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Changes to the format of the LLC

Posted by: Rob Goldsmith - Wed Nov 19, 2008 5:05 pm
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Changes to the format of the LLC 

Should the LLC Format be changed?
Yes, change to "first to demonstrate" format 43%  43%  [ 6 ]
No, keep it the same! 57%  57%  [ 8 ]
Total votes : 14

Changes to the format of the LLC 
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Post Changes to the format of the LLC   Posted on: Wed Nov 19, 2008 5:05 pm
Guys,

There are a few rumours going around, suggesting that the Lunar Lander Challenge is having a make-over and the rules are changing. The new rules will make it like the Ansari X-Prize, a "first to demonstrate" format

Team Phonecia:
We are hearing some disturbing rumors. In all probability this is a game of internet telephony and we are mishearing. However, what we are hearing is making us distinctly uncomfortable. The rumor is that the X Prize Foundation, due to the enormous cost of running the Lunar Lander Challenge in one fell swoop in October with all the teams is considering changing the format of the LLC to one like the original Anasari X Prize and the current Google Lunar X Prize: whoever does it first, wins. There's no big gathering. There's no big event. The X Prize Foundation and judges just show up at the team's locale for the flight and observe. Then they're done.


TrueZer0
...the X-prize has mentioned that they are considering changing the contest from the late October competition to a "first to demonstrate" format. The idea is that as soon as a team is ready, they'd invite the judges to view their attempt (presumably at their own venue). If the team succeeded, they'd win the prize.

This probably makes sense from a financial viewpoint -- it has to be expensive for the X-prize to put on the event in late October, and it is possible that it is not drawing enough attention to justify that cost. We can understand this might be motivation to make such a change.

The downside however, is that fewer teams will be willing to begin expending the money, effort, and time necessary to build and test a vehicle that can compete, knowing that the prizes could be off the table before they are ready.

If the event had been first to demonstrate in 2008, there's absolutely no way we would have started working on it with the likes of Armadillo around. Having a known deadline makes it much easier for newer/smaller teams to justify getting started.

Not only does the format change favor teams that are further along, it also favors teams in warmer climates (testing is a big part of this process and it is harder to do in cold/snowy weather).



Anyone got any thoughts about this? Good idea to change it or not?

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Post $2,000,000   Posted on: Thu Nov 20, 2008 7:44 am
The sooner someone can get the money and start investing with it, the better. This prize seems like it was designed for Armadillo to win, so it would be nice if it was over with, since it isn't a very dramatic exhibition or very inspiring beyond a small crowd. I think most people already thought this stuff was possible. It's not even like Armadillo will be charging people $50 to ride the rocket from one pad to the other, so there's nothing to look forward to.


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Post    Posted on: Thu Nov 20, 2008 9:47 am
I'm sort of 50:50. It would be good to get more competitors with flying equipment, but on the other hand, if these competitors had started up at the same time as Armadillo, rather than jumping in late, then they would be competing already.

Since Armadillo took 8 years and still haven't won level two, is there much chance of any of the new entries being able to do so in two years?

Perhaps its time for AA to win level 2 asap, then for a new prize to be introduced, perhaps based on the assumption that all craft are capable of level 1 or 2, but having to perform more maneuvers, or be more accurate, or pick stuff up and take it back to the launch site etc. More interesting to observers, and a better incentive for technology innovation.

After all, baring minor problems AA would already have won the prize, so really, everyone knows the prize is possible, so why not get it out of the way and increase the difficulty level to something people have to try harder for.

James


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Post    Posted on: Thu Nov 20, 2008 9:51 am
ps. More ideas on tasks to perform for prizes.

Sample return
Rover Dispatch, retrieve and return
Multiple pads races (10 pads - how many can you land and take off in time limit/fuel limit)
Vertical dragsters (as proposed by JC). This one should be more accessible to new entries
Fuel efficiency. Given a certain amount of fuel, how long can you hover.


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Post    Posted on: Thu Nov 20, 2008 12:19 pm
There are actually two challenges...the obvious one, to win the money, requires some specific vehicle performance.

The other challenge, is doing it on a specific day, or during a pre-determined specific window in time. Doing it whenever you happen to want to, or are able to, removes part of the challenge.

I don't like having to wait a whole year for the event. Instead, I'd like to see a couple windows during the year. For example, have an official LLC window in October and April.


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Post    Posted on: Thu Nov 20, 2008 6:16 pm
Hard to say really; one could argue that the prize has been available for so long now that someone would have been expected to have won by now, but on the other hand it was evidently necessary to wait this long to get a fair number of teams actually participating. I think the last variant with a whole airport locked down for 1.5 hours just for a measly 90 second hover seems more than a bit wrong. Cutting costs is certainly a good reason to do something simpler. Combining it with an airshow like the Holloman show seemed nice, there was some added publicity from people just coming to watch the fighter jets I believe and I would strongly consider going to such an event if it was combined with a future LLC.

I also like Sawdust's suggestion, to have a limited attempt window but no fixed event. Keeps the pressure on the teams to have it working when it needs to be working, but should make the whole thing a lot cheaper. Downside to this compared to the big event style is that there is no big publicity machine and no big get-together associated with the event.

