Saturday, April 14, 2012

Space Access '12: Percy Luney - Nanosatellite Launch Challenge

I'm not sure that I caught all of the details on the prize since there was a lot of back-and-forth across the room in this presentation, so I'd encourage readers to consult with the actual rules. I may have missed or mis-interpreted a few things.

Draft rules are expected to be published by next Tuesday on the Space Florida website. They are managing the competition, but competitors don't have to launch from Florida. They need to launch from U.S. territory (it sounds like sea launch is allowed). They have had negotiatons with FAA, NASA, and the Air Force on the rules. Those interested can register for weekly updates on their website. They can also comment on the team agreement. There is now $3M in prize money available in the competition. (I'm not sure if the $1M increase is related to the cancellation of the Beam Power/Climber prize, but that would have been for a similar amount). There are 3 prizes, $1.5M for 2 nanosatellite launches within 7 days from the same launch site, $1M for the first air launches meeting these criteria (assuming the overall winner was a ground launch), and the remainder for the 2nd by the "other mode". I'm not sure how this works out with various scenarios. Registration fees are for things like judges wherever the launches happen. Space Florida is taking care of all costs to manage the competition, with NASA prize money.

This was a short presentation with an extended Q/A session. There was quite a lot of interest in the competition, judging by the number of questions. Q/A:

What is the registration fee? It will probably be ~$10,000 (ballpark figure). There would also be a fee for registering a launch.

Will they help with range costs? Space Florida is willing to work with teams on launching from Florida. They can provide help with range requirements. It sounds like this would be Space Florida wearing a different "hat" from running the competition.

Are fees the same regardless of where the judges have to go? It seems like the costs would be different for more expensive trips. A: They wil have to take that one under advisement.

The $10,000 covers overall management of the competition.

Would there be any relief in the 7 day window for things like weather, FAA certification delays, etc? A: Weather: yes, FAA delays: no They aren't an intermediary for FAA, etc.

What are the range costs? It's $25,000 for the Eastern Range. They have been working with that range on lowering range costs. This covers Eastern Range and Space Florida costs. Costs could be different at different locations.

Are they looking for sponsorship? A: They will try but it's hard to do because they are not launching from a specific predefined location.

They can't control other launch sites, etc.

The timeline for the final rules is by the end of May.

Would the $25,000 range costs have to be paid twice because of the 2 launches? They will have to check on that.

What has to be done to prove that the payload was in orbit? The burden of proof is on the contestant. There could be various ways to do that.

For air launch, could you do both launches on the same airplane flight? A: That would probably require 2 flights.

Orbit definition? At least 1 verifiable orbit of the Earth.

Could a contestant sell their spot in the challenge? yes

Can the payload be commercial? yes

Can the orbit be highly elliptical? A: They are debating having a maximum. They don't want a problem (not sure - with debris?)

What is the minimum altitude? A: That will be in the draft rules. They recently put that in.

How much delay could there be between launches? They could go at 2:00 and then 3:00. They shouldn't go at the same time.

The rockets can be expendable.

Can the vehicle be based on existing components? That is allowed.

For a sea launch, would the boat have to come back (like the airplane in an air launch)? No, the boat shouldn't have to.

Suggestion: Make the delay between launches be verifying that the first launch did actually make a full orbit. This will require a certain amount of time.

How many judges are needed in a sea launch or air launch (I think this means on the plane or boat)? 2

Is the range up to speed? They are aware at the Eastern Range. They are a bit reserved on it, but they've worked well with Masten ... we will see.

Government payloads are not allowed.

An "Act of God" like a hurricaine, etc, will not penalize a team with respect to getting a launch window within the 7 days.