Dec 23, 2008

Rocket Mavericks the Sky's No Limit

Also part of the wave of young, private, non-profit and bold initiatives that are hitting the space sector recently, a group of like-minded individuals in the US established the Association of Rocket Mavericks, whos mission is to "bridge the gap between the hobbyist and the aerospace community, enabling the civilian, working in collaboration with international universities, to have the resources, technology, education and infrastructure resources to open the domain of space exploration for the common man".

Their main focus is on innovation in the launch vehicle sector, aiming at their first orbital flight in 2015. But they could also represent a good reference point to keep an eye on in the future as a possible provider for engines on a Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) lander.

You can read more about their endevors in this Wired article.

Keep on reaching for your dreams guys!

Dec 11, 2008

Moon 2.0 in Indonesian

One of our Indonesian volunteers was kind enough to provide subtitles in Bahasa Indonesia, the language of Indonesia, for our International Version of Moon 2.0, promotional video of the Google Lunar X-Prize (GLXP).

Please watch the video here. Subtitles can be selected by clicking on the small arrow at the bottom right of the YouTube view screen (see How to Show YouTube Subtitles).

Since YouTube's automatic translate button still has big a red "BETA" label next to it, we still choose to use humans for our translations!

Dec 8, 2008

Is Space Exploration Expensive?

We are used to the concept of space exploration being a very expensive endevour, but this simple inflation-adjusted monetary comparison by Voltage shows that the complete budget history of NASA, including the entire Apollo Program, is only a fraction of the 2008 bailout of the US finacial sector.

Nov 27, 2008

NASA Surveyor and Pathfinder in 3D

White Label Space recently took a field trip to the USA in order to initiate and pursue discussions with potential partners and sponsors. While in the DC area, the team found some time to visit one of the most famous aerospace museums in the world, the National Air & Space, and learn about previous lunar missions such as Clementine or Surveyor as well as Mars missions such as Pathfinder and Viking.

This proved a great opportunity to see the hardware first hard, which was far more informative than the analysis of pictures and text descriptions. A great deal of knowledge was captured by such previous missions, and even mission studies. By studying this space heritage we can avoid past design mistakes, reducing the cost and risk.
The National Air and Space Museum is without doubt a mine of information, and is a must-see if you happen to be in the DC area, especially for Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) competitors, but also for the general public.
We took the chance to use some modern technology for capturing this space heritage. This new technology developed by Microsoft's Live Labs named PhotoSynth allows recreation of a hybrid 3D model that anyone can view and explore over the internet. We preferred using our cameras to build the 3D models we didn't think the security guards and curators would appreciate us crawling over the hardware with a 3D scanner!

Below are two great examples of what can be achieved. The mouse controls are similar to Google Maps, but PhotoSynth also includes a funky damped motion feature.

Nov 23, 2008

ESA Shows Its Worth to the Ministerial Council

With timing designed to coincide with this coming week's Ministerial Council Meeting, the European Space Agency (ESA) has released this promotional video showing some footage from its recent projects, and some nice computer graphics of the projects for which it will request budget lines.

Of course, this video is far more exciting and adventurous that the very dry and business-like "programmatic priorities" to be presented to the Ministerial Council, which are to:

  • further develop the benefits of space to society and the knowledge economy, stimulating innovation, creativity and growth;
  • promote the development of new products and services benefiting daily life;
  • be increasingly successful on the global market in space systems, services and applications;
  • meet its defence and security needs for space; and
  • provide continued access to space.

Space exploration itself fits only as sub-categories in the programmatic priorities of contributing to the knowledge-based society and providing access to space.

ESA's exploration objectives are to make full use of the International Space Station (ISS) to prepare for future exploration activities and to start the definition of a new cargo return transportation system derived from the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) that will be able to survive re-entry and land intact with payloads brought back from the ISS.

ESA also proposes to study technologies for the exploration of the Moon and to promote lunar exploration in tandem with the recruitment of new astronauts. To this end, ESA wants to study a Moon lander and to develop capabilities enabling human exploration including Moon-landing technologies, habitation and life support systems and demonstrators.

