Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge Concludes Next Week



The race for the $2 million Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge (NGLLC) incentivized prize purse, funded by NASA and presented by the X PRIZE Foundation, is coming down to the wire.

As the competition end date (Oct. 31) draws near, teams will descend upon the Mojave Desert in a head-to-head showdown to compete for portions of the remaining $1.65 million prize purse. Officials have confirmed that at least $1.15 million will be awarded this year to a minimum of two of the four NGLLC teams. This will be the largest incentivized prize awarded by the X PRIZE Foundation since the 2004 Ansari X PRIZE competition.


It’s Official: Masten Flight Qualified for Lunar Lander Prize


Masten Space Systems, led by David Masten, successfully flew its lunar lander rocket vehicle, XA-0.1B, also called “Xombie” twice in two hours. Masten is the second of four teams attempting to win a portion of a $2 million incentive prize purse as part of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge (NGLLC), funded by NASA, and created and presented by the X PRIZE Foundation.


Masten to Try for Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge on Wednesday

Masten Space Systems will attempt to win the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge tomorrow in Mojave, Calif. The latest Twitter update from Masten’s Ben Brockert:

RT @wikkit: Did three more flights this afternoon. We’re ready for the #NGLLC. Judges are here now.

The company will fly its Xombie vehicle in an effort to win the $150,000 second prize in Level 1 of the competition. It will attempt Level 2 flights later this month.

X Prize Foundation Celebrates Anniversary, Hails Progress

Astronaut Brian Binnie after the prize winning X2 flight.
Astronaut Brian Binnie after the prize winning X2 flight.


On October 4, 2009, the X PRIZE Foundation will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the largest prize in history, the $10 Million Ansari X PRIZE – won by the Mojave Aerospace Ventures team for the historic flights of SpaceShipOne.

Led by famed aerospace designer Burt Rutan and backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Mojave Aerospace Ventures was the first private team to build and launch a spacecraft capable of carrying three people to 100 kilometers above the earth’s surface twice within two weeks. The team made world history when it achieved this feat on the anniversary of the historic launch of Sputnik in 1957 – the first man made object that entered earth’s orbit and opened the space age.


Five Years Later, Suborbital Space Tourism Remains About Two Years Away

WhiteKnightTwo carries SpaceShipTwo aloft in this artist's conception (credit: Virgin Galactic)
WhiteKnightTwo carries SpaceShipTwo aloft in this artist's conception (credit: Virgin Galactic)

Space tourism yet to fly, 5 years since 1st flight
Associated Press

It has been five years since SpaceShipOne, the first privately financed manned spacecraft, captured the Ansari X Prize on Oct. 4, 2004, by demonstrating that a reusable rocket capable of carrying passengers could fly more than 62 miles high twice within two weeks — showing reliability and commercial viability.

Enthusiasm over SpaceShipOne’s feats was so high that year that even before the prize-winning flight, British mogul Richard Branson announced an agreement to use the technology in a second-generation design, SpaceShipTwo, to fly commercial passengers into space under the Virgin Galactic banner by 2007.


Russian Team Selenokhod Joins Google Lunar X Prize

Today, Team Selenokhod, a Russian group of engineers and managers, announced its official entry into the Google Lunar X PRIZE – a $30 million competition that challenges space professionals and engineers from across the globe to build and launch to the moon a privately funded spacecraft capable of completing a series of exploration and transmission tasks as outlined in the competition’s official rules.


New Team to Enter Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge


The NASAPrize Twitter account indicates that another team will be attempting to win the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge:

there will be yet another team in the running for lunar lander challenge – to be announced soon

There are three teams vying for the prize: Armadillo Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, and Unreasonable Rocket. Teams have until the end of October to complete flights.

Armadillo Aerospace has already claimed $350,000 for winning first place in Level One of the competition. An additional $150,000 prize is available for second place at that level. An additional $1 million is available to the winner of Level 2 and $500,000 for the runner up.

The competition, part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges, is focused on developing lunar lander vehicles that can fly between launch and landing pads. The effort is managed by the X PRIZE Foundation.

Interview: Peter Diamandis Talks Prizes

Philanthropy News Digest has five questions for X PRIZE Foundation CEO Peter Diamandis. An excerpted answer follows:

One of the most critical things a prize can do is change the public perception of what is possible via a physical demonstration. The world is filled with great technology that has never been applied to a concrete goal. Prize philanthropy — and incentive prizes in particular — are a mechanism for driving breakthroughs both in technology and in public perception. What we’re doing at the X PRIZE Foundation is providing structure and a methodology that helps foundations and philanthropists to achieve their goals.

With respect to approach, there are three key attributes of a really effective incentive prize. First, the prize should be highly leveraged. If the prize is properly designed — and not all prizes are — you can drive ten to fifty times the amount of the prize purse to the achievement of your objective. Second, the prize should be efficient.

Read the full interview.

Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge Launch Attempts Set



The X PRIZE Foundation announced today that three teams have registered to make attempts to win the $1.65 million still available in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.  The teams include:

* Armadillo Aerospace will attempt to claim a Level 2 purse from Caddo Mills, TX, on September 12 and 13.
* Masten Space Systems will attempt to claim purses in both levels from Mojave, CA, on September 15-16 (Level One), October 7-8 (Level Two), and October 28-29 (Level Two).
* Unreasonable Rocket will attempt to claim purses in both levels from Cantil, CA, on Oct 30-31.


Diamandis Keeps Pushing Back Barriers

Entrepreneur Peter Diamandis Foments Revolution through Competition
Voice of America

Peter Diamandis is the founder and guiding light behind the X PRIZE. His X PRIZE Foundation funds global competitions, offering money for breakthroughs in fields such as medicine, economic development, clean energy and space flight.

One might expect Diamandis to be the saintly humanitarian type, albeit someone with lots of drive. But he says the simple truth is that he is a stubborn and impatient man. “And I say if something isn’t happening, why not? Why can’t we solve issues around hunger or poverty, or why can’t the average person go into space?” he asks. “I believe we can envision a future and we can go make it happen.”


Spaceport America Installs 3 Launch Pads for Lunar Lander Challenge

An artist's conception of a Virgin Galactic flight above Spaceport America in New Mexico
An artist's conception of a Virgin Galactic flight above Spaceport America in New Mexico


Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, has installed three launch pads for NASA’s 2009 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Centennial Challenge, which is administered by the X PRIZE Foundation to spur innovation and technology development.

Called ‘Tranquility Base’ to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, the trio of lunar lander launch pads was constructed the week of June 22 in preparation for this year’s competition, which begins as early as July 20 and continues through October 31, 2009.