Thursday, July 31, 2008

Unreasonably Strange

Very Strange ... - Unreasonable Rocket - Paul is tracking down some strange results in the data he gathered.

Luna Philosophie and Centennial Challenges

August 5, 2008: Partnering with NASA-- Innovation through Collaboration - NASA CoLab - The Yahoo Brickhouse in San Francisco will host Doug Comstock from NASA IPP. Centennial Challenges will be featured:

Part of the talk will focus on IPP's Centennial Challenges Program, NASA's 'citizen inventor' program, with an upcoming event in Santa Rosa for a "Green Prize" for aviation transportation.

Some topics to discuss include:
* How do you successfully foster innovation in large organizations?
* How do partnerships factor into the future of NASA?
* What are some of the most surprising benefits of space technology to the general public?

Here's more about Luna Philosophie:

Luna Philosophie is regular salon and discussion coordinated by NASA CoLab . They occur on (or close to) Full Moons in San Francisco, as part of CoLab's efforts to bring NASA and space exploration to the San Francisco Bay Area community.

General Aviation Challenge Countdown

The General Aviation Challenge is going to start soon.

EAA Chapter 124 has an important role in the Challenge. Their newsletters often mention the Challenge, and of course the August Newsletter is no exception. Some excerpts:

The pilots and crews from the GAT (General Aviation Technology) Centennial Challenge will be joining the Chapter membership for the BBQ and general meeting. This will be an excellent opportunity for Chapter members to meet them and discuss what their plans are to win the competition.


The CAFE Foundation will be putting on the second General Aviation Technology Centennial Challenge in cooperation with NASA during the first week of August 2008, just after Oshkosh. They need about 60 volunteers to make this event run smoothly, and you can help.

They will have a CAEFE GAT Banquet on Saturday, August 9. Details on time, location, and food are in the linked PDF file.

Following the dinner will be the Awards Ceremony with surprise keynote speakers and the suspenseful presentation of cash prizes totaling up to $300,000.

X PRIZE Cars has the following in a weekly news roundup:

Pipistrel: Greener Personal Aircraft, talks about a contest for 100 MPG, 100 MPH personal aircraft. Will we be flying instead of driving to get our 100 MPG?

The linked post covers the Green Prize, one of the competitions at the General Aviation Challenge, and Pipistrel, the winner of the Personal Air Vehicle challenge last year. You can see the relationship to the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE with this ambition:

But the organization behind the race, the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency Foundation (or CAFE, pronounced “cafĂ©”), has a much grander goal in mind. Inspired by the $10-million Automotive X Prize competition for a 100mpg car, CAFE president Brien Seeley is courting private contributors who can fund a prize of up to $10 million for the first plane to fly 100 miles, at 100 miles per hour, on one gallon of gasoline. (Though he has yet to write a check, Google co-founder Larry Page attends all the CAFE meetings.)

I read a similar statement at the CAFE 2008 Electric Aircraft Symposium site.

Sci-Tech: 2008 General Aviation Challenge - Space for All - This shows you when and where the Challenge will be held, and what the main prizes are. From a monetary point of view, the Community Noise Prize is the big one ($150,000), but there's also a lot of interest in fuel efficiency and electric planes. Really, advances in all of the areas addressed by the prizes are needed to reach the goals the CAFE Foundation has for General Aviation and Personal Air Vehicles.

Space for All links to this detailed post on the main prizes from the Daily Galaxy.

In addition to the 4 or 5 main prizes (depending on which ones you count), there are 4 "showcase" prizes. Here's the whole bunch:

Main Prizes:
1) For the winner of the Community Noise Prize, a maximum of US$ 150,000.00 (one hundred fifty thousand U.S. dollars)
2) For the winner of the Green Prize (aka Environmental Efficiency Prize), a maximum of US$ 50,000.00 (fifty thousand U.S. Dollars)
3) For the winner of the Aviation Safety Prize (aka Vehicle Safety Prize), US$ 50,000.00 (fifty thousand U.S. dollars)
4) For the winner of the CAFE 400 Prize (aka Decathlon Prize), a maximum of US$ 25,000.00 (twenty-five thousand U.S. dollars)
5) For the winner of the Quietest LSA Prize (aka the Sustainable Airports Prize), US$ $10,000 (ten thousand U.S. dollars)

Individual "Showcase" Prizes: Winner of each of the following five prizes will receive US$ 3750.00:

1) Quietest Cabin Prize
2) Best Angle of Climb Prize
3) Shortest Takeoff Prize
4) Best Glide at 100 mph Prize

See the "General Aviation" tag below for more posts on this prize.

Regolith Excavation Challenge Countdown

Follow the Regolith Challenge on - California Space Authority

Here's a sample twitter post:

Received word today that NASA personnel will be attending the Regolith Challenge from Ames, Dryden, Glenn, HQ, JPL, Johnson, and Kennedy.

Regolith Excavation Challenge a Goldmine for Media - Sane PR - From the press release:

"We are attracting more electronic media this year for the challenge in contrast to magazines last year,” explains CSA/CSEWI Regolith Media Advisor Wil Simon. "Clearly, the regolith competition is visually rich, but the increase in competing teams has also given journalists a lot more interview material to work with this year.”

Media entities confirmed to attend include: Flight 33 Productions/Discovery Channel, NASA Videographer Steve Parcel, Crewestone Technologies/NASA and National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) educational videos, Planetary Society Radio, The Space Show, LAUNCH Magazine, Celestial Mechanics, The Crew-Strike TV, Ken Brown Aerospace Photojournalism, and Santa Maria Times.

Governor Rooting for Regolith Victory - I-Newswire

The Space Show - From the Space Show newsletter:

The Sunday, August 3, 2008 program will consist of taped interviews from the Regolith Challenge being held on the campus of Cal Poli in San Luis Obispo, California. As soon as the program is listed on the website, it will be available for play or download. Due to my return travel from Cal Poli, its possible this program will not be made available until early evening but check the website because as soon as you see it, you will be able to play or download the program. There is no actual start time for this show as it will be available all the time once its uploaded to the website. Should you have questions or comments for any of those interviewed, please use the email addresses given out during the interview or send your comments to me at and I will make certain the guest receives them.

See the Regolith Challenge tag below for previous Regolith Challenge posts.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July 30 2008 Roundup

Why I Gave Up on NASA - - Why are young people less interested in NASA's space program? From the article, it sounds like it's not just young people, but even a lot of space scientists - but they're getting interested in commercial space, including prizes like the Google Lunar X PRIZE. Hopefully NASA leadership understands this trend and realizes it has a bigger role in supporting it and benefiting from it.

The Final Frontier - Canadian Business Online - You can't tell from the title, but this is about the field of space law, and how the rise of traditional and new entrepreneurial commercial space, including the parts related to the Ansari and Google Lunar X PRIZEs, is making this field a more important one.

Crewed Circumlunar Flight - The Launch Pad - William looks back to a time at the X PRIZE Foundation when they were considering new prizes. You can guess what one of the ideas was from the post title. Is the idea coming back, perhaps in non-prize form?

Kyoto Planet Capital Partners Invests in SustainPro Conference Adding Momentum to #1 Sustainable Corporate Operations Event and Online Community - CSRWire (link from X PRIZE Foundation news scroller) - Peter Diamandis will be giving the keynote speech. Well-known politicians and their representatives will also be there, as well as former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe.

Aerial Robotics Club Competes for $80,000 Prize - University of Arizona College of Engineering News Blog - This is on an entry in the 18th annual International Aerial Robotics Competition (IARC). It comes with a test video showing the plane launch and video from the camera in flight. A Virginia Tech helicopter is also shown in video.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Diamandis on Rocket Racing League Flights

SUCCESS!!! Using Economic Engines to open the space frontier - The Launch Pad (Peter Diamandis) - Peter talks about the importance of the big WK2 and RRL rollouts on the 50th anniversary of the NASA Space Act (just go to and click the picture). It's all about private industry, low cost, reliability, and fast repeatable operations.

It's a big time in the prize calendar as well. Quickly following these somewhat prize-related events are 2 NASA Centennial Challenge competitions: the General Aviation Challenge and the Regolith Excavation Challenge. Not only that, but I'll bet that some GLXP teams will be carefully watching the Falcon 1 launch.