Scenario and architecture studies are also proposed to prepare future activities. ESA wants to become a leading participant in the robotic exploration of planet Mars (currently a field almost totally dominated by NASA), with the Enhanced ExoMars mission and eventually leading to significant European role in a Mars Sample Return mission.

Nov 22, 2008

Greatest Space Ads Part IX - SONY and Space Tourism

In this space-linked advertisement SONY uses the concept of space tourism to appeal to people who want to make the purchase of a lifetime but are afraid of the question:

"When your kids ask where the money went"

Could you go into space with any other brand of video camera after watching this ad?

Previously in our Greatest Space Ads series:

Nov 19, 2008

Converting a "Moon-Impactor" to a "Moon-Lander"

As India's Chandryaan-1 mission showed this week, it's possible to use existing launch vehicles and conventional satellite design solutions to reach lunar orbit, and even to send a probe to the impact surface. The only remaining step in order to have a complete lunar surface transportation service is to master the technology of slowing down your lander to have a soft-landing, rather than the hard-landing (aka "impact") of the Indian probe.

In the 1960's, with its Surveyor program, NASA mastered the technology of using a solid rocket motor to decelarate a lander, removing over 90% of its speed to allow a relatively small liquid-fuel propulsion system to make the final descent and landing.

To help with the design of your solid rocket motor breaking stage, you might like to check out Rogers Aeroscience who has recently published some useful reference materials. The following articles are available from their website;
  • Performance Analysis of the Ideal Rocket Motor.
  • Departures from Ideal Performance for Conical Nozzles and Bell Nozzles, Straight-Cut Throats and Rounded Throats.
  • Erosive Burning Design Criteria for High Power and Experimental/Amateur Solid Rocket Motors.

Nov 14, 2008

India Next to Land on Moon?

According to MoonDaily's AFP report India has announced that it will send a spacecraft to soft land on the Moon's surface by 2012.

India's Chandrayaan-1 mission currently orbiting the Moon is clearly providing them with some confidence that they can now proceed to the next level, a robotic lunar soft-landing. The proposed lander mission, Chandrayaan-2, would include a robotic probe able to "pick samples" for scientific study and transmit the science data back to Earth.
This announcement with a timeline compatible with the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) certainly lays down the gauntlet for the other major space agencies in the world that have not yet landed anything on the Moon but who claim to be preparing such missions, namely ESA, JAXA and CNSA. How will they respond?

Nov 11, 2008

Using an iPhone to Control a Spacecraft or Lunar Lander?

Can you use an iPhone to soft land a spacecraft of the Moon?

Taking a look at this experiment by Michael Koppelman, it may not be as far fetched as it seems.

Perhaps soon we will see Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) teams adopting this type of ultra low cost approach for their Moon missions..

iPhone Rocket Launch and Interview (from from Mobile Orchard on Vimeo.

See also our previous post: Can This SONY Camera Work on the Moon?

Nov 9, 2008

How far away is the Moon?

The average distance from the center of the Earth to the center of the Moon is 384,403 km.

To put things in perspective, this great animation from the wikipedia Moon article shows a true scale diagram representing the relative sizes of the two bodies and the time it would take for a beam of light to pass between them - 1.255 seconds.

.. and you thought that Skype was frustrating when there is a communications delay.. imagine talking to a friend on the Moon where the minimum round trip for the information is about 2.5 seconds!

Nov 8, 2008

Moon 2.0 en Español

To all those Spanish speakers out there, we have now embedded Spanish subtitles (translated by a native speaker, not a computer!) in our video International Version of Moon 2.0 - Join the Revolution.

To display subtitles, click on the small arrow at the bottom right of the YouTube screen (see How to Show YouTube Subtitles).

Let's hope to see some Spanish-speaking teams soon in the Google Lunar X PRIZE!

