Saturday, April 09, 2011

Space Access '11: A Prize Snippet Roundup

This post covers a number of talks during Space Access '11 where the main topic was not a space prize or a prize team, but where space prizes were discussed briefly. In these cases, I concentrated on the short prize discussions. You can get more information about the rest of such talks from other sites covering the conference. For example, see the posts at RLV News and the collection of links there.

Please note that I have a lot of trouble hearing in big rooms with echoes and buzzing machinery, so it's quite possible that I've mis-heard some items here and there.

Students for the Exploration and Development of Space - Sara Meschberger

There was an overview of the High Power Rocketry Prize and a new video competition, the We Are Space competition. This is being run with help from the Space Frontier Foundation and The first prize is $1,000.

There were some pictures of SEDS members now in industry. On the prize side, I didn't see names, but I think Ben Brockert and Will Pomerantz were included.

Q: Could SEDS run something like a FIRST cometition, but with a space focus?

A: They have some local chapter competitions like that. Send in your ideas.

NASA Technology Roadmaps and the Shape of Future NASA - James Reuther

Q: Paul Breed asked about the Nanosatellite Launch Challenge. When will the Allied Organization be selected, will the rules be made, etc? Inquiring minds want to know.

A: This was an "I'll get back to you on that one". However, I include the question because it shows that there is some interest ...

Microlaunchers - Charles Pooley

Microlaunchers is relocating to Las Vegas because of a better business environment that he experienced in California.

He was doing N Prize work. He's also interested in the Nanosatellite Launch Challenge. He thinks it will help to attract participants and sponsors. We're in the mainframe era of space. He wants to make launch costs go down by a factor of 1000. This would make space accessible. He's looking into missions to NEOs with tiny spacecraft. There would be small telescopes to the ground to get data from the craft.

He showed several generations of launchers. The first generation could be an entry in the Nanosatellite Launch Challenge. He presented a chart with comparisons of 4 generations of launchers. The 4th generation is 1/2 the size of the Falcon 1.

Garvey Space - John Garvey

He's working on a Nanosatellite launcher. NASA's Nanosatellite Launch Challenge might help. There are some potential issues with the rules for this challenge, though. They need some direction on IRAD funding. What about reuse of hardware? What if the hardware was developed on a government contract? This would impact Garvey Space since they do this type of work.

He wants to avoid getting into a competition with a government project. For example, he views the Lunar Lander Challenge and NASA MSFC work on lunar landers as being in competition, and doesn't want to be in that situation.

His estimate is that the launcher could be done in 2-4 years, for $10-20M. It might be less, or on the lower side, if less robustness is needed. There's really a wide range of possible costs, but it's not anything like as low as $1M or as high as $100M.

FAA - Mike Kelly

Q: Paul Breed asked for FAA direction on Nanosatellite launchers. He doesn't want a Delta IV sized pile of paperwork. At any rate he wants an example of filling out the forms, like he had before (I assume for the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge licensing) and more direction from the FAA.

A: It doesn't make sense to have the same size of dilligence for something like CRUSR and a Delta IV launch. They had a CRUSR workshop on licensing. A payload review is required and could take 180 days. They need to streamline the licensing process to reflect the level of hazard.

Q: John Garvey had a question on the FAA Launch prize.

A: The 2012 budget proposal includes a prize for a semi-reusable orbital prize. Originally it was for $15M, but that amount was cut back. (Editor's note: I believe it was for $5M by the time the budget proposal was released. Also, I don't recall hearing the details about "orbital" and "semi-reusable" before, so that might be new information). They will see if it passes in the budget. They see it as a good match with the NASA prizes (Editor's note: I will guess that he is talking about NASA's Nanosatellite Launch Challenge). He would like to see a least 1 rocket stage being reused for the prize.