Thursday, April 29, 2010

Prize Roundup: NASA MICI, LaserMotive Website, Moonraker at Maker, OSTP and Case Foundation Event, Automotive Testing Phase, Much More

@tedprize: Jill Tarter named one of the most influential women in technology 2010 by Fast Company magazine #TED #SETI

@glxp: NASA's Minority Innovation Challenges Institute is now on Twitter: @NASAMICI. Welcome!

Here's the NASA MICI site. From the site:

This NASA funded program, which is managed by Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU), provides a year-round virtual conference platform where students from across the country can participate in free interactive educational sessions of their choosing. Many of the sessions will focus on competitions found within NASA’s Centennial Challenges program ... students will also learn how to complete in other NASA sponsored competitions created specifically for Universities including: the Fundamental Aeronautics Student Competition for Colleges/Universities, The NASA University Student Launch Initiative, University Business Plan Contest for Engineering Technology, and the Great Moonbuggy Race.

@paulsrobotics - Moonraker will be on display at the Maker's Faire in San Mateo on May 22-23, come check it out if you're in the area!

April 2010 Update - Kiwi 2 Space

New LaserMotive Website Is Live - LaserMotive:

The design will be undergoing some tweaks over the next few days, so check back next week (when we will also have more news)!

Laser Power for UAVs - LaserMotive White Paper

Heinlein Commercial Space Activity Prize Awarded to the University of Arkansas - The Heinlein Prize

University of Arkansas Teams Take Top Prizes at Rice University Business Plan Competition - University of Arkansas

Pete Worden Receives Arthur C. Clarke Award - NASA Watch

More about MiniSpaceWorld Contest 2010: MoonDreams - Space for All

Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup #16 - Luna C/I: Moon Colonization and Integration

X PRIZE Foundation Open House - TechZulu

Mechanisms Partner: TU Munich Satellite Technology Group - White Label Space

Government contests offer different way to find solutions for problems - The Washington Post:

... on Friday, hoping to scatter the concept more broadly throughout the government, the White House and the Case Foundation will team up with federal employees from 35 agencies in an all-day strategy session titled "Promoting Innovation: Prizes, Challenges and Open Grantmaking."

Promoting Innovation: We want you to join the discussion! - Case Foundation

Public Input Solicited for Conference on Prizes and Challenges - OSTP (Office of Science and Technology Policy) Blog

Peter Diamandis discusses commercial spaceflight projects - RLV News

Briefs: ARCA test update; Bad day in Alice Springs - RLV News

Space Adventures Announces Exclusive Marketing Agreement with Armadillo Aerospace - RLV News

Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE Teams Arrive at Michigan International Speedway for Start of On-Track Testing - Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE

The Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE page has a lot of ways to follow that competition, including a twitter feed, facebook, a list of blog posts, and articles.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Multi-Industry Prize Roundup - X PRIZE Vision, CO2 Capture, NewOrgan Prize, Art Auction, Power Beaming Earth Apps

Here are a few prize links that go beyond the space field (although space is a part of some of them):

X PRIZE Foundation Reveals Expanded Vision for Future; Prize Groups Aim to Solve World’s Problems By Targeting Four Key Areas - X PRIZE Foundation

Here are some of the prize subjects where it seems to me that space could play a role, depending on the details of the prize:

Climate Change: CO2 utilization/sequestration, ocean acidification, forest conservation, forest carbon measurement, emissions, climate modeling

Energy Distribution & Storage: transmission and distribution (e.g. smart grid), storage (grid level, end user, community), monitoring and measurement

Ocean Exploration: sensing (e.g. pH, temperature, current), mapping (e.g. floor, marine spatial mapping)

I could see space remote sensing playing a role with forest or other carbon measurements, climate modeling, ocean sensing, and ocean mapping. Power relay satellites might play a role in energy distribution, and there are more conventional energy distribution roles for satellites in telecommunications, environment monitoring, and space weather monitoring.

It would be great to be able to design a successful prize that addresses needs in 2 fields at the same time (like energy/environment and space, or ocean exploration and space), but we will have to wait to see the details of the prizes that make it through the prize development and funding process.