Nov 5, 2008

ESA Moon Rover Competition won by University of Bremen Team

A rover designed and built by a team from the University of Bremen has been announced as the winner of the ESA's Robotics Challenge, held last October in Tenerife.

The competition highlighted a specially large variety of rover concepts and designs (not all of which were successful) and the ability of the young student teams to conceive and assemble innovative rovers in a small amount of time.
This competition shows the benefits of exchanges between space agencies, small universities and research centres, people who are just waiting for a chance like the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) to finally get a large acknowledgement for their efforts!

Nov 1, 2008

Testimonial to the Mars Exploration Rovers

These National Geographic Channel pieces are testimonials to the upcoming 5 year anniversary of the landing of NASA's twoMars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

Congratulations to the NASA team responsible for delivering humanity such a fantastic and successful mission, which is still ongoing!

Oct 30, 2008

Armadillo Lander for GLXP?

Armadillo Aerospace won the $350,000 "Level 1"prize in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge at the Spaceport America, New Mexico, last Friday. The vehicle launched vertically and moved sideways, hovered for over 90 seconds then returned to the starting point.

Armadillo tried the next day for the harder "Level 2" challenge, worth $1.65 million in which the rocket needed to fly for 180 seconds then maneuver to a precise landing on a crater-pocked and rock-laden look-alike of a lunar landscape, but failed shortly after ignition, falling on its side.

Congratulations Armadillo! It looks like you are on track to being a premier supplier for Google Lunar X PRIZE teams!

Oct 28, 2008

More Problems with NASA's Ares 1 has reported that computer simulations now indicate that the long skinny shape of the Ares 1 rocket, currently under development to replace the Shuttle, could lead to problems with "liftoff drift" in which the forces due to its motor ignitition and wind loads could cause it to jump sideways at ignition far enough for its rocket plume to damage the launch tower.
Is the Ares 1 approaching a major redesign? See our previous related post and give your thoughts.

Oct 23, 2008

The Moon's in a Hurry

The moon in a hurry

"The moon in a hurry" by Nautilus 1, on Flickr

Oct 17, 2008

For Cheap Payloads to Orbit, Think BIG!

This blog post is about the Sea Dragon, probably the biggest rocket ever designed.

The Sea Dragon was designed by Robert Truax for Aerojet in 1962 with the intention of determining the cost savings that would be possible by building a launch vehicle on a scale of large ocean-fairing ships. The concept developed was a two-stage vehicle, roughly half the size of the TITANIC, built in a ship yard and then towed to the launch site in the open sea for launch from a partially submerged position direction out of the ocean.

(Sea DragonCredit - © Mark Wade, and

The first stage used Liquid OXygen (LOX) and Kerosene, and had a parachute system landing on the ocean 290 km downrange. An option for recovery and reuse of the stage was also investigated. The second was LOX and Liquid Hydrogen, and stayed in the destination low-Earth orbit.

The main design parameters were:
  • LEO payload capacity: 450,000 kg (to 185 km Orbit)
    Take-off weight: ~20,000 tons
  • Height: 168m
  • Diameter: 23m
  • Weight at Launch: 18,000 tonnes
  • Launch Price: $300 million (1962 dollars)

Costs to low earth orbit were estimated to be around $600/kg, about one quarter that of the Saturn V.

Will the future bring gigantic Space-Freighter rockets like this lifting out of the ocean to take large amounts of payload to orbit at low costs? We hope so, because it would make space more accessible

References and further reading:

Oct 14, 2008

Joost Launches Global Web 2.0 Video Service

We've been waiting for this one, and now finally it's arrived. Today Joost launched its new web-based video-on-demand service, with all the content legally provided by its owners and streamable for free!

Is this the future of television? One can imagine that the Google Lunar X PRIZE missions will be seen all over the world using this technology.

For more details on the service see Joost's press release.

Private Space Visionary Jim Benson Dies 63

White Label Space would like to send its sincerest condolences to the family, friends and colleague of James ("Jim") Benson who passed away peacefully in his home last week due to glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor, with which he was diagnosed in 2007.

