Design Engineering

Lunar Robot X Prize contestants announced

By Design Engineering Staff   

General Aerospace Aerospace MDA Robotics X Prize

Two Canadian teams among 29 entries competing in the $30 million race to the Moon.

Playa Vista, CA – The X PRIZE Foundation announced the official roster of 29 registered teams competing for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, a competition to send a robot to the Moon that travels at least 500 meters and transmits video, images, and data back to the Earth.

The first team to so wins the $20 million grand prize, while the second team will earn a $5 million prize. Teams can also win up to $4 million in bonus prizes for achievements such moving ten times farther, surviving a lunar night, or visiting a previous lunar mission site.

Among the 29 commercially funded international teams entered so far, two Canadian competitors have thrown their hats in the ring. Based on the Isle of Man, Team Odyssey Moon was the first to enter the competition when it was initially announced in September 2007. The multi-national team is anchored by MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), the prime contractor for private commercial lunar enterprise, Odyssey Moon Limited.

The company says their work on a robotic lunar mission has been in development for some time, and coincides with the Lunar X Prize competition. The plan is to deploy a small robotic lander — carrying scientific and exploration payloads — based on the company’s lunar lander “MoonOne” (M-1) concept, currently under development.


Team representatives include Dr. Ramin Khadem, former CEO of mobile satellite communications company Inmarsat and executive with at Bell Canada and Teleglobe in Montreal, as well as Dr. Christian Sallaberger MDA vice president Business Development and Advanced Systems and former manager of space exploration at the Canadian Space Agency.

The second Canadian entrant, announced today, is the less optimistically named Team Plan B, headed by Vancouver, B.C-based Adobri Solutions, LTD. Actually, the company plans to make two launches, one to test project’s delivery and deployment strategies and the second to incorporate any design and trajectory corrections gleaned from the first launch.

Rendering of Team Plan B's lunar rover. (Photo: Vancouver-based Adobri, LTD.) Solutions

To build the lunar rover, the company intends to use commercially available software, hardware, communication, guidance and robotic systems to produce light weight vehicle and delivery system. The vehicle will travel to the moon through a series of stages, initially piggy-backing on a commercial satellite for deployment in low-Earth orbit.

Then, through a series of course corrections and progressively higher Earth orbits, the spacecraft will eventually position itself for the long journey to the Moon. On arrival, breaking impulse engines and airbags will deposit the rover on the lunar surface. In addition to fulfilling the requirements of the X Prize, the team is considering sending a hockey puck as well for a “symbolic face-off on the Moon.”

Similar to the other X Prize contests, the intent behind the Google-sponsored Lunar X Prize competition is to challenge private commercial enterprises to find a potentially commercially viable way of accomplishing prohibitively expensive projects.

The 29 teams have until the end of 2015 to complete the terms of the contest contract and claim the $20 million prize.


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