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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 Exclusive: Rules Set for $50 Million America's Space Prize   Posted on: Mon Nov 08, 2004 1:27 pm
Anyone who wants to follow in the shoes of Burt Rutan and win the next big space prize will have to build a spacecraft capable of taking a crew of no fewer than five people to an altitude of 400 kilometers and complete two orbits of the Earth at that altitude. Then they have to repeat that accomplishment within 60 days.

http://www.xprizenews.org/index.php?p=640

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Last edited by Sigurd on Sat Jul 15, 2006 12:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post    Posted on: Mon Nov 08, 2004 1:54 pm
Rule 6 sez 20% of the hardware may be expendable ... hmm ... heatsheilding might take up a fair whack of that.

That business about having to perform the second mission with 5 actual humans on board (rule 7) sounds a bit harsh ... nobody expected Rutan to risk more than one pilot at a time.

Anyone else notice how rule 7 and rule 10 are exactly the same? POW ... giant dent into somebody's credibility right there.

Of course the it's time limit that seems a tad unreasonable to me. Anyone else think of a harder obstacle in their requirements list?

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Post    Posted on: Mon Nov 08, 2004 2:16 pm
Dr_Keith_H wrote:
Of course the it's time limit that seems a tad unreasonable to me. Anyone else think of a harder obstacle in their requirements list?


The most interesting thing to me in the articles that talked about the prize was the contract value for future flights. Essentially he's indicated a willingness to pay $33.3 million per flight. While this isn't actually listed as a requirement -- any ship which can't profitably fly at this price is not really a contender. It's practically a given that an orbital craft will cost more than $50 million to develop -- so it's the contract afterwards that's the real prize.

So the ship needs to be able to get five people to a 400km orbit and dock with his station -- and do it for a price far enough under $33.3 million that they can both make a profit *and* recoup R&D expenses over the $50 million dollar prize (plus interest -- assuming the money was borrowed... which is generally a pretty good assumption)


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Post    Posted on: Mon Nov 08, 2004 2:26 pm
The requirement to carry 5 people to orbit reminds me to the 5-people-capacity of the suborbital spacecrafts Branson has ordered from Scaled. This is a least-capacity - they are thinking about a higher capacity.

These suborbital spacecrafts are scheduled to begin launches in 2007.

If that works the harsh aspect of rule 7 is "restricted" to the amount of propellant required for Scaled (...). The safety will have been tested and proven then by Branson's vehicles.

The identity of rule 7 and 10 I too recognized.

The time limit is worth to be thought about longer - the allowed amount of expendability too.



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Post    Posted on: Mon Nov 08, 2004 2:30 pm
But ... isn't the projected Rutan/Branson vehicle a suborbital craft? I thought we were talking about a completely different beastie here ... one that orbits twice per launch.

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Post    Posted on: Mon Nov 08, 2004 2:47 pm
Yes, suborbital - but providing new experiences:

1. More weight to carry.
2. More propellant required.
3. Redesign

If they are a second step to the orbit the number-of-passenger-part of rule 7 is met allready - what's left then is to increase the velocity. The design of the vehicles will be completely changes to achieve orbit-capabilities but the construction of Branson's vehicles provides new insights valuable for the later orbital vehicle and these insights will be based on a five-person-vehicle.

I think in developing an orbital vehicle Rutan will make use of all experiences and insights won be the suborbital vehicles. And because of rule 7 this especially will be the experiences from Branson's vehicles.

This will reduce the costs of research and development.



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Post    Posted on: Mon Nov 08, 2004 3:38 pm
Any craft capable of reaching bigelows 400km space station can obviously reach the ISS as well, another incentive for possible future contracts to the winner.

I wonder if he is using the same docking port that the ISS is using, it would make sense for Nasa to let him then they would have a ready made ferry for their astronauts?


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Post    Posted on: Mon Nov 08, 2004 3:58 pm
Andy Hill wrote:
Any craft capable of reaching bigelows 400km space station can obviously reach the ISS as well, another incentive for possible future contracts to the winner.


Presumably ESA would pay the same price for a flight to the ISS 33.3 million. NASA wouldn't like it -- but would probably have little option to contract flights as well at that price. The volume would definitely help justify the R&D *if* the flights could be made at a profit. You can't 'make it up on volume' if you lose money on every flight. :)

Of course since the Soyuz flights are supposedly $35million a pop, and the only carry three people *and* the current plan is to start keeping two up at the ISS simultaneously to allow the station to be fully crewed -- a company with a 6-person craft could probably charge more than $33 million per flight. They might could also force Bigelow to pay more as well -- 33.3 million per flight is his first offer, after all.

Andy Hill wrote:
I wonder if he is using the same docking port that the ISS is using, it would make sense for Nasa to let him then they would have a ready made ferry for their astronauts?


ISS has two separate types of docking ports -- one for the shuttle -- a second for the Soyuz. I've seen articles that indicate Bigelow is planning to use the Soyuz-style for his stations. At any rate -- it's certainly possible for a spacecraft to be designed such that the docking port can be modular. The proper style port can be installed prior to launch depending on the mission parameters. Alternately, if that has downsides -- since there would presumably be more than one spacecraft built -- there could be some with the US-style port and others with the Russian-style.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:06 pm
Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
I think in developing an orbital vehicle Rutan will make use of all experiences and insights won be the suborbital vehicles. And because of rule 7 this especially will be the experiences from Branson's vehicles.

This will reduce the costs of research and development.


So by this logic -- Ranger Boats (www.rangerboats.com) a company that manufactures and builds fiberglass fishing boats would be able to use their experiences in boat construction to move into the market of building 1400 passenger cruise ships. The fact that they already have done R&D into the construction of boats means that this will be applicable to their new market.

If you think that my example is a huge exaggeration, then you really don't understand the differences in difficulty between sub-orbital and orbital flight.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:55 pm
The use of modular components is an interesting idea. You could swap out the passenger compartment for any number of things, even a small medical compartment to allow hurt astronaut to be ferried back to Earth.

The craft could also act as a lifeboat for shuttle missions, yes I know there wont be to many of these and it will possibly be retired by the time this craft comes into operation but Nasa schedules have stretched before.

I dont agree that the Bigelow might have to pay a higher price, one assumes that there will be a number of competitors and as such he could choose one of the others if the winner tried to charge to much. In any case its likely that he would have more than one company supplying a ferry service as its not wise to put all your eggs in one basket (the shuttle has shown us this).

Excluding government money shows he wants very little involvement from them and might exlude Boeing or Lockheed as they would find it difficult to prove that anything they produced would not have been derived from a government contract. Maybe he is specifically trying to encourage a smaller company like SpaceX to compete. It probably rules out any Russian teams as well. He is narrowing his options down a bit. [/i]


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Post    Posted on: Mon Nov 08, 2004 5:26 pm
There's one thing that isn't very clear from the rules: is the booster that takes the spaceship into space included in the 80% that must be reusable? Either way i think there are only two companies who will be able to pull this off: Blue Origin and the combination of t/Space (which includes Scaled Composites) and SpaceX.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Nov 08, 2004 7:45 pm
Sah a cool program on Discovery last night..
It was about Scaled and the effort to win the X-prize...
In the Rutan showed some drawings he had on his computer...
It was a bigger version of White Knight and a bigger version of SpaceShipOne with a big rocket ind it’s ass. He also showed a picture of the spaceship docket with a space station…
So I have no drought in my mind, that he will go for this prize also.
:)


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Post    Posted on: Mon Nov 08, 2004 9:22 pm
Dr_Keith_H wrote:
Anyone else notice how rule 7 and rule 10 are exactly the same? POW ... giant dent into somebody's credibility right there.


Looks like space.com finally got round to fixing the typo... :P


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Post    Posted on: Tue Nov 09, 2004 8:14 am
Hello, mrmorris,

I really do understand the difference in the difficulties but to make use of experiences and insights from suborbital vehicles doesn't mean to apply them in the construction of an orbital vehicle. It means - for example - that the constructor allready has learned what's a good way and what's a bad way. He allready knows some of the errors and mistakes that can occur and so can prevent them. And he can intuitively recognize earlier which new ideas may be errors.

And the former experiences and insights may have cuased first ideas how to construct an orbital vehicle.

All this both you as a programmer and I as an employee of a commercial informatics department have experienced by our own jobs in the past too. Nothing else I've meant in Rutan's case - and in cosntructing Wight Knight/SpaceShipOne he will have made use of experiences from his developments of airplanes.

I wouldn't wonder if there already raw concepts of orbital vehicles at Scaled.



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Post    Posted on: Tue Nov 09, 2004 11:32 am
Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
I wouldn't wonder if there already raw concepts of orbital vehicles at Scaled.


Your right about that, they have..
Lookes like what i sah at the Discovery channel has also been on 60 minuts.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/11/05/60minutes/main654028.shtml
...
"You know, I was wondering what they are feeling, 'they' being that other space agency," Rutan laughs. "And, uh... you know, quite frankly, I think the big guys, the Boeings, the Lockheeds, the nay-say people at Houston, I think they're looking at each other now, and saying, 'We're screwed!' Because, I'll tell you something, I have of a hell a lot bigger goal than they do!"

He's already at work, designing the details.

...
He also has a vision for a resort hotel in space, and says it all could be accomplished in the foreseeable future. Rutan believes it is the dawn of a new era.

...
"The goal is affordable travel above low earth orbit. In other words," he explains, "affordable travel for us to go to the moon. Affordable travel. That means not just NASA astronauts, but thousands of people being able to go to the moon."


They also had a little video clip: Real Video version


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