Jim was a visionary leader in the private space industry and was an inspiration to many of us most notably with, but not limited to, the establishment of the SpaceDev company. Further information is available on the SpaceDev press release.

Moon 2.0 in Korean

We now have Korean subtitles for our International Version of the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) Moon 2.0 video on YouTube, thanks to one more of our motivated volunteers!

Remember to use the small arrow button on the bottom right of the view screen to select which subtitles you want to see (see How to Show YouTube Subtitles).

Oct 10, 2008

The Race is On!

Well it looks like 2 more teams have joined the GLXP race to the Moon.

They were unveiled at the AGI User Conference in Chicago.

The first team is Independence-X Aerospace, a Malaysian team, and the second is Omega Envoy, a team of students from the University of Central Florida. Interestingly enough Omega Envoy have decided to make their company not-for-profit with 'the common goal of advancing private and commercial space exploration.' An interesting move in a competition which aims to turn the Space industry in a fully competitve market. However, still quite a noble ambition, but one might wonoder if their motives might be more tax related and less "future of the human race" related.

If you were wondering who AGI were, they are the makers of Satellite Tool Kit (STK), quite possibly the most useful tool available for Space Mission Design. And the news that they'll be offering their software for *free* for GLXP teams is music to our ears.

Check out who all the current teams are here, but remember, there's more to come...

Oct 8, 2008

When They Change The Ares-1 "Stick" to a Normal Rocket

Budget concerns, timelines, and technology limitations have got NASA in a real tight spot for its future manned launch vehicle, the Ares-1. We at White Label Space, like many others around the world, have a feeling that this rocket might never fly in its current configuration with the long skinny shuttle-derived booster supporting the fat upper stage. No rocket like this has ever been launched into space so we made this poll to sample the public opinion on this design.

There are some good reasons why launch vehicles tend to have tapered shapes (where the base is thicker than the top and not the other way around!). At supersonic and hypersonic speeds, tapering gives additional aerodynamic static stability. Also, having a wider lower stage helps to support the higher structural loads that it must transmit. Last we heard, NASA is trying to implement electromagnetic mass absorbers to overcome the structural dynamics problems with the current design, although an active vibration control system of this size has never flown to space, let alone on a man-rated launch vehicle.

Perhaps NASA will give up the stick Ares-1 and define a more realistic baseline with a wider first stage, perhaps something more like the Gemini launcher.

Oct 6, 2008

Virgin First Sex in Space

See some hardcore thrusting in this Virgin (Galactic) video, which offers something for everybody, mums, boys, girls, teenagers, white, black, latino, asian, old, young, your nextdoor neighbor, your wife, your husband, your teacher, nurse, animals, or any of your inter-racial friends.

White Label Space is a group of space professionals preparing to officially join the Google Lunar X PRIZE. Right now we are conducting anal ysis on the best possible design for a space mission to complete the objectives of the prize. We hope to officially join the competition before the end of this year.

White Label Space will have a bi-directional emphasis, combining its space engineering expertise with its dedicated efforts to provide the highest possible media exposure to your brand name.

We invite you to take off our label and put your one all over our spacecraft!

And now, after that preamble, the main point of this blog post.. This MSNBC article reports that Virgin Galactic has turned down a $1 million offer to film the first official sex video in space. We think the reason might be because the offer was too low :)

Oh, just in case you didn't figure it out yet, this blog post is an experiment to see how many search engine hits we can get by using the rather attractive words that it contains :)

Did you ever notice how certain brand names are more catchy than others? No doubt Sir Richard Branson had this in mind when he chose the Virgin name for his family of enterprises.

Oct 5, 2008

Greatest Space Ads Part VIII - Cosmofon's Signal Reaches Space

This funny space-linked advertisement by the Macedonian mobile provider Cosmofon combines their advertising message with a well-known hobby of Japanese people.

Previously in our Greatest Space Ads series:

Oct 4, 2008

Moon 2.0 in Traditional Chinese (繁體華語版)

Ni hao everybody!

