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Exclusive: Rules Set for $50 Million America's Space Prize

Posted by: Sigurd - Mon Nov 08, 2004 1:27 pm
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Exclusive: Rules Set for $50 Million America's Space Prize 
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Post    Posted on: Tue Apr 19, 2005 2:35 am
I'm new to this forum, so I come into this late: Fundamental question: Isn't the whole premise of the Bigelow Prize faulty?

I think its wrong to try to have a 5 passenger... as requirements for the Prize.
The specs for the prize are far too ambitious. It's like whether the Wright Brothers should have built a DC-3 instead of what they did build.

The Prize should have been for the 1st successful piloted orbiter that can orbit with one piloting it. Then have the orbiter size evolve to 5 and whatever.

The Prize as set up seems to be designed to never have a winner.

Final thought: Anyone who does build a one pilot orbiter will have something worth a lot more than $50 million.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Apr 19, 2005 3:32 am
Welcome to the forum, Charles -- the more rocket scientists, the merrier!

Don't you think that if somebody can build a system capable of winning the prize they'd have something worth much, much more than $50 million?

Something worth much more than a one-person orbiter?

Passenger seats will make all the difference.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Apr 19, 2005 5:48 am
He's got a good point obvious, considering that the prize ends at 2010, which is only 5 years from now. Which is a very close date, unless you allready have some experience in orbit. Only real possibilities for racing this price are SpaceX if they want to and SpaceDev if they are going to ;)


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Post    Posted on: Tue Apr 19, 2005 6:58 am
The number of crew members has impacts on size, weight and the economics of the vehicle only - these are not the problem. The costs of size, weight are the minor part of the total costs of the vehicle currently.

The major part are the development costs - by experience development costs have a share of 80 % of the total costs. And concerning the ASP we are talking about development and its economics majorly. They should be justified by a significant real revenue - and that revenue is passenger/crew capacity.

Bigelow is interested in this revenue because he wants guests in his Nautilus - these can't be the pilots of the vehicles. Not alone the pilot at least. It has to be possible that a vehicle docks to the station and then leaves it again - with leaving passengers behind in Nautilus.

More - to develop a one-person-vehicle first and then develop another several-person-vehicle out of it means a significant increase of investment costs. The amount may be too large - investment in orbital ability is large unmanned already. And it's much larger than investment in suborbital ability.



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Post    Posted on: Tue Apr 19, 2005 7:50 am
Bigelow wants a passenger ferry not an experimental one man craft so why should he fund anything else? He could put up $50m for a single seat craft, pay out the money to a winner and it might never progress further without further prizes or cash payouts, how would that help him? He is not really in the business of funding R&D he wants a craft he can use and the bigger prize is the possibility of a transport contact to ferry passengers to his inflatables.

Ekehard is right that it would probably take longer to evolve a larger craft from a single seat vehicle and given Bigelow's timescales he does not have that time.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Apr 19, 2005 9:17 am
Bigelow's way should be taken as a categorical imperative - there have been many developments in the past that were successful but failed. They failed because they required further development out of the first step to offer use - they failed because they didn't offer use in the first step and so they were not convincing. They failed in the publlic and they failed at the markets and were considewred to be mere toys.

And the XPRIZE Foundation has given the example - the rule said that the suborbital vehicles had to provide three passengers seats and not only one seat for the pilot.

So Bigelow's rules and the XPRIZE Foundation's rules are very close to each other. The goal is the difference only.



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Post    Posted on: Tue Apr 19, 2005 5:46 pm
Several have said that it's about as difficult to develop a 5 passenger orbiter as a 1 pilot orbiter. If that were true, why were the first airplanes all small with 1 or 2 person capacity? Size matters (we've heard that before).

Physics considerations and scaling laws will favor small re-entry vehicles over large ones. In US at least, there may be a problem getting certification (true, the Virgin Galactic sub-orbital vehicle is to carry a number, but the issue of the US government actually allowing it without difficult certification is not a settled matter).

The Spaceship One did have the capacity to carry 3. But note that it carried one and weights to represent the other two. Also, the technology level for a 1 Km/sec vehicle is so much different from that of an orbiter that the design of these does not have much to do with the requirements for an orbiter.

I have studied the scaling effects issues at some length, and small is definitely cheaper to develop ( www.microlaunchers.com ).


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Post    Posted on: Wed Apr 20, 2005 8:53 am
It's required to pay attention to slight but meaningful differences:

SSO carried only one person and two further persons have been represented - that's right. But relevant and essential is that SSO offered and supplied to carry three persons. It's capacity that matters - it's capacity that provieds use and purpose.

The fact that it is cheaper to develop a small vehicle cannot be said to be due to development costs - that diagnosis isn't correct. What matters is the structure of development costs. This structure includes manpower, skills, knowledge, experience, science, methods, time and material, number of proto- and testtypes and number of failures (listing doesn't claim to be complete). Size and weight of a vehicle seldom will have a significant share of development costs - they have a significant share of production costs. But production costs by experience have a share of 20 % only of total investment in a new developed product.

What's of major meaning here is the fact that we are talking about private developed and produced vehicles. It would be a huge failure to concentrate on low costs because "private" unpreventably means the requirement to get revenues at the markets - and these are to be got by capacity only. Not least costs is the goal here but least costs of minimum capacity demanded by the markets. At markets prices should be not too high - this requires capacity promissing or providing economies of scale or/and scope.

All this together means that the capacity of five persons is a good and reasonable rule - because of the markets and the privateness.

Success at the markets is the goal here.



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Post    Posted on: Wed Apr 20, 2005 9:25 am
One of the problems with a single seat vehicle leading on to a larger craft is funding, investors would have to wait for the first craft to be completed and tested before the craft that they were interested in could be started. This would make it harder to see the progress towards their actual goal and swallow most of the finance on something that would eventually be thrown away.

