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HobbySpace.com Special Report

X Prize Cup 2007
October 26-28
Holloman AFB, Alamogordo, New Mexico

+
International Symposium on
Personal Spaceflight 2007

October 24-25
Las Cruces, New Mexico

 X Prize Cup  2007
Armadillo Aerospace's Mod vehicle comes in for a landing on the first leg of its first attempt at
the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge prize at the X PRIZE Cup on Oct.27, 2007.


This page reviews both the International Symposium on Personal Spaceflight (ISPS) held in Las Cruces, New Mexico during October 24-25 and the X Prize Cup (XPC) held on the Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico during October 26-28, 2007. The XPC included the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge (NG-LLC). The XPC this was held in tandem with the bi-annual air show at Holloman.

Links to the postings that I made on the blog SpaceTransportNews.com during the events are listed below along with links to postings on other blogs and and to various news reports.


X Prize Cup 2007
October 26-28

XPC: 2006 vs. 2007

This year's XPC event was combined with the bi-annual air show at Holloman AFB and it differed considerably from XPC 2006. In 2006 there were the Space Elevator Challenges (Power Beaming and Tether Strength) in addition to the NG-LLC. This year the space elevator competitions were held separately in Utah. Also, in 2006 there were a number of static rocket engine firings, many amateur rocket launches, Rocketman flights, etc. This year there were just two high power amateur rocket launches (one on Saturday and one on Sunday) and the NG-LLC. On the other hand, the audience got lots of thrills this year from the amazing aircraft demonstration and acrobatic flights via the air show segment of the event.

As in 2006, there were lots of space related exhibits, booths, and displays on the grounds and in the exhibition hall. Also, as last year there was one day (Friday, Octother 26th) devoted to education. Over 6000 kids participated. In addition, the ten finalists in the Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award had displays in the exhibition hall and the three top teams were awarded prizes on Sunday by Pete Conrad's widow.

The air and space shows took place Saturday and Sunday, Oct.27-28, and were open free to the public. It was reported that 85,000 people attended the event over the 2 day event plus the education day on Friday.

News Conferences and Announcements

The Education and Media Day on October 26th included several news conference presentations. As noted below, announcements were made by Rocket Racing League, Teachers-in-Space, and Rocketplane Global. On Saturday, Orbital Outfitters unveiled a prototype of their first spacesuit intended for use in space tourism suborbital flights.

Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge (NG-LLC)

The XPC included the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge (NG-LLC) contest, which provides a total of $2M in prize money. Although nine teams had originally signed up for the competition, only Armadillo Aerospace managed to get a vehicle flying and able to pass all the LLC and FAA qualification requirements.

There were four time windows within which LLC flights could occur. Each window was 150 minutes long. A window was scheduled for early in the morning and in the afternoon on Saturday and on Sunday. Within a window, a team had to take its vehicle from the staging area over to the starting launch pad and prepare it for its flight. When ready, the team withdraws to a safe distance and then begins the flight. Via remote control, the vehicle must rise to at least 50 meters, move sideways horizontally over to a point above a second pad and then come down for a landing. It is refueled and then flown back along a similar path. Still within the time window, the vehicle must be returned to the staging area.

The rules involve many details but basically the challenge was divided into two levels. In level 1, the flight time each way must be at least 90 seconds. For level 2, the flight times are 180 seconds plus the landing pads are made in a manner that simulates lunar terrain with rocks and an unlevel surface.

Armadillo's Mod Vehicle Falls Short of the Prize

Armadllo planned first to go for the Level 1 event, which offered a $350k first place purse. Once they won that, they would then go for the Level 2 competition and its $1M purse within the remaining time windows.

In 2006, Armadillo came very close to winning the Level 1 prize but they had problems with the landing legs, which had not been carefully designed due to time constraints as they rushed to get the vehicles ready. This year they were quite confident of winning at least the Level 1 event and probably Level 2 as well. They had carried out many flight tests at the Oklahoma spaceport and even flewy a full Level 1 rehearsal.

For Level 2 they would use the Pixel "quad" vehicle, which they flew in the 2006 event but which was now upgraded with new, improved legs and other enhancements. For level 1, they would fly "Mod", which was of a brand new modular design that will allow multiple units to be connected together to achieve high altitude flights. Mod and another modular vehicle had been built in just two months after Texel, Pixel's sister quad vehicle, was destroyed during a test flight in Oklahoma back in August.

