October 23, 2007

University of Sask Space Design team almost wins 2007 Space elevator games

It appears that no one won the Space elevator games competition for 2007. I previewed the competition.

The University of Saskatechwan's Space Design team came closest to winning.

Their fastest run was 54 seconds. We’re not sure exactly how quick that was as we need to measure the ribbon. This will be done tomorrow. But we’re sure that the ribbon was not 108 meters, and therefore there was no way they could have met the 2 m/s requirement. But the runs were spectacular. They actually picked up speed in a few runs the higher they climbed. It looks like they have some work to do on their tracking software, but I’m sure they’re going to be taking care of that. They greatly increased their speed over last year (approximately double) and are fulfilling NASA’s and Spaceward’s goal of advancing the state of the art.

Next up is the Oct. 27-28 lunar lander competition

The Xprize cup site is here

The two competitors for the 2007 lunar lander prizes are:
Acuity Technologies is led by Robert Clark, who founded the company in 1992. The team, which has previously designed unpiloted aerial vehicles for the Department of Defense, hopes that the lightweight craft they have concocted will give them an advantage in the Challenge.

Armadillo Aerospace is powered by John Carmack, founder of id Software. They are the only team to fly a vehicle in last year's Challenge, arguably giving them a lunar leg up on the rocket rivalry. Additionally, they have backed that view by repeat flights throughout the year of hardware to shake out control procedures and the technology itself.

The competition is divided into two levels. Both teams will have one entry in each level. Armadillo still hopes to bring their two different vehicles, Pixel in Level Two, and "the MOD" in Level One. Acuity is building two substantially similar vehicles, called "Tiger" and "Cardinal". Organizers are confident that one of these teams will win at least one of the prizes this year.

Here are the basics:

Level 1 requires a rocket to take off from a designated launch area, rocket up to 150 feet (50 meters) altitude, and then hover for 90 seconds while landing precisely on a landing pad nearly 330 feet (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.
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.