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Want to give NASA ideas for prizes?

Posted by: The Legionnaire - Sat Jun 12, 2004 5:48 pm
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Want to give NASA ideas for prizes? 
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Post Want to give NASA ideas for prizes?   Posted on: Sat Jun 12, 2004 5:48 pm
As the following press release shows, NASA is scheduling a workshop to discuss what sorts of prizes should be offered. Is anyone going? (A few X PRIZE staff should be there.) When you get back, can you share your experiences?

NASA Schedules Centennial Challenges Workshop

The NASA program that offers cash prizes for the development of new capabilities to help meet the agency's exploration and program goals is conducting its first workshop June 15-16 at the Hilton Hotel, Washington.

Centennial Challenges is a novel program of challenges, competitions, and prizes. NASA plans to tap the innovative talents of the nation to make revolutionary, breakthrough advances to support Vision for Space Exploration and other NASA priorities.

"Centennial Challenges is a small but potentially high-leverage investment by NASA to help address some of our most difficult hurdles in research and exploration," said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. "I look forward to stimulating competitions and very innovative wins that advance the nation's Vision for Space Exploration," he added.

The goal of Centennial Challenges is to stimulate innovation in fundamental technologies, robotic capabilities, and very low-cost space missions by establishing prize purses for specific achievements in technical areas of interest to NASA. By making awards based on achievements, not proposals, NASA hopes to bring innovative solutions from academia, industry, and the public to bear on solar system exploration and other technical challenges.

"From 18th century seafaring, early 20th century aviation to today's private sector space flight, prizes have played a key role in spurring new achievements in science, technology, engineering, and exploration," said Craig Steidle, NASA's Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems. "The Centennial Challenges Program is modeled on the successful history of past prize contests, and I am proud the Office of Exploration Systems is shepherding this path-finding program for NASA," he added.

"This workshop will help NASA develop challenges that are of high value to the agency," said Brant Sponberg, Centennial Challenges Program Manager. "The workshop also will provide input into what challenges NASA announces this year and next year and what the rules for those competitions will be. It should be an invigorating way to lay the groundwork for this exciting program," he said.

Here's a list of the speakers who will attend:

NASA Announces Centennial Challenges Workshop Agenda

NASA's Centennial Challenges program will feature prominent speakers and panelists during its inaugural workshop, June 15 and 16, at the Hilton Hotel, Washington.

Centennial Challenges is a new NASA prize competition program designed to tap the nation's ingenuity to make revolutionary advances to support the Vision for Space Exploration and NASA goals. The 2004 Centennial Challenges Workshop is also an opportunity for potential participants to provide input to NASA about future competitions.

Featured speakers:

Senator Sam Brownback, R-Kan., Chairman, Commerce Subcommittee on Science,
Technology, and Space

Dr. John H. Marburger III, Director, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Edward C. "Pete" Aldridge, Chairman, President's Commission on Moon, Mars and
Beyond

Elon Musk, CEO and CTO, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation

Panels include:

Financing Prize Competitors

The panel will provide tutorials on various fundraising sources for potential Centennial Challenge competitors. Panelists: Jay Coleman, Founder and President of Electronic Marketing and Communications International Ltd.; Monty Deel, President of GST Protocol Services; Frank DiBello, President and CEO of Florida's Space Finance Corporation; and Marco Rubin, Managing Partner of Exoventure Associates, LLC.

Past, Present, and Future Prize Competitions

The panel will provide a broad perspective on prize competitions, including early 20th century aviation prizes, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Grand Challenge, and the privately funded Ansari X PRIZE and future X PRIZE Cup. Panelists: Eric Lindbergh, Vice President of the X PRIZE Foundation and grandson of aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh; Air Force Colonel Jose Negron, Program Manager for the DARPA Grand Challenge; and Peter Diamandis, Chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation. (yay!)
Launch Vehicles for Spacecraft Prize Competitions

The panel will provide an overview of existing and emergent launch vehicle capabilities for potential competitors in Centennial Challenges spacecraft competitions. Panel presenters: Kistler Aerospace Corporation; Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (Space-X); and XCOR Aerospace.