As reported in the postings listed below, ignition problems with the engines tripped up Armadillo's efforts to win either level. They got off to a bad start when clogging in the fuel line forced them to cancel their initial flight in the first window on Saturday morning. In the afternoon window the first flight went well but during the return flight the engine was partially damaged at startup. Despite considerable damage to the nozzle, the vehicle made it over to the pad where John Carmack let it hover a few meters off the ground, hoping to fulfill the 90 second flight time. Unfortunately, the engine damage worsened, causing the vehicle to begin to swing back and forth and he had to bring it down just 7 seconds short of the required time. The vehicle, off balance due to the swinging, tipped over on landing but was not damaged.

For the Sunday morning window, the first flight again went well but once more there was another ignition "hard start" when the vehicle took off on the return leg. This time, though, the engine damage was so severe the vehicle immediately came back down onto the pad.

The team replaced the engine and tried once again in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the engine blew out completely and even started a brief fire. The vehicle itself was not severely damaged but this ended their attempt at Level 1. The LLC judges and organizers agreed to let Armadillo go for Level 2 with Pixel in an additional window on Sunday evening (according to the rules, only 4 windows per level were allowed at a given LLC event) but the team chose not to take advantage of this opportunity. They felt they did not understand the engine ignition problems and decided it was best to call it quits and try again next year.

Resources

I've collected my blog entries from Space Transport News about these events along with some photos. I also include links to other blogs, news reports, articles, photos, and miscellaneous resources related to the events.

Friday, October 26, 2007
Media and Education Day

Saturday, October 27, 2007
Air Show + Lunar Lander Challenge Attempts 1 & 2


Amateur high power rocket in flight.

Sunday, October 28, 2007
Air Show + Lunar Lander Challenge Attempts 3 & 4
X Prize Cup Resources


International Symposium on Personal Spaceflight
ISPS 2007

October 24-25


A panel of space travelers answering questions about their experiences in orbit.


With the annual X PRIZE Cup events and the development of a commercial spaceport near Las Cruces, personal spaceflight (i.e. space tourism) is not just a fun topic but an issue with serious economic and social ramifications for New Mexico. The symposium, organized by the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium, examined personal spaceflight issues in detail and with a special emphasis on finding ways to encourage and support its development. This was the third such meeting and it was attended by over 300 people.

The symposium focused on a wide range of areas that included the status of rocket vehicles in development for space tourism, government policies, legal and regulatory issues, marketing, and the financing of vehicles and spaceports. There were also sessions dealing with the experiences of thoses who have actually flown in space.

There was a lot of discussion about spaceports, especially regarding the development of Spaceport America near Las Cruces.

A DVD with the presentations will be available for sale later on the ISPS website.

A session usually consisted of a panel with participants who had some expertise or experience relevant to the session topic. Each panel member would make a short presentation and then they would respond to questions submitted to them.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007
  • Introduction - Comments by Diamandis and others about the status of commercial spaceflight.

  • Plenary Session - Presentations and panel discussion by Elon Musk, Valin Thorn (NASA COTS), John Herrington (Rocketplane Global), and Alex Tai (Virgin Galactic)

  • Track 1: Session 1 - Progress in Vehicle Systems - Hiroyuki Ogawa (JAXA), Hugues Laporte-Weywada (EADS Astrium), Mark Sirangelo (SpaceDev), and George Sowers (United Launch Alliance)

  • Track 1: Session 2 - Synergy Between Government and Personal Spaceflight - Maj. Ryan Pendleton (Air Force Space Command), Lt Col Paul Damphousse (National Security Space Office),Dan Coughlin (NASA Ames Research Center), Mike Holguin (United Launch Alliance), Joseph Adams (Aerospace Corporation), and Jess Sponable (Air Force Research Laboratory)

  • Track 2: Session 1 - Developing Space Tourism - Anousheh Ansari (Space Explorer), Michael Lopez-Alegria (STS-73, STS-92, STS-113, Expedition-14), Craig Willan (Tourist, Virgin Galactic), Dan Barry (STS-72, STS-96, STS-105), and Lori Garver (Avascent Group).

  • Track 2: Session 2 - Interviews with Space Tourists - David Livingston (The Space Show) asks questions of Ansari, Lopez-Alegria, Willan, Barry, and Garver.

  • Track 3: Session 1 - Marketing the “New Space” Business - John Cordova (Sports Transaction Management, The Coca-Cola Company)

  • ISPS misc.


