The X Prize Cup opens October 6 in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and concludes October 9 with demonstrations of the personal spaceships at the core of the festivities. This is an annual event that replaces the Ansari X Prize Competition. Last year, the $10 million Ansari X Prize went to SpaceShipOne, the first privately funded manned spacecraft to reach suborbital flight twice within 2 weeks.
This year’s celebration explores the possibilities of commercial space flight and showcases the spacecraft of the future. Discounted tickets for the Space Expo October 9 at Las Cruces International Airport are available from the X Prize Foundation’s web site. On the day of the event, adults are $8; students (13–18) are $4; and children 12 and under are free. The following are the weekend’s highlights.
- On October 6, New Mexico State University in Las Cruces is holding a daylong “International Symposium on Personal Spaceflight,” a series of presentations by company, university, and government representatives about the future of private space flight. Registration is required.
- On October 8, the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo will host a public day, with visits from astronauts and others in the space industry. That night, the football game between New Mexico State and Fresno State universities will feature an X Prize Cup halftime event.
- On October 9, the Space Expo begins at Las Cruces International Airport. Among the teams showcasing spacecraft is Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Association (ARCA), led by Dumitru Popescu. ARCA is the foremost space-technology company in Romania. Its featured ship, the Orizont, lifts off and lands vertically.
From the other side of the world comes Armadillo Aerospace, from Mesquite, Texas. Led by John Carmack, this team also features a craft with vertical landing and takeoff. “The plan is to try to make three flights in an hour at the X Prize Cup event,” the team says. “The first two will be similar to the hover tests we have been doing, just going somewhat higher, but, pending a final approval, it looks like we are going to try and make the third flight a boosted hop to 100′ or so.”
The Golden Palace.com Space Program from London, Canada, led by Brian Feeney, is powered by hundreds of volunteers. This team’s goal is to launch its Wildfire MKVI craft from a giant helium balloon at an altitude of 15 miles (24 kilometers), saving the substantial fuel costs an Earth-based launch demands.
Another Canadian-based company, PlanetSpace, led by Geoff Sheerin and Chirinjee Kathuria, presents the Canadian Arrow, a modified V-2 rocket. This company has already built its own pressure suits, tested its 57,000-pound LOX/alcohol thrust engine, and developed simulator equipment. According to Sheerin, “Eventually, our goal is to make PlanetSpace a public company. Space should be open to all people, and all people should also have the opportunity to invest in the future.” of space travel.”
Rocketplane Ltd. is led by George French and is based in Oklahoma. Its Rocketplane XP is built to lift off horizontally, using its two jet engines like a conventional aircraft. Once ascended, it will then power its ascent with an oxygen/kerosene rocket engine.
Located in the Mojave Airport is XCOR. This team is bringing the EZ-Rocket, a modified version of the famous Long-EZ aircraft. This is the first time the spacecraft will be flown since AirVenture 2002. Col. Richard A. Searfoss, ret. USAF, a former NASA astronaut, and chief judge of the Ansari X Prize will pilot it.
DeLeon and Associates, led by Pablo DeLeon, represents Argentina’s private space program and features El Gauchito, a 3-seat capsule that will launch from a reusable hybrid rocket. Pablo DeLeon is president and cofounder of the Argentine Association for Space Technology (AATE), a non-profit organization developed to advance space technology.
A major contender for the original Ansari X Prize was Starchaser Technologies, when it launched its 37-foot NOVA Rocket in England in November 2001. Its Churchill Mk3 is England’s largest rocket engine. Led by Stephen Bennett and located in England and New Mexico, this team of engineers is now developing both the Starchaser V rocket and a 3-seat Thunderstar spaceship.