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  Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge

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Author Topic:   Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge
Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-24-2008 09:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
X PRIZE release
Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge

The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge will be held October 24-25 at the Las Cruces International Airport in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Two teams are expected to fly during the competition: Armadillo Aerospace and TrueZer0. Although the competition is not open to the public, the event will be webcast.


Credit: X PRIZE

Nine teams have registered for the competition: five veteran teams from last year and four brand new teams.

The Challenge is 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. Such a vehicle would have direct application to NASA's space exploration goals as well as the personal spaceflight industry, including the Google Lunar X PRIZE competitors. Additionally, the challenge will help industry develop the operational capacity to launch quick turnaround vertical take-off, vertical landing vehicles, which will be of significant use to many facets of the commercial launch procurement market.

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 50 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 a real lunar mission.

In the 2007 competition, held as part of the X PRIZE Cup, there were nine competitors total. However, despite the best efforts of all of the teams, only one of them, Armadillo Aerospace, was ready to fly. They missed winning Level 1 by 7 seconds.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-24-2008 09:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SPACE.com: Lunar Lander Showdown: Two Teams Vie for $2 Million in Prizes
Two rival rocket teams are preparing their vehicles here, ready to vie for cash in this year's Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.

Armadillo Aerospace and TrueZer0 are making final checks on their respective rocket gear, ready to take to the sky Oct. 24 and 25 at the Las Cruces International Airport.

...each day's rocket roaring schedule is as follows: there are three flight windows: 7:30 am, 11 am, and 2:30 pm. (local Mountain Time). Each window lasts 2.5 hours, and there is a one hour break in between each window. If everything works as planned, there will be two flights in each window.

Depending on the outcome of each flight attempt, the later flight windows are subject to change - for example, the last flight window on Saturday might not be used if it is not needed.

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-24-2008 10:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Armadillo Aerospace's first attempt at Level 1 ended early: the craft appeared to be steady while climbing to altitude but upon landing, it first bounced and then they fell short of the required 90 second hover.

Armadillo is attempting to try again during their allocated 2.5 hour window.

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-24-2008 10:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Armadillo has successfully completed a 97 second hover! They have a 15 minute FAA-imposed window to try for the second flight.

If they cannot make the second flight within this window, they can reattempt both flights during a second window later this afternoon.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-24-2008 10:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Unfortunately, time has run out on Armadillo's first opportunity at winning Level 1 of the Lunar Lander Challenge.

There are three remaining windows for Armadillo to try again, one this afternoon and two tomorrow.

Next up: TrueZer0's first attempt at noon CDT.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 10-24-2008 01:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
TrueZer0's first (and last?) attempt didn't go so well. After liftoff and a wobbly climb to altitude, the craft tipped over and crashed to the ground. Total flight was 18 seconds.

There were no injuries but a small fire is at the crash site.

This was TrueZer0's first untethered flight of their craft dubbed Ignignokt (named after a "Mooninite" from the Cartoon Network show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force").

Next up: Armadillo Aerospace's second attempt at 3:30 p.m. CDT.

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
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posted 10-24-2008 02:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Because Armadillo Aerospace's first attempt this morning was cut short by an FAA restriction at the Las Cruces International Airport and not by the Lunar Landing Challenge's launch window 2.5-hour rules, the judges have decided to allow Armadillo to resume their attempt at the Level 1 prize with their second flight this afternoon.

In other words, they will not need to fly their first flight again but rather they will pick up where they left off earlier today. That attempt is scheduled to start around 3:30 p.m.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-24-2008 03:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Armadillo Aerospace is in route to the launch pad. When LOX loading begins, they will 64 minutes to complete a second leg (90-second hover flight).

The flight is now expected to begin at 4:15 p.m. CDT.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-24-2008 04:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Armadillo Aerospace has successfully completed their second 90-second hover flight, winning the NASA-funded $350,000 Level 1 first prize in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Landing Challenge!

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 10-25-2008 10:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just as Armadillo Aerospace was throttling up to launch their first attempt at the Level 2 Lunar Landing Challenge $1 million prize, they suffered an engine burn-through, causing their craft "Pixel" to tip over.

The vehicle suffered minor damage, which the team believed they could fix in time for the third launch window today (if not the second). However, as the problem that led to the failure was something they had experienced leading up to the challenge in pre-contest tests, Armadillo felt it better to scrub the day's attempts and try again next year.

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-27-2008 10:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
NASA $350,000 Prize Goes to Armadillo Aerospace in Lunar Challenge

Armadillo Aerospace of Rockwall, Texas, earned $350,000 in NASA prize money during the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge in Las Cruces, N.M.