Lunar X PRIZE Testing, Regulation, and Globalization

Communications Progress - Micro-Space - A lot of the discussion is on cost-effective testing of new space hardware in a suitable environment.

The potential GLXP OpenLuna Team lists Micro-Space as a contractor for "Lander Systems, Micro-sized Flight Systems".

Yeah, Where -Are- the European Teams? - The Launch Pad - Will re-asks the STELLAR question in the first of a 2-part post in interview form.

More on NOAA Licensing - The Launch Pad - The remote sensing law discussion continues. One of the cool things about prizes like the GLXP is that often they pave ground not just in technical innovation, but in other areas like business, ethics, and yes, regulation. The Land Remote Sensing Act and Apollo (etc) site preservation discussions are prime examples.

Space Elevator Conference News

The Space Elevator Blog has a press roundup of articles on the Space Elevator Conference. Many of the articles feature the Space Elevator Games and team members in one way or another.

Rocket Racing Oshkosh Demo

RLV News has the news on the Rocket Racing League Rollout:

Rocket racing demo today

Rocket racing on Internet radio [Update]

Rocket Racer demo flight reports

Rocket racer demo

Monday, July 28, 2008

WK2 and RRL Rollouts

RLV News is a good place to go for White Knight 2 rollout, and planned Rocket Racer rollout, news and links, which I've only skimmed over so far.

WhiteKnightTwo rolls out

Mothership "Eve" Roll Out [Update]

Virgin America and Virgin Galactic working together

WhiteKnightTwo rollout [Update]

XCOR X-Racer prepares for Tuesday debut

More WK2 rollout response

WK2 rollout impressions and pictures; SS2 accident report

Space Age Publishing Company and the GLXP

Publishing company sets sights on moon - Times Colonist - Odyssey Moon and its partners are featured. Perhaps they got this local article in because the International Lunar Observatory Association is meeting in Vancouver.

Florida Space Coast NSS on Omega Envoy

New X PRIZE team hosts info session at KSC - Florida Space Coast Chapter of NSS - I already posted about the possible new Florida-based GLXP team, but I sometimes like linking to a new space site.

Batteries and Methanol for Cars

The Saving Grace in McCain’s Energy Policy - Pajamas Media - Robert Zubrin seems to favor prizes, but thinks that McCain's car battery prize is perhaps not the best application of the prize approach when there's already a big market for, and active investment in, better batteries. He's also skeptical about focusing just on batteries because moving the car fleet to batteries is not going to happen quickly, and he's looking for quick results in energy independence.

My question is "Why not both?", but I have the same question for Mars ...

It should be no surprise by now that Zubrin's solution is a mandate for FFVs - specifically a mandate that all gas cars sold in the U.S. also support methanol and ethanol. He's happy that McCain is advocating such a mandate. I'm sure he's happy to see the following, which actually includes methanol in the mandate:

Open Fuel Standard Act Introduced in US Congress; 50% FFVs by 2012, 80% by 2015 - Green Car Congress:

A tri-partisan bill principally sponsored by Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS), Ken Salazar (D-CO) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) (S.3303) and Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY-17), Jack Kingston (R-GA-1), Steve Israel (D-NY-2), and Bob Inglis (R-SC-4) (H.R.6559) would require that starting in 2012, 50% of new automobiles; and starting in 2015, 80% of new automobiles, be flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) that can operate with gasoline blends up to E85 (85%) ethanol or M85 (85% methanol), or be warranted to operate on biodiesel.

Zubrin's Energy Victory site has a summary of the bill.

LaserMotive Press

LaserMotive’s Jordin Kare in the news - Space Elevator Blog - LaserMotive notes that Jordin Kare is featured in the Seattle Times. A couple excerpts:

Predictable: Kare said people generally either think of something in their own lives that could benefit from the technology, or wonder about its safety. He trusts modern laser technology, which is programmed to shut down when something obstructs its path. "Not only do I stand behind this product, I would stand in front of it," he said.


Born to beam: Kare has worked with lasers since he was 14. "We don't have a lot of competition," he said, then perhaps obviously adding, "there are not a lot of companies that have this type of background and experience."

Tech Ranch Close-Up; Regolith Challenge Moves North

Regolith Excavation Challenge makes move north to Cal Poly - MSNBC (Care of Santa Maria Times) - The move from Santa Maria to Cal Poly is mentioned, and a possible future spot on the Discovery Channel is also suggested.

Building for the Moon - Santa Maria Times - A leader in last year's Challenge, Jim Greenhaw of Tech Ranch, is featured in this article. His excavator is described:

He’s installed a custom-made wire-mesh track for rolling, saying he believed other participants’ vehicles will employ wheels “which personally I don’t think is going work well.”


His excavator is a vertical conveyor, an addition installed two weeks before the competition.

“These buckets totally dominate. I might be able to dig 2 pounds a second,” he said.

NASA's robotic moon-dirt grubbing contest is go - The Register

More WK2 Unveiling and More

Briefs: NG-LLC team summit; CUS in N-Prize; GLXP talk - RLV News - This post has information about 3 prizes. I won't have a chance to watch the 5 videos in the GLXP talk until later today, so I have no comment on that, at least now.

White Knight 2 Rollout - RLV News - I already mentioned the Personal Spaceflight article in the first part of this post, but there's also a section on Dan Linehan, author of SpaceShipOne: An Illustrated History.

New space race heats up with unveiling of aircraft - - The rollout gets coverage from AP.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Personal Spaceflight Events

Here are a couple from Personal Spaceflight:

RRL Oshkosh Preview - This covers a Rocket Racing League press conference. An excerpt:

A slide during Whitelaw’s presentation included the Reno Air Races in September, the Nellis AFB show in Las Vegas in November, and the X Prize Cup. Wait, how is that last one possible since there won’t be a formal X Prize Cup event this year, only the Lunar Lander Challenge (LLC) competition that will not be open to the public? “There is another event that is X Prize-driven,” he said, apparently referring to the LLC. “So I think we’re either going to fly there, or we’re going to have our own standalone event in Las Cruces in late October or early November.”

It would be nice if that happened, especially if it's timed to blend into the International Symposium on Personal and Commercial Spaceflight. There's already a Space Week planned there, including a tour:

Join us for an all day tour of some of the cutting edge programs taking place in Southern New Mexico. Tour will include the Labs and Propulsion Test Areas of White Sands Test Facility, the High Speed Sled and other stops at Holloman Air Force Base

WK2 rollout anticipation - Yes, I realize the White Knight 2 isn't shooting for a prize, but there's a close historical connection to the White Knight carrier that helped SpaceShipOne win the Ansari X PRIZE.

Regulatory Maze

Uncertain futures - The Space Review (Jeff Foust) - Here's a cautionary quote from Charlie Chafer, CEO of Space Services, Inc., at the NewSpace 2008 Conference:

He noted the slow progress in the development of suborbital and orbital launch vehicles, and expressed skepticism about companies that say they expect to win the Google Lunar X Prize in the next couple of years, in part because of the regulatory paperwork needed to simply secure frequencies for communications with a commercial lunar spacecraft. “You won’t be anywhere near through the FCC in two years,” he said. “It’s so mundane that all of us big thinkers don't think much about it, but when you’re building a business plan, people tend to go, ‘What about that?’”

Energy and Automotive Prize Bill

A few days ago I posted on a possible bill put forth by Republicans in the House that featured various energy independence efforts. I won't get into the various non-prize aspects of the bill; many are sure to be controversial, and you can read the promotion for the bill and the Climate Progress counter-arguments from the post linked above if you want to learn about that debate.

My purpose here is just to show more details about the prize part of the bill, which it turns out did happen as Climate Progress learned ahead of time. Here's a link to the American Energy Act, a combination of a number of Republican energy bills that haven't moved ahead in isolation. This excerpt summarizes the the prize portion:

Provide a monetary prize for developing the first economically feasible, super-fuel-efficient vehicle reaching 100 miles-per-gallon, as proposed in H.R. 6384 by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT);

GovTrack has the text of H.R. 6384: Americans for American Energy Act of 2008. Search for "TITLE XII--TAPPING AMERICA’S INGENUITY AND CREATIVITY" for the section on prizes. Some excerpts:

(a) In General- The Secretary shall carry out a program to competitively award cash prizes in conformity with this title to advance the research, development, demonstration, and commercial application of innovative energy technologies and new energy sources.


