Ansari X Prize

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This article is about the sub-orbital human spaceflight contest. For other X Prizes, see X Prize Foundation.
Ansari X Prize
Awarded for "build and launch a spacecraft capable of carrying three people to 100 kilometers above the Earth's surface, twice within two weeks" [1]
Country Worldwide
Presented by X PRIZE Foundation
Reward US$10 million[1]
Last awarded October 4, 2004
Currently held by Scaled Composites
Official website space.xprize.org/ansari-x-prize
Flight 16P taxi pre launch
Mike Melville and Burt Rutan speak to the media after the first flight into Space

The Ansari X Prize was a space competition in which the X Prize Foundation offered a US$10,000,000 prize for the first non-government organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. It was modeled after early 20th-century aviation prizes, and aimed to spur development of low-cost spaceflight.

Created in May 1996 and initially called just the "X Prize", it was renamed the "Ansari X Prize" on May 6, 2004 following a multi-million dollar donation from entrepreneurs Anousheh Ansari and Amir Ansari.

The prize was won on October 4, 2004, the 47th anniversary of the Sputnik 1 launch, by the Tier One project designed by Burt Rutan and financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, using the experimental spaceplane SpaceShipOne. $10 million was awarded to the winner, and more than $100 million was invested in new technologies in pursuit of the prize.

Several other X Prizes have since been announced by the X Prize Foundation, promoting further development in space exploration and other technological fields.

Motivation[edit]

The X Prize was first proposed by Dr. Peter Diamandis in an address to the NSS International Space Development Conference in 1995. The competition goal was adopted from the SpaceCub project, demonstration of a private vehicle capable of flying a pilot to the edge of space, defined as 100 km altitude. This goal was selected to help encourage the space industry in the private sector, which is why the entries were not allowed to have any government funding. It aimed to demonstrate that spaceflight can be affordable and accessible to corporations and civilians, opening the door to commercial spaceflight and space tourism. It is also hoped that competition will breed innovation, introducing new low-cost methods of reaching Earth orbit, and ultimately pioneering low-cost space travel and unfettered human expansion into the solar system.

The X Prize was modeled after many prizes from the early 20th century that helped prod the development of air flight, including most notably the US$25,000 Orteig Prize that spurred Charles Lindbergh to make his solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. NASA is developing a similar prize program called Centennial Challenges to generate innovative solutions to space technology problems.

Contestants[edit]

Twenty-six teams from around the world participated, ranging from volunteer hobbyists to large corporate-backed operations:

Some sources mention two other companies:

but does not mention Whalen Aeronautics Inc.[2]

Winning team[edit]

Representatives of the X Prize Foundation symbolically presented the ten million dollar prize to Burt Rutan and Paul Allen of Mojave Aerospace Ventures on November 6, 2004. The Ansari X Prize trophy is on the left.

The Tier One project made two successful competitive flights: X1 on September 29, 2004, piloted by Mike Melvill to 102.9 km; and X2 on October 4, 2004, piloted by Brian Binnie to 112 km.[3] They thus won the prize, which was awarded on November 6, 2004. In press coverage, the winning team has been variously referred to as Mojave Aerospace Ventures, the corporation that funded the attempt; Tier One, the project name of Mojave's contest entry; and Scaled Composites, the manufacturer of the craft.

As of 2011, the trophy is on display in the Saint Louis Science Center in St.Louis, Missouri.

Flight attempts by teams that did not win[edit]

Although only the Tier One team actually launched a spacecraft into suborbital space, several other teams have conducted low-altitude tests or announced future plans to launch into space:

  • ARCA launched Demonstrator 2B rocket on September 9, 2004 at Cape Midia Air Force Base in Romania. It was the first flight of a reusable monopropellant rocket.
  • The da Vinci Project originally announced that their first flight would be on October 2, 2004, but this was postponed indefinitely on September 23, 2004, as they were unable to obtain a few necessary components in time. They have not announced a revised timetable.
  • The Canadian Arrow team conducted a successful full-power engine test in 2005 and announced on June 2, 2005, that it had received permission from the Canadian government to use Cape Rich as a future launch site.
  • On August 8, 2004, Space Transport Corporation's Rubicon 1 and Armadillo Aerospace's test vehicle, in two separate unmanned test launches, both crashed and were destroyed.
  • On February 15, 2005, AERA Corporation (formerly American Astronautics) announced its plans to send seven paying passengers into space as early as 2006, a full year before the first announced speculative Virgin Galactic flight.

List of major donors by order of donation[edit]

Organization[edit]

Main article: X Prize Foundation

With the Ansari X Prize, the X Prize Foundation (based in Santa Monica, CA) established a philanthropic model in which offering a prize for achieving a specific goal stimulates entrepreneurial investment that produces a tenfold or greater return on the prize purse and at least one hundredfold in follow-on investment and social benefit. The Foundation has developed into a non-profit prize institute that conceives, designs and manages public competitions for the benefit of humanity.

Funding[edit]

The funding for the US$10,000,000 prize was unconventional in being "backed by an insurance policy to guarantee that the $10 million is in place on the day that the prize is won." [4] Diamandis referred to this as a "hole-in-one insurance policy".[5]

Spin-offs[edit]

The success of the X Prize competition has spurred spin-offs that are set up in the same way. There have been two major spin-offs at this point, the first of which is the M Prize (short for Methuselah Mouse Prize), which is a prize set up by University of Cambridge biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey which will go to the scientific team that successfully extends the life or reverses the aging of mice, which would then eventually be available to humans. The second is the NASA Centennial Challenges, which consist of (among others) the Tether Challenge in which teams compete to develop superstrong tethers as a component to space elevators, and the Beam Power Challenge which encourages ideas for transmitting power wirelessly. An independent spin-off called the N-Prize was started by Cambridge Microbiologist Paul H. Dear in 2007, designed to foster research into low-cost orbital launchers.

The X Prize foundation itself is developing additional prizes: the Archon X Prize, to advance research in the field of genomics; the Automotive X Prize, an engineering competition to create a fuel efficient clean car; the Google Lunar X Prize, a competition to put a robot on the moon; and the Wirefly X Prize Cup, an annually held air & space exposition featuring space-related competitions and rocketry.

There is also a possible "H-Prize", focused on hydrogen vehicle research, although this goal has been addressed by H.R. 5143, an X-Prize-inspired bill passed by the United States House of Representatives.

See also[edit]

Related technical topics:

Further reading[edit]

  • "The X Prize", an article by Ian Parker on pages 52–63 of the 4 October 2004 issue of The New Yorker

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "http://space.xprize.org/ansari-x-prize". Archived from the original on 23 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-15. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ "SpaceShipOne rockets to success". BBC news. 7 October 2005. Archived from the original on 28 October 2010. Retrieved 9 December 2010. 
  4. ^ "An Interview with Peter Diamandis". 2003-03-01. Archived from the original on 7 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  5. ^ "Space". Retrieved 2010-01-22. 

External links[edit]