Largely lost in Moon Express’s announcement last week of a partnership with Auto Desk was the announcement of a new space prize:
Moon Express also announced “The Moon is ME” Lunar Mining Design Competition as a global challenge to design lunar mining tools that the MERLIN rovers can utilize to acquire and transport lunar samples containing valuable metals and minerals. The competition is global and open to students as well as professional designers using Autodesk software. The top designs will be prototyped and demonstrated in a field test competition at Moon Express facilities at the NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley. The winning prize design will be funded by the company for potential test and demonstration on the Moon.
In essence, Moon Express is going to crowd source these valuable tools instead of hiring people to internally design them.
RCSP PR – PR Huntsville, Ala. (Dec. 1, 2011) –The Rocket City Space Pioneers (RCSP), the Huntsville-centric team competing in the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE competition, invite you to launch a rocket from Rocket City to the moon, land on the moon and explore the moon to meet your mission objectives. RCSP’s new iPad game is now available at the App Store. The game can be downloaded at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/rocket-city-space-pioneers/id481158783?mt=8.
Google Lunar X PRIZE team member Amanda Stiles recently flew on Zero G as a journalist with engineering students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They designed and built an experiment to test in microgravity as a part of the NASA Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program.
Video Caption: In this prequel to the Moon Express Lander Development webisodes, company co-founder & CEO Bob Richards narrates an overview of his Phoenix Mars Lander experience and the very different challenges of landing on the Moon.
The company is executing a technical strategy of developing and testing new landing technologies utilizing a rapid-prototyping Lander Test Vehicle platform in the adaptation of NASA’s Common Spacecraft Bus to a lunar lander. For the first time, Bob gives a public peak inside the project and the Hover Test Facility located a the NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley, California.
Video Caption: We have an incredibly hard working team at Moon Express who pulled us through some tough challenges over the last few months. There were many days that just didn’t end… but it all paid off with a number of successful technical milestones, including the delivery of our Mini-Radar data package to NASA and our first free flight of the Lander Test Vehicle, sporting new hardware and software developed by our Moon Express engineers in collaboration with NASA.
To celebrate, we flew the whole company up to Seattle on August 5th, 2011, to enjoy the amazing ‘SeaFair’ boat and air show aboard our chairman’s yacht (thank you Naveen & Anu!). With hydroplanes racing around us and Blue Angels screaming by unnervingly close, the team was able to let off some steam and have some fun together.
We have amazing people at Moon Express, all exceptionally talented and motivated individuals with interesting backgrounds… which we will tell you about in future webisodes of the Moon Express story.
They are also a lot of fun, as you’ll see in this video capturing some of the lighter moments of that extremely memorable day on Lake Washington…
Huntsville, Ala. (Sept. 2, 2011) – The Dynetics-led Rocket City Space Pioneers (RCSP) Google Lunar X PRIZE team has successfully completed a critical NASA contract milestone by delivering rocket engine hot-fire test data on Dynetics’ newly developed “green” rocket engine. NASA, through its Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) contract, selected Dynetics in October to supply flight component data to enable the development of future human and robotic lander vehicles and exploration systems.
The RCSP team conducted testing on a new, non-toxic “green” hydrogen peroxide-kerosene bi-propellant rocket thruster developed by Dynetics to meet the performance needs of the team’s robotic lander propulsion subsystem. The new rocket thruster was successfully tested in flight relevant environments, providing volumes of data for NASA on the design and performance of this technology. Teammates at Draper Laboratories developed initial guidance, navigation, and control (GN&C) precision landing algorithms to provide testing profiles, and Teledyne Brown Engineering provided thermal analysis inputs used to optimize the design.
Carnegie Mellon University PhD student Krzysztof Skonieczny discusses his work on developing the lightweight lunar excavator robot bucket-wheel, as well as some views on the future of space exploration, in this video from Astrobotic Technology.
Long simmering controversies concerning the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) heated up today as one of the 28 teams competing for $30 million branded the competition’s rules as “oppressive” and “unconscionable” and accused the X Prize Foundation of tolerating a serious conflict of interest involving prominent trustee Naveen Jain, who leads one of the competitors.
“The facts of the matter are that the MTA [Master Team Agreement] is nothing more than a one-sided ‘legal framework’ to benefit the X PRIZE Foundation and Google while placing an unreasonable burden on the teams. The agreement is egregiously one-sided, overly burdensome, oppressive and unconscionable,” Team Mystical Moon wrote in a blog post.
While many of the competitors for the Google Lunar X Prize are building rather small vehicles to keep costs down, Astrobotic Technology has gone in the other direction in order to maximize revenues.
In addition to delivering a rover, Astrobotic’s lander can carry up to 110 kg of third-party payload to the lunar surface. At a cost of between $1.8 million to $2 million per kilogram, a fully sold out mission would earn Astrobotic around $200 million in revenues – more than enough to pay for the mission.
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Aug. 24, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Moon Express, a Google Lunar X PRIZE contender, announced today that it has successfully demonstrated a critical component of its lunar landing technology to NASA under its Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data (ILDD) Program contract. The Moon Express Mini-Radar System promises to radically reduce the cost and mass of the company’s commercial lunar landing system. NASA has reviewed and accepted the Moon Express Mini-Radar data package, satisfying the requirements of the $500K First Task Order under the company’s $10M commercial lunar data contract.