Space (or for the aircraft prizes, "aerospace") would obviously play a role with these:

Space Transportation: beamed power propulsion, hypersonic point to point, solar power satellite

Space Exploration: orbital debris, asteroid deflection

Aircraft Efficiency: electric/hybrid aircraft, alternative aviation fuels

The Carbon Dioxide Capture Technology Prize - Knowledge Ecology International - This is based on a bill, S.2744, that was introduced in the Senate in November 2009.

Methuselah Foundation Launches NewOrgan Prize - Methuselah Foundation Blog:

The first research team to construct a whole new complex organ (heart, kidney, liver, lung, pancreas) made from a person's own cells - one that is functionally equivalent and successfully transplanted - will be awarded the NewOrgan Prize.

A New Methuselah Foundation Prize: the NewOrgan Prize - Methuselah Foundation Blog

Evening with Prize4Life - Prize4Life:

This cocktail party and art showing will be held on May 20, from six o'clock to eight o'clock in the evening at Sotheby's Auction House, 1334 York Ave, New York, NY.

Beaming Power to UAVs, Space Elevators, and Someday, Earth: The LaserMotive Plan - Xconomy Seattle

We're probably most familiar with LaserMotive from the Space Elevator Games and aerospace applications like power beaming involving satellites or UAVs. However, there are some potential applications that are more down-to-Earth, too:

Other uses of LaserMotive’s technology are slightly further out, such as beaming power to disaster relief efforts like communication cells or makeshift field hospitals that might be set up after a massive earthquake or tsunami. And, in principle, the technology also could be used to beam power from the ground to satellites, military bases, or far-off weather stations.

New Website – Coming Very Soon! - LaserMotive

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Prize Roundup: GLXP Deadline, Centennial Challenges Move, Heinlein Prize at Rice, TARC, LEEM CanSat, Moonbuggies, LASER, more

1-Year Deadline Extension Proposed for Google Lunar X Prize - Space News

Draper, MIT Students Test Lunar Hopper with Eyes on Google Prize - Space News

Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup #14 - Luna C/I: Moon Colonization and Integration

NASA To Lead Way With Lunar Robotics, Mining? - Luna C/I: Moon Colonization and Integration

NASA Open Government Plan - Centennial Challenges (PDF) - NASA

$15,000 Heinlein Commercial Space Award - - You can see the full set of prizes at the Rice University Business Plan Competition, including multiple space prizes, here.

Great Moonbuggies at Marshall Spaceflight Center - Space for All

Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) Program Assignments (PDF) - NASA - The Centennial Challenges program is one of the new MSFC responsibilities.

LASER '10 - The Space Elevator Blog reports on the Lego® Bricks Activity and Space Elevator Race.

MoonBots: A Google Lunar X PRIZE LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Challenge - This is on Facebook.

World’s Largest Rocket Contest Finalists Revealed for May 15 ‘Fly Off’ - AIA News 2010

Here are several posts on the International CanSat Competition:

DeSoto is awarded 2nd Prize.
DeSoto in the 2nd International CanSat Competition.
Opening ceremony of 2nd Int. CanSat Competition.
Finishing preparation for 2nd International CanSat Competition

That's for 1 team's experience. Here's an overview of the competition:

1st All You CAN Fly! Competition - LEEM

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Space Access '10 Prize Notes: Ben Brockert and Dave Masten on Masten Space Systems

Ben Brockert and Dave Masten represented Masten Space Systems. As with the other Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge presentations, they injected a lot of humor into their talk. Ben started with what I call the "Triumph" picture where he raises his arms in triumph as the vehicle flies. He says "That's unnatural". He gives a timeline and history of the 2009 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge events. He showed that they used a tripropellant: liquid oxygen, isopropanol, and the accidental secret magic ingredient: molten copper.

Ben talked about all of the help they got during the Lunar Lander Challenge when they were ready to give up. Some of the helpers were at the conference.