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Post    Posted on: Sat Jun 12, 2004 5:49 pm
Here are some prize ideas people have thought about:

From
Dr_Keith_H
Thermosphere

Posted: Sun Jun 06, 2004 6:14 am
This is off the cuff (like waaaay off the cuff, which means I haven't bothered to see if anything like this is already on the board), so I'm probably setting myself up for a big smackdown ...

How about a "Zubrin Prize" (z-prize, cute huh?), for the successful development of a working demonstrator model for turning natural materials (i.e. naturally occuring on Mars, Europa, or other non-Earth heavenly body deemed to be a suitable target for sample return missions) into a viable fuel source, then successful passage of that fuel source to a launch vehicle which is then fired (not necessarily launched).

I don't mean they actually have to send something to (e.g.) Mars, they can just get some concocted substrate made up based on all that good work the marsrovers are doing (and still doing!), and do the demonstration right here on Earth. And ... the ... ah ... launch vehicle doesn't exactly have to be a Saturn V either, I'd be impressed if they had a robotic system that could handle remote generation and fuel transfer to a K-mart rocket.

The end application would be for missions that demand either sample or human return, or fuelling of off-world habitation ... and stuff like that.

So ... I think that would be a good one ... those NASA boys are pretty hot on the idea of sample return and all ... developments along the lines I'm talking about would surely be useful.

Maybe such a competition is already underway, if so ... fire away boys.


n54
Suborbital

Posted: Sun Jun 06, 2004 8:45 am

fuel on the moon (helium-3)
http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/h ... 00630.html

this is fuel for fusion reactors and to use it for propulsion (back to earth or similar "short" trips) i think the following setup would be best:
- extraction plant
- fusion plant
- electromagnetic "rail gun" launch of the vessel from the moon

how small could one make those 3 (4 counting the vessel) parts? if one could make them really small, launching them privately might be possible as a proof of concept kind of thing (but i think the research needed requires a huge budget)

the problem is that the moons environment is extremely fragile which i think poses some extra challenges:
http://www.marsinstitute.info/rd/facult ... v06-1.html

and do we want to use it all up or use it at a sustainable rate? note that it doesn't take much activity to "plug the well" so to speak

fuel on mars: http://www.marssociety.com/about/faq.asp#in_situ_fuel

there's plenty of good stuff on this subject here (although old):
http://www.marsinstitute.info/rd/facult ... tr-lv.html

their main page:
http://www.marsinstitute.info/rd/faculty/dportree/rtr/


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Post    Posted on: Sat Jun 12, 2004 5:49 pm
By the way, I moved all of the discussion about nuclear fusion to the Technology forum, in case you're looking for it.


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Post    Posted on: Sat Jun 12, 2004 6:29 pm
How about a quicker paced version of the current X-Prise. Put up 5 to 10 million for the first team to be able to make 7 launches in 7 days using all the other X-Prize rules. I'd put a limit such that no team could make an attempt until at least a full year has passed after the X-Prize has been won in order to give all the other teams a decent shot at catching up to the X-Prize winner.


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Post    Posted on: Sat Jun 12, 2004 10:21 pm
TJ wrote:
Put up 5 to 10 million for the first team to be able to make 7 launches in 7 days using all the other X-Prize rules.


That's certainly an idea I haven't considered before. However, it might be a bit too risky this early in the game. After all, what happens when you're on flight 6 and an engineer finds a crack? Do you abort the neext day's flight and start all over? Or do you recklessly plunge ahead? Either the teams blow themselves up, or spend months just trying to get 7 good flights in a row.

It might be a better idea to have the prize be for 3 flights in 3 days. Then, the level of risk should be lower, since now the hassle of starting over won't be as big a deal.