Working on a larger vehicle to begin with would make it seem the goal post was that much closer, even if that was not the case. For instance if time was running out until Bigelow's deadline and the craft was still having problems (even if only trivial) then financing might be stopped on a small vehicle because it would be seen as not being possible to develop a new larger craft in that time, this would not be the case for a larger vehicle as it would be seen as being closer to the end production craft.

Why build something that you know will be abandoned later for something that will inevitably have its own set of problems associated with it? If it is a question of just scaling up the smaller vehicle then you might as well start slightly larger to begin with.

Another point is the requirements of Bigelow require a craft that can dock to his space stations which will mean a larger design anyway to accommodate the docking mechanism. So unless this is done away with as well, making it completely useless as a test bed for a ASP vehicle and requiring even more redesign work later to incorporate it, the vehicle will probably be big enough to carry more than a single person.

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Post    Posted on: Wed Apr 20, 2005 9:45 am
Yes, you are right.

And there are effects in the longer run that make sure that the investors are true concerning their engagement and involvement in the investment and project: Because of the effects you are mentioning they give larger funds than else -and the larger their funds the higher their losses if they retreat from the investment and project. Or in true words: The larger their funds the larger their risk if they themselves stop the project.

And the capacity and its eos nearly always justify large funds...



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Post    Posted on: Mon Jun 06, 2005 10:49 pm
http://www.bigelowaerospace.com/prize.html

America's Space Prize
To be awarded...
$50,000,000
Contest ends January 10, 2010

Ten Primary Rules of the Competition
1. The Spacecraft must reach a minimum altitude of 400 km (approx. 250 miles);

2. The Spacecraft must reach a minimum velocity sufficient to complete two (2) full orbits at altitude before returning safely to Earth;

3. The Spacecraft must carry no less than a crew of five (5) people;

4. The Spacecraft must dock or demonstrate its ability to dock with a Bigelow Aerospace inflatable space habitat and be capable of remaining on station for at least six (6) months;

5. The Spacecraft must perform two (2) consecutive, safe and successful orbital missions within a period of sixty (60) calendar days, subject to Government regulations;

6. No more than twenty percent (20%) of the Spacecraft may be composed of expendable hardware (the term 'Spacecraft' encompasses the launch vehicle in its entirety, including but not limited to, any and all fuel tanks, external rockets, carrier craft, and boosters);

7. The contestant must be domiciled in the United States of America;

8. The Contestant must have its principal place of business in the United States of America;

9. The Competitor must not accept or utilize Government development funding related to this Contest of any kind, nor shall there be any Government development funding related to this Contest of any kind, nor shall there be any Government ownership of the Competitor. Using Government test and launch facilities shall be permitted; and

10. The Spacecraft must complete two (2) missions safely and successfully, with all five (5) crew members aboard for the second qualifying flight before the competition's deadline of January 10, 2010.


For more information please contact:

America's Space Prize
(702) 794-4440 office
(702) 456-9404 fax

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Post    Posted on: Thu Feb 23, 2006 6:28 am
Well now we have the first real rule set for the VTOL challenge worth $M2 with the maximum prize of $M1 for the Level 2 first prize. This is 2% of the value of the ASP. It helps puts a bit of perspective on the prize issue.

So far:

X-Prize $M10 sub-orbital 3 people twice in 2 weeks and won for an investment of approx $M20-30 depending on who you believe.

ASP $M50 orbital 5 people dock to Bigalow space station 2 orbits and safe return to Earth. Investment required ???

VTOL max $M1 Earth-based 25kg payload 100metres height with flight duration 180 seconds. Investment required ???

X-Prize had nothing at the end of it but resulted in a $M100 contract with a major transportation organisation.

ASP looks a bit light on but then there's a potential contract at the end.

VTOL has nothing offered beyond the prizes at this stage.

Any thoughts?

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Post    Posted on: Sat Jul 15, 2006 8:34 am
There is an intersting point regarding the prize money of $ 50 mio. Formerly it has been said that this might be too few.

But the article „EXCLUSIVE: Bigelow Orbital Module Launched“ ( www.space.com/missionlaunches/060712_ge ... aunch.html ) is reporting that
Quote:
Bankrolling the expandable space module concept—now roughly a $75 million investment—is businessman, Robert Bigelow, owner of the Budget Suites of America Hotel Chain among other enterprises, and head of Bigelow Aerospace.
.

It is not clear if the launch is calculated into those $ 75 mio but this might be the lower boundary while assuming that a launch price of $ 100 mio has to be added results in an upper boundary of $ 175 mio for Genesis Pathfinder 1.

If I remember correct the interior volume of that station is between 4 m^3 and 5 m^3. Simply doubling up would equal the volume nearly to the Soyuz and the CXV. The CXV would fit into teh rule that the winning vehicle has to carry five persons. Then the costs have to be doubled also and the boundaries are $ 150 mio and $ 350 mio.

The prize money of $ 50 mio then is between a third and a seventh of those costs then - not too low.

Only problem - Dnepr is expendable, Genesis Pathfinder can't land and it's not known if it could have been launched manned anyhow.

But the bundaries listed might have been the criterions to set $ 50 mio instead of a higher amount.



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Post    Posted on: Sat Jul 15, 2006 9:45 am
As far as I'm aware, the $75M figure covers *everything* to date for Bigelow: all the R&D, fabrication of ground test articles up to and including full-scale Nautilus modules, significant building expansion of the plant at North Las Vegas, all personnel costs, fabrication of the Genesis-1 flight article, and Dnepr launch.


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