(c) Administering the Competition- The Secretary may enter into an agreement with a private, nonprofit entity to administer the prize competitions, subject to the provisions of this title. The administering entity shall perform the following functions:


(3) Develop, in consultation with and subject to the final approval of the Secretary, criteria to select winners based upon the goal of safely and adequately storing nuclear used fuel.


(a) Awards- 40 percent of amounts in the American Energy Trust Fund shall be available without further appropriation to carry out specified provisions of this section.


(b) Treatment of Awards- Amounts received pursuant to an award under this title may not be taxed by any Federal, State, or local authority.


(c) Administration- In addition to the amounts authorized under subsection (a), there are authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary for each of fiscal years 2009 through 2020 $2,000,000 for the administrative costs of carrying out this title.



The Secretary of Energy shall establish a program to award a prize in the amount of $500,000,000 to the first automobile manufacturer incorporated in the United States to manufacture and sell in the United States 50,000 midsized sedan automobiles which operate on gasoline and can travel 100 miles per gallon.

I don't think I would have structured the Automobile Prize quite this way. I'd be worried that the program would run out of steam after the first 50,000 vehicles are sold (at $10,000 prize value per vehicle). I'd also be concerned that the big advantages of prizes, like inspiring small entrepreneurs and getting them publicity, would be irrelevant in this industrial-scale prize. Also, I'm not sure why they require that the vehicles operate on gasoline. Is that gasoline only, or are FFVs (flex-fuel vehicles that can run on gas or alcohol fuels) and/or PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) also encouraged?

I guess I'd rather see fifty $10,000,000 Automotive X PRIZEs than this 1 giant prize, or perhaps ten $50,000,000 scaled-up Automotive X PRIZEs, run year after year for a decade, with more incentives for both small and large players, and perhaps enough prize cash to encourage different variants (trucks, different car sizes, motorcycles, farm and industrial vehicles, etc).

Nevertheless it's an interesting proposal, and it will be informative to watch it, or variants of it, progress or fail as the political battles rage, gas prices rise, and the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE gets more press.

Regolith Challenge Repeat Post

T-26 Days... - Tech Ranch - I posted this link from one of the Regolith Excavation Challenge teams when it was really a few weeks from the event, which is now just a few days away (next weekend). I'm re-posting it because team conversations continue in the comments section of the post, and there's interesting news there.

Here's the event schedule and maps.

Water Rocketry

The Water Rocket Achievement World Record Association 2008 - This is probably old, since my link to the US Water Rockets site is one I bookmarked a long time ago and just revisited on a whim. The promotion:

Do you have what it takes to fly a water rocket over 1,000 feet? If you think you do, then you could take home a fabulous prize in the officially sanctioned WRA2 "1,000 Foot Challenge" Competition!

Here are all of the competitions. They include single and multi-stage vehicles, completely hand-built ones, and so on.

Translation, Communication, Pixelation, and Miltarization

RLV News - This covers some of the recent news and posts from X PRIZE Foundation sites like The Launch Pad, which is quite an active site you'd probably want to check daily. As for cable service, at least for TV I prefer satellite ... but I'm not exactly an impartial judge on space vs. wire issues.

White Label Space does a translation for an article linked at The Launch Pad. They also have more on the space art opportunity that I suspect could be emulated by GLXP teams (for a bit of sponsorship or simple business of course), and a bit on dual use technology.

Camera Testing - Astrobotic gives their rover an eye exam.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mprize NYC Fundraising Dinner

Methuselah Foundation Fundraising Dinner in Manhattan - Methuselah Foundation Blog - The date is July 30, and it's at the 21 Club.

Regolith PR, CU Spaceflight, GLXP Teams and Plans

Briefs: Rutan and Branson at Oshkosh; Regolith Excavation - RLV News - NASA has a press release on the Regolith Excavation Challenge, and Dispatches from the Final Frontier gives some inormation about WK2 and Mojave/Oshkosh.

CU Spaceflight sets UK amateur balloon altitude record [Update] - RLV News - The Cambridge University Spaceflight team is helping to lower the cost of space access in multiple ways. Now they're an N-Prize team.

Briefs: Lunar engine test; GLXP plans; Lunar sites visitation rules - RLV News - This post covers interesting GLXP posts. LunaTrex talks about making money while winning the GLXP, perhaps in response to a Mystery Team post making that sound difficult. Odyssey Moon celebrates their recent string of big announcements. There are, by the way, several more recent GLXP posts that I haven't mentioned, including Mystery Team unveiling plans, STELLAR meetings, FredNet conferencing, and Astrobotic robot festivities. It's tough to keep up! (and cetainly I won't be able to pretty soon).

Another link at the RLV News is on the discussions, largely started because of the GLXP bonus prize for historical site viewing, on lunar site preservation. Philip Stooke, a lunar mapping scientist who is a commenter at the GLXP Forums on this and other subjects, is featured in the article. He mentioned that he'd map routes for viewing the sites without disturbing them on the Forums, but I'm not sure if he presented those maps at the conference.

Two Automotive Prizes

Interview: Driving towards the 100-mpg car - New Scientist Tech (link from X PRIZE Foundation) - New Scientist interviews John Shore from the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE.

X PRIZE Cars blog continues to regularly keep up with the PAXP news, and has reached the 100th post on the 100-MPGe contest.

Unlike the PAXP, the North American Solar Challenge isn't trying to make mass production cars, but it is playing an important role in education and engineering. The NASC 2008 has finished with the University of Michigan as the winners.


Crowdsourcing - Tracking the Rise of the Amateur - This isn't a space or prize site, but there is nevertheless an overlap. Here's the Wikipedia definition of crowdsourcing:

Crowdsourcing is a neologism for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people, in the form of an open call. For example, the public may be invited to develop a new technology, carry out a design task, refine an algorithm or help capture, systematize or analyze large amounts of data (see also citizen science).

The term has become popular with business authors and journalists as shorthand for the trend of leveraging the mass collaboration enabled by Web 2.0 technologies to achieve business goals. However, both the term and its underlying business models have attracted controversy and criticism.

You can see the overlap between prizes and crowdsourcing, and in fact the Wiki article uses prizes and models like that of Innocentive in its examples. There are some non-prize space examples too! Even beyond this subject-level overlap, though, crowdsourcing is of interest in the prize field when considering open source prize teams like FredNet, public prize forums, the Commercial Space Wiki, typical prize development phases with public comments on rules, amateur prize teams, blogs with public comments, and more related trends.

So ... the Crowdsourcing blog link I gave above is one way to keep track of ideas and trends that are relevant to a good portion of innovation prizes and prize efforts.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mars Society Conference and Mars Project Challenge

The Eleventh International Mars Society Convention is scheduled for August 14-17 in Boulder, Colorado. The first time I took my wife to a space event was the NSS ISDC in Denver. She found Robert Zubrin's talk to be a bit too intensely concentrated on 1 goal. I guess that's not a unique characteristic in the space field by any means. However, as we still do when going to a space event, we spent as much or more time as tourists or visitors, and on that trip we decided we liked visiting Boulder. There's certainly a lot of fun things to do there for space fans (LASP, NSIDC, UCAR, DigitalGlobe, Ball Aerospace, even an astronaut park on the bike trail) and there's plenty for everyone else, too. So, head to Boulder for the conference, and bring some guests.

One of the talks planned is "Oregon State University Robotics Club - Overview From 2008 University Rover Challenge Champions". Another has to do with the Mars Project Challenge. The 10 finalists have been selected for this decision-making process for the Mars Society's next big project that will take it to the next level. Mars Society members can vote on the project, and the winner (which will not necessarily be the one with the most votes, but I'm sure the leadership will take the votes into account) will be announced, presumably after the finalists make their 15 minute pitches, at the Convention. One finalist that sounds like a prize competition is "Mars Sample Return Prototypes Competition".

