Saturday, October 25, 2008

Armadillo Aerospace Wins Prize

Congratulations, Armadillo team! The Armadillo Aerospace team made space history as they won the first level of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge in Las Cruces, NM. The win not only puts the private company into the history books, but nets them the long-awaited $350,000 prize offered by the NASA Centennial Challenge fund.

The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge (often called simply the Lunar Lander Challenge) is a $2 million prize program funded by NASA's Centennial Challenges program. The Challenge offers a series of prizes for the teams that launch a Vertical Take Off, Vertical Landing (VTVL) rocket that achieves the total delta-v that would be equivalent to those needed for a vehicle to move between lunar orbit and the lunar surface. The multi-level competition is conducted by the X PRIZE Foundation, with sponsorship from the Northrop Grumman Corporation, with the prize purses paid by NASA. The competition is held annually at the X PRIZE Cup, making its debut at the 2006 Wirefly X PRIZE Cup in October, 2006.

The Challenge is divided into two levels of Competition, an easier Level 1 and a harder Level 2. Both levels require teams to demonstrating control of their vehicle by flying to an altitude of more than 50m, flying laterally for 100m, and landing on a pad. For Level 1, this pad is a simple 10m diameter circle; for Level 2, it is a simulated lunar surface, complete with craters and boulders. After completing this first flight, the vehicle can then be refueled, and must then fly a second leg back to the original starting point. Each flight must meet a required minimum flight time of 90 seconds for Level 1 and 180 seconds for level 2. For each Level, the two flights along with any necessary preparation must be accomplished within a short 150 minute time period.

Each Level offers a first and a second-place prize. Level 1 features a first place prize purse of $350,000 and a $150,000 purse for second place. The more difficult Level 2 offers a first place prize of $1 million and a $500,000 second place prize. 2006 was the first year of the competition.

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