As promised we have now uploaded the traditional Chinese subtitles for our International Version of the Google Lunar X PRIZE Moon 2.0 video.

Traditional chinese is the written form used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, and is also widely used in overseas Chinese communities.

Remember to activate the subtitles you need to click on the small arrow in the bottom right corner of the YouTube viewscreen (see How to Show YouTube Subtitles).

Oct 3, 2008

Send your "Astronaut" to Space for Just $2

We just came across the website that is selling flights of payloads into space for just $2 each!

Well, it's a nice idea paying such a small amount to have your logo or photo in space. But don't forget to read the small print...

IntoSpace's offer is to send your 1 square centimeter logo or photo print (they call it an "Astronaut") into space together with thousands of other customers. Is anybody reminded of the Million Dollar Homepage?

But if you do the math, assuming 75gsm paper, IntoSpace is charging $267,000 for each kilogram they send to space. Considering that the going rate for sending payloads to space is currently around $15,000 per kg, they are trying to charge 18 times what it actually costs for them to put a stack of paper on a spacecraft, sure there is some extra mass for the brackets and bolts holding the stack to the spacecraft structure but clearly they are still charging more than 10 times their costs.

Small print indeed!

Sep 29, 2008

SpaceX successfully launches Falcon 1

As you might have heard, SpaceX (… finally …) succeeded with the launch of its Falcon 1 during the weekend.

This, the third Falcon 1 flight, injected a dummy mass into orbit rather than the previously planned two commercial satellites. This was due to the launch agreement specifying at least one successful launch prior to the first fully commercial flight boarding paying customers.

Since their last launch attempt, SpaceX has performed extensive modifications on the Falcon 1 launcher, the main one being the modification to the time constant (2 to 3 bit number) used by the flight software to control the time delay between separation of the first stage and ignition of the second, an error which led to the loss of the previous flight.

White Label Space joins the space community to congratulate SpaceX for this achievement and expects that this is the first in a long series of successful launches. We will certainly stay tuned for the upcoming Falcon 9 launch, SpaceX’s launcher having the most promising lunar capabilities.

Sep 27, 2008

White Label Space at IAC

For those of you attending the IAC in Glasgow this week, keep an eye out for our special undercover operatives who will be scoping out the scene and making some contacts with potential parnters!

Sep 24, 2008

We made it on to!!!

So finally our blog is starting to gain traction & get some attention from the more established web sites.
Today we where added to Guy Kawasaki's in the Alltop Space section along with some of the best space news & space blogs on the internet.
Read more about what is all about here. This is real privilage & honour for us & It's also a tribute to all the hard work our team has put into generating our web presence in such a short time. Many thanks to Guy & Neenz for making this happen :)

Sep 23, 2008

Underwater Training for Lunar Exploration

Can the oceans and lake's of planet Earth be useful environments for practicing future lunar exploration?

According to this article in they can..

NASA astronaut Mike Gernhardt believes that more scientific value can be obtained by mission planning allows astronauts more flexibility to investigate interesting discoveries, and he is using his extensive diving experience to try and prove it.

Well, it's not clear if Earth-bound mission planners will give more autonomy to lunar astronauts, but one's things for sure, it's much easier to test operational concepts at underwater sites rather than in space.

(Featured picure insert: ANZ-100 submersible from

Sep 20, 2008

Travelling through the Universe with Celestia Space Simulator

A view of Earth from far out in space. Source: Celestia

Are you interested in astronomy, the solar system, and space? Would you like to fly through the universe and observe our blue planet, the Moon, or the Milky Way from the outside? Then this free software application might be very interesting for you: Celestia is a 3D space simulator that runs on your Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux computer.

Looking down at Mars's tiny moon Phobos and the giant Valles Marineris rift valley. Source: Celestia

It contains almost 120,000 star positions collected by European Space Agency’s Hipparcos Space Astrometry Mission. It contains moons, asteroids, and even spacecraft, including their orbital paths, just to name a few. It can animate the constellations in real time as well as simulate object movements with much faster or slower velocity. Furthermore, additional information about these objects, craters, landing sites, observatories, etc. can also be displayed.