Miltary Prize Month

A lot of prize events are going to happen in the next couple weeks. In addition to the Regolith Excavation and General Aviation Centennial Challenges, there are a lot of people and teams that have been involved with space prizes at the Oshkosh AirVenture air show. I've mentioned all of these recently, but that's just the beginning.

A number of military innovation prize events are planned soon. The UK MOD Grand Challenge for autonomous or partly autonomous systems to help troops monitor threats. This PDF presentation shows the final challenge extending from August 4-24 at Copehill Down, an urban warfare training village.

Meanwhile, Singapore's TechX autonomous urban robot competition has its final event scheduled in August.

It's also a big time for student autonomous vehicle prizes. I've already posted on some of the 2008 ones recently. Here's what's coming soon:

AUVSI International Aerial Robotics Challenge - July 28-Aug 1, at Fort Benning, GA - $80,000 in prizes are available.

AUVSI International Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Competition - July 29 - Aug 3 - The public is welcome and it's a free event. From the Public FAQ: The Competition will be held at the U.S. Navy's Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Center's Transducer Evaluation Center (TRANSDEC) pool located on Point Loma, San Diego. More acronyms will be available at the Competition site.

Commercial Biodefense Incentives

Incentives for Biodefense Countermeasure Development - Center for Biosecurity, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center - This article looks at some of the reasons why big drug companies aren't getting involved in biodefense, or anti-infectious disease vaccines in general, and how to encourage them. Some of the problems are similar to those experienced in many space business concepts, like reliance on a largely government market, high R&D costs and risks, and legal/regulatory barriers. Many of the existing and potential encouragements are also similar to those often mentioned in a space context. An excerpt:

In this article, we discuss the challenges to industrial investment in countermeasure development, review existing and proposed federal incentives for countermeasure R&D, and recommend measures to increase industry’s engagement in the medical countermeasure enterprise.

One prize-like incentive discussed is the "priority review voucher" which allows a company that puts a qualifying product on market to get a (possibly tradeable) "bump to the head of the line" in the FDA drug review queue. There's also a section that evaluates "pure" innovation prizes, although, unlike priority review vouchers, the article doesn't call out prizes as a recommended incentive to add to the current mix.

My personal inclination would be to try a small biodefense prize program to see how it works in that field, but target the prizes towards innovations and advances that are achievable by small biotech entrepreneurs and research labs rather than industrial scale pharmaceutical giants. The motivation of prizes at a personal level and from the publicity perspective are likely to apply most powerfully at that level.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

LaserMotive Applications

Beam Power team LaserMotive asks you to Support Laser Power Beaming. They're interested in the Space Elevator, but they also have a number of useful applications to address in the short term, like powering UAVs, laser launch, and Space-Based Solar Power. The New York Times editorial they link to that advocates an SSP demo from the ISS is just the kind of thing LaserMotive is motivated to do.

Eurospaceward 2008

The Space Elevator Blog posts on the Eurospaceward Conference, which, like the recent Space Elevator Conference, has a lot of speakers and topics related to the Space Elevator Games:

There will be again a special focus on attracting young university researchers to stimulate
European team building and networking on the NASA Beam Power and Tether Challenges.

A small sample of the speakers includes Petro (I'm guessing NASA Centenial Challenges' Andrew Petro) on "NASA PB&T Challenges 2008-2010 and beyond", a Climber Workshop with Bert Murray (NSS Space Elevator Team), Akira Tsuchida (ETC Team), and Andreas Hein (Tesla Team), and Dr. Bryan Laubscher (Industrial Nano LLC) discussing "Results/analysis of tether competition 2008" and "Analysis of competition teams". Well-known SE Games personalities like Ben Shelef and Dr. Brad Edwards will also speak.

GLXP and NOAA, Art, Florida, Florida, and More

White Label Space, a GLXP team in formation, posts on the ICPF Contest, a simulated rover control software contest. Instead of pretending it's a Mars rover with instantaneous communication with Earth, the ICPF might have pretended it's a GLXP rover and just ignored the time delay ...

WLS also posts on the first art exhibition in outer space. The art is miniaturized to 1mm squares. I could see a similar strategy working for GLXP teams wanting to send the first art exhibition to the Moon, or sponsor decals for that matter.

The X PRIZE Foundation's Launch Pad blog has a lot of information-filled posts today. One is on a discussion with NOAA officials about NOAA Earth imaging regulations (I suspect originally written with intelligence agency concerns in mind, not lunar-distance imaging) that GLXP teams with U.S. members should be aware of. Another includes Will interviewing Team STELLAR's Jeff Krukin. They also note that Space Florida is encouraging people in Florida with the idea of forming a new team with an event at the Kennedy Space Center on August 1. Show up and you might with a Zero-G ride! Finally, they meet at a Google office and send a call for German translation of a GLXP article.

Meanwhile, LunaTrex posts a question on blogging that results in some interesting comments. I've noticed that some competitions tend to have lots of teams that post information and even help each other, while others tend to have teams that wait for the big event to reveal their plans.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Odyssey Moon Shines Again

Dr. Paul Spudis Announced as Chief Scientist of Odyssey Moon Limited - Odyssey Moon GLXP Teams site - Dr. Spudis is a well-known lunar scientist. This quickly follows the news of the ILO Instrument On Odyssey Moon's Google Lunar X PRIZE Mission.

Japanese lunar exploration and GLXP - White Label Space - They ask for more non-English content at the GLXP site. Interestingly, the Launch Pad just posted French/English versions of a post, and in the comments Mike from the X PRIZE Foundation notes that they're already working on it, and give them a jingle if you can help.

EAA Aviation Nation

There's a lot to interest aviation fans at the 2008 EAA AirVenture aviation celebration at Oshkosh, Wisconsin this July 28-August 3. There's also a lot to interest space fans, too. I posted about some prize-related possibilities for the big show a few weeks ago.

Alan Boyle from Cosmic Log is on the road to see and report on the AirVenture. He notes that

Among the headliners will be the Rocket Racing League as well as aerospace designer Burt Rutan and Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, fresh from their rollout of SpaceShipTwo's mothership, the White Knight Two.

The linked article from the Business Times Online shows that the WK2 folks will be busy:

This month, various aviation big-wigs and politicians, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor of California, will assemble in the Mojave Desert for the unveiling of WhiteKnightTwo (WK2).

Cosmic Log also reports on one of the draws of AirVenture, the Rocket Racing League. If you read the article already yesterday, read the bottom again for the July 23 update on FAA certification for the variant supported by LLC challenger Armadillo.

RLV News points to a New Scientist article on the status of the Rocket Racing League demo race at AirVenture. Also see the comments for XCOR events there.

Google Lunar X PRIZE competitor LunaTrex has personal-scale aviation connections through its AirBuoyant team member and future municipal airport facility. They also will be represented at AirVenture.

We started in Mojave CA, and did a lot in Oshkosh, WI. Now it's time for prize-seeking aviators to quickly fly back to a different part of California: the Charles M. Schultz County Airport at Santa Rosa. This is for the 2008 NASA/CAFE General Aviation Challenge. The CAFE Foundation recently announced 5 teams that will be competing starting August 5 for $300,000 in NASA-sponsored prizes at this year's GAT Challenge. EAA Chapter 124 is looking for 60 volunteers to help run the event. Their June Newsletter has more details.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Innocentive and Foldit

If You Have a Problem, Ask Everyone - New York Times (link from X PRIZE Foundation) - This article describes the trend towards "crowd sourcing" with companies like Innocentive in the technology prize matchmaking business. That's a big focus of the article, but it also covers innovation prize competitions like the ones usually covered here and related changes.

One that I haven't heard of before is Foldit, which seems like a mixture of protein folding science, computer game competition, and mass volunteer Internet effort like SETI at Home, Einstein at Home, Proteins at Home, Rosetta at Home, and the others at BOINC.

Here are a couple blog posts on the NYT piece:

Participatory Learning: If you have a problem, ask everybody! - HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory)

Using Crowds to Solve Problems - Sufficiently Advanced

Ocean Exploration

Peter Diamandis talks about the ocean exploration prizes under consideration.

Whether robotic or human-piloted craft result from the prize(s), these strike me as having as much or possibly even more potential than the space prizes.