A view from outside the Symposium hall one evening.

Thursday, October 25, 2007
  • Track 4 – Session 1 - Spaceport America 1st Step - Kelly O’Donnell (Economic Development State of New Mexico), Wayne L. Savage (Spaceport America, DMJM Aviation), Alex Tai (Virgin Galactic),Patricia Grace Smith (FAA), and Rebecca Armstrong (NM Spaceport Authority)

  • Track 4 – Session 2 - Building the Spaceport Network - Burton Lee (Innovarium Ventures) , Olle Norberg (Spaceport Sweden), Jacques Breton (Arianespace SA), Steve Kohler (SpaceFlorida), and Billie M. Reed (Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority).

  • Track 4 – Session 3 - Impact of Spaceports on Communities - Bill Mattiace (Mayor, City of Las Cruces), Lori Montgomery (Mayor, City of TorC), Judd Nordyke (Mayor, Village of Hatch), Rick Holdrige (Luna County Commissioner & Chair of NMSA), and Janet Green (ex-Secretary Tourism, NM).

  • Track 5 – Session 1 - Staying Alive in a Growing Market - Chuck Lauer (Rocketplane), Noah McMahon (ZERO-G), Jerry Larson (UP Aerospace), and Rich Pournelle (XCOR Aerospace).

  • Track 5 – Session 2 - When All You Need is Cash - Larry Peterson (Angel Investment, El Paso, Texas), Lon Levin (t/Space), Brian Birk (Sun Mountain Capital) , and Patrick ? (Rocket Racing League).

  • Track 6 – Session 1 - Q & A with Astronauts and Explorers - Michael Lopez-Alegria, Anousheh Ansari, Jeff Hoffman, Dan Barry, Janice Voss, Roger Crouch, John Herrington,and Jay Buckey.

  • Closing - Pat Hynes (ISPS Chari), Clayton Mowry (Arianespace), Peter Diamandis, Michael Simpson (International Space University), and Reda Anderson (first ticketholder for Rocketplane XP flight).
More ISPS 2007 Resources

Misc. Photos
Education and Media Day
Friday, Oct. 26, 2006
Armadillo moves modular vehicle
Two Armadillo Aerospace team members
roll one of the modular vehicles over to the
staging area.
Armadillo staging area
The Armadillo Aerospace staging area
with the two modular vehicles on the
left and pixel on the right.
SpaceX Dragon capsule prototype on display
SpaceX Dragon capsule prototype on display
Armadillo moves modular vehicle
Exhibit hangar where space related companies,
educational organizations, NASA, Pete Conrad
Award contestants, etc. had displays set up.
X PRIZE Cup - Day 1
Saturday, Oct. 27, 2006
Jeff Feige into to spacesuit
Jeff Feige of Orbital Outfitters introduces
the company's first space tourist pressure suit.
Jeff Feige into to spacesuit
Orbital Outfitters introduces the company's
first functionl prototype pressure suit.
Mod on first flight at XPC
Armadillo's Mod during first flight on
Saturday afternoon.
Mod on 2nd flight, Oct 27
Armadillo's Mod during first flight on
Saturday afternoon.


Armadillo's Mod during return flight on
Saturday afternoon.
Mod on 2nd flight, Oct 27
Armadillo's Mod during return flight on
Saturday afternoon.
X PRIZE Cup - Day 2
Sunday, Oct. 28, 2006
X Racer prototype
A Rocket Racing League X-Racer
prototype on display.
Armadillo grab engine
The Armadillo team takes an engine
from the spare modular vehicle to use
on Mod.

New Mexico Space Museum
&
White Sands National Monument

The media activities finished early on Friday, Oct. 26th, so Rand Simberg and I left the site and toured the New Mexico Space Museum and then took a brief detour on the way back to Las Cruces to enjoy a drive through the amazing White Sands National Monument.

New Mexico Space Museum
The beautiful New Mexico Space Museum
in Alamogordo.
Rockets at NMSM
Rocket garden at the NMSM.
White Sands
A pedestrian bridge across dunes
of white gypsum sand.
White Sands
Areas like this reminded me
of winter in northern Illinois.
Clark at White Sands
Rand Simberg snaps my picture on a
dune in the White Sands National Monument
White Sands at sunset
Sunset at the White Sands Monument

 

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The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey
NewSpace Watch at NSG

 

 

 
 
 
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