Friday, October 30, 2009

Masten Space Qualifies for Lunar Lander Challenge X-Prize

NOTE: Cross-posted to the Blog at Getting There From Here.

Congratulations to Masten Space Systems on successfully completing their qualifying flight for the $1 million prize in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge X-Prize. They join Armadillo Aerospace in qualifying for this prize.

To qualify, both companies had to demonstrate control of their vehicle by flying to an altitude of more than 50 meters, flying laterally for 100 meters, and landing on a simulated lunar surface complete with craters and boulders. After doing so, they vehicle had to take off from the simulated lunar surface and return to its starting point (with the option of refueling the vehicle between flights). And, oh yeah, they had to complete all of this (including any necessary refueling) in less than two-and-a-half hours.

Another team, Unreasonable Rocket, will attempt to complete their qualification tomorrow. BonNovA had intended to compete but had to withdraw.

We at Getting There From Here are huge fans of these types of competitions, as they allow a small amount of money to go a long, long way. In this case, the $2 million total prize money for the Lunar Lander Challenge has generated more than $20 million in research on rockets and helped at least a couple of small, entrepreneurial rocket companies to literally get off the ground. Kudos to the X Prize Foundation and Northrop Grumman for organizing and funding such a great contest.

If you want to read the Master press release about the successful flight, it is here.


Anonymous said...

I really wonder where the $20M number comes from. I'm pretty sure that Armadillo Aerospace was the best capitalized team (with Masten a distant second), and between the two, they've only spent about $6M total in the history of their two companies (maybe $7M), including everything they did before the LLC was announced. I'd really be surprised if the other teams had really spent anywhere near $13M combined.

My guess is a more accurate number if you only count the LLC expenditures themselves (ie money spent after LLC was announced, specifically for the LLC attempt), that you might be talking about $5-6M total. Still not a bad multiplier, and more importantly it's a big catalyst to the industry, but I'm curious where this $20M figure originated.

Matt Metcalf said...

I can't speak to the capitalization. The $20 million figure I provided came from this quote:

"All told, the competing teams have spent the equivalent of nearly $20,000,000 in pursuit of NASA’s $2,000,000 in prize money"

Toward the bottom of this page.