems (to me) like a half-hearted effort was made to identify commercial activities (I guess they mean potentially commercial?) and to allow private industry to compete for this business. The comclusions were that private industry is pretty inefficient, and the in-house government agency won almost all of the time. The agencies expect even less results in the future because they've already done it with the jobs that private industry can handle like janitorial services.

From the report: "Agency View of Activities That Can Be Successfully Contracted Out: According to agency competitive sourcing officials, they expect the in-house organization to win most competitions. For example, Energy officials told us that they expect the in-house win rate to be higher than the private-sector win rate because most commercial type activities such as cleaning and general maintenance have already been contracted out. The remaining activities are more complex and require greater knowledge about agency operations, which officials said gives agency employees an advantage. Similarly, NASA officials told us that NASA started off about 30 years ago contracting out many of its commercial services and now has fewer such services to compete."

I think there are completely different ideas within these agencies and outside them on what commercial services are. For example, I think most people would not consider "Space Trucking Company" as an inherently governmental activities, but if anything inherently non-governmental activities.

As far as this blog is concerned, though, the main thing I want to point out is that the only business mechanism they considered for working with the private sector is the traditional contract that has suffered from so many nation-wounding problems in big aerospace, cost-plus projects. Prizes are completely off in left field.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

ISS Node 2 Naming Contest

Space Pragmatism has an article about a contest that was held to name the ISS Node 2. Depending on your views on the ISS you may or may not enjoy the anonymous post that suggests a name. The challenge was for K-12 students. There is more to the challenge than you might think at first. NASA has more information about the name here. If you haven't heard the winning name is Harmony, a name that 6 classes chose.

ESA SUCCESS student contest

Spaceref has an article on The European Space Agency's SUCCESS (Space station Utilization Contest Calls for European Students) student content. The competition was to design an experiment to fly on the ISS. The first prize winner got an internship at ESA. The winning experiment investigates cosmic radiation and how it influences the retina and/or the brain. During the internship, the winner will get the experiment ready for the ISS.

Heinlein Centennial Writing Contest

The Heinlein Centennial Conference will include a short fiction writing contest. There are prizes in several categories, including professional, amateur, and young writers. There are some guidelines on what they are looking for, as well as hints on how to get disqualified if that's your cup of tea. I also recommend reading some Heinlein stories because you can bet that's the type of writing they like. The space review has an article on Heinlein's writing, the conference, and the movie Destination Moon. Since this is called "part 1" you can also bet that at least one more such article will appear in the series.

Update: And here's part II!

NSS 2007 Space Budget Blitz has an article about the National Space Society's 2007 Space Budget Blitz. On of the topics that the NSS space advocates discussed with Congressional Representatives and staffers was finding ways to "Protect and expand opportunities for private industry and entrepreneurship by supporting programs like the Commercial Orbital Transportation Service (COTS) and Centennial Challenges".

Moonbuggy race results

Spaceref has a post about the high school division results in the MSFC Moonbuggy race. You can also see information about the college division results here. Photos of the high school and college races are also available.

Diamandis interview on NPR on Automotive X PRIZE

NPR has a radio interview of Peter Diamandis on the Automotive X PRIZE, which recently released its draft rules for comment. The interview is only a couple minutes long, so go ahead and have a quick listen. The interview also covers some space and space prize subjects.

a prize idea - prize for biospheres

Colony Worlds asks if there should be an X PRIZE for closed biospheres.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

documents on the development of Centennial Challenges

Here are a couple of interesting documents that illustrate some of the thinking that went into the development of the NASA Centennial Challenges.

The first is the 2004 Centennial Challenges Workshop Report that shows a lot of the discussion and brainstorming that went into narrowing down the numerous proposals for prizes for the program. Obviously there is no shortage of problems to solve with the prize mechanism.

The second is a paper by Ken Davidian that covers the history of innovation prizes, and the history and state at the time of writing of Centennial Challenges. He uses a lot of the same sources that I used for the paper that eventually resulted in my starting this blog. I probably would have used this paper as a reference, too, if I'd encountered it then.