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Post    Posted on: Sun Jun 13, 2004 2:21 pm
The Legionnaire wrote:
However, it might be a bit too risky this early in the game. After all, what happens when you're on flight 6 and an engineer finds a crack? Do you abort the neext day's flight and start all over? Or do you recklessly plunge ahead? Either the teams blow themselves up, or spend months just trying to get 7 good flights in a row.

I would not imagine that the risk is that much greater than 3 flights in 3 days, or the current 2 flights in 14 days. Nonspecific anomalies like a crack can turn up on day 1 just as well as on day 6. Even if something like this does happen, then the decision tree isn't quite as polarized as choosing between safty-conscious conservativism or damning the torpedos. It's the sort of situation where concerted risk management skills come into their own.

To subvert your scenario (sorry) we have found a crack somewhere, somewhere important (as if there are bits that are unimportant) enough to call in everyone and say look at that ... will that wreck our bird (and kill our pilot)? The decision to scrap is not so simple, first you have to ask your team if you can fix the damn thing sufficiently in the time remaining. If someone says "yes" then you will probably let them try and then trust their judgment about the patch itself. The pilot will also have his concerns and/or confidences. Also, because you are in a competition, you could be considered to be under some obligation to inform the race marshals about the situation so they can make a ruling. They would have to balance saftey against their own desires for the glory of successfully holding such a competition in the first place, and given the opportunity they will certainly make their own decisions about the risk as well. It is possible that to continue to go for the prize would be considered a reasonable risk, a decision made by a responsible team manager in conjuction with engineers, pilot and race organizers. In short (an odd thing to say I know, given that this post is too long already) I wouldn't describe this situation as a "reckless plunge ahead".

The point is that there should be no expectation, in an experimental situation where there is simply not enough background data available, that we should be able to sufficiently differentiate and quantify the risks between asking a team to go up twice in 14 days and asking them to do it seven times in a week. Particularly if the first competition (i.e. the current x-prize) went without a hitch - where nobody died, some team won, and we all got to bask in that warm happy glow of technological wizardry - then we still wouldn't really have any better idea of the cumulative risks involved. Against that, at the current time, we have even less of an idea about those risks. So making value judgments on relative risk levels now is rather like reading tea leaves.

So, today, I would say ... there is no sufficient reason, based on risk management, to not have the rule structure which was suggested by TJ.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Jun 13, 2004 2:57 pm
Dr_Keith_H wrote:
I would not imagine that the risk is that much greater than 3 flights in 3 days


I agree, but it's still a bit riskier. Why add the risk?

If flying 7 times in 7 days were actually a necessary precondition to make suborbital space tourism a reality, then TJ's prize would make more sense. But I don't think space tourism will be so popular that spacecraft need to fly daily for a week. I think that X PRIZE-type prizes should be geared toward those activities that will be actually needed for space tourism. Flying 2 times in 14 days, or 3 times in 3 days, will probably be practices used by the space tourism companies. But 7 times in 7 days?


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Post    Posted on: Sun Jun 13, 2004 3:12 pm
You are right, there is little reason to suppose once a day every day is a precondition for suborbital space tourism. I was just rankled by the "plunge recklessly ahead" thing, it smacked of an insouciance about the realities of risk management.

But ... over any given seven day stretch, how often does a typical long range jet (full of sub-sub-orbital tourists) make its milk run? I dunno either, but I would not be surprised if it flew (with regular maintenance) each day. Should we, as tourists, be less demanding of the technology that takes us higher, further and faster?

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Post    Posted on: Sun Jun 13, 2004 3:53 pm
If space tourism is going to have any hope of really taking off and becoming affordable suborbital ships are going to have to emulate some/many aspects of commercial airlines. Seven flights in seven days doesn't seem that risky to me, especially if there is a 'no sooner then' time limit imposed such a at least a year after the X-Prize is won. Besides giving the other teams the opportunity to catch up to Scaled it gives all of them time to do enough testing to minimize a lot of the risks involved with a higer frequency of flights. Something like three or four flights in one day may be another line of challenge.