Dave talked about Masten plans. They want to fly small payloads. They are planning a 3rd generation engine. He showed some movies of flight testing from the previous year. This covered all of their flight history since the last Space Access.

They had some wise construction advise: "You can actually weld concrete to concrete with a rocket engine". That's a handy tip.

They showed a flight with high speed winds. The vehicle is steady in the winds, compensating for them.

Their flights are pre-programmed and autonomous. They use a text file in their own markup language to control it.

They showed post-LLC flights for altitude - 1047 feet. They went 60 mph up and down. Their flight log shows 51 Xombie and 12 Xoie flights. Their plans include putting an aeroshell around Xoie, reaching 100,000 feet (36 km), injector design improvements, and engine work. They have tentative plans for Xogdor flights to 328,000 feet (100+ km). They are trying to grow the company, and have an operations division.

Their plans include CRuSR, university research and education payloads. They are looking into an operations location, and are investigating various locations. They are also in the R&D business, selling engines, building engines for customers, and wireless networking.

Here's some more information on Masten Space Systems:

RESPONSE FROM MASTEN SPACE SYSTEMS, INC. TO NASA AMES RESEARCH CENTER ON COMMERCIAL REUSABLE SUBORBITAL SPACEFLIGHT SERVICES (PDF) - Masten Space Systems (on NASA CRuSR site; you can also see CRuSR information from Blue Origin, DreamSpace, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR here).

@wikkit: The Xoie flight test compilation video made for Space Access is up at . - Lunch group, MSS, Unreasonable, and Armadillo. #ngllc #sa10 - This is the E2: Brutus cross section we showed in our presentation.

Space Access '10 Prize Notes: Paul Breed on Unreasonable Rocket

Paul reviewed the lessons he learned during his quest to win the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. One lesson is "don't overreach". He talked about the advantages and disadvantages of contests. He got a lot of publicity during the Lunar Lander Challenge, but now that the competition is done he can set his own direction. During the competition, he built 4 VTVL vehicles, and flew 3 of them. He build and test fired 9 types of motors, built test stands, flew autonomous helicopters, and fired a variety of motors for customers.

At this point Paul showed a video of Unreasonable Rocket activity up to the previous Space Access conference. One incident involved 85% peroxide splashed on one of his cameras (the expensive one of course). He showed this from the camera view. It reminded me of HAL in 2001 being shut down.

Here's another lesson from the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge: even with just 2 people, configuration control is important.

While trying for the Lunar Lander Challenge level 1's 90 seconds, he got to 85 seconds.

Paul discussed the advantages of the FAR site, and then discussed the Silver Ball. He showed Blue and Silver Balls on their way to "Old Town Recycling". (Personally, I think they should go to SDAM).

Paul will still build rockets, but he will work smaller. 2010 is slow, since he's making up for Lunar Lander Challenge spending. He would like to sell flight services and complete vehicles. 2006-2008 were good for money, 2009 was bad. 2010 is better, and is filling in the 2009 hole. Paul wants to work on composite talks, small motors, and a vehicle that can return to base able to get air samples to 100k feet.

Here's a post about the conference and Paul's path forward from Unreasonable Rocket: Space Access 10

Space Access '10 Prize Notes: John Carmack on Armadillo Aerospace

John Carmack started his talk by showing a video on Armadillo's progress. They tested a LOX/methane engine at White Sands, and adapted a vehicle to use LOX/methane. Pixel has been used for tests. They also have been working on Rocket Racing League propulsion. John showed some Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge Level 2 flight videos. There were also hover tests with forces applied to see how the vehicle reacts. They did tests with students in an effort called SPEAR. They are preparing for higher altitudes.

John presented a new video of a flight to 4000 feet. The engine veers to the side, and then the vehicle tumbles and crashes. John talked about this. They got to a 110 mph descent, but the 120 mph descent failed. They would have hit it eventually, at 5000 feet for example.

They have 2 more full time members, and Neil will soon be full time. The have an operating profit. They are "distracted by these customers" (this caused a laugh from the way he said it). John sold Id Software. He still hasn't made up his $4M investment, but now he will probably be pushing expenditures to reach goals.