I think I'll abstain from voting on this one..


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Post    Posted on: Thu Nov 20, 2008 7:01 pm
From my point of view the current design provides better chances for more teams to get investors, funds and assistance. ...



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Post    Posted on: Thu Nov 20, 2008 7:30 pm
I would propose that NASA put a bit more money at stake.

Let Armadillo win whenever they want, Then change the rules. Give any new company $150,000 to demonstate level one. No matter if they are first or tenth to do so. $500,000 for level two. extend to 2012. Also add some further miles stones after level 2. Maybe 180 second flight profile with a man on deck.

That way there is incentive to everyone. They know that the money will be there when they succeed. It will drive more aggressive funding of teams as well as cooperation. They no longer have to be first. They just have to demonstrate working hardware.


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Post    Posted on: Thu Nov 20, 2008 9:42 pm
JamesHughes wrote:
After all, baring minor problems AA would already have won the prize, so really, everyone knows the prize is possible, so why not get it out of the way and increase the difficulty level to something people have to try harder for.

All problems are minor once you've figured out how to fix them. A minor problem that keeps a team from winning a prize is no less significant than a major problem.

It's called the Lunar Lander Challenge not because you're actually building a lunar lander, but because it has similar requirements to a lander. As Sawdust points out, being able to do it on command is a significant part of the problem. An actual lunar lander that can't take off because of a minor problem is a lunar lander with a failed sample return or a dead astronaut.

We're considering competing for the Level 2, and we'd like to have the chance to try as was laid out in the rules.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Dec 01, 2008 11:30 am
My point was that we now now the problems were fairly minor, so its pretty much a given that if Armadillo were to compete right now, they would be able to get the level two prize. So the prize is as good as won. So why not get the prize out of the way and introduce a new one? In all likelihood, non of the current entrants, bar Armadillo, will have a level two vehicle ready by October 2009, so why not reset the bar, giving everyone a fresh starting point?

Of course, in any rocket competition, AA will have an advantage, whatever the rules, because they have so much experience and working hardware, but the rules could be set to try and give others a chance also.

James


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Post    Posted on: Mon Dec 01, 2008 9:17 pm
Having occasional and unpredictable engine start failure is not at all a minor problem on a rocket vehicle. If it was a minor problem, they'd likely have swapped the engine out and tried again.

You could have said the same thing after last year, and yet the level 2 is still open.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Dec 02, 2008 9:32 am
I dont think that the rules should be changed at this point to give others a chance, as this seems highly unfair to me. If you keep moving the goal posts then eventually people will get fed up and loose interest. If you enter into a contract with someone you would expect to get paid for doing what you were asked at the start not something different later on. Armadillo has spent money trying to acheive a specific goal, pay them for it if its met dont ask them to do something else instead.

Why should rules be changed to accommodate late comers? Start a new competition to allow others to have a chance and exclude winners of previous ones so that the money is spread around, if that is your aim, dont penalise a team for being the only likely winner.

Given the above I do think that the competition could be held more often though, every 6 months would be better.

NASA hasn't put a new major competition out for a while and there doesnt appear to be anything in the pipeline perhaps its time for them (or someone else like ESA for example) to do so.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Dec 02, 2008 11:56 am
The question I have is, why isn't Nasa stumping for the competition costs?

Is this being run by the same people in charge of Nasa TV?

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Post    Posted on: Tue Dec 02, 2008 12:10 pm
Ben wrote:
Having occasional and unpredictable engine start failure is not at all a minor problem on a rocket vehicle. If it was a minor problem, they'd likely have swapped the engine out and tried again.

You could have said the same thing after last year, and yet the level 2 is still open.


OK, let me rephrase. AA have a startup issue on their engine, that they will in all likelihood be able to fix within a couple on months, if they haven't done it already. AA have already demonstrated a Level two flight I believe, although not during competition. No other entrants have even reached level one. So, as I said, its pretty much a given that if the competition occurred within 6 months they would win level 2. No-one else is close (afaik), and probably wont be close enough within 12 months.

My point isn't to simply give AA the cash - if there was competition and competitors in the near future then I would say leave it up to that. The point is that as a prize goes, its not particularly exciting now that it's possible, and demonstrated. Why not have a new competition with targets that have not yet been demonstrated? Push the envelope a bit.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Dec 02, 2008 2:22 pm
JamesHughes wrote:
My point isn't to simply give AA the cash - if there was competition and competitors in the near future then I would say leave it up to that. The point is that as a prize goes, its not particularly exciting now that it's possible, and demonstrated. Why not have a new competition with targets that have not yet been demonstrated? Push the envelope a bit.


If you are talking about setting up a new competition with another prize pot then I think that would be a great idea. But changing the conditions for getting the existing money being offerred just because a team might be at the point of winning it is not a good idea and would not encourage more teams. If people think the prize will be constantly moved beyond their reach they wont bother to compete. You have to give a reward every so often to keep the interest going.

What about another prize (level 3) for Armadillo to compete for when level 2 is won.

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