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Post    Posted on: Sun Jun 13, 2004 4:14 pm
TJ wrote:
If space tourism is going to have any hope of really taking off and becoming affordable suborbital ships are going to have to emulate some/many aspects of commercial airlines

yes, however why make a prize to achieve this directly? i think it will be a normal part of the companies trying to achieve higher profit margins as the industry matures (as it happened in the airline industry)

i think marketopeners are much more important; like a prize for the first intercontinental suborbital hop


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Post    Posted on: Sun Jun 13, 2004 4:48 pm
Mostly to continue to foster the endeavors that the X-Prize has given a boost to. In all seriousness none of the teams have done anything that couldn't have been done from a technical standpoint 10, 20 and maybe 30 years ago. Granted a lot of the red-tape has gotten easier but the actual engineering isn't that advanced. I would even be tempted to put some sort of handicap on Scaled if they win the X-Prize, so the competition is closer. I'd also like to see a way to get more teams into actually flying stuff. Put up something like 1 million in 10 seperate $100,000 prizes for the first ten teams to demonstrate a manned landing system. Right now that would only be Scaled and I believe Starchaser but Armadillos crushable nose cone was close to manned testing before they discarded it. I'm sure that Candian Arrow and daVinci could do some manned testing of their landing systems if they haven't already. That still would leave half of those prizes for other teams.


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Post    Posted on: Sun Jun 13, 2004 5:11 pm
TJ wrote:
In all seriousness none of the teams have done anything that couldn't have been done from a technical standpoint 10, 20 and maybe 30 years ago.

not true for composites afaik (scaled and arca)


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Post    Posted on: Sun Jun 13, 2004 5:25 pm
I don't know Scaled has been using composites for decades, even more if you count Rutans work prior to Scaled with the Rutan Aircraft Company. Granted this is some of the first uses of such materials for this but the basic technology has been around for some time.


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Post    Posted on: Sun Jun 13, 2004 5:48 pm
there is very little breakthrough engineering involved in any of the team's work with the possible exception of scaled, however there are still ingenious solutions to making the vehicles, and i'll take armadillo as the classic example here. the black armadillo is almost exclusively built using off the shelf parts, which isn't an engineering breakthrough, but it is an economic breakthrough. that's the real advantage of the xprize.

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Post    Posted on: Fri Jun 25, 2004 12:12 am
There was speculation earlier that NASA might offer a prize for the first private orbital X Prize type vehicle, but I doubt that there's anything to that. Perhaps a possibility (Albeit one that NASA would be unlikely to take advantage of) would be a similar $200 million prize for a large launch vehicle. The Moon-Mars reccomendation board mentioned a launch vehicle in the 200,000 lb class in thier reccomendation paper to NASA, so why not let the private industry do it cheeply? Spacex, Xcor, and Kistler would probably jump at this opportunity to make a reusable Saturn V equivalent. Probably not likely for NASA to do, but perhaps a good idea.

A centennial challenge they actually might consider would be for a demonstration of landing software/hardware for a lunar lander for $100,000. Incidentally, Armadillo happens to be in a perfect position to try this, so they could easily pocket the cash soon after the prize woudl be announced. In the next generation of prizes, how about $20 million for a private lunar lander? The rules could be:
-The lander must land successfully on the moon's south pole (Within 1 degree lattitude or 10 miles of a suspected water source)
-The lander must carry out science experiments to determine the amount of water, helium-3, oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon in the soil. Money will be alloted on a basis of amount of data returned, for a maximum of $20 milion.

Other than that, sky's the limit. That's the beauty of prizes, let the contestants decide what approach is best and just sit back and let natural selection determine the real best way to do it. Hopefully NASA will use prizes more and more in the future.

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