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Lunar Spacecraft Compete For $2 Million NASA Prize 48

Posted by Soulskill
from the turbo-cratermaker-9000XL dept.
coondoggie writes "Nine rocket-powered vehicles will compete for NASA's $2 million, 2008 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, Oct. 24-25. The goal is to accelerate development of commercial Lunar Landers capable of bringing payloads or humans back and forth between lunar orbit and the lunar surface. NASA of course would expect to use some of the technology developed at the Challenge. To win the prize, teams must demonstrate a rocket-propelled vehicle and payload that takes off vertically, climbs to a defined altitude, flies for a pre-determined amount of time, and then land vertically on a target that is a fixed distance from the launch pad. After landing, the vehicle must take off again within a pre-determined time, fly for a certain amount of time and then land back on its original launch pad." Details about the teams involved with the competition are available at the X-Prize website. The event will be broadcast live via webcast next weekend.
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Lunar Spacecraft Compete For $2 Million NASA Prize

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  • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @04:21AM (#25422825) Homepage
    i don't know the exact details, but apparently others [space.com] have given it some thought and seem to have arrived at various [sciencedaily.com] solutions [spacefellowship.com] to the problem [xs4all.nl].
  • by mbone (558574) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @06:12AM (#25423039)

    climbs to a defined altitude, flies for a pre-determined amount of time

    Why not be specfic, since the details are available ?

    There are two levels of difficulty. FTFA :

    Level 1 requires a vehicle to take off vertically from a designated launch area, climb to an altitude of at least 150 feet, remain aloft for at least 90 seconds while traveling horizontally to a landing pad 300 feet away, then land vertically.

    The much more difficult Level 2 requires a vehicle to take off from a designated launch area, ascend to an altitude of 150 feet, hover for 180 seconds, then land precisely on a simulated, rocky, lunar surface 300 feet away.

    You get to refuel, then you have to come back in the same fashion.

  • Re:Lunar Challenge (Score:4, Informative)

    by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n ... minus physicist> on Saturday October 18, 2008 @07:39AM (#25423287) Homepage Journal

    There are three things about Armadillo Aerospace to remember:

    • They have (comparatively) low overhead for their facilities and personnel. While I think they now have a couple of full-time employees, it is just a couple of them... plus a couple of aeronautical engineering interns and others who are all making peanuts. John Carmack's salary doesn't figure into the equation (yet). Being in Texas and Oklahoma doesn't hurt either, especially with the decommissioned air base in Oklahoma that is desperate for customers and practically subsidizing Armadillo's efforts.
    • They have been doing a couple of smallish contracts for NASA and a few other companies that are mainly propulsion studies. Armadillo is widely acknowledged as having the most practical experience with smaller liquid-fueled engines than almost anybody in the industry at the moment, where the cost of the rocket fuel is one of the major budget items for them, which is generally something most rocket launchers typically ignore due to how insignificant it is compared to operations and vehicle costs.
    • Armadillo engines are being used with the Rocket Racing League [rocketracingleague.com], where at least six of them have been sold to paying customers. I believe this is the largest source of money at the moment, and something that looks like a steady source of future income.

    John does post on here occasionally, so he might fill in some details, but there is a source of income for the company. They are also not stopping with these few revenue streams either, but have some huge ambitions for the future.

  • by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes@xmsnet . n l> on Saturday October 18, 2008 @10:53AM (#25424363)

    Low earth orbit is around 2000km up.

    No, it's 200 km up.

    If you want a multi-stage design, you'd be better off looking at jet and scramjet technologies than balloons.

    That's been done already: Orbital Sciences offers the Pegasus [orbital.com] which can launch up to 450 kg into a 200 km orbit. The Pegasus weighs 23 tons at launch.
    To scale this up, you'd probably need a specialized aircraft: Pegasus is about the limit for launching from underneath the fuselage (larger-diameter rockets just won't fit), so you'd need to launch from a wing pylon, and I think there are no aircraft in service that have wing pylons rated for that much weight.
    If you could modify an Antonov 124 to carry its full payload (150 tons) on a wing pylon, you'd get about 450x6=2700 kg in LEO.

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