The government can help. For example, Armadillo did an SBIR as well as the Lunar Lander Challenge. He considers Centennial Challenges the best money NASA has ever spent. He compared it to X33, X34, and so on. He's still a unhappy with the judging of the Lunar Lander Challenge.

John likes the new NASA direction, like the changes Dan Rasky talked about in an earlier presentation. For example, he likes technology demonstrations.

Armadillo handed over a system to the Rocket Racing League. They did their 50th flight the day of John's talk. You get much better when you launch again and again. You learn on the 35th flight.

John had a 2nd son 6 months ago, and he's spending lots of time at Id Software. He wants to be moving faster.

He expects to fly to 6000 feet at Caddo Mills, then 20,000 feet at Oklahoma. Then they go to Spaceport America. They may go with a drogue parachute for stability. They expect 100,000 feet with the current modifications. For 100km, they need to build the next generation. They are building a bigger quad for NASA.

"What you want is 3 times the control authority you think you need so you can laugh as you blast through the atmosphere".

NASA has Pixel now. John is excited at NASA's new suborbital program. The audience is clearly excited at Armadillo's progress.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Space Access '10 Prize Notes: Jordin Kare on LaserMotive

Jordin started by showing a Spaceward Foundation video on the Space Elevator Games. He noted that LaserMotive was formed to commercialize power beaming. He gave a chart of the power beaming competition from 2005 to 2009 showing the height, speed, prize money, power source, minimum energy per mass, and minimum power per mass.

In 2007 when they started, they had a 10kw laser system. He showed a picture of that system. They didn't have time in 2007. He then showed the 2009 lasers and optics. They were going to use automated tracking for 2009, but decided not to. Instead, they went with a manual joystick method because they were going to have to go 10 times as high, and a cable rather than a ribbon was being used. They didn't expect the cable to shift as much as a ribbon.

He showed a fun picture of them cooking hot dogs with the laser. He then showed $80,000 of photovoltaics and Otis the climber.

At the games the teams had to improvise stands to allow the climbers to be pulled up. He showed evidence of the "aging NASA infrastructure" - the NASA trailer alongside the teams' trailers. The NASA generator went down and they needed help from the teams. Then they ran out of a common product used often for personal hygiene, and again needed assistance. (Have they heard of the famous government TP regulations from the novel Snow Crash?) Jordin showed the Kansas City Space Pirates and USST, their competitors on the field. KCSP used a weighted tire for their improvised workaround.

Jordin talked about potential customers: UAVs, lunar rovers, sensors, laser launch, etc.

He ended with a separate discussion of the HX Laser Launch (PDF). The idea is to have small vehicles, where the hard part stays on the ground. These lasers on the ground can be divided into arrays of small units. This lets yo develop a nice system cheaply. You can build many small "beam modules", not 1 big laser. You can use a lot of 41kw laser diode arrays. These are improving technology. They can be useful in the propulsion range from 10-100km. You can have a 2-phase launch system. One array gives thrust for lift above the atmosphere, and the other continues from there.

Space Access '10 Prize Notes: Andrew Petro on Centennial Challenges

Shortly before Space Access '10, I took a couple walks in Phoenix's nearby South Mountain Park, and took a few pictures. The conference was not held outside in the desert mountains, in case you were wondering.

As is always the case when I present notes from a conference, consider this my best attempt rather than a perfect review of the presentation. If you have any doubts, contact the presenter. I'm fairly bad at hearing clearly and taking notes during a presentation. With that caveat, let's start the Space Access '10 prize notes with the NASA Centennial Challenges presentation by Andrew Petro.

Andrew discussed other programs within NASA IPP that he's involved with besides Centennial Challenges (e.g.: FAST). He noted that IPP is being transferred to NASA's new and bigger space technology program.

With Centennial Challenges, NASA only provides the prize money itself. Other organizations run the prize competitions. This allows NASA to get more prize "bang for the buck". Up to now Centennial Challenges has used $12M that was appropriated in 2005-2006. They recently got $4M more, and the current budget request includes $10M each year for Centennial Challenges.

