NASA wants to team up with the X-Prize foundation to fund two new competitions to develop technology for sub-orbital space vehicles, as part of its Centennial Challenges program.
Subject to statutory budget approval, NASA will stump up prize money of more than $250,000 for each competition, while the X-Prize Foundation will handle the business of running the contests.
The two organisations have proposed two contests: one tentatively called Suborbital Payload Challenge and the other Suborbital Lunar Lander Analog Challenge.
As the name suggests, the Suborbital Payload Challenge will go to the first team that can demonstrate a reusable, sub-orbital rocket capable of reaching altitude or speeds that would be useful to scientists. The winning kit could then find its way into regular use by NASA and other research organisations.
The Suborbital Lunar Lander Analog Challenge, meanwhile, will be won by the first team that can demonstrate a vehicle that can land and take off (vertically) from the surface of the moon. It might be sub-orbital on Earth, but a technology from a craft like this could end up being used in lunar exploration. ®