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Would an XPRIZE2-goal "orbit" make any sense?

Posted by: Ekkehard Augustin - Thu Aug 19, 2004 1:03 pm
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Would an XPRIZE2-goal "orbit" make any sense? 
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Post Would an XPRIZE2-goal "orbit" make any sense?   Posted on: Thu Aug 19, 2004 1:03 pm
The have been discussions around an XPRIZE2 at this board I have been taking part in too. The idea has been that it should include the goal "orbit".

But the most recent news is idicating that Scaled Composites is thinking of the orbit more concretely now. Additionaly Interorbital Systems is working on the orbit since several years and TerraMrs answered to me a few weeks ago that Armadillo Aerospace and Starchaser Industries may be more fit to that goal than Interorbital and included Scaled.

So the competition for the orbit has been started already and the market seems to be the force behind that evolution as well as the XPRIZE.

As a consequence it seems that the orbit of itself cannot be a goal of a competition like the XPRIZE no longer.

Might something be done on the basis of the orbit?

The XPRIZE CUP is the best next competition. But the question seems to be rising how it is to be considered compared to the competition for the orbit. And aren't there two different classes of competitors now - those struggling to reach the orbit and those stiil struggling for suborbital successes? The first group may be dominating the CUP - and the others might loose their investors to them. Is there any solution to let the CUP be assisted by the struggle for the orbit?



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Post    Posted on: Thu Aug 19, 2004 1:10 pm
I don't know if there is enough money for that. I'd estimate it would take a prize of about a billion dollars-which is a lotr less than any manned space program has ever swallowed to start from scratch.
But who's going to raise a billion dollars?

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Post    Posted on: Thu Aug 19, 2004 1:27 pm
Concerning the orbit no prize seems to be required - three teams are believed to be able to go to orbit within ten years and one tema is already working on going to orbit. So nobody needs to raise 1 billion dollars for an XPRIZE for reaching the orbit.

What's left are prizes for goals that require the orbit as basis - these goals might be activities within this orbit not requiring more money than the goals of the CUP and as a consequence the prizes don't require to be higher than the current 10 million dollars. But what might it really be? ...

The competition for reaching the orbit is starting - but what advantages might it provide for the CUP and the not-dominating competitors?



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Post    Posted on: Thu Aug 19, 2004 1:54 pm
I just read Rutan's announcement.I'd really like to see a spaceship 2 reaching orbit, even though, with only one person aboard, it won't do much to help space tourism.However, an 130km orbit is very low, and if a satellite is placed there it would encounter atmospheric drag-which would require periodical boosts. Definitely not where you want to place a hotel :)

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Post    Posted on: Thu Aug 19, 2004 11:32 pm
I'm a complete aerospace layman so please excuse my ignorance. But wouldn't an eliptical orbit be the sort of thing that Rutan is considering? Even if you did require a boosting every month or so, why not use the SS2 as a sort of tug boat to push the hotel back into orbit?

Sorry, I'm always off topic.

What I really want to say is that I think what Ekkehard Augustin is very valid.

Make an X-Prize business related but dependant on orbital systems. Ie, to build, launch and utilise a robotic space station that can assemble a 5 ton space transporter with a certain number of parts and types of interfaces.

This is extremely practical is it would be cheap to run through the initial stages of design and building the robotics in simulation or on earth. Once you have something that will clearly work, it will be a lot easier to get investment to get it built and into space (using a private launch service).

This seems like something I could get a team working on, unlike getting involved in a competition for orbital launch services.


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Post    Posted on: Fri Aug 20, 2004 7:10 am
Hello, Pete,

your idea sounds good to me - and it may be stimulating additional ideas.

A periodical boosting might apply ideas discussed in other sections of the board like airbreathing engines, making use of plasma and something more.

One thought your idea is stimulating is to give a special incentive those teams not struggling for the orbit yet but competing for the CUP. This incentive might be usability of their suborbital spacecrafts in environments of less gravity, as upper stages etc.... Especially less gravity might be interesting because a spacecraft suborbital launching from earth would be orbital launching from another body or planet having a gravity less than a critical point.

I would like to see your idea discussed further. Thank you very much for it.



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Post    Posted on: Sat Aug 21, 2004 3:01 am
I think, in a certain sense, the Xprize cup may be all that's required at this point.

You have to remember that hitting orbit is orders of magnitude harder than a suborbital mission. So if anything, you'd want to set a new altitude limit.

But, on the other hand, at this stage of the game, you've proven that the little guy can still make great stuff, hence pushing NASA to offer their set of prizes. You have people who know that they are going to lose, but who still have money and/or are self funded. You've got SpaceX making a go at the launcher market. And finally, you've got a few black-horse projects -- like Blue Origin (funded by Jeff Bezos).

So, really, the cup is what's necessary now. I think that any new funds and prize money should be kept saved, just in case the market implodes like it did last time.


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Post    Posted on: Sat Aug 21, 2004 6:39 am
You're right - I put in question wether any XPRIZE for reaching the orbit is reasonable or required.

So after the XPRIZE is won there should be the CFUP only for a time.

But it might be that the sponsors and investors of those CUP-teams not planning to got to orbit slightly lose their interest when only one of the others struggling for the orbit does succeed.

The loss of the interest is to be expected when there a private spacecraft will have been launched successfully carrying at least three persons to the orbit. Orbital tourism will be much more interesting to the people than suborbital flights.

So the CUP should be left as it is and for the first time no additional competiton should be established by the Foundation but someway it should be taken care that suborbital vehicles remain iinteristing if Scaled, Interorbital, Starchaser or Armadillo succeeds in orbit. It might be sufficient if the suborbital vehicles are providing use and service launched from launch sites in orbit, at the moon or at Mars too without significant or essential changes of design.

Again: Leave the CUP as it is, provide NO race for the orbit but consider following ideas:

1. Search for all advantages suborbital vehicles may provide for obrial ideas (Interorbital for example seems to look at the CUp as a chance to test theier upper (orbital) stage) and provide information conderning thes advantages for the CUP community including the sponsors and investors.

2. Once the orbit is reached it should be asked wether the firm or team would take a subarbital vehicle to orbit to launch it there. More interesting it would be to take its elements and components there and to put it together.

3. The tourists will partly to be divided into two groups - those able to buy an orbital ticket and those not able to do that. This would be providing the chance of croos-subventions. First the suborbitals will finance the orbitals.

It's only a kind of serious advertising information becoming important when orbit is reached - people will look at this success and Scaled and Interorbital are talking of the orbit seriously.



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