Google Lunar X Prize Down to the Sweet 16

The moon rising over Half Moon Bay, California on Halloween 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
The moon rising over Half Moon Bay, California on Halloween 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

With an end-of-the-year deadline looming for the Google Lunar X Prize to continue, the $30 million competition to land a private rover on the moon has shrunk in half to 16 teams from the original 33 or 34 (more on that later).

At least one of the teams has to demonstrate that it has a firm launch contract in place by Dec. 31 for the competition to continue.  If at least one team can show a contract this year, then the remaining teams in the competition will have until the end of 2016 to secure contracts in order to stay in the race.

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Google Increases Financial Commitment to Google Lunar X Prize

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Google has increased the maximum amount it will give out in the Google Lunar X Prize from $30 million to $40 million, the XPrize announced.

The increase was made to accommodate a series of milestone prizes the competition awarded this week to five of the 18 teams in the competition. A total of $5.25 million was awarded to Astrobotic, Hakuto, Moon Express, Part-time Scientists and Team Indus. The amounts ranged from $500,000 to $1.75 million.

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XPRIZE Awards $5.25 Million in Milestone Prizes to 5 Teams

SAN FRANCISCO (XPRIZE PR)  XPRIZE, the global leader in incentivized prize competition, today announced that five Google Lunar XPRIZE teams have been awarded a combined US$5.25 million in recognition of key technological advancements toward their quest to land a private spacecraft on the surface of the moon. Determined by a judging panel of science, aeronautics and space industry experts that evaluated numerous tests over the past year, the Milestone Prizes honor hardware and software innovations needed to overcome technical risks in the three crucial areas—Imaging, Mobility and Landing systems—all of which are necessary to complete a successful Google Lunar XPRIZE mission.

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Everybody Wins in Google Lunar X Prize Milestone Competition

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UPDATE: The total amount awarded is $5.25 million out of $6 million. The winners are:

  • Astrobotic: $1.75 million (Landing, Mobility, Imaging)
  • Moon Express: $1.25 million (Landing, Imaging)
  • Team Indus: $1 million (Landing)
  • Part Time Scientists: $750,000 (Mobility, Imaging)
  • Hakuto: $500,000 (Mobility)

Moon Express did not win any funds for mobility. Team Indus did not receive any funding for imagining.

The milestone funds will be deducted from the $20 million first prize and the $5 million second prize should any of the teams win them.

The winners of the $6 million Google Lunar X Prize milestone award competition won’t be announced until sometime on Monday, but it appears that everyone is a winner.

The competition has been inviting people to an exclusive live chat on Monday with the five winning teams. Of the 18 remaining teams in the competition, the number competing for the milestones was….five. So, everyone must have won something.

The prizes will be awarded during a glitzy, invitation-only affair in San Francisco on Monday night. Team members are flying in from all over the world to receive the prizes.

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GLXP Update: Team HAKUTO Completes Milestone Prize Tests

Moonraker moving on simulated lunar surface (Credit: HAKUTO)
Moonraker moving on simulated lunar surface (Credit: HAKUTO)

TOKYO (HAKUTO PR) — Happy New Year! HAKUTO finishes tests for the milestone prize, and awaits the announcement of the results.

HAKUTO, the Japanese team selected to compete for the Milestone Prizes, has submitted the final documents reporting the results of their development and verification activities for the milestone prize at the end of 2014. The documents include several tests to prove that our pre-flight model rovers are flight-ready, and now we’ll give you a sneak peek of some of the tests! (more…)

The Year in Commercial Space 2014 (Part II)

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)
Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Second of 2 Stories

It was a busy year for a number of commercial space companies. While most of them made considerable progress, the news wasn’t all good.

A Dream Deferred

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) had a pretty rough year, losing out on two major contracts and laying off more than 100 employees.

On a Friday in May, just as everyone was preparing for the long Memorial Day weekend, Virgin Galactic announced it was dumping the hybrid rubber motor SNC developed for SpaceShipTwo in favor of a hybrid nylon one produced by Scaled Composites.

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Google Lunar X Prize Extends Deadline as Astrobotic’s Entry Wins First Milestone Awards

Astrobotic lander (Credit: Mark Maxwell)
Astrobotic lander (Credit: Mark Maxwell)

The deadline for winning the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize has been moved back again. The XPrize Foundation has announced a one-year delay in the prize to Dec. 31, 2016, contingent upon at least one team providing “documentation of a scheduled launch by December 31, 2015, for all teams to move forward in the competition.”

The foundation also announced that Astrobotic and its partner, Carnegie Melon University (CMU), had won the first two of a series of milestone awards aimed at providing funding to the teams. XPrize and Google will award up to $6 million in milestone prizes next month.

“We continue to see significant progress from our Google Lunar XPRIZE teams, most recently demonstrated in the pursuit of the Milestone Prizes, in which teams exhibited substantial technological achievements that will ultimately support their missions,” Robert K. Weiss, XPRIZE vice chairman and president, said in a press release.

