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« A Health Care Thread | Main | I'm Not Sorry Either »

New Space Prize Announced

Bob Bigelow has announced the rules for his new fifty-million-dollar prize for an orbital vehicle. I saw this yesterday, but haven't posted because I haven't had time to think much about it, but Derek Lyons has.

Posted by Rand Simberg at November 10, 2004 11:28 AM
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Rand; both links go to Space News, I suspect the second is actually intended to point to me at:

Posted by Derek L. at November 10, 2004 11:52 AM


Sorry, it's fixed now.

Posted by Rand Simberg at November 10, 2004 12:02 PM

I have some thoughts as well.

Posted by Tom at November 10, 2004 01:40 PM

This would be the post X-Prize incentive that was NEVER supposed materialize.

Back to you nay sayers of space privatization.

Posted by Steve at November 10, 2004 06:09 PM

Rand, from reading your earlier comments on reusable launch vehicles, I gained the impression that to be econonmical they had to be used on as frequent a basis as possible.
Wouldn't Bigelow's requirement that the vehicle remain parked in orbit for such a lengthy period of time increase the cost of operation to an unreasonable degree?

Posted by Glen the lurker at November 11, 2004 07:10 AM


You confuse launch vehicles with the spacecraft itself. That being said; Even if one craft remains attached to the station, that doesn't prevent the remaining craft from enjoying a high flight rate visiting the station. The average flight rate is pulled down, thus raising costs. However, because the craft are re-useable, the total costs are less than a program based only on disposable craft.

Posted by Derek L. at November 11, 2004 08:57 AM

This is significant sign of interest and involvement of private enterprise in space. For that, I'd like to express my enthusiastic support. However, I think the terms of this prize may make it more difficult for Mr. Bigelow to obtain what he is looking for, namely access to his station.

In particular:

* It is a mistake to specify a 5 person capacity. Would Mr. Bigelow turn down a service that delivered paying customers to his station in twos or threes at a per person cost that was less than a five person vehicle?

* The reusablity requirement is unclear. Note there is confusion if this applies to the orbital payload, or the launcher + orbital payload. Certainly, more clear specifications are needed.

* I think the reusablity requirement misses the point. If one can build a vehicle that gets the job done for X cost, defined by the prize award and future contract options, then how it is acomplished is not really relavent to the customer.

* Also, the requirement for orbital stay is misplaced. It will probably make the engineering of the vehicle more difficult, or increase mass and complexity of the vehicle, or make the economical business operation more difficult compared to a vehicle unencumbered with that requirement. It would be more wise to meet that requirement seperately, or add another incentive if the winner met this requirement as well as the other requirements.

* Lastly, an orbital inclination requirement is missing.

My crack at the Prize requirements would be:

$50 Million prize for:

* Deliver one passenger safely to the Bigelow orbiting hotel at X inclination, Y altitude, meeting certain docking requirements. Safely is defined by broad but specific limits on Acceleration, climate control, and passenger comfort.

* Return safely one passenger to Earth. Safely is defined by acceptable maximum and average deceleration values.

End of requirements.

Emergency escape prize

X dollars for a permenent orbital escape pod.

* Must be able to be docked at Bigelow Station. Docking interface defined.
* Must have an orbital lifetime of Y years.
* Must be able to accomidate at least 2 persons
* Hatch must be abled to be openned and closed in X time.
* The pod shall be able to detach from the station with X impulse in no more than 3 minutes.
* The pod must be able to make a safe landing within 6 hours of seperation. Safe is defined in detail, including recovery and access to medical atttention, if needed.
* The pod design must demonstrate 3 successful demonstrations flights leaving the station. At least one flight must be manned.

Posted by Fred K. at November 11, 2004 11:35 AM

Fred; I encourage comments on my blog as well.

Posted by Derek L. at November 11, 2004 12:30 PM

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