[amsat-bb] Not sure if others have seen this, I had not

Chris Thompson chrisethompson at gmail.com
Mon Apr 7 10:25:35 PDT 2014


Many makers dream of building their own spacecraft to explore the
cosmos. NASA is gearing up to help makers fulfill these dreams by first
asking the community the fundamentals: *What are the best incentives for
makers to build, fly, and communicate with small satellites in deep space?*

This isn't the first time private citizens have been offered a chance to
compete this far from home. Since 2007, the Google Lunar X-Prize has
inspired contestants to try landing the first private rover on the moon.
However, early criticisms that the GLXP is too much of a technical
be winnable may be ringing true in light of the diminishing number of
participants <http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2164/1>. Not
surprising given that the well-funded, Chinese government-backed
"Yutu" rover experienced difficulties shortly after its first harsh lunar
night <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yutu_(rover)#Activities>.

However, NASA's approach to engage makers seems to be more pragmatic in
that it separately tackles two of the biggest problems with deep space
exploration: communications and propulsion systems. According to the
Agency's recently released "Request for Information <http://go.usa.gov/BBSj>

NASA is considering initiating two challenges to incentivize development of
deep space science and exploration capabilities for small spacecraft,
including CubeSats, with the intention of broadening the national
capability to support future exploration architectures.

The first challenge will focus on finding innovative solutions to deep
space communications with small spacecraft, while the second focuses on
primary propulsion for small spacecraft. Together, these challenges are
expected to contribute to opening deep space exploration to non-government
spacecraft for the first time.

Some of the proposed prizes would include monetary awards for demonstrating
the following milestones for long-range communications systems:

   - *Communication Subsystem - Ground Demonstration and Selection for
   - *Largest Amount of Data Transmitted from Distance of Lunar Orbit*
   - *Last CubeSat Standing (Farthest CubeSat Transmission to Earth)*

and for propulsion systems:

   - *Propulsion Subsystem Ground Demonstration and Selection for Launch*
   - *First CubeSat to Achieve Lunar Orbit*

Initial timeframes for these challenges start with an anticipated draft
release of rules in late April, with possible review of
competitors' submissions by the end of 2014. CubeSat launches could be
scheduled as early as the December 2017 as secondary payloads aboard NASA's
Orion <http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/mpcv/> and Space Launch
System <http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/sls/> vehicles.

Although the official comment period ends has ended, program manager Dr.
Larry Cooper is still very interested in hearing from you. Read the details
in the RFI at http://go.usa.gov/BBSj and send Dr. Cooper an email at
HQ-STMD-CentennialChallenges at mail.nasa.gov<HQ-STMD-CentennialChallenges at mail.nasa.gov?subject=Deep%20Space%20Spacecraft%20Challenges%20via%20Make>;
use *Deep Space Spacecraft Challenges*on the Subject line.

Chris E. Thompson
chrisethompson at gmail.com
g0kla at arrl.net

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