Lunar Lander Challenged

One small step for NASA, One giant leap for the X Prize

FAA responds, X Prize quiet

Michelle Murray at the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation answered some of the questions about Lunar Lander Challenge deadlines and FAA requirements for those thinking about competing. “Within AST, we have four experimental permit applications in various stages,” Michelle revealed. She can’t say who, but three must be Armadillo, Interorbital and Masten.

If these three and Mystery Contestant Number 4 pass FAA muster and get experimental permits, they still must abide by the final rules set forth by X Prize Foundation to win any (TITLE) Lunar Lander Challenge prize money. And, of course, they must also build vehicles and flight-test them for X Prize inspectors, somewhere and sometime before the personal spaceflight festival in New Mexico.

(If the final rules have been released, and if anyone knows of an official place to find them, a link would be helpful. See Peter’s Principles: How to use contests to spur innovation 1. Tell a story. We make sure the rules for winning are very clear and that the teams are doing something with a dramatic finish.)

The 120-day review period means a team should finish its application in about three weeks to fly anything at this year’s Lunar Lander Challenge. Earlier, if they want to do untethered flight tests to qualify for the show.

Paul Breed, who’s expressed skepticism about the time available for paperwork between now and then, wrote to say that he’s one hundred percent sure he won’t compete this year. He may try in 2007 if there’s still money in the prize purse. (Paul also said he was not alarmed by the rule prohibiting hydrogen peroxide more 70 percent, just surprised, but it’s not his choice of propellant, anyway.)

Here is Michelle Murray’s complete response to as many questions as she can officially answer.

In response to your question about deadlines, AST’s statute, U.S. Code 70105a.(a), gives us 120 days to review a sufficiently complete experimental permit application before making a determination. We’ve been suggesting to potential applicants that they submit a draft application early for a variety of reasons.

One reason we’ve asked for draft applications early is due to the unique nature of the launch environment at the 2006 X Prize Cup being held at Las Cruces International Airport. By asking for drafts early, we can get feedback to companies on any missing information required to make it sufficiently complete which will allow them time to revise it and meet the statutory deadline of 120 days. Based on experience, the first application submittal is usually incomplete from companies who are new to the FAA regulations.

If an applicant wants to launch the same vehicle at more than one launch site, they can apply for multiple operating areas in their application. As part of the application, they would have to make sure that their hazard analysis took into account the hazards at both sites. They would have to submit verification evidence that the flight safety system will be able to keep the vehicle within the multiple operating areas. Also, each site would require an environmental review. In general, all licensed or permitted launches must take place from sites that have a launch site operator license or federal range.

We realize that there may be organizations or individuals who have not yet come forward. Regardless of when the X Prize Foundation publishes final rules or closes team registration, if a team wants to participate in this year’s X Prize Cup, they must submit a sufficiently complete experimental permit application at least 120 days prior to their first launch. If a team meets the legal deadline, we are committed to make a determination within that time period.

Within AST, we have four experimental permit applications in various stages that we are evaluating. However, we do not normally discuss the status of any particular license or permit application. We also have had a number of companies and individuals express interest or request information on the regulations applicable to Lunar Lander Challenge.

Michelle Murray
Aerospace Engineer
Commercial Space Transportation
Federal Aviation Administration

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Written by Robin

May 30, 2006 at 5:13 pm

Posted in lunar lander

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