The challenge is a two-level, $2 million competition designed to accelerate commercial space technology and is sponsored by NASA's Centennial Challenges program. After Armadillo's $350,000 first place win for level one this year, $1.65 million remains as available prize money for future competitions.

Armadillo's winning vehicle successfully demonstrated some of the technologies needed for a lunar lander capable of ferrying payloads or humans back and forth between lunar orbit and the lunar surface. During the first day of competition at Las Cruces International Airport on Oct. 24, the vehicle rose to a height of 50 meters, translated to a landing pad 100 meters away while staying aloft for at least 90 seconds, landed safely and later repeated the flight.

Armadillo attempted to claim the $1 million first place prize for Level 2 on Oct. 25 with a larger vehicle designed to stay aloft for twice as long and land on simulated lunar terrain with craters and rocks, but they were not successful.

"We're going to keep working towards Level Two, which we can hopefully compete for again soon." said John Carmack, the Armadillo team leader.

"By completing multiple flights in the matter of a few hours, Armadillo demonstrated a remarkable level of rocket engine reusability, a feature that will be essential to more efficient operations on the moon and beyond. The TrueZer0 team, a newcomer to rocket development, deserves a lot of credit for flying their vehicle to 50 meters on its first untethered flight. Armadillo and TrueZer0 represent the spirit of innovation that NASA hopes to encourage with the Centennial Challenges program," said Andy Petro, manager of NASA's Centennial Challenges Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The $350,000 prize won by Armadillo represents the largest prize yet awarded under NASA's Centennial Challenge program. The Armadillo team will be recognized for their achievement at a ceremony in Washington next month.

Centennial Challenges is NASA's prize program to promote technical innovation through competitions open to all Americans. The Lunar Lander Challenge is one of seven current competitions designed to tap the nation's ingenuity in support of NASA's goals. The program is managed by NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program Office.

The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge is supported by the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, the State of New Mexico, and Northrop Grumman. The X PRIZE Foundation manages the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge for the NASA Centennial Challenges Program, which provides the $2 million prize purse for the competition.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-13-2009 11:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
X PRIZE release
2009 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge Competition Attempts Scheduled

The X PRIZE Foundation announced today that three teams have registered to make attempts to win the $1.65 million still available in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. The prize program is managed by the X PRIZE Foundation as part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program. The competition is designed to accelerate technological developments supporting the commercial creation of vertical take-off and landing rockets with enhanced safety and performance.

The Challenge is divided into two levels. Level 1, requires a rocket to take off from a designated launch area; climb to a low, fixed altitude; and fly for at least 90 seconds before landing precisely on a different landing pad. The flight must then be repeated in reverse. Both flights, along with all of the necessary preparation for each, must take place within a two and a half hour period. $500,000 in prizes was initially allocated to Level 1. Last year, Armadillo Aerospace of Mesquite, Texas was awarded $350,000 for successfully completing Level 1. There remains an unclaimed award of $150,000 for second place.

The more difficult course, Level 2, requires the rocket to fly for 180 seconds before landing precisely on a simulated lunar surface constructed with craters and boulders. The minimum flight times are calculated so that the Level 2 mission closely simulates the power needed to perform a real descent from lunar orbit down to the surface of the Moon. A $1 million First Place and a $500,000 second place prize remain to be claimed by the winners of Level 2.

In previous years, the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge prize money had only been available to teams who performed the required missions at a specific, single location on a particular weekend. This year, however, teams are permitted to make their prize winning attempts at a date and location of their choosing during a window that stretches through the end of October. At the end of the window, any teams that have accomplished the mission will be ranked based on the landing accuracy achieved in each of their rocket powered flights, and the prize purses will be awarded accordingly.

Qualified teams are able to register for prize-winning attempts on a first-come, first-served basis, with a small crew of judges and observers traveling to meet the team at a venue of their choosing.

Teams may submit registration forms through September 15, 2009.