Certainly there's a great deal of intrinsic economic and scientific value in exploring the Earth's oceans. In addition, some of the skills we would learn as we explore them would be highly applicable to space (and I don't mean just oceans under icy moons), whether it's advances in vehicle subsystems, instruments, extremophile science, and so on. Many of the details would be different, but just as scientific study of the other planets helps us understand the Earth, and vice versa, the NewSpace and NewSea industries should be able to complement each other.

Monetary Prize for 100 MPG Vehicle?

Climate Progress claims to have a memo that the leaders of the House Republicans will be spreading around on energy policy. Skipping past the political back and forth in the memo and in the Climate Progress response, here's an interesting excerpt from the memo (although if the memo shown in Climate Progress is for real and accurate, I hope they fix the first sentence):

To increase the supply American-made energy in environmentally sound ways, the legislation will:

... (skipping a few points) ...

* Provide a monetary prize for being the first to develop an economically feasible, super-fuel-efficient vehicle (reaching 100 miles-per-gallon); and ...

I'm sure these folks and this one would agree that sounds like a good idea ...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Weekend Update

Weekend Roundup, July 18-20, 2008 - The Launch Pad - Will posts another Weekend Roundup, which looks like a good way to get everyone caught up after the weekend. If it becomes a regular thing, it will probably become standard Monday reading like the Space Review. This week there's even a well wish for us here as we get close to our new adventure.

Possible Tether Strength Showdown

The Space Elevator blog continues to post news from the Space Elevator Conference. It sounds there's more details to come in upcoming days.

2008 Space Elevator Games Updates - The news summary includes information on the likely dates for the Games and Eurospaceward, some information about beam power teams, and the possibility of another strong tether showdown this year.

That's just the latest post; there's much more there on the Games and Conference.

Public and Private Races to the Moon

New Race to the Moon Could Bring Permanent Bases and Observatories - Discover Magazine - The magazine reports on a lunar exploration conference at the Lunar Science Institute. Public and private efforts are both covered.

How the Google Lunar X Prize Works - How Stuff Works - The only time I recall hearing about "How Stuff Works" is when one of my professors advised us he wanted sources like the Journal of Geophysical Research, not How Stuff Works. Give the marketing team a bonus: it must be a catchy phrase, because that was years ago, and I still remember it, even though I never went to the site until today. Anyway, you're not being graded here, so feel free to check it out.

Robotic Greatest Hits

Robotic Visionary - I've never been there, but I had a friend from there, so I know Altoona isn't all that far from Carnegie Mellon University. Apparently Red Whitaker's family used to live in Altoona, too. The Altoona Mirror has an overview of the numerous robotic innovations of Red Whittaker's career so far, including his current work on the Carnegie Mellon University part of the Astrobotic GLXP team. Let's hope that this article is like one of those Greatest Hits albums where they have to come out with a Volume II double album a decade or 2 later.

Unreasonably Simple

Unreasonable Rocket posts video, pictures, and text on A Simple little thing.. that needs to be reliable. I've noticed that some of the adjectives at that site sometimes seem to mean the opposite over there to what I think they mean: words like "unreasonable", "simple", and "bogus" ...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Odyssey Moon Lunar Observatory Announcement

Odyssey Moon Announces Second Customer and Second Mission - Odyssey Moon - This announcement is not only on a demonstration instrument that's planned for the Odyssey Moon GLXP attempt mission, but also on a possible follow-on mission.

Here's the International Lunar Observatory Association, and here's more about the planned missions from their March/April 2008 Newsletter.

Space Age Publishing also covers the International Lunar Observatory.

SpaceDev has also been involved with the project.

Now, if we could get some space agencies to get serious about using GLXP-derived commercial services, or pitching in bonus GLXP prize money, for achieving goals those agencies have ... Odyssey Moon also has a commercial agreement with Celestis, but I can't get myself to forget about those potential government customers altogether.

Space Prizes Changes

In a few weeks I anticipate the posting levels here will decrease considerably. I'm not sure exactly when, or how much - it could be 100%. We will see. A new family member of the initially very small and noisy but nevertheless cute variety is on the way. I'm sure I'm in for a few surprises - and so are my cats. There will definitely be changes in how I spend my time, including the Space Prizes blog.

When planning to start this adventure I worried I'd have no leisure time at all for the next 20 years. My wife asked me what kinds of things I/we like to do that I would miss. I said something like "Well, I like riding bikes, and space events, and the zoo, and lakes, and science museums, and art/music/culture/food festivals, and astronomy club viewings, and aquariums, and camping, and cool downtown areas, and botanical gardens, and ships, and visiting relatives and friends, and the gym, and snow tubing, and playing board games, and cats, and going on walks and hikes, and fireworks, and reading lots of types of books, and air shows, and butterfly and insect houses, and charity walks, and watching movies, and frisbee, and volleyball, and parades, and history or art museums, and auto shows, and basketball, and parks, and outdoor markets, and eating food with lots of blueberries and strawberries, and disc golf, and canoeing, and trips to Disney or KSC, and computers, and watching balloon launches, and ...".

She rolled her eyes and said that, since those things are incompatible with kids, I might have to get some new interests.

On that note I think I'll ride my bike for a couple hours today, and see how many of those "kid in the back" bikes I see. Unfortunately my wife isn't in bike-riding condition at this point, so I'll go when she takes a nap.

Astrobotic Rover Egress and More

Astrobotic has more videos and pictures available at the GLXP Teams page here, here, and here. As usual I prefer to drill down to the Picasa album for the Astrobotic pictures because you can see the whole photo album and can see the pictures in much more detail, especially if you have a photo viewer that lets you zoom in. However, the captions on the GLXP Teams posts are good for context, too.

Space Experiment Competition Presentations

UK space competition unearths young talent - The Space Fellowship - This step in a competition to be able to launch a small satellite happened at the Farnborough Air Show.

TARC 2009 Announced

NAR announces the Team America Rocketry Challenge 2009 - Rocketry Planet presents a news release from the National Association of Rocketry.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ladder of Rickety Rungs

Let's build an Elevator to the Stars - Confused Ideas from the Northwest Corner - With the SE Conference in the Seattle area, a local blogger combines poetry, a childhood story about a Ladder of Rickety Rungs, and the Space Elevator conference and Games. The prize amount and dates for the Games aren't right, but that's not really the point of the post, anyway.

LaserMotive and KC Space Pirate Updates

LaserMotive focuses on what they're doing at the Space Elevator Conference. They also offer a coherent clarification for an article at Laser Focus World.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Space Pirates have a major new sponsor in Barr Associates. The post also has some other news developments within the team and within the overall competition.

Space Elevator Conference News

The Space Elevator blog has been posting a lot for the Space Elevator Conference. I already see 5 posts, so I won't try to keep up with links for all of them, as that gets a bit unwieldly. Here's a link to get you going in later months; if you're checking around July 19 you should just be able to go to the SE Blog home page.

Here are some news snippets on Space Elevator Games extracted from the posts. There's a lot more information in the actual posts, so check them out. You can expect more to come as the conference continues and Ted gets a chance to catch up on posting.

First, the team from TXL has dropped out of this year’s Space Elevator Games. ... Second, the support mechanism for the competition tether this year has been changed from a balloon to a helicopter. ... During the lunch break today, Ben Shelef of the Spaceward Foundation talked to the crowd about the Space Elevator Games, both Power-Beaming / Climber and Tether competitions. ...

The Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA) was created last year. According to Akira Tsuchida, one of the directors of JSEA (and the team leader of the Earth-Track-Controllers (E-T-C), an entrant in last year’s (and hopefully) this year’s Space Elevator Games), JSEA now has over 40 members and is growing. ... JSEA also plans on creating the first annual JSEA Space Elevator games in 2009 and is working on hosting an International Space Elevator Conference in the Sultanate of Brunei, also in 2009.

This isn't "the" Space Elevator Games, but it could almost be "a" Space Elevator Game: There is now a study being done by Sotheby’s International to see if a Space Elevator ‘ride’ might be viable. People who have visited DisneyWorld or MGM and have been on their various theme rides (riding through asteroids or whatever) know that something like this can be made very realistic.

