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« Winning Space Game Biz Model | Main | Masten Space »

Ken Davidian

He's talking about the orbital prizes discussion on the Arocket listserv a couple years ago, and going to give an update on Centennial Challenges (Two competitions coming up in the next five weeks).

Major points:

Value of purse: bigger is better
- attracts more sponsors
- enables market transformation
Number: more is better
-attracts more competitors
-attracts investors, sponsors
Don't specify reusability--specify high flight rate
Range of suggested payloads to orbit
1, 10, 300 kg
No docking needed
Showing graduated matrix for level of performance and number of flights

Now showing an NASA internal study based on conversation with Bigelow (June 2004)
After talking to Human Rating Board, major issue from Chief Medical Officer--would be unethical to allow other companies to take passenger risks (with training and conditioning) that NASA didn't allow astronauts to take, so missed opportunity to team with Bigelow.
To maximize number of competitors and probability of winner, minimize number of crew, repeatability, duration.
To maximize commercial benefit with challenge outcomes, increase number of crew, then repeatability.
Did mass growth calculations using historical data, assuming 300 seconds Isp, recognized that government cost estimates weren't reliable for figuring out what private entities could do.
1-2 crew six hours
1 crew twelve hours
others far term, or too expensive
Two crew, launch to LEO 6 hours, safe return to earth. Bigelow wanted four crew, docking, higher altitude, etc. So no deal.
Had Paragon do an external study, with bottoms-up point design, using historic cost/capability relationships. Recommended well-defined goals from the beginning: strengthen industry? (sorry, charts and words flying by too fast to keep up).
$50M too low, $100M lower bound, $250M ideal (higher would encourage pot stealing by big boys). Suggested first and second prizes, prizes should be tax free. Estimated cost to compete was on the order of $200M. Net prize value should be at least $100M. Viable commercial market needed to really make it attractive.

Bottom line: no orbital prize.

Centennial Challenges Status
Benefits to NASA: looking for technology "spin-in" (leveraging off civil developments). New sources of innovation, leveraging of taxpayer dollars, increased awareness of science and technology.

Five allied organizations help manage the program for now fee, NASA only puts up money. All of taxpayers' dollars go to purses. Their benefit is to get visibility by associating themselves with NASA, and they're allowed to use the "meatball."

May 2-3, astronaut glove challenge in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Just testing the bladder restraints.

Regolith excavation at the Santa Maria fairground later in May, using eight tons of regolith simulant from Wisconsin.

Personal Air Vehicle is coming up in August (at AirVenture?)

Beam Power, Tether, and Lunar Lander coming up in October at the X-Prize Cup. Next year is a potential MoonROx competition in June, to get breathable oxygen (2.5 kg in four hours) from lunar simulant.

Had problems last year with people who apparently didn't read the rule books.

No new appropriations from Congress for this. Had to figure out how to take the money they had in hand and distribute it for prizes. have a plan out to 2011, but doesn't allow new prizes unless Congress comes up with more money (was in discussion for three new competitions for $7M, but broke them off until they get more money). Recognizes frustration of dealing with NASA when it reneges all the time. Many purses broken up into first, second and third place.

In future years, if they get money, the lunar excavation and oxygen extraction will be combined into a single competition.

In response to a question, he points out that private prizes have much more flexibility if they can raise their own money, because they won't be hindered by all of NASA's constraints. Notes that they were also looking for a lunar robotic landing challenge, with a purse of $45M. Ed Wright notes that there's a Capitol Hill roundtable planned to discuss prizes on the 2nd and 3rd of June.

Posted by Rand Simberg at March 24, 2007 11:09 AM
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Rand, thanks for the publicity, but there's one slight correction.

The roundtable is actually planned for the second or third Tuesday in June.

Posted by Edward Wright at March 24, 2007 06:36 PM

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