Tag Archives: Google Lunar X Prize

Third Lunar X-prize competitor signs launch contract

The competition heats up: The Google Lunar X-prize has confirmed that a third competitor, Synergy Moon, has signed a launch contract to send its privately built and funded rover to the Moon.

The Synergy Moon mission will use a Neptune 8 rocket, built and launched by Interorbital Systems, to carry a lunar lander and at least one rover to the surface of the moon, launching from an open-ocean location off the California coast during the second half of 2017. Team Synergy Moon is one of three Google Lunar X-Prize teams now set to compete in 2017, joining SpaceIL and Moon Express. The remaining 13 teams have until December 31, 2016 for their launch agreements to be verified by X-Prize in order to proceed in the competition.

In looking at the website of the launch company, I am not impressed. I hope they succeed, but I would not put much money on this Lunar X-Prize competitor.

Moon Express gets FAA approval for Moon landing

The competition heats up: Moon Express, one of the leading private competitors in the Google Lunar X-Prize, has gotten FAA approval for its planned 2017 Moon landing.

It is looking like 2017-2018 will be very exciting years for private space. We will not only see the first launches of privately-built manned spacecraft, we will see the first privately-built and -funded missions to both the Moon and Mars.

Second Google Lunar X-Prize launch contract confirmed

The competition heats up: The Google Lunar X-Prize has now confirmed two launch contracts for sending a privately financed and built rover to the Moon by 2017.

Moon Express is now the second company to have a launch contract for their lunar lander spacecraft verified by the X Prize Foundation. An Israeli team, SpaceIL, had its contract to launch a lander on a SpaceX Falcon 9 verified by the foundation in October. SpaceIL will be one of the primary payloads on a launch purchased in September by Spaceflight Industries that will carry about 20 other spacecraft. That initial launch contract verification allowed the foundation to formally extend the competition’s deadline to the end of 2017. Teams have until the end of 2016 to submit their own launch contracts in order to continue in the competition.

Sixteen teams remain in the competition, announced in September 2007, to land a privately-developed spacecraft on the moon, travel at least 500 meters across its surface, and return high-resolution videos and other data. Some teams are cooperating with others for launch arrangements.

Another Google Lunar X-Prize contestant announces launch contract

The competition heats up: Another Google Lunar X-Prize team, SpaceIL, has announced the signing of a launch contract, this time as a secondary payload on a Falcon 9 launch in the latter half of 2017.

Their press release says they are the first to produce an actual contract to the contest, which only means the Moon Express contract hasn’t yet been delivered.

This two launch contracts suggest that the competition for the X-Prize will get interesting in 2017. As a secondary payload, SpaceIL will not be able to schedule its launch. And while Moon Express, as a primary payload on smallsat rocket, can schedule its launch, it is depending on a new untried rocket, Electron, being developed by a new untried rocket company, Rocket Labs.

And since SpaceIL is an Israeli company, be prepared for some Muslim and leftwing heads to explode should it win the X-Prize. How dare they oppress those Palestinians by getting their rover to the Moon first!

Shake-ups in the Google Lunar X-Prize competition

One team has withdrawn and two big-name executives have left another team in a shake-up at the Google Lunar X-Prize competition.

This key quote however tells us the real state of the competition, which sadly does not look good:

The competition has repeatedly moved back the deadline to win the prize, which is now set for Dec. 31, 2017. At least one of the 16 remaining teams much announced a launch contract by the end of this year for the competition to continue. The rest of the teams would then have until the end of 2016 to announce launch contracts to stay in the race.

The team that withdrew says it plan to continue its effort but outside the competition. Either way, it looks like someone has to commit to a launch sometime in the next few months or the competition either has to push back its deadlines again or declare no winners. This will be a sad conclusion, as it is entirely possible for private financing to get this done. A failure however would make that appear impossible.

Audi joins race to the Moon

The competition heats up: The carmaker Audi has joined one of the teams competing for the Google Lunar X-Prize.

Audi’s part in the project will be to supply technical know how though its Audi Concept Design Studio, including the application of its quattro all-wheel drive technology and its experience in lightweight construction, electric mobility, and piloted driving. The company says it will also help in testing, trials, and quality assurance.

The rover, now named the “Audi lunar quattro,” is scheduled to launch sometime in 2017 and is aimed at a landing zone north of the lunar equator somewhere near 1972 Apollo 17 mission landing site, through the law prevents the rover from actually visiting it because it’s a protected area. “The concept of a privately financed mission to the moon is fascinating,” says Luca de Meo, Audi Board Member for Sales and Marketing. “And innovative ideas need supporters that promote them. We want to send a signal with our involvement with the Part‑Time Scientists and also motivate other partners to contribute their know‑how.”

I should note that the article is wrong when it states “the law prevents the rover from actually visiting” the Apollo 17 site. This law was passed by the U.S. Congress, and this Google team and Audi are not based in the U.S. They are not under its jurisdiction.

X-Prize contestants team-up to create head-to-head lunar race

The competition heats up: Two Google Lunar X-Prize contestants have teamed up to use the same rocket to get to the Moon together, where they will literally race head to head to see who travels the 500 meter distance first to win the prize.

At a press conference in Tokyo on Monday, the leaders of two Lunar X PRIZE teams—Astrobotic and HAKUTO—announced a plan in which the two teams’ robotic rovers will travel to the moon together and touch down on the lunar surface at the same time. They will then race each other to cover the 500 meters required to win the first place prize of $20 million.

John Thornton, head of Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic (a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off), said in a call with reporters that the partnership with HAKUTO (a spin-off from Tokyo University) represented the first step in realizing his team’s goal of turning robotic moon missions into a viable business. That mission won’t stop with this single partnership. He said the team was in talks with more than half of the other 16 GLXP competitors to carry their rovers to the moon, too, in exchange for sharing the cost of getting there and splitting prize money.

