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Lunar Lander Challenge: The Teams October 24, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in Current News, Event Coverage, Lunar Lander Challenge 2008, spacevidcast.com, Youtube.

As promised earlier this week, here’s a look at the teams competing in the Lunar Lander Challenge event coming up tomorrow (starting at ~630am, looks like) and Saturday (via live webcast, from a new and really cool site I hadn’t heard about previously: Spacevidcast.com).

There are a total of nine teams; today, here’s a look at (for now, four of them; I’ll update this post with the others as the night comes along)

  • Acuity Technologies: Coming from Menlo Park, California (just north of Palo Alto–home of Stanford–and the rest of Silicon Valley where I happened to grow up), Acuity is one of the teams returning from last year’s event. Started in 1992, Acuity develops specialized unmanned aerial systems. Their Level One (of two; there are two difficulty levels teams can compete for, one with smooth landing pad, one with a more lunar-surface-like landing area) “Hop & Hover” offering is a Hydrogen Peroxide and Methanol-fueled craft, coming in at 210 lbs.
  • Armadillo Aerospace: The only team from last year’s event to get into the air, and only narrowly missing a victory in Level One competition (7 seconds short of the required time), Armadillo is a developer of resuable rocket-powered vehicles. Their site has a lot of goodies, including everything from a blog (of sorts) to a message board. They probably also have the logo and graphic design contests in the bag ;). Their craft, MOD, is a moose, weighing 1340 pounds with ~1800 pounds of thrust.
  • BonNova: An engineering design firm, they’ve developed designs for extreme conditions ranging from racecars to oil wells (and, with their specially-formed rocket team, this Lunar Challenge). Also a returning team, their leader (Allen Newcomb) has experience from the winning craft (SpaceShipOne) of the Ansari X Prize. Their craft (“Lauyad I”) is similar in size to Acuity’s (small-ish, at 200 lbs), but is using a Propane and N2O propulsion system.
  • High Expectations Rocketry: With no pressure from their name, High Expectations’ team comes from Moscow, Idaho as a first-time participant in the challenge. Composed of four guys (the first three teams coming in at four, seven, and five, respectively), they look to succeed where last year’s teams came up short. They are using more medium-sized craft, with their Level One offering “ISP 1” coming in at 350 pounds on a Nitrous oxide, nylon and propane propulsion system.

The most interesting contrast, clearly, is that none of them use the same type of fuel (and the Armadillo’s craft weighing a good 1000 pounds more than the others’; note that Armadillo were the ones to get into the air last year, and so perhaps bigger will prove better?).

Tune into that webcast over the next two days to see just how the craft do, and check out the official matchup page.

Edit: Here’s the rest of the teams, I’ll edit/update as I go along.

  • Paragon Labs: This Denver-based team developed their effort in what they describe as a “skunk-works” environment, fielding a weightier 650-pound (1800-pound gross) craft (“Volkon“) with a Liquid Oxygen/Ethanol fuel (check out this article for details on that combination). Chekc our their great gallery of works-in-progress and other images.
  • Team Phoenicia: With their eyes also set on the Google Lunar X Prize, probably the more poetic of the teams (and a competitor with Armadillo in the graphic design department) comes in with “The Wind At Dawn”, a 660-pound RP-1(Rocket Propellant-1)-fueled craft with 550 pounds thrust. They’ve got an oddly familiar blog (I’m workin on it, I’m workin on it…;) ) and some sweet Youtubeage to go along with their interesting literary style.
  • TrueZer0: This Chicagoland 4-man team comes with with a 475-pound craft called “Ignignokt” (a name that is gloriously and amazingly not invented by the team, unlike some of the other teams’ craft that ironically sound more like real-world influences; go figure) and plenty of dry humor (and as Ignignokt shows, humor of all kinds). Poetry, humor, armadillos; this competition has it all. Their site, while minimal, has a cool narrative to it, including some more great Youtube material. Ignignokt (and I presume his fellow “Mooninites“) are fueled by Hydrogen Peroxide and Nitrogen gas.
  • Unreasonable Rocket: Fellow Blogspotdwellers, their entry to the competition was the Hydrogen Peroxide-fueled Burning Speed 80 ( for the Level One), a 300 pound craft. As that link attest to though, they were not able to get operational in time. Shooting for next year (or the constant stream of opportunity we’ll be seeing for efforts like theirs over the next decade), though, would not be unreasonable ;)
  • Seraphim Works is listed as a team on the official site, but their Landr Challenge page is a “coming soon” and a quick google turned up not even a whisper, so their status is unclear (and with so little presence at this late point, they are likely not a final competing team).

I watched Armadillo’s first attempt while finishing this up (8:30 am on the 24th), and it was entertaining, as they got into the air but didn’t fit within the required time frame. Tune back in at the end of the day for a full recap of that flight and the rest of Friday’s Lunar Lander Challenge events :)



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