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What Scaled, Virgin & Peter Diamandis Said After Last Fatal SpaceShipTwo Program Accident

Part of SpaceShipTwo's fuselage. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)
Part of SpaceShipTwo’s fuselage. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The crash of SpaceShipTwo and the tragic loss of Scaled Composites test pilot Mike Alsbury were stark reminders that despite all the promises about the safety of new space tourism vehicles, space travel is a dangerous business where death can come in seconds.

If outsiders were stunned by the tragedy, it had a sickeningly familiar feel to long-time Mojave denizens. Mike Alsbury was not the first Scaled employee to die developing SpaceShipTwo for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceline. He was the fourth. Three engineers preceded him seven years earlier in a horrific accident at the Mojave spaceport.

The  2007 tragedy was quite different from the one that occurred over Jawbone Canyon on Halloween. The response to it was both different and eerily familiar.

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Ansari X Prize 10th Anniversary Webcast

The Ansari X Prize 10th anniversary webcast from Saturday featuring Burt Rutan, Anousheh Ansari, Chuck Beames, Brian Binnie, Mike Melvill, Richard Branson and Peter Diamandis.

Scaled Composites Celebrates 10th Anniversary of Ansari X Prize Win

Mike Melvill stands atop SpaceShipOne after a suborbital flight on Sept. 29, 2004. (Credit: RenegadeAven)
Mike Melvill stands atop SpaceShipOne after a suborbital flight on Sept. 29, 2004. (Credit: RenegadeAven)

MOJAVE, Calif., Oct. 3, 2014 (Northrop Grumman PR) – A decade after winning the Ansari XPRIZE with one of the most innovative vehicles ever flown, the employees of Scaled Composites, a Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) subsidiary, continue to push the boundaries of aviation and the emerging commercial space industry.

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X Prize Foundation Grosses $1.2 Million from Ansari X Prize Anniversary Tour

We’re getting our first updates on the exclusive $40,000 per person Ansari X Prize 10th Anniversary trip being lead by X Prize Foundation Founder Peter Diamandis.

It appears as if “about 30” people signed up for the trip, grossing the X Prize Foundation about $1.2 million. The group includes W. Brett Wilson, whom Canadians will remember as having formerly starred on the CBC show Dragon’s Den, and mining magnate Rob McEwen, whom Canadians will remember as the guy who digs big holes in the ground.

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Virgin Galactic Turns 10

Virgin Galactic Announced
Virgin Galactic Press Release
Sept. 27, 2004

Sir Richard Branson and Burt Rutan made their announcement to the world’s media that Virgin Galactic was now in a position to commence a programme of work that would result in the world’s first affordable space tourist flights in 2 to 3 years time.

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Parabolic Flights Dropped From Ansari X Prize Anniversary Trip

Swimsuit 2014: Zero Gravity Kate Upton Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA. (Credit: James Macari)
Swimsuit 2014: Zero Gravity
Kate Upton
Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA. (Credit: James Macari)

The X Prize Foundation has suddenly dropped parabolic microgravity flights aboard Zero-G Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE aircraft from the itinerary of its $40,000 per person Ansari X Prize 10th anniversary trip.

Instead of floating around in zero g next Friday, participants will be sitting around listening to presentations from the “top Google Lunar X Prize teams.”

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X Prize Foundation Cashes in 10th Anniversary of SpaceShipOne Flights

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Peter Diamandis

The X Prize Foundation has found several ways to cash in on the 10th anniversary of the winning of the $10 million Ansari X Prize next week.

In addition to offering $2,500 tickets to the anniversary luncheon next Saturday in Mojave, the organization has organized an exclusive four-day, $40,000 per person tour around the event.

“Take confidence in the fact that XPRIZE Chairman, Peter Diamandis, is personally curating these four days to make it one of the most extraordinary trips of your life!” the X Prize’s exclaims!

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Tickets Available for Ansari X Prize Celebration

SpaceShipOne lands after its historic spaceflight on June 21, 2004. (Credit: Ian Kluft)
SpaceShipOne lands after its historic spaceflight on June 21, 2004. (Credit: Ian Kluft)

Good news, everyone!

If for some reason you didn’t get an invitation to the big Ansari X Prize 10th anniversary lunchaganza next week, there’s still a chance for you to go.

There’s just one hitch: it’ll cost you $2,500. And you’ll have to come to Mojave. That’s two hitches, actually. But, you only have to stay a few hours.

The X Prize Foundation has launched a crowd funding campaign for its new initiative, the Global Learning X Prize. Anyone who contributes $2,500 will receive a ticket to the invitation-only event on Oct. 4.

So far, two people have taken up the offer out of 100 tickets available. The event includes a two-hour luncheon with speeches, etc. Richard Branson, Paul Allen and Burt Rutan are expected to attend.