The orbits of a number of main belt asteroids (in brown) plotted togeter with major planet orbits (in blue). Source: Celestia

The software is open source, therefore many add-ons like high-detail textures for planets, satellites and their orbits, spacecraft, or animations are available. Anybody with programming skills can download the source code and further develop the software; even NASA and ESA use Celestia for creating animations, for Mars Express, for example.

So have a look at, try out the software, and let us know what you think about it! And many thanks to the developers of this great simulator!

Sep 19, 2008

Garage Sale for GLXP Spacecraft

Is it possible to build a working spacecraft from spare parts?

Considering that dedicated test articles are built for almost all spacecraft developments and the space age is now over 40 years old so there must be quite a lot of old space equipment lying around gathering dust (hopefully in dustproof containers) in the labs and storerooms of the world's space agencies and space companies.

Second hand equipment for spacecraft may not be the most up-to-date components or the most efficient designs, but if it works, who cares? Surely many Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) teams would love to get their hands on it.

Space agencies and companies should clear out all that old stuff and auction it off on eBay!

Sep 17, 2008

How Star Trek Would Win Google Lunar XPRIZE!

What would happen if the Star Trek team entered the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP)?

Approach: Teleport to the moon, take an HD camera ("off-the-shelf" of course, and put it in a hermetic metallic can see our previous post) and a spacesuit (Russian would be cheaper), take vidoes and photos, teleport a few times to other locations (total relative teleport distance across moon 500m), then teleport to the X PRIZE Foundation HQ (see below), deliver the data in a suitable memory card (type TBD). At the same time, give the details of your bank account to collect the prize money. Preferably your team is a non-profit assoication so you don't pay taxes!

View Larger Map

Landing Site: Go for the Heritage Bonus (no point waiting for a full lunar night)

Total cost breakdown: HD camera, memory card, spacesuit, hermetic housing for camera, travel insurance (TBD since we don't know what the risks of teleporting accidents except from the movie SpaceBalls where the guy gets his upper body and lower body reassembled facing in wrong directions). We estimate it would cost less than $1 million (excluding the costs of buying the DVD versions of all prior Star Trek episodes and movies to study their technologies).

Time taken: Not long (we don't know how fast the teleportation system works but you can assume at least light speed), time to film video, take pictures, prepare spacesuit, etc. Probably you could do everything in one day.

Other business opportunities: Advertise products, a few million per product (see our Top 10 Greatest Space Ads post).

Are there any trekkies who can tell us what we missed? Join our facebook group and let us know the full capabilities of GLXP Team Star Trek!

Sep 16, 2008

Sneak Preview: Our New Office!

We can't tell you our names, we can't tell you our business plan, we can't tell you our mission plans for the Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) ...

But be informed - White Label Space is coming....

Sep 15, 2008

Moon 2.0 - en Français

Oui oui,

We we have finally added put French subtitles on our International Version of the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) promotional video Moon 2.0 Join the Revolution!

You can see it at our YouTube channel.

Remember, you must click on the small arrow in the bottom right corner of the YouTube viewscreen to select the subtitles you want to see. Unfortunately, the subtitles feature doesn't yet work when the video is embedded in another webpage.

Top marks to YouTube for making this subtitles feature available!

Sep 14, 2008

Swedish Experiments Expose Animals to Space Environment

This interesting article in The Daily Galaxy tells the story of an experiment to test the ability of a certain type of animal, the Tardigrade, to survive exposed to the space environment. Tardigrades are a small sized (<2mm)> space environment. Swedish scientists found that 2% of the specimens could be revived after 10 days of exposure to the full extremes of the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) space environment.

This is an interesting experiment because it really challenges the common perception that life on Earth can only ever stay confined to that thin layer of soil and atmosphere that we call home.