Human-Powered Vehicle contest

Spaceref posts about the West Coast Human-Powered Vehicle contest being held April 13-15 at NASA Ames Research Center. The classes of vehicle are single rider, multi-rider, and utility. An East Coast version of the challenge will be held in Orlando at May 11-13 at the University of Central Florida. The contest comes courtesy of the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers). Rules, Team websites, results from past years, and more can be found here.

This contest should not be confused with the Dempsey/MacCready Prize for "speedbikes" organized by the Human Powered Vehicle Association.

California ROBO Challenge

The California ROBO Challenge will be held on May 12, 2007, in conjunction with the Regolith Excavation Challenge at Santa Maria Fairpark in California. The ROBO challenge is for K-12 students, and is intended to get them interested in engineering and programming through a series of fun robot-building contests.

Centennial Challenges update

The Centennial Challenges website has been updated a bit. The changes I noticed are in the detailed page for all of the Challenges. Each Allied Organization that actually runs the competitions has their own style of website, and it appears that the Centennial Challenges page is providing a consistent way to find similar types of information, as it becomes available, across all of the Challenges. For example, the NASA page has "Competition Venue" and "Venue Directions" links in cases where this has been determined.

The 2007 Astronaut Glove Challenge and 2007 Regolith Excavation Challenge are fast approaching. The first event is scheduled on May 2-3, at the New England Air Museum, and the second is scheduled on May 11-12, at the Santa Maria Fairpark.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Model Spaceship Design Contest

Space for All points us to an announcement about a model spaceship design competition. The current competition's theme is original "fighter" spaceship models. The 5 finalists wiil compete based on voting. According to the announcement, the winning model will be used for a model kit that Fantastic Plastic Models will sell, and the winner will get 2 copies of the kit based on their design.

NASA's 14th Great Moonbuggy Race

Spaceref has posted an article about an annual student moonbuggy race that will be held this Friday and Saturday at Huntsville. NASA MSFC is organizing the race with help from Northrop Grumman and a number of other sponsors. You can find out more details about past moonbuggy races, sponsors, and rules here. Prizes (not specified as far as I could see) are awarded in divisions for high schools and colleges (3 in each division, plus a number of awards in special categories like moonbuggy design).

Responsive Space student scholarship

Like the Smallsat conference, the Responsive Space conference is planning to have awards for student papers at the conference. The awards are available based on the merit of the papers to college students. Each winner can get $500 plus up to $1000 for expenses for presenting the paper at the conference. Check here for details.

Space Advertising for Centennial Challenges

Leonard David has an article on a talk at the 23rd National Space Symposium by Representative Ken Calvert. This talk proposes new space advertising by NASA to fund Centennial Challenges. If funded this year at the Administration's proposed level, Centennial Challenges would have gotten $4 million in the last 3 years, which is a tiny percentage of NASA's tiny portion of the Federal budget, a fact that many space interest organizations are disappointed about since many of them feel that Centennial Challenges are one of, if not the, most productive use of their tax dollars. Here is the full text of Representative Calvert's talk. The prize-related proposal is on pages 2 and 3. Space Politics also has an ongoing discussion about the proposal. Jim Muncy has added some thoughtful comments to the discussion. The original full text of the talk is 8 pages long. Here is an excerpt concerning the proposal:

"... Advertising in space could be one way in which NASA elevates its current visibility among typical Americans. The government could make space assets available for commercial advertising and marketing opportunities. Currently commercial launch vehicles have several logos that represent customers, satellite and launch manufacturers, which is a good first step.

Perhaps the next step is the creation of an advertising system similar to those used by the PGA, National Public Radio or the Smithsonian Institute - all of which have long-term, dedicated and tasteful sponsorships. Of course, I understand this is an area that draws concern about safety and public image issues. By no means do I envision bumper stickers on the Mars Rover or a blinking neon sign on the International Space Station.

