Puli Space Technologies

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Big names, bold plans

One quick look at Evadot's brilliant GLXP scoreboard will tell you that some teams are way ahead in develompent, funding and business connections than others. (Its also worth noting that Puli barks in the middle of field despite entering the competition in the last days!) New York Times asked the three leading teams, and we sample the report here.

Though it only entered last fall, the American Moon Express, current leader of the funding and connections charts, has quite serious business background. Even their name is telling: they want to be the Federal Express for Moon deliveries. The company will spend some 70-100 million dollars to win the competiton but wants to recoup it on the first mission through sponsorships and by selling exclusive broadcast rights. Naveen Jain, one of the founders of the team imagines all sorts of business opportunities: take „Moon Idol”, where songs of the American Idol finalists would be played through the surface, recorded, transmitte back and see who sounds best (in the absence of an atmosphere, only rocks could carry sound). Marriage proposals written into the lunar soil and photographed, or sending time capsules full of memories to the Moon where it can persist (as long as it withstands the radiation and micrometeorites...) The biggest opportunity could be the mining of rare or already exhausted minerals. And all this is legally sound: the Outer Space Treaty prohibits claims of sovereignty but doesn't stop companies from opening shops and mining could be controlled in the same way as fishing on international waters.

The lander of Moon Express is based on the NASA-developed Common Spacecraft Bus (above) and it's already made a flight test. NASA's LADEE orbiter and Team Odyssey Moon's lander will be based on the CSB as well.

Astrobotic Inc has come up with a different business model: they are building a much more massive lander than the other  contestants and offer space for payloads: scientific experiments of the buyers will fly to the Moon for 1.8 million $/kg (820,000 $/lbs). Since they offer almost 110 kg (240 lb) of free space, the could cash as much as 200 million dollars. According to David Gump, president of the company, selling only third of their capacitcy could cover their costs, even if they don't win the prize itself. Oh, and by the way, they are the only team who actually signed a contract for a launch vehicle (a Falcon-9).

Astrobotic's lander that will carry the rover to the surface of the Moon.

Tim Pickens, leader of Dynetics, one of the members of the consortium behind the Rocket City Space Pioneers has a different opinion. He said that the Moon is still too expensive and it is still unclear what kind of business will be viable. They want to market technology: launching multiple satellites and space probes on a single heavy-lift rocket, and drop off them at the desired orbits on the way to the Moon.

The rover testbed of Rocket City Space Pioneers.

Either they'll win the GLXP or not, Moon Express, Astrobotic and Dynetics already have achieved successes: all three companies were awarded contracts worth between 5-600,000 dollars in NASA's Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data program. This way NASA basically aquires all the techincal data of development and mission phases that could be applied later for human or robotic lunar missions. George Xenofos, manager of the ILDD program stated about the GLXP teams: “It’s definitely not the technical issues that’s stopping them”.

Image sources:

1.) 3.) Astrobotic Inc. 2.) NASA 4.) RCSP


Last Updated (Friday, 29 July 2011 12:49)

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