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X-Prize

The X-Prize is a $10,000,000 prize, to be awarded to the first non-government organization that can launch a rocket carrying at least three people (alternatively, at least one human crewmember and ballast equivalent to two more) to at least 100 kilometers twice within 2 weeks. This must be essentially the same vehicle: propellant can be replaced, but most of the rest of the vehicle must be reused. Even NASA's space shuttle falls short of this performance requirement, since it takes much more than 2 weeks to ready a given shuttle between flights. This prize foundation was created to encourage the development of private space travel, which is why government-funded projects are not allowed.

The X Prize is designed to help create a space industry, and is modeled after many prizes from the early 20th century that helped prod the development of air flight—notably the $25,000 Orteig Prize[?] that spurred Charles Lindbergh to make his solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

The X-Prize Foundation[?] (based in St. Louis, Missouri) maintains a list of organizations registered for the prize, which makes a good overview of the companies presently developing means of low-cost access to space. However, to maintain secrecy many companies pop up out of the blue as their requests for air space permission generate publicity; such is the case with Scaled Composites, a company that remained unknown as a competitor until April 2003. This list notably does not include traditional space access companies like Boeing and Lockheed, which many in the industry believe to be incapable of replacing their present space transportation vehicles with low-cost alternatives. These critics claim as evidence the companies' several failed attempts to do so, such as the X-33[?] project, on contract from NASA and other U.S. government agencies. However, the X-Prize Foundation itself does not bar these companies from applying, so long as they can prove their efforts on this project would be free of government funding.

As of November 15th, 2002, the X-Prize's funding will expire on January 1st, 2005, so most of the competitors are planning to launch before then.

Partial list of X-Prize contenstants:

  • Acceleration Engineering
  • Advent Launch Services
  • Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Assoc. (ARCA)
  • Armadillo Aerospace
  • American Astronautics Corporation
  • Bristol Spaceplanes, Ltd.
  • Canadian Arrow
  • The da Vinci Project
  • Pablo de Leon & Associates
  • Discraft Corporation
  • Flight Exploration
  • Fundamental Technology Systems
  • IL Aerospace Technologies
  • Interorbital Systems
  • Kelly Space and Technology
  • Lone Star Space Access Corporation
  • Micro-Space, Inc.
  • PanAero, Inc.
  • Pioneer Rocketplane, Inc.
  • Scaled Composites, LLC
  • Starchaser Industries[?]
  • Suborbital Corporation
  • TGV Rockets

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