Andrew went over the big prize year in 2009. In addition to the various competitions and wins, he noted that they announced the new Green Flight Challenge in July, and the regolith testbed at Ames was started. Eight teams have already registered for the Green Flight Challenge.

Ted Southern and Peter Homer, the winners from the Astronaut Glove Challenge in 2009, will go to JSC to demonstrate their glove technologies to engineers there.

The Tether Challenge will have incremental prizes this year.

Centennial Challenges plans to announce a new prize or prizes soon. He expects that within weeks the topic area(s) will be announced.

For future prizes, they are interested in a number of areas. Examples include energy storage, participatory science, minisats, low cost space access, and robotics. They will also seek to enhance participation impact with the new prizes in areas like education. They may have university level or earlier school level prizes. They want to ensure that the technology is relevant to national needs.

Andrew had a dialog with the audience on how the next space access prize should be, should there be one. He listed numerous space access categories to start off the discussion. There wasn't much time for this, though. Paul Breed of Unreasonable Rocket discussed the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge payload requirements. He would like to have had a mass fraction rather than an absolute mass. John Carmack from Armadillo Aerospace had a different perspective. One audience member asked if any thought had been given to doing a prize-brainstorming workshop.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Weekend Twitter Update: Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundups, Madrid CanSats, Space Show, Beam Power Competition

@LunaCI: Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup #12: Pretty active week around the GLXP :)

Google Lunar X PRIZE Roundup #13!:

@PTScientists: - I've got a cool new Jogging shirt! Thanks #SpaceX :-)

@glxp: "This is not your father's moon": NewScientist article on the state of lunar science (thx @iamjem)

@TeamPrometheus: Going back to Calli! With three launch Goals! Lander, Rockoon and Amatuer Altitude record! Not coming back to Texas...

Here's a couple Space Show interviews with prize themes (of course the interviews cover a lot of other ground, too):

Peter Homer - March 19th, 2010 (Astronaut Glove Challenge)
Dr. Paul Dear - March 26, 2010 (N-Prize)

The Space Elevator Games are still active:

Vertical no more - LaserMotive

Space Elevator Blog celebrates its 4 year anniversary - Space Elevator Blog

The McGill Space Elevator Team site has a new look. They're in the game for the 2010 competition:

We are currently working hard to finish our climber and power beaming laser system for the upcoming competition scheduled for May 2010. Be sure to visit our blog for frequent updates.

Lunar payloads for sale
- Dispatches from the Final Frontier

CMU researchers aim for the moon by developing lunar rover - Pittsburgh Business Times

ECO-MARATHON ULM in Vichy - This is s competition for flying as far as possible using as little energy as possible.

2nd International CanSat Competition - DeSoto: ESA´s CanSat competition.

Conferences, Talks, and other Gatherings

@NLSI: Two important dates: July 18th- 1st LunarGradCon, July 19th- NextGen Lunar Scientists & Engineers Workshop, both at Ames. More info coming.

Since I have more than the 140 twitter characters NLSI had to work with, I'll note that the 3rd annual NASA Lunar Science Forum is scheduled for July 20-22, also at Ames. There will be a student poster competition with cash prizes at the conference.

Here's the LunGradCon link.

NewSpace 2010 is scheduled for July 23-25 at NASA Ames. It sounds like a convenient 2-conferences-for-1-trip package for anyone interested in both the Moon and commercial space.

Space conference at UCF set for 2011 - Central Florida Times covers the Second Annual Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference.

Here's a recent Space Show interview featuring the Space Access '10 conference: Henry Vanderbilt - March 15, 2010

Also see: Space Access '10 Conference - latest update - RLV News

@tedprize: Follow @missionblue as they set out on the Mission Blue Voyage for Sylvia's TEDPrize wish, #FF

@Bob_Richards: Joining Naveen Jain & @PeterDiamandis for @ChurchillClub Commercial Space panel Apr21 in Palo Alto