Headlines > News > Team LunaTrex Talk to the Space Fellowship About Rockets, Rovers and GLXP Rules

Team LunaTrex Talk to the Space Fellowship About Rockets, Rovers and GLXP Rules

Published by Rob Goldsmith on Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:32 am
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After The Google Lunar X Prize was announced the Space Fellowship spent much of the coming months speaking to teams and finding out how they planned on beating one another to the Moon. One of the teams that was kind enough to discuss their plans, and perhaps one of the most interesting teams, was Team LunaTrex.

LunaTrex was formed in 2008 as a team comprising several individuals, companies, and universities from all over the country (USA) who bring the needed skills, talents, vision, and experience together to pursue the noble goals set out by the Google Lunar X PRIZE.

Speaking with the team in March 2008 the LunaTrex team leader Pete Bitar gave an in-depth interview with the Space Fellowship. Over a year on from that interview the Space Fellowship have spoken to the team again to see how the past 18 months have gone.



Last time we spoke with Pete we asked him about the potential of Ion propulsion, Pete had told us  ”We are not necessarily choosing ion propulsion, but likely either that or Hall effect thrusters, or some form of electric propulsion” I wanted to know how this was developing or if it had been refined, Pete updated me.

“We are refining the idea, based on available launches and launch slots, and also based on what we will hear, hopefully soon, from the XPF (X PRIZE Foundation) and Google, regarding the final rules for the competition. That said, if we can get an affordable launch to TLI (Trans Lunar Injection), it will change our requirements for electric propulsion. However, based on a LEO (Low Earth Orbit) launch, we are still eyeing that approach”.

During the last interview Pete also told us how LunaTrex would make every attempt to win the GLXP bonus prizes, Pete updates us on the potential to achieve bonus prizes.Again, this depends on what the final rules look like, but yes, we will do a cost-benefit analysis and risk-mitigation exercise, to determine the pursuit of bonus prizes, and which ones to pursue. It was also mentioned  back in 2008 that LunaTrex may try and send multiple rovers, the Space Fellowship has now been told that I think one rover will be the best approach for now, possibly two if we can make them small enough. However, the cost factors will drive this“.

I asked Pete to review the team’s progress since we last spoke, then to describe what he feels has been the largest hurdle so far, Pete says In this economy, it is money. However, we have a verbal commitment from a major sponsor, and are pursuing this opportunity and will announce it as soon as it is solidified“.

One aspect of the GLXP which could be viewed from two angles is that of teams entering the prize at different points. It could be argued that entering at different times may give teams an advantage. Since LunaTrex entered the prize in 2008, several other teams have entered into the prize, I asked Pete for his thoughts.

If they have resources, by all means, they can enter… However, I think a frustration for all the teams is the fact that the rules have not been finalized yet. I think that limits our ability to plan finally and decisively with regard to approach“.

We moved on to discussing launchers, with SpaceX  being the Prizes’ preferred partner, Space Exploration Technologies will return 10% of the launch costs for all launches on their Falcon 1, Falcon 1e, and Falcon 9 vehicles. Pete discussed launchers:

The Rover

The Rover

We have considered this, but we are truly shopping for a secondary payload slot, and those are not as available or affordable on Space X. Our smaller payload does not need a dedicated launch. That’s the whole point of our approach. If Space X could build a track record of reliability, and offer comparably inexpensive secondary payload slots, we would be very interested. When our requirements and their path converge, we will definitely be seeking to work with them“. Further discussing the discount offered by SpaceX, Pete Added “I am impressed with what they have done, and am a fan of Elon Musk, but in all practicality, a single success does not a track-record make. We are encouraged, and wish them well, and are watching. We think that the main issue is the lack of secondary payload slots“.

We are now well into the prizes’ timeframe and I wondered how media attention had changed from the initial excitement from the prize being announced. “We have a lot of interest in my other innovations coming out of XADS and AirBuoyant. In fact, we were just featured on August 4, 2009, on History Channel’s That’s Impossible show, with one of our directed energy systems. Additionally, we have interest from Discovery Channel and Forbes TV on VertiPod filming“.

Nearly 18 months on from when we last spoke, I asked the important question, do they still feel they can win the prize.

I believe we do, and we also believe that with our new sponsor coming on board, we may be the front-runner in terms of percentage of needed funds raised. Again, this is still, however, contingent on what the final rules look like“.

So, what can we expect to see from LunaTrex before the end of the year?

We should be able to announce our sponsor, and we will have a few new programs with regard to public outreach up and running. Additionally, we expect to have some new names on our team“.

Copyright 2009 The International Space Fellowship. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

Additional Resources

- Team LunaTrex Talk to the Space Fellowship about the Google Lunar X-Prize

- Lunatrex Homepage

- Video of the Team’s Concept, see below

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