When I return to Congress after the recess, I will introduce legislation to authorize space advertising for NASA with the goal to bring in extra funding for the Agency’s prize authority under the current Centennial Challenges program and to raise awareness among private entrepreneurs about the business opportunities in space. The legislation will also create a commission to recommend criteria appropriate for space advertising.

Currently the Centennial Challenges program conducts prize competitions for revolutionary, break-through accomplishments that advance the Vision for Space Exploration and other NASA priorities. The Centennial Challenges program authorized by Congress and implemented by NASA to engage private enterprise is, as are all Agency programs, subject to the congressional appropriations process. However, my proposal would create a trust fund – the Innovation Fund - for the receipts of space advertising revenue which would allow the prize authority to increase without the dependence on annual appropriations. The result would be a self-sustaining prize authority program funded well above the current request of $20 million for the next five years.

Sponsorships through space advertising could take many forms – for example, a company could sponsor a Space Cam on the International Space Station that could be accessed by classrooms around the world for educational purposes. Universities who study atmospheric changes could partner with private enterprise to sponsor a multi-spectral camera for observation. As a former business man, I could easily see how this fund could generate $100 million after it’s up and running. I envision that most advertisements could be virtual thus not adding weight to launches or mass to vehicles. In fact, the very first challenge could be to design the program itself or to have one of our space entrepreneurs deliver a camera to the International Space Station."

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Space Elevator blog continues to crank out articles

The Space Elevator blog (link to the right) has been pounding out posts. A lot of their posts are relevant to Space Prizes, and specifically the 2 Space Elevator Centennial Challenges. I advise you to check with them regularly. Here is a sampling of their recent prize-related posts:

possible German space elevator competition with draft rules linked
2006 Space Elevator games video
22 teams registered for 2007 Space Elevator challenges
21 teams registered from around the world
expect carbon nanotubes at Space Elevator tether challenge?
Ken Davidian on the Space Show and comments on the Space Elevator challenge (Ken's comments make total sense to me and show how both NASA and allied organizations benefit from the Centennial Challenges - and as I mentioned in an earlier post this is a very interesting interview)

... and many more. Just check it out periodically if you're interested in Space Elevators, NASA Centennial Challenges, space applications of tethers (space elevators or not), or space applications of beamed power (space elevators or not).

some Lunar Lander Challenge links

Having posted about Armadillo and Masten, I thought it would be good to post links to some of the other Lunar Lander Challenge competitors. This is not an official list; it's just the teams I know of that have announced interest in the 2007 challenge. I think all of them were at Space Access '07, but I missed them (and a lot of other talks). I have not followed this particular space prize that closely because I still hope the excellent Lunar Lander Challenge blog will be doing that (I have a family, full time work, school, hobbies, etc ... I can't cover every space prize the way I'd like!). Here are the ones I've heard of for 2007:

Paragon Labs
Unreasonable Rocket
Armadillo Aerospace
Masten Space Systems (Also see Selenian Boondocks at the right).

more on 2 vehicle races

Cosmic Log has posted more on the Automotive X PRIZE draft rules that were just release, and also the DARPA Urban Challenge. They are 2 entirely different challenges, but it gets one thinking in different ways when you read about the 2 challenges in the same article. Of course there are other challenges like the British MOD Grand Challenge and Singapore's TechX Challenge, as well as interest (if not available funding) in a Centennial Challenge for a Lunar Vehicle that at least in part remind one of the DARPA challenge.

SmallSat Student Scholarship Competition

The Annual Conference on Small Satellites held in Logan, Utah has a student competition called the Frank J. Redd Student Scholarship Competition. This competition has been help several years so far. It it open to graduate and undergraduate students, and involves writing a paper. Finalists present their papers at the conference. In addition to the chance of winning a significant amount of scholarship money, working towards the competition and potentially winning a prize offers good resume material. I haven't gone to it, but the SmallSat Conference comes highly recommended from many sources. It should be a good networking opportunity for students that are serious about small satellites and related ground infrastructure and applications. The competition site has information for those interested in contributing to the scholarship competition fund.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Major X PRIZE Web Site update

The X PRIZE Foundation web site has a bunch of updates that are worth checking out, in addition to the updates directly related to the Automotive X PRIZE draft rules release. There's an active ticker of X PRIZE Press releases that, at the moment, has a large number of articles from around the world about the release of the Automotive X PRIZE draft rules. It also has a ticker entry for the recent Space Review article on the Lunar Lander Challenge.

The front page of the web site also has a number of celebrity photos and notes from the X PRIZE fundraiser at Google headquarters.

The site also includes a new section on the 2007 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. I don't see them yet, but at Space Access '07 Will Pomerantz mentioned that they intend to promote the Lunar Lander Challenge contestant teams more, and they would have sections for the teams on the web site.

The "Judging" section of the Lunar Lander page gives some hints about prizes the Foundation is considering, although it surely all depends on available funding and all sorts of other hurdles. At any rate, the section mentions "In development are the rules for sub-orbital races including fastest time to sub-orbital space and return; highest sub-orbital altitude attained; most passengers carried to sub-orbital altitude and return in a single flight; most passengers carried to sub-orbital flight and return during a fixed time period; fastest turn-around times between sub-orbital flights; and other sub-orbital challenges and design awards. Sub-orbital races will be extended to point-to-point races, eventually between spaceports around the country."

Monday, April 02, 2007

Space Review on the Lunar Lander Challenge

Jeff Foust at The Space Review reports on several of the teams competing for this year's Lunar Lander Challenge prizes at the X PRIZE Cup, including Armadillo Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, SpeedUp, Paragon Labs, Unreasonable Rocket, and others. Much of the report is inspired by talks and discussions at this year's Space Access Society conference. Jeff was also on a panel at this conference.

National Space Society logo contest

Hobbyspace/Space for All informs us about a National Space Society contest to design the next logo for the society, called the NSS Banner Redesign Contest. There are several prizes for the top winners.

Automotive X PRIZE

A couple days ago Alan Boyle reported that the X PRIZE Foundation was about to reveal the draft rules for the Automotive X PRIZE to encourage manufacturable, marketable, consumer-ready, environment-friendly, 100 mpg (or equivalent fuel efficiency) cars. The article gives a lot of background on the development of the prize. Today the draft rules were released, and can be viewed at the X PRIZE Foundation site. Here is the press release that accompanied the release. The purse size is "likely to be in excess of $10 million". There will be "mainstream" (4 passenger, 4 wheel) and "alternative" competitions, with 3 out of 4 dollars going to the winner of the mainstream competition. There will be Qualifying and Grand Prize races, with the winner of the Grand Prize race getting significantly more winnings than the winner of the Qualifying race. There may be "2nd tier" awards for characteristics like lowest estimated lifetime cost, lowest carbon dioxide emissions, lowest tailpipe emissions, and highest MPG equivalent, "people's choice", and best in various vehicle classes like family sedan. The Foundation plans to arrange significant media exposure (web media, traditional media, documentaries, certifications, awards for progress on various fronts) to all teams that make significant advances, not just the winning teams.

As with the Ansari X PRIZE and Archon Genomics X PRIZE, they are going with the nice round "100" (100 MPG equivalent, just like 100 km altitude and 100 human genomes).

Other Automotive X PRIZE links:

Background on Automotive X PRIZE

Overview of the competition

Complete (37 page) Draft Rules

Automotive X PRIZE Blog

Automotive X PRIZE sponsors and donors, and links so you can help

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Masten Space Systems and Lunar Lander Challenge

Spaceports has an article on Masten Space Systems and their goal to win a Centennial Challenges Lunar Lander Challenge prize, as well as to provide quick turnaround space access services.