As Ted mentions in one of the posts, Alan Boyle from Cosmic Log is there. Here's the Cosmic Log post on the Space Elevator conference. Some of the SE Games teams are featured. The post discusses near-term benefits that efforts like beamed power and strong tethers can go after, whether or not the Space Elevator itself happens. On the Games, Shelef said the tentative plan is to conduct the games at Arizona's Meteor Crater in mid-October, but the timing and the venue are still subject to change.

There's no stairway to heavens? Take the elevator - - This article gives a broad overview of the conference.

Space Elevator Conference Underway - The Space Elevator Reference - There are links to some more conference news sources in this post. One of the links I got from the SE Reference, from Network World, has more to say about the Space Elevator simulated ride idea in a 3-page article on the conference:

... Edwards announced that he is investigating the feasibility of a combined entertainment and research center, to be called Space Orlando, designed to help fund the building of a space elevator. The cluster of buildings would comprise 2 million square feet (929,030 square meters) and a 10-story-high structure that visitors could enter as if they were walking into a terminal for a real space elevator. They'd buy a ticket, enter the climber vehicle and feel like they're ascending into space, thanks to virtual reality technologies.

They'd step off the climber into space -- or really, a massive room lined with plasma screens displaying what it would look like to be on a space station, looking out into the solar system.

The entertainment facility would also be a working research center. "Wrapped into it are real research labs with glass walls, unfortunately for the researchers," Edwards joked. Visitors would be able to observe the technology the researchers are working on, such as a habitat for people in space.

Edwards estimates the facility would cost US$500 million to $1 billion to build and would attract 8 million visitors a year. Their entrance tickets would help fund the research and development of a space elevator.

X PRIZE Foundation Newsletter

A few days ago an X PRIZE Foundation Lunar News email update went out. I thought this was the XPF-wide newsletter that I think comes out every month or so, but on second look it's an XPF space newsletter.

The XPF-wide newsletter arrived Friday. It has link and picture-filled news items on the renewable aviation fuels prize investigation, the XPF and BT partnership, the Launch Pad space blog, cities interested in being on the Automotive X PRIZE race route, an interview of Genomics X PRIZE Senior Director Marc Hodosh, and XPF board member Diane Murphy joining SpaceX.

I recommend subscribing to both newsletters.

Unreasonable, Masten, and Armadillo

I'm going to group all of these together as a Lunar Lander Challenge post, although I don't know in every case if they are actively going after the 2008 Challenge, and many activities they do aren't about the LLC.

The Space Fellowship and RLV News cover the latest Masten Space post: StartupRiot, Fall Interns. It's worthwhile to see the Startup Riot pitch video on the page to see their partners, customers, and investment status.

RLV News points to some new photos of Armadillo rocket plumes and more.

Finally, RLV News and the Space Fellowship get the status on Unreasonable Rocket: Telemetry, Software, GPS, and progress. The discussion includes embedded software efforts, the crushing effects of 1 G, FAA status, welding, media exposure, and sponsorship.

Diamandis CEO of the Year Award Nomination

Peter Diamandis named an NGO CEO of the Year - X PRIZE Foundation - The award nomination is from Corporate Responsibility Officer magazine.

Lumedyne Investments

Lumedyne lands sizable investments - Space 2.0 Blog (Official Blog of the 8th Continent Project) - The first winner of the Lunar Ventures contest (renamed to the 8th Continent Business Plan Competition for 2009) continues to get investments. The latest post in the Lumedyne news page also mentions these investments.

Astrobotic Page

I mentioned a GLXP Teams Astrobotic post a couple weeks ago where they mentioned a new look for the Astrobotic web page. I don't see that GLXP Teams post any more, but it does seem like something new is being built at the Astrobotic Page.

Meanwhile, Shaun in Singapore is thinking about winning the prize.

TARC and UKAYRoC Challenge Results

FARNBOROUGH 2008: It is rocket science for Schools contest! - Flight Global - This article leads right up to the contest between the winners of the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) and the UK Aerospace Youth Rocketry Challenge (UKAYRoC).

British Students Win U.S.-UK Rocket Contest at Farnborough - AIA press release - This one show what happened at the event. It mentions next year's TARC rules:

Also Friday, the new rules for next year's TARC contest were announced. The height and time goals remain the same, but the one-egg payload be transported lying on its side rather than positioned vertically. That mimics the position of an astronaut and presents the teams with a new engineering challenge.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Space Conferences on Both Coasts

Space Elevator (Vista Edition?) Conference - Space Elevator Blog - This post is on the Space Elevator Conference, which has a lot of content related to the Space Elevator Games and people involved with the Games, as I described here. The conference starts Friday.

Meanwhile, the NewSpace 2008 Conference is already happening. I mentioned some of the prize-related speakers at that conference here. RLV News has numerous posts on the conference (here's a link to one to get you in the ballpark in case you're checking months from now), and the subject of prizes seems to come up again and again.

As often as I post about them, I tend to reserve a bit of skepticism about prizes compared to, say, regular business transactions when the goal is developing a commercial space industry. Certainly prizes can play a useful and important role in certain situations when managed correctly, but there are many, many situations where they aren't an appropriate solution. I think it's a reflection that space policy as currently implemented is broadly and clearly disfunctional when prizes come up so often in discussions about commercial space in general. It would be nice to see policy makers and NASA managers consider why prizes are mentioned so often in conferences like this one.

Guardian on Aviation Fuel Prize Contract

$10m prize to develop jet fuel alternative - (link from the X PRIZE Foundation news bar) - This is another overview of the recent DOT/XPF clean aviation fuel investigation.

Balance between Earth and Space Applications

Balance problems? Step into the iShoe - MIT grad student's invention could one day prevent falls - MIT News - This MIT News article describes the winner of the 2008 Lunar Ventures competition, and how it's applicable to balance problems of returning astronauts and also to lots of other people.

One Good Competition Deserves Another

FIRST team helping go to the moon - Roger on FIRST - This post is on a FIRST Robotics team helping the FREDNET GLXP team. I also thought it was a cool way to point out this blog dedicated to FIRST.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Regolith Challenge on the Space Show

I finally got a chance to listen to the Space Show interview on the 2008 Regolith Excavation Challenge. It's a 2-hour show, so I'm not going to try to summarize it. The link has a summary anyway. I will say that just about any question I would have thought of was covered in the interview. It sounds like it will be an even more exciting, and actually quite different, contest this year from all sorts of perspectives.

Dr. Space hopes to go to the Challenge and hold some interviews, so even if you can't get to the event you have more to look forward to. Last year there was also a Planetary Society radio interview, and pretty good media coverage overall.

Conrad Foundation

Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award - Becky Ramsey at The XPF Launch Pad - This post explains what's happening with the Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award as the X PRIZE Cup is postponed to 2009 and the Conrad Award goals grow. It also gives a link to The Conrad Foundation that shows how, like the X PRIZE Foundation, the Conrad Foundation is broadening into more educational areas while keeping a competitive and innovative entrepreneurial focus.

Current partners include the X PRIZE Foundation and the NASA Innovative Partnerships Program.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

6th Annual AUVSI Student UAS Competition

Here's the flyer for the 6th Annual Student UAS Competition. This is one of the unmanned vehicles competitions held by the AUVSI (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International). This one is geared towards unmanned ocean-based aviation. I didn't see the results on the UAS Competition site, but I found the following:

First Prize, The Xawk X2-C - Team X-IPITER from Mississippi State University - This well-done site has everything about the winning team: their UAV and UAS, their paper, team members, pictures, press coverage, and more. Also check out the happy alumni news post.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Team Places 2nd at AUVSI Competition - Utah State University College of Engineering - It looks like this was written on July 1, 2008 ... most of the results my search gets are from past years ... They won $8,000 out of a total $45,000 available this year.

Here's the OSAM-UAV-BFB (Open Source Autonomous Multiple Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Build Fly and Beyond) Utah State University site.

MIT News Competitions Archive

I ran across the part of the previous post about the MIT GLXP class on the MIT News contests and academic competitions archive page. There are a lot of MIT-related technology competition articles linked on that page; I've only looked at a handful so far.

Google Lunar FedEx Prize?

