X-Prize and Aerospace Event


I ran across an interesting event that I wish I could go to later this month. The Wirefly X PRIZE CUP ’07 Holloman Air & Space Expo is being held October 26-28, 2007 at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. This event is a celebration of forward-looking technology, space exploration and competition for new aerospace technologies.

The first X-Prize if you recall was a $10 million award to the first private group to successfully build and launch a manned spacecraft into space. The X PRIZE Foundation sought to bring about a radical breakthrough in the advancement of human spaceflight, the aim being to open up the space frontier; something that has always been near to my heart. The long-term goal is to make space travel safe, affordable and accessible to everyone through the creation of a personal spaceflight industry. To win the prize, famed aerospace designer Burt Rutan and financier Paul Allen led the first private team to build and launch a spacecraft (SpaceShipOne) capable of carrying three people to 100 kilometers above the earth’s surface, twice within two weeks.

Today there are several different X-Prizes in the Space, Medical, and Automotive fields. Just last month the X PRIZE Foundation and Google Inc. announced the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a robotic race to the Moon to win a remarkable $30 million prize purse. Private companies from around the world will compete to land a privately funded robotic rover on the Moon that is capable of completing several mission objectives, including roaming the lunar surface for at least 500 meters and sending video, images and data back to the Earth.

The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge 2007 is an interesting one designed to accelerate commercial technological developments supporting the birth of a new generation of Lunar Landers capable of ferrying payloads or humans back and forth between lunar orbit and the lunar surface. It will be held at the Expo in October.

The Competition is divided into two levels. Level 1 requires a rocket to take off from a designated launch area, rocket up to 150 feet (50 meters) altitude, then hover for 90 seconds while landing precisely on a landing pad 100 meters away. The flight must then be repeated in reverse—and both flights, along with all of the necessary preparation for each, must take place within a two and a half hour period.

The more difficult course, Level 2, requires the rocket to hover for twice as long before landing precisely on a simulated lunar surface, packed with craters and boulders to mimic actual lunar terrain. The hover times are calculated so that the Level 2 mission closely simulates the power needed to perform the real lunar mission.

There will also be launches, air show performances, displays of rockets, robotic displays, and military and warbird aircraft displays. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend this year because of school commitments but there is always next year.