Monday, June 02, 2008

Something different....prizes

I’m sorry I have not provided much input in the last two weeks I’ve been working on a bunch of related issues, but not making much direct hardware progress.

I’ve seen much on-line discussion of the Google Lunar X prize. Its a cool prize and significant purse, but I think it pales in comparision to the briliance of the origional X-prize.

I think a good prize should have several charactoristics:

  1. It should seem like its possible to win a bunch of $. A prize that costs 15M to win 20M is not a prize. There were a lot of people that thought they could win the origional X prize for less than 2M, they were wrong, but it appeared at first blush like it was possible.

  2. When the winner is successful it should create a market. The origional Xprize kick started a rush to do suborbital tourisum.

  3. The rules should be very simple, the core concept should be a paragraph or less.

I think the world really needs a low cost access to orbit prize. The primary barrier to becoming a spacefaring civilization is the cost to orbit. The traditional players have no incentive to really change this.

Pauls Ideal Orbital prize:

  • 10M for the first group to orbit a reusable vehicle.

  • Must orbit at least 4 times above 100 km.

  • Must return intact.

  • Must repeat within one month.

Reusable means:

  • All stages are recovered and reused.

  • No more than 10% of the inert stage mass may be replaced.

  • The replacement/refurbishment does not cost more than 100K per flight.

Possible Modifications:

  • Change the amount to 25M and require it carry a single person. For the first of the two flights the person could be simulated. (IE record accelerations temps, pressures etc.. prove person could survive.)

  • Remove the reuseablity requirement and substitute a low cost requirement. IE a fullt accounted cost to build and launch the 2nd flight for less than $200K.

Enough pontificating for one day. Those of you who have followed my blog for a long time will know we lost our 15yr old dog in October. Last Friday we acquired a 3 month old puppy from the Hellen Woodward anmial shelter. I’ve spent the weekend playing with the puppy, I only built one rocket part all  weekend.


Anonymous said...

Robert Bigelow tried something like what you suggested. It's just that his requirements were a little bit harder. He offered $50 million to whomever could orbit a reusable spaceship that carried a crew of four or five and dock with his space station without using any government funding. I believe he called it the America Prize. I understand that SpaceX was considering entering until they won the government COTS contract, which disqualified them and was worth more money anyways.

heroineworshipper said...

Their contests don't need to make any sense to get zillions of entries because they're The Greatest Corporation in the World. It's still sort of a fiasco in that no-one signing up is actually doing anything. It's more a way to get publicity by signing up for something The Goog sponsored.

Paul Breed said...

I'm imagining something like a 1Kg (or less) payload. Maybe no payload at all just the "vehicle".

The wright bothers first aircraft did not look like a DC-3 or a 747, we need to learn to walk before we run.

It is key that the prize seem achievable by the tinkerers and dreamers and not just the big aerospace corps. The Bigelow prize was beyond what Armadillo, Masten, Xcor or even Unreasonable could attempt on their own. The 1Kg or less orbiter is not.

Anonymous said...

1st 2 sentences of Paul's 10:32 comment is what I've been preaching for 12+ years.
The GLXP rules have gotten 10x too complex. They need to go back to the X Prize or CATS Prize rules.
I suggest LEO return satellite as Paul suggests or non-return escape velocity that either impacts moon or sends data for (x) days.

Iain said...

I agree a 1kg payload is a good start, It is as you say not out of reach by the likes of the companies you mentioned there Paul.
I was actually talking about something like this not to long ago with a mate and we came to the same idea, it could be done.

I don't know of anyone working on such things but a prize would defiantly accelerate it....

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