The X PRIZE Foundation
tells ANN that it has completed a study examining the benefits and
disadvantages for a Human Orbital Vehicle (HOV)
The primary goals of the study were to gauge the interest and
effectiveness of different prize amounts, identify key
relationships between an HOV challenge and other NASA programs and
make recommendations for potential prize rules and
Key members of the X PRIZE Foundation spent months conducting
surveys with potential competitors, financiers and other industry
experts. The results of these interviews were combined with
the findings of previously completed studies and internal
foundation expertise to create the final conclusions.
This study represents the commencement of a very serious foray
into a major prize initiative for NASA. Presently, NASA's
Centennial Challenges program is limited by the fact that
individual prizes cannot exceed $250,000. That may change soon: the
NASA Authorization Act of 2005, currently moving through Congress,
will allow NASA to award much larger prizes. Both the House and
Senate versions of the bill that is scheduled for conference in
mid-December include provisions that would allow NASA to offer
prizes worth millions of dollars or more.
The study was conducted by X PRIZE founder and chairman Dr.
Peter H. Diamandis (shown above, aboard Zero G Corp's G Force One),
with Gregg Maryniak as Executive Vice President, Dr. William
Gaubatz as Senior Advisor, VP of Operations Michael Kelly and
Director of Space Projects William Pomerantz.
The presentation makes for a fascinating brief on the potential
for an even more exciting contest than that which was won last year
by Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne... though it is significantly more
The study opines that a $50M prize is probably the minimum
amount for any human orbital vehicle challenge and that a $100M
award would yield a much more productive program, possibly
generating twice as many competing teams. The study thinks that a
$250M prize is the ideal target and represents the "best use of
funds, (and) biggest stimulus to industry."
It admits that a larger prize, on the order of $500M, might
allow major breakthroughs, but introduces new problems, not the
least of which is funding the endeavor. The study emphasizes that
best results might be achieved by the avoidance of over-regulation
and too many constraints -- noting that the orbital challenge is
"already hard enough."