Currently registered teams include:

  • Armadillo Aerospace will attempt to claim a Level 2 purse from Caddo Mills, TX, on September 12 and 13.
  • Masten Space Systems will attempt to claim purses in both levels from Mojave, CA, on September 15-16 (Level One), October 7-8 (Level Two), and October 28-29 (Level Two).
  • Unreasonable Rocket will attempt to claim purses in both levels from Cantil, CA, on Oct 30-31.
Northrop Grumman’s history with lunar programs dates back to the 1960s, when the company designed and produced the Apollo lunar modules that landed U.S. astronauts on the moon. The company is looking forward to supporting NASA on its planned lunar lander, Altair, which will place four astronauts on the Moon in the 2020 timeframe and provide life support as well as a base for weeklong surface explorations.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-13-2009 11:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
X PRIZE The Launch Pad blog
2009 NGLLC: Videos of Armadillo's Successful Attempt

For your viewing pleasure, here are the two flights conducted by Armadillo Aerospace yesterday [September 12]. With this success, Armadillo is in position to win the $1 million Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge - Level Two, First Place prize.

We offer our heartiest congratulations to Armadillo -- and our best wishes to the other teams. We look forward to attending launches by team Masten, team Unreasonable Rocket, and perhaps others in the coming weeks.


Credit: X PRIZE

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-03-2009 01:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
NASA and X Prize Announce Winners of Lunar Lander Challenge

NASA will award $1.65 million in prize money Thursday to a pair of innovative aerospace companies that successfully simulated landing a spacecraft on the moon and lifting off again.

NASA's Centennial Challenges program will give a $1 million first prize to Masten Space Systems of Mojave, Calif., and a $500,000 second prize to Armadillo Aerospace of Rockwall, Tex., for their Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge flights. The competition was managed by the X PRIZE Foundation. The Northrop Grumman Corporation is a commercial sponsor that provided operating funds for the contest to the X PRIZE Foundation.

An awards ceremony for the winning teams will be held at noon on November 5 in room 2325 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington.

The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge involves building and flying a rocket-powered vehicle that simulates the flight of a vehicle on the moon. The lander must take off vertically then travel horizontally, flying a mission profile designed to demonstrate both power and control before landing accurately at another spot. The same vehicle then must take off again, travel horizontally back to its original takeoff point and land successfully, all within a two-hour-and-15-minute time period.

The challenge requires exacting control and navigation, as well as precise control of engine thrust, all done automatically. The rocket's engine must be started twice in a short time with no ground servicing other than refueling. This represents the technical challenges involved in operating a reusable vehicle that could land on the moon.

The prize purse is divided into first and second prizes for Level 1 and Level 2. Level 1 requires a flight duration of at least 90 seconds on each flight and Level 2 requires a duration of at least 180 seconds. One of the landings for a Level 2 attempt must be made on a simulated lunar terrain with rocks and craters.

Masten Space Systems met the Level 2 requirements by achieving accurate landings and captured the first place prize during flights of their "Xoie" (pronounced "Zoey") vehicle Oct. 30 at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Masten also claimed a $150,000 prize as part of the Level 1 competition.

Armadillo Aerospace was the first team to qualify for the Level 2 prize with successful flights of its Scorpius rocket Sept. 12 in Caddo Mills, Tex. Armadillo placed second in the Level 2 competition, earning a $500,000 prize.

The average landing accuracy determined which teams would receive first and second place prizes. The Masten team achieved an average accuracy of 7.5 inches while Armadillo Aerospace's average accuracy was 34 inches.

The events of the past two months have brought the four-year Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge to a conclusion. All $2 million in prize money has been awarded.

"The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge has had its intended impact, with impressive performances by multiple teams representing a new generation of aerospace entrepreneurs" said Andrew Petro, NASA's Centennial Challenge program manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "These companies have demonstrated reusable vehicles with rapid turnaround and a surprising degree of precision in flight, and they have done all this at a much lower cost than many thought possible."

Four teams had been in pursuit of the 2009 Lunar Lander Challenge prizes during the competition that opened in July. The BonNova team dropped out of the competition last week. Unreasonable Rocket, a father-and-son team from Solana Beach, Calif., conducted flight attempts during the final days of the competition but did not complete any qualifying flights.

In the Level 1 competition, Armadillo Aerospace previously claimed the first place prize of $350,000 in 2008. Masten Space Systems qualified for the remaining second place prize on Oct. 7, 2009, with an average landing accuracy of 6.3 inches. Because there were no other qualifying Level 1 flights this year, the Masten team will receive the second place prize of $150,000.

NASA's Centennial Challenges program's goals are to drive progress in aerospace technology that is of value to NASA's missions; encourage participation of independent teams, individual inventors, student groups and private companies of all sizes in aerospace research and development; and find innovative solutions to technical challenges through competition and cooperation.

The Northop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge is one of six Centennial Challenges managed by NASA's Innovative Partnership Program. The competition was managed for NASA at no cost to the taxpayer by the X PRIZE Foundation under a Space Act Agreement. NASA provided all of the prize funds.

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