Could rugged species like the Tardigrade could stay alive in the cores of asteroids for far longer periods enabling them to populate other planets and spread life?

Sep 12, 2008

Lost In Translation - Don't Rely on Babelfish

This is what happens to a company that has no quality control in their translations.

We at White Label Space are interested in helping to spread the word about the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) to other nations where English is not commonly understood. As you may have noticed from our Chinese and Japanese subtitled versions of the Moon 2.0 video, we have already found some translators willing to help out our team... so at least we don't have to rely on automatic web-based translation tool such as babelfish.

And by the way, the correct translation for the chinese writing in the picture is "Restaurant".

Sep 11, 2008

Can This SONY Camera Work on the Moon?

Sony has just released the first 24.6 megapixel camera called the DSLR-A900.

This is a good time to raise the question of using a conventional camara in a Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) mission. Cameras developed for the consumer market (here on Earth) can have costs that that are orders or magnitude lower than the equivalent space-qualified cameras.

Obviously the environment at the Moon has an environment with vacuum, radiation and temperature extremes far more severe than on Earth. However, all these issues could be easily overcome by putting a camera in a pressurized housing with temperature controls and metallic walls.

Modern cameras are clearly small and light enough to be flown in space. Mass could even be reduced by removing their components like the casing and the flash. There is an extra mass penalty due to the pressurized casing that needs to be considered but it would not be a show-stopper.

Here are the most relevant details of the DSLR-A900 (from Sony's Technical Specification Page):

  • Weight: 850grams (approx.)
  • Width: 156.3mm
  • Height: 116.9mm
  • Depth: 81.9mm
  • Ouputs: Video (PAL or NTSC), HD/HDMI™ (1920x1080i 59.94/50Hz), USB 2.0
  • Recording Media: Compact Flash I/II/MicroDrive, Memory Stick™
  • Recording Format: JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG, 16:9 selectable
  • Image Size: 6048 x 4032 pixels (JPEG) (24M)
  • Max. Continous Frame Rate: 5fps (approx.)
  • Image sensor type: CMOS
  • Image sensor colour filter: R, G, B, Primary color

So the main question is, can such a camera be compatible with all the requirements of the GLXP?

Firstly, is the image quality sufficient? Does it provide enough image resolution, colour resolution, Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR), Field Of View (FOV)?

Secondly, how about the video quality? It has enough pixels to meet the HD definition but is the frame rate high enough? Will the images with motion be too blurred?

And finally, what about the interface to the rest of the GLXP hardware? What communications protocol should be used? Most developed for space does not use USB for example.

If you have some thoughts on this, post them on our Google Group Open Forum.

Sep 10, 2008

Falcon 9 is GO for First (Test) Flight From The Cape

(Graphic Credit SpaceX, see

As announced today, Space X has received the USAF Operational Licence for Falcon 9 launches from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Recent rumours suggested that the licence would not be granted due to safety issues and the proximity to other historical launch sites but once again it shows that rumours should not be listened to. In any case, it is now official. Space X will work to perform the first test flight of the newly developed Falcon 9 rocket before the end of this year.

This will mark a significant milestone on the GLXP competition as the forecasted performances make both the Falcon 9 and its evolution "Falcon 9 Heavy" both realistic candidates to launch attempts at the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP).

However, after 3 failures of Falcon 1, all attention is now focussed on the upcoming Falcon 1 launch which is clearly a critical one for SpaceX. Nobody knows what a fourth failure would mean to SpaceX but many are afraid that it would lead to the cancellation of future launch attempts.

Sep 9, 2008

It's Mystery, and we completely agree

If you have been following the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) developments during the past months, you probably heard that a new team joined the competition but exercised their right to conceal their identity. For the timebeing they are known just as "Mystery Team". According to GLXP rules they can remain anonymous until 20th of July 2009 (the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing) but they are also free to reveal themselves anytime before then. So far the only signficant clue we have to their identities is that they are based in the United States.

Few days ago, Discovