Pomerantz: X Prize Spurring Considerable Level of Parallel Tech Innovation

Caution: Innovation in Progress
William Pomerantz
The Launch Pad


One of the biggest advantages of incentive prizes like those we run here at the X PRIZE Foundation is that they allow an enormous amount of parallel innovation. In most traditional forms of research and development, the innovating body–the lab, the scientist, the company, the agency, the manager, whatever–has to perform some trade studies and down-select to a small number of research avenues they determine to be the most likely avenues to yield the desired results. That’s by no means a mistake–that’s sound management and efficient allocation of resources. But often, those decisions end up ruling out potential avenues that may in fact have the highest yield–because they also carry the highest risk of failure.

By contrast, when an incentive prize is offered, an entire ‘innovation ecosystem’ is set up, wherein a much larger group of those research avenues will be pursued by one or multiple competing teams. In this fashion, a lot of theory can be tested in practice, and the entire industry can learn lessons not only from the eventual winners of the prize, but from all of the competing teams.

Google Lunar X Prize Registration Fee Hiked By 200 Percent

The registration fee for the Google Lunar X Prize was hiked from $10,000 to $30,000 on January 1. In a New Year’s Eve blog posting, the X Prize’s William Pomerantz minimized the increase and said that it had increased the number of registrations:

“In the grand scheme of the competition, this $20,000 difference isn’t all that large–afterall, most teams are talking about spending tens of millions of dollars….My mailbox has been very busy over the past few weeks with new registrations and new letters of intent. I hope to see many more coming in in over the rest of the day!”

Annual Event for $2 Million Lunar X Prize No Longer Affordable for X Prize, Contestants

The X Prize Foundation announced today that it can no longer afford to hold an annual event for competitors in the $2 million Northrop Grumman Lunar Challenge.  (Tip of the hat to Hobby Space for finding it.)

“Moving forward, the concept of conducting a large common event at which all teams fly their vehicles is likely not financially sustainable for the Foundation,” the non-profit group said in a note from Peter Diamandis and Will Pomerantz. 

(more…)

X Prize Guy Says: Private Sector Space Booming, NASA to Benefit

NASA turns to the private sector as China flexes new space muscles
Will Pomerantz
Venture Beat

“It’s tempting to look at the situation — especially in the context of global economic conditions — and paint a picture of NASA in decline before an ascendant China. To do so, however, would be to neglect an important shift –- NASA’s new reliance on a growing private sector.

“Private spaceflight is booming. Just look at the Ansari X PRIZE winning flights of SpaceShipOne, the subsequent rollout of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo system, and the initial flight of Falcon 1, a commercial orbital launch vehicle funded by PayPal founder Elon Musk. You might think, hey, isn’t Virgin a UK effort? It’s actually headquartered in the U.S., with the technology being designed, the vehicles manufactured, and the launch taking place all within domestic borders. And the trend looks to continue with the popularization of programs like Google’s Lunar X PRIZE, which promises to do for robotic exploration what the Ansari X PRIZE did for human spaceflight.”

Learning from (and Partnering with) Space Entrepreneurs

The X PRIZE Foundation’s Director of Space Projects William Pomerantz discusses how small entrepreneurial companies can partner with larger space firms and government agencies in an article for Ask, NASA’s in-house publication for project management and engineering excellence.

Pomerantz says that although many of the companies who compete in the X PRIZE’s competitions enjoy advantages over larger more traditional aerospace organizations, significant partnership opportunities exist.

“The good news is that, despite the occasional playful bravado of some of the more colorful characters involved in these competitions, all our teams are die-hard supporters of a robust space exploration program and will gladly do their parts. As such, they can function as highly specialized components of the greater aerospace workforce,” Pomerantz writes.

“These small, innovative teams can quickly and cheaply provide services to their larger brethren. Whether it is a Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge team providing a flying platform capable of carrying experimental sensors on dozens of flights a week, or Ansari X PRIZE competitors carrying scientific payloads and their human operators into the blackness of space, or the eventual Google Lunar X PRIZE winners testing systems and returning data that will support NASA’s return to the moon, the entrepreneurial community is poised to help the national space program like never before.”