Will ARCA Become The Lunar FedEx Of The Future? - Colony Worlds wonders if ARCA's balloon-launch method will allow them to license their methods to big package delivery companies for delivering packages to big space organizations setting up shop on the Moon.

The X PRIZE Foundation sent out their July email newsletter. The Space Fellowship has the text here. You may want to subscribe to the newsletter if you want the numerous links and pictures.

"U.S. Finds It's Getting Crowded Out There" (Washington Post article title, July 9, 2008) - STELLAR (GLXP Teams site) - STELLAR continues the conversation about European GLXP teams. They note that the article discusses strong government and government-supported industry efforts across the world, but doesn't mention much entrepreneurial activity.

Also see this STELLAR Rover Video shown by the X PRIZE Foundation Launch Pad.

MIT class asks: Fly me to the moon? - MIT News - I posted on the MIT health-care X PRIZE class, but I don't recall this one about an MIT class considering whether the university should enter the GLXP. The MIT News article is dated May 21, and it says a decision should be made on the financial and business side in about 6 weeks.

Robot Party at Carnegie Science Center

Robots Invade Carnegie Science Center - WebWire - Here's the summary from this announcement:

A robotic rover designed to explore the surface of the moon. An automated car that drives by itself. Robots that detonate suspected bombs. Toy robots of every shape and size. Robots designed to battle each-other like modern gladiators. And a six-foot robot named “Al” that likes to dance.

These robots and more will be on-hand at Carnegie Science Center’s Robot Block Party, July 19 - 20, a celebration of everything robotic.

The announcement includes a list of some of the robots that will be there. These include at least a couple prize winners:

Boss, from Carnegie Mellon University – Winner of the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, Boss is a fully autonomous SUV in which visitors to the Robot Block Party will have the opportunity to ride.


A highlight of the weekend will be the attendance of Red Rover, from Astrobotic Technology, Inc. A hardy, intelligent roving robot designed by Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, Red Rover is the platform for a joint venture of Carnegie Mellon, The University of Arizona, and Raytheon to win the Google Lunar X Prize.

Here's a link to the Robot Block Party.

Champions Face Off at TARC and UKAYRoC Showdown

Rocket Contest Winners Face Off Against UK Champions - MarketWatch - Here's the summary from the article:

The 2008 Team America Rocketry Challenge winners from Enloe High School in Raleigh, North Carolina will face off against the squad from Horsforth Secondary School in Yorkshire, England, which prevailed in the UK Aerospace Youth Rocketry Challenge.

This is going to happen at International Youth Day 2008 on Friday at the Farnborough International Airshow. It's the first time the winners of the 2 contests will compete. The 2 contests use the same criteria, and this fly-off will, too.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Weekend X PRIZE Posts - JURBAN and More

Weekend Roundup - The Launch Pad - Will gets us caught up on the weekend X PRIZE/LLC news.

Here are the 3 JURBAN GLXP Teams posts that Will mentioned:

JURBAN Partners with Coppin State University, Baltimore, MD, USA - JURBAN continues to work on bringing more Historically Black Colleges and Universities into their GLXP team.

JURBAN Team Partners with the African-Space-Science-Network Group - Not only that, but JURBAN is making a global team.

JURBAN Team Prepares for Ghana to contribute to an African Silicon Valley - Dr. J. is moderating a panel on entrepreneurship at the Africa Now conference. One of the topics is a new technology park, and including space industry in the park.

LaserMotive Press Release

LaserMotive Announces Successful Completion of Drive System Endurance Test for Company’s Entry in the 2008 Space Elevator Games - Business Wire - Some excerpts:

LaserMotive, an independent research and development company specializing in laser power beaming technology, today announced that it has successfully tested its first climber prototype for its entry in the 2008 Space Elevator Games.


Laser power beaming is an emerging technology that enables the wireless transfer of energy using laser light with a wide variety of commercial applications, from unmanned aerial vehicles to solar energy in space. In the Space Elevator, a revolutionary way to send cargo and humans into space, laser power beaming would be used to power vehicles up and down a high strength tether stretching 62,000 miles.

Vehicle Prototype Endurance Test - LaserMotive - Another excerpt.

We’re not releasing exact details just yet, but suffice it to say that the test exceeded the speed and distance requirements set by the Spaceward Foundation for the full $2 million NASA-sponsored prize for this year’s Power Beaming Challenge.

A video of the test is included.

Energy and Space, Energy vs Space

In today's Space Review, Jeff Foust looks at the connections, and possible budget conflicts, between energy and space policy. McCain's car battery prize proposal, and Obama's response, are mentioned. Jeff brings up the space advocate idea that space can help solve energy problems, using spin-offs and Solar Power Satellites as examples that probably would not work well in the political debate. I'd add He3 mining to that category.

My take on it is that the bulk of NASA's space efforts should be directed at solving big problems that the public cares about - energy, environment, security, medical, and so on - using space and aeronautics.

Certainly they'd be justified in NACA-style research to improve space power components that have spin-off potential on Earth like efficient solar panels. The same goes for efficient space life support systems that may help home/office energy efficiency. SPS on the grand scale may be way too much, but a NASA SPS or power relay demo would be useful and achievable, and may have various energy applications on Earth or on a small SPS/SRS scale. NASA mapping of winds has useful application for wind turbines. Satellite mapping of the Earth has a lot of energy uses, from oil searches to designing efficient urban transportation networks. NASA aeronautics can play a useful role in airline efficiency. NACA-style CATS work could help get comsats launched cheaper, which would enable a variety of commercial or government energy-saving comsat applications to be developed (or existing ones to continue cheaper) - GPS and messaging to make transportation more efficient, telecommuting, remote metering, etc. Satellite monitoring of the Sun and space weather are useful in protecting not just satellites, but also terrestrial power grids.

If you consider "Energy and Environment" as one big problem area, NASA's opportunities to contribute to solutions expand greatly.

Of course I have to mention the NASA Centennial Challenges like the GAT "Green Prize" for general aviation efficiency. The X PRIZE Foundation also shows how a single organization can address both space and energy challenges.

Would all of this work well with NASA's Constellation plans? Probably not, but another version of NASA, which we may see soon anyway, could easily contribute to solving the energy problem while still helping with space commercialization, exploration, and development at the same time.

Transterrestrial Musings has some thoughts on a different part of Jeff's article. An excerpt:

Maybe. His piece reminds me of an idea I've had for an essay on why energy independence isn't like landing a man on the moon. ... We're not going to get energy independence from government crash programs (though prizes may be useful).

Interestingly, from a quite different perspective, and undoubtably a very different idea on what should be done, Climate Progress says much the same thing about an "Energy Apollo Program":

Action now is much more important than research, more important than some sort of a massive government “Apollo program” or “Manhattan project,” especially given the large amount of private sector and venture capital money that are now going into clean energy ...

Call to Get Involved

Get Involved in Lunar Exploration!! - Pierre-Damien at the X PRIZE Foundation Launch Pad - This covers a number of ways people who aren't aerospace engineers can get involved, including the GLXP and many others.

Update (evening):

Student Lunar Projects - William (with Mike Fabio commenting) - Will and Mike add to the discussion, with Will showing this important quote from the "Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration." report:

... These experiences should include significant numbers of opportunities to participate in all aspects of suborbital and Explorer-class flight programs and in research fellowships and co-op student assignments. ...

Recommendation 6: Support involvement in suborbital programs and nontraditional approaches to developing skills. The committee recommends that NASA increase its investment in proven programs such as sounding rocket launches, aircraft-based research, and high-altitude balloon campaigns, which provide ample opportunities for hands-on flight development experience at a relatively low cost of failure. ... In addition, NASA should take advantage of nontraditional institutions and approaches both to inspire and to train potential future employees. Investment in programs such as Centennial Challenge prizes and other innovative methods has the potential to pay benefits many times greater than their cost, by simultaneously increasing NASA’s public visibility, training a new generation of workers, and pushing the technology envelope.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Create the Future Contest

NASA Watch has some critical words to say about how NASA is handling its partnership with a publishing company for NASA Tech Briefs. The particular link is about a Create the Future Contest for descriptions of innovations in various categories like Consumer Products, Medical Products, Transportation, Sustainable Technologies, and so on. Entries are judged on criteria like innovation, marketability, and cost-effectiveness.

