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Google Lunar X Prize Team ARCA to Use Balloon, Ball to Reach Moon

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
May 28, 2009
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Romania Targets Moon with Balloon-Launched Ball

Former X Prize contenders such as the Romanian team ARCA could have called it a day when Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipOne won the $10 million Ansari X Prize on Oct. 4, 2004. Instead, ARCA hopes to build on its previous effort to reach the moon and win the Google Lunar X Prize and even more prize money.

“We have the experience now, we have the know-how, we have a list of companies that can help us, we have connections,” said Bogdan Sburlea, ARCA (Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Association) project manager. “We already have some technology from the previous competition.”

That tested technology includes a balloon that can carry ARCA’s European Lunar Explorer (ELE) space probe into the upper atmosphere, eliminating the need for a traditional launch pad and allowing ARCA to launch close to the equator from a sea platform. The “0” pressure balloon design is similar to a giant black hot-air balloon that uses solar energy to heat the air inside, instead of the burner that normal hot-air balloons use.

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