Lunar Lander Challenged

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

Archive for August 2006

The Bigelow Space Show

Outer space real estate developer and proprietor of Bigelow Aerospace Robert Bigelow appeared on this evening’s very special edition of The Space Show.

Oft-quoted space consultant Charles Lurio induced Mr. Bigelow to say that he will be at New Mexico State University’s Personal Spaceflight Symposium in October a couple of days before X Prize Cup. It’s likely that Mr. Bigelow will be in New Mexico for the Personal Spaceflight Federation‘s CEO Summit, but at this time the symposium website does not seem to know that Mr. Bigelow is eXpected.

Mr. Bigelow (or Mr. B as they call him at work) said America’s Space Prize is pretty much on hold due to lack of qualified competitors. Promising contestants like SpaceX and Rocketplane/Kistler have recently been corrupted by accepting goverment funds to develop their launchers (paraphrasing), so they can’t win the $50 million prize, but if they are successful they could earn something more valuable: contracts.

Mr. Bigelow became evasive when a questioner asked if his company might be partnering with some other company to develop a spaceship capable of ferrying people and cargo to Bigelow Aerospace stations. Then he segued smoothly to speak of his hope for a collective coalition of like-minded, low-cost space companies.

In answer to another question, he said Space Show listeners could help this country’s space industry by writing letters to their elected representatives and complaining that NASA should be a customer for commercial providers instead of a state-run monopoly (paraphrasing).

Absolutely nothing at all was mentioned about Lunar Lander Challenge, but the interview does touch upon some of the trouble with running space prizes.

Written by spacefaring

August 24, 2006 at 9:28 pm

Posted in lunar lander

Personal Spaceflight Federation eXists, MOON at X Prize Cup

Plenty of press releases and news items yesterday about the Personal Spaceflight Federation, which includes Lunar Lander Challenge manager the X Prize Foundation and Lunar Lander Challenge contestant Armadillo Aerospace on its roster of members.

All the press releases are from Ian Murphy, who also wears the communications director hat for X Prize Cup. This could explain why X Prize Cup is a few days late with the big publicity rollout for Lunar Lander Challenge eXpected 60 days before the contest (now 57 and counting). Unless… another eXplanation could be that no teams have officially registered and been accepted to fly in the competition this year. If so, the X Prize isn’t yet obliged to promote or maybe even allowed to mention them.

Promo did arrive for something called Moon World Resorts that will eXhibit its plans for a worldwide chain of virtual simulated lunarlike vacation resorts scattered around the surface of Earth. (Suggestion: Hold out for the real thing.)

Here’s the Personal Spaceflight Federation promo via RLV and Space Transport News: Personal Spaceflight Federation Announces Future Plans, PSF Expands Membership and Announces Officers, Personal Spaceflight Federation Congratulates COTS Winners, a story from Cosmic Log, Space Federation lifts off, and comment today at, PSF relaunches.

The official press releases followed close on the heels of two reports by space journalists with special access to the inside goings-on of the Personal Spaceflight Fed.

Rob Coppinger of Flight International blogged his impressions on Monday (via RLV and Space Transport News), and last spring revealed the organization’s plans to hold a CEO summit at X Prize Cup (also via RLV and Space Transport News).

Also on Monday, the Fall 2006 issue of National Space Society’s Ad Astra magazine arrived in the mail, featuring “highlights” from an eXclusive roundtable discussion conducted at International Space Development Conference last May. Author Leonard David asked several representatives of the invitation-only industry association: “Are we at a tipping point in the realization of personal spaceflight — a unique time in history — or are we kidding ourselves?”

For answers, watch the mailbox (if you are a National Space Society member), or visit Leonard David’s blog and petition him to republish the article online somewhere. (The eXpanded, uncut, uncensored version would be great!)

Written by spacefaring

August 23, 2006 at 11:56 am

Posted in lunar lander

Texans Rise

The eXtremely unsecretive Armadillo Aerospace team posted new flight test videos of its Lunar Lander Challenge vehicle The Quad.

Written by spacefaring

August 17, 2006 at 7:32 pm

Posted in lunar lander

Cosmic Connection

Alan Boyle has quotes from Bob Clark at Acuity Aerospace and Richard Speck at Micro-Space about their still pretty secret Lunar Lander Challenge entries at Cosmic Log: Lunar Lander Challengers.

Alan suggests delving into the environmental assessment statement for more details on October’s X Prize Cup event. But that could lead to over-inflated eXpectations. Not everything dreamed of in the statement is still on the program. (See Rocket Reality Check, Cosmic Log.)

Should be informative to delve into X Prize Cup’s press releases next week, when the 60-day period preceding the contest begins. From the Lunar Lander Challenge rules and team agreement:

If desired by the Team, Team Registration data will be kept confidential until 60 days before the Flight Attempt date, at which point it will be made public and promoted by XPF.

Looking forward!

Written by spacefaring

August 15, 2006 at 11:35 pm

Posted in lunar lander

4 lunar lander challengers, 1 hard start

From RLV and Space Transport News,
X Prize Cup enviro statement – 4 lunar lander challengers.

Just because the draft Environmental Assessment submitted to the FAA by X Prize Cup lists four potential competitors for Lunar Lander Challenge (Armadillo Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, Micro-Space and Acuity) doesn’t mean there will really be four competitors this October.

The statement optimistically factors in several flights by Rocket Racing League’s prototype X-racer (delayed) and various other hoped-for attractions that may or may not come to pass. Just because it’s mentioned in the draft statement doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to happen.

Armadillo and Masten are most likely to compete, in spite of Masten’s hard start last week, and various technical challenges reported in extreme detail by Armadillo.

Acuity is an U(npiloted) A(erial) V(ehicle) company that appears to make a good living doing studies and building little flying things for various government agencies, but does not appear to have any experience with rocket-powered vehicles. Acuity’s hydrogen peroxide/propane-powered craft described in the X Prize enviro statement sounds suspiciously like something Blue Origin would fly, if it wasn’t so elusive and secretive.

Even if I don’t make it to X Prize Cup, I’ll be watching the live webcast in hopes of seeing an interview with Richard Speck, the appropriately named proprietor of Micro-Space. (I am half-eXpecting him to be Robert Zubrin with a fake beard.)

Only 66 days and 6 hours until X Prize Cup.

Written by spacefaring

August 14, 2006 at 11:59 pm

Posted in lunar lander

RLV News about Lunar Lander Challenge

Armadillo Aerospace News: NVIDIA Sponsorship, Launch Permits, Flying the Quad. (via HobbySpace RLV and Space Transport News)

Masten Space blog 8.3.2006: Vehicle Testing (via HobbySpace RLV and Space Transport News)

Armadillo gets major sponsor, with link to video of John Carmack’s annual QuakeCon keynote, from HobbySpace RLV and Space Transport News.

Things “Sluggo” at GameSpy thinks John Carmack said at QuakeCon 2006. (“manned rockets that Carmack is working on for the October X-Prize” … two vehicles, “Pixel and Texel”)

X Prize press release about Space Elevator Games at X Prize Cup.

RLV and Space Transport News at NewSpace 2006, the session with Neil Milburn of Armadillo and Dave Masten of Masten Space: New Space Companies.

Written by spacefaring

August 9, 2006 at 11:33 am

Posted in lunar lander