More Clean Aviation Fuels Prize Discussion

Here's more about the Aviation Fuel prize investment contract:

DOT Sponsors New X Prize for "Green" Jet Fuels - Daily Tech

Clean AV Fuels Prize - William at the XPF Launch Pad

Saturday, July 12, 2008

2008 X PRIZE Cup and Lunar Lander Challenge Information

I'm not sure when this appeared on the X PRIZE Foundation XPC and LLC sites, which I don't check regularly. I noticed it in a GLXP Forums conversation about a Little Rover Challenge idea.

From the X PRIZE Cup site:

After exploring a number of options, the X PRIZE Foundation has decided that we will not be holding an X PRIZE Cup in 2008. Instead, we will be holding a Lunar Lander Challenge at Holloman Air Force Base on October 24 and 25, 2008. This event will be webcast, but will not be open to the public. We are planning to hold the next Cup sometime in 2009, so stay tuned for more information!

The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge site has similar news.

I'm not sure what the status of the 2008 Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award is.

It's too bad they couldn't pull it off this year. Even if they had to call it a "mini-X PRIZE Cup" or something like that because they couldn't hold certain events like the LLC there or couldn't raise enough money for a big event, it would be good to have some kind of public-oriented space/rocketry festival to anchor one of the weekends of the International Symposium on Personal and Commercial Spaceflight. That reminds me, I still have to catch up and listen to the archived Space Show interview of Dr. Patricia Hynes to see what the plans are this year.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Regolith Excavation Teams Start Revealing

We're starting to see and hear more from the Regolith Excavation Challenge teams on the Internet, now that there probably isn't enough time for any competing teams to do much about anything they might learn from their competitors.

25 Teams to Compete for $750,000 in NASA Prizes - The news of the headline was already announced, but this time it's packaged in a nice-looking newsletter from the California Space Authority. The article also summarizes some of the difficulties of working with lunar regolith.

T Minus 26 Days... - That was the countdown a few days ago at Tech Ranch for the 2008 Regolith Excavation Challenge. It sounds like he's done a lot of testing with JSC-1A lunar regolith simulant, but he's still getting that feeling of all-or-nothing at a space launch. Also check out the comment from one of the other teams, Green Cheese Solutions.

UBC Tread has a nice gallery of photos.

McGill LunarEx has a press release from sponsor Groschopp:

Groschopp is proud to be a Gold Sponsor of the LunarEx team and was flattered by the team's choice of Groschopp Right Angle Gearmotors for their design. Motors were needed to power the excavator wheels, as well as drive the excavator's shovel.

Here's another case where Groschopp has worked with students in an engineering competition:
Brushless Motor Control Wins Award in Collegiate Competition.

Full Scale Robotics/Op2moonist apparently got their website up on June 16. They have quite a few photos available now. There are also a few videos of machining parts, optics testing, and wheel movements.

CSM Nerds (that's Colorado School of Mines) show their entry in the competition ... but the secret is nevertheless safely hidden.

Paper Rockets

Paper rockets aren't good when you intend to make a real one and never get past paper (or Power Point). They are good when they're what you set out to do in the first place for a useful purpose like education or simulation.

SpeedUp's Bob Steinke has an outline for a low cost launcher textbook and simulator on the Commercial Space Wiki. It looks like it builds on Jon Goff's orbital access methodologies posts.

You can see what kinds of activities are happening by using the Recent Wiki Activity link. For example, you can see recent activity in the Prizes Group and Prizes - Rough Documents.

Solar Challenges

The North American Solar Challenge is about to start. This is a race of college teams running solar cars from Texas up to Winnipeg and then across to Calgary. Preliminary checks are under way, and the actual race starts on Sunday. I wouldn't consider this a race of consumer-friendly vehicles in the sense that the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE attempts to be, but it looks fun and it has its place in the world of engineering and education. Just don't do what I foolishly did one year and get in their sun when they're soaking it up between races.

There's also a World Solar Challenge solar car race scheduled for October 2009 in Australia.

The Frisian Solar Challenge in Holland is similar, but it's for boats. Here's an article with an image gallery of the scenic route.

If you can have solar cars and solar boats, why not have a long-lasting solar powered airplane over Venus, above the thicker layers of that planet's atmosphere? That Universe Today link will take you to the paper Atmospheric Flight on Venus by authors like Geoffrey A. Landis. Towards the end of the paper comes this idea (and I recall many years ago reading an SF story with a similar, but balloon-based, idea):

Ultimately we could even envision colonization of the Venus atmosphere. Space colonies are widely discussed as a way of expanding the presence of humans into the solar system. The atmosphere of Venus is potentially the best place in the solar system to locate space colonies. It is rich in resources, and at a temperature and pressure hospitable to human life.

Google Lunar X PRIZE for July 11

Odyssey Moon Visits the Smithsonian Folklife Festival - The Launch Pad (X PRIZE Foundation) - This is by video, and as the Launch Pad post mentions, there's more at the Odyssey Moon YouTube page.

Electric Propulsion and Bi-Weekly Telecons - LunaTrex - They were the first to incorporate electric propulsion in their GLXP plan, and they as for input on keeping a geographically dispersed team in sync.

Communications Options - Micro-Space - Surplus communication equipment may help solve one challenge in reaching the Moon on a budget. Could this equipment be used for more than 1 team, or even after the prizes are won?

"Where are the European teams?" - STELLAR - The registration heat map at The Launch Pad shows the strong U.S. interest in the competition, in spite of the Team Summit being held in France and the XPF working with BT. Based on some earlier articles by Jeff Krukin, STELLAR notes that part of the problem may be an attitude held by some European bureaucrats that opposes entrepreneurial space.

My opinion is that may be true, but Europe certainly doesn't have a monopoly on such views. There are European teams already, and more are in the formation process like GLXP-France.

One thing I'd like to see, though, is a European space agency prize suite like NASA's Centennial Challenges. It would not duplicate Centennial Challenges (although it could cooperate with it when mutually beneficial), but rather would sponsor space prizes of particular interest to Europe.

The University of Maryland Eastern Shore Joins the JURBAN team - JURBAN - The JURBAN team expands.

High School Students ask about Advanced C and C++ programming options for robot kits - JURBAN - Dr. J gives some program language advice to the newest rover programmers.

X PRIZE TV - Google Lunar X PRIZE Community Forum - Mike Fabio gives some insight into the GLXP thoughts on video.

Ferris Valyn, NASA Administrator, Space Council, and Prizes

Ferris Valyn had some prize-related comments in a couple recent posts at Daily Kos:

Senator Obama, bring back the National Space Council - Here's one reason Ferris advocates for the NSC:

In addition, as we move further into the 21st century, the likelyhood is that we will have better and greater access to space, and there are resources in space that can help us deal with the problems we face, here on earth. For example, ProSpace, the citizen space lobby, has called for the establishment of large scale cash prizes that will help to develop the technology and systems needed to grow the private space industry. The NSC could be the instrument that is used to establish those prizes.

Space Revolution Diaries - The Next NASA administrator? - One of Ferris's picks for potential NASA Administrator is Peter Diamandis. See the post for the rest.

More on Aviation Fuel Prize

DOT proposes contest to 'green' jet fuel industry - Cnet News has more details on the X PRIZE Foundation/DOT renewable aviation prize investigation.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Launch Pad Off to a Big Start

Well, the X PRIZE Foundation's new blog The Launch Pad is starting with a lot of posts. I'll say for sure that at this rate I won't be able to keep up, so my advise is to get in the habit of checking there or set up a feed. Here's what we have today, though:

Water on the Moon - Will talks about analyzing Moon rock samples and the water detection GLXP bonus prize. How much water actually has to be detected to win?

2008 LLC Teams - Will tells us what he can about Lunar Lander Challenge team registration for 2008. The summary:
  • We will add a few new teams
  • Some teams from last year won't return
  • The overall number of teams competing for each level should be in the same general range as it was in 2007.
Google Lunar X PRIZE Teams by the Numbers - Mike Fabio - Requests for GLXP registration information are analyzed by volume and geography using colorful charts.