Arts in Space awards

The National Space Society's ISDC 2007 conference has an Arts in Space program. Among other things, this program includes the "Leonardo Da Vinci Space Art Awards" ceremony. There are a number of award categories, including "Space Art Life Dedication", "Space Art Advocate", Space Art Organization", "Zero Gravity Art", "Annual ISDC Artonaut", "Space Art Scholastic and Curatorial Awards", and "Special Space Art Award".

Space Access '07 - Jerry Pournelle

Jerry Pournelle is famous as a science fiction author and computer columnist. At least that's what I know him for. However, at Space Access '07 he showed that he says and does a lot of interesting things in the space field, including with prizes.

Jerry discussed a prize idea as "the quickest way to space". He has been pounding the prize message for a long time - maybe since 1980. He discussed the Longitude Prize.

One prize idea would be a $10 Billion prize for a moon colony with 31 people on the moon for 3 years and 1 day, or $5 Billion for 12 people. Jerry had other prize ideas for a space station, suborbital prizes and reusable space vehicle prizes.

The X PRIZE put prizes in the public view, so Congress is aware of the idea. We could use that fact to help prizes. Prizes are the best way, but they are difficult politically, especially in large dollar amounts. They are not impossible. However, the budget is not ready for authorizations without appropriations.

An audience member had a question on Jeff Bezos or similar wealthy individuals interested in space funding prizes. Jerry's answer was that he's tried with the Gates Foundation, but didn't succeed.

I just summarized the aspects of Jerry's talk that pertained to prizes. Please see these links for more on his talk.

RLV News
Why Homeschool

Space Access '07 - Jim Muncy

Jim Muncy of Polispace had a talk on the politics of organizations like NASA and how they affect the entrepreneurial space community. I'll just summarize the prize-related aspects of this talk.

Last year Jim recommended not confronting NASA about their in-house development plans for Ares and Orion vehicles, since they were going to be supporting the entrepreneurial community with COTS and prizes. Now these progams look uncertain as Ares and Orion are using up much of the rest of NASA's budget, including these promising programs. At first NASA was for the prize idea. However, Congress didn't know which district the prize money will be spent in, or when it will be spent, so they have little interest in prizes. Therefore, Congress is in part at fault. Prizes don't make sense to Congress and their interests, since their job is politics. They make some decisions on substance, but many on politics. Since they don't know who will win a prize, they don't know who to "invite to their fundraiser". Jim doesn't think prizes are the "solution to all problems", but they are a useful tool. According to Jim NASA never explained to Congress about the multiple contestants in multiple districts, and the media help. Therefore Congress is not funding Centennial Challenges, and now NASA has stopped asking for Centennial Challenges money. (Ray's note: For this year they are asking for $4 million, but given the lack of any funding for a couple years, and the fact that $4 million is much less than the original concept of the challenges, you could say that they have come pretty close to what Jim said). On COTS, it seems that NASA would rather go with ISS partners than buy from U.S. private companies. Ares and Orion are eating the rest of NASA's budget (Ray's note: including prizes and numerous other programs) to meet the arbitrary goal of ISS gap reduction. However, if they really wanted to reduce the U.S. ISS human transportation gap so much why didn't they use $2-5 billion to set up prizes to do it? This goes back to the Congressional districts.

Please see the following links for more information about this talk, including many parts I didn't cover because I focused on prizes. (The rest of the talk is also interesting, but I want to focus on prizes because I can't possibly effectively cover a broader subject with the time I have available for this hobby).

Why Homeschool
RLV News

radio show introducing Space Access '07

The Space Show has a recent interview of Henry Vanderbilt, organizer of the Space Access conferences, that was held shortly before the Space Access '07 conference. This interview gives a good background on the overall "mood" of the industry at the time of the conference. It also gives an idea of what to expect for future Space Access conferences. The interview did not focus on space prizes, but they were brought up incidentally. In one case, a caller asked what they could do as a space activist to help the space access entrepreneurs, given that they aren't working in one of the companies. One possibility Henry suggested is calling their Congresspeople in support of NASA's Centennial Challenges prize program and the COTS program.