A serious run for the X-Prize money will be made on 29Sep04 by Paul Allen’s SpaceShipOne. This will be the first launch for the prize, and the second launch for SS1 after it’s suborbital flight in June. Their 2nd Prize launch is set for October 2nd.
The Ansari X-Prize is $10M, to be awarded to the first team that puts the equivalent of 3 men in orbit, lands, and repeats the feat in 2 weeks in the same vehicle. No governments need apply; this is strictly for real people and private organizations or companies. The Romanian Team had a successful test launch on the 13th (yesterday as I write this); the Da Vinci Team has a launch for the prize set up on October 2nd of their Wildfire; and there are 23 more teams in for the prize.
Right now, SpaceShipOne and Wildfire are neck-and-neck, and I am rooting for Da Vinci. Allen is financing SS1 with his Microsoft earnings, using a radical new engine developed by SpaceDev, and launching from the back of a modified aircraft. Da Vinci is an all-volunteer team from Canada, financed by an online casino, and launching from a balloon! Now there is my kind of space program, by the people, for the people!
If you want to learn more about the X-Prize and the attitude behind it, here are a few more links you can look into. For attitude, the best story I have seen comes from Space Daily. To learn more about the engine behind SS1 (and their satellite launch vehicle) check out Universe Today.
If you want to check out all the Teams involved in the contest, XPrize Primary is your best bet. If you want to get directly involved, either as a Teacher looking to fire up your student’s, or a participant looking to enter, be sure to look into Build A Rocket. And if you are a teacher, be aware there is a prize (the EGGs prize) for the middle school team who can meet the criteria!