If this happens as they propose, we could be watching as many as ten rovers line up for the race.

Google Lunar X-Prize news

Google has extended the deadline for its Lunar X-Prize, giving the 18 contestants until the end of 2016 to launch a rover to the Moon. One company immediately delayed its planned launch.

Meanwhile, the Kickstarter campaign of one of the contestants has reached its fund-raising goal of $1 million, well ahead of its deadline.

Private company offers to fly packages to Moon

Fly me to the moon! A company building a small lunar rover as part of the Google Lunar X-prize competition is now offering, for a small fee, to include private packages with its lander.

Astrobotic Technology on Thursday (Dec. 11) announced the launch of its new “MoonMail” program, which offers to send heirloom rings, family photos, locks of hair and other small personal items on the company’s first private moon mission set to launch in the next few years. With prices based on the item’s size, MoonMail rates start at $460 for a half-inch wide by 0.125-inch tall (1.27 by 0.3 centimeter) capsule and increase to $25,800 for a one by two-inch (2.54 by 5.08 cm) payload. “You can think of the pricing for it to be very similar to ‘it fits, it ships’ at the post office,” John Thornton, Astrobotic CEO, told collectSPACE.com in a call with reporters. “It is essentially a flat-rate box.”

They hope to launch on a Falcon 9. More interestingly, they want to land and explore one of the Moon’s skylight caves.

The first Griffin is slated to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and land at Lacus Mortis, or the “Lake of Death,” a plain of basaltic lava flows in the northeastern part of the moon as viewed from Earth. “There is a unique feature there called a ‘skylight,'” stated Thornton, adding that only about 300 of these sinkhole-like entrances into subsurface caves have been discovered on the moon. “What’s very unique about the skylight at Lacus Mortis is that its walls have collapsed creating a ramp into the cave. … Caves on the surface of the moon could be our natural shelter,” Thornton explained. “So our first mission goes to one of these caves where we hopefully think someday we could settle on the moon. We think it’s a fantastic location to place MoonMail, which ultimately will be a time capsule of our generation for future moon explorers.”

Carnegie Mellon unveils its Google X-Prize lunar rover

The lunar rover that one of the competitors wants to use to win the Google Lunar X-prize was unveiled on Monday.

The rover was built by students as part of a college school project. Whether it ever flies is entirely unknown. The effort, however, has helped train a new generation of space engineers.

Private lunar lander completes test landing

The competition heats up: One of the competitors in the Google Lunar X-Prize has successfully completed its first landing test, on Earth, of its lander.

The article does not really provide a lot of information about the test itself, spending most of its copy describing what the test was supposed to do. Still, they did complete it successfully, which means they will now revise, rebuild, and retest.

The Google Lunar X-Prize has chosen 5 finalists of the 18 teams remaining in the private competition to land a rover on the Moon by 2015.

The Google Lunar X-Prize has chosen 5 finalists of the 18 teams remaining in the private competition to land a rover on the Moon by 2015.

Astrobotic, Moon Express and Team Indus are finalists for prizes of $1 million per team for achievement in hardware and software systems to enable a soft landing on the Moon. Astrobotic, Moon Express, Hakuto and Part-Time Scientists are finalists for prizes of $500,000 per team related to the mobility systems that allow a team’s lunar craft to travel 500 meters across the lunar surface after landing. Astrobotic, Moon Express, Part-Time Scientists and Team Indus are finalists for prizes of $250,000 per team for technology designed to produce high-quality images and video on the Moon.

The first team to land before the end of 2015 will win $20 million.

Posted from Tucson International Airport.

Google X-Prize competitor Moon Express has unveiled its lunar lander, scheduled to soft land on the Moon in 2015.

Google Lunar X-Prize competitor Moon Express has unveiled its lunar lander, scheduled to soft land on the Moon in 2015.

Moon Express is generally considered the leader in this lunar landing X-Prize competition, and this story adds weight to that consensus.

A competitor has debuted its full-size prototype rover designed to hunt for water in the craters of the Moon.

The Google Lunar X-Prize: One competitor has unveiled its full-size prototype rover, designed to hunt for water in the craters of the Moon.

The company, Astrobotic Technology, is consider to be in second place in the race to build the first private lunar rover.

The leading team in the Google Lunar X-Price contest last week successfully tested by remote control the astronomical telescope they intend to include with their lunar lander.

The leading team in the Google Lunar X-Price contest last week successfully tested by remote control the astronomical telescope they intend to include with their lunar lander.

[The Google Lunar X Prize] requires the participants to successfully land a lunar rover on the surface, drive it a minimum of 500 meters (about a third of a mile), and send back high definition video and imagery. Moon Express intends to land this first lunar lander near the Moon’s equator.

Moon Express is planning to send its first robotic lander to the Moon in late 2014. It will be launched atop either SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket or another commercial launch vehicle. It intends to fly ILOA’s shoebox-sized test telescope, called ILO-X, as part of its [X prize] entry. There are additional prizes available which might be won by an educational lunar telescope, such US$1 million prize for the entry which adds the most to diversity within space studies.

Public test of privately built moon lander delayed by gyro

A public test of privately built moon lander has been delayed by gyro problem. Key quote:

One customer has already bought a ticket with Moon Express, asking them to deposit a small telescope on the dark side of the Moon. Jain says the company will also offer low cost ways for anyone to use the moon as a kind of time capsule. “If something goes to the moon it stays there forever, people will pay to sends things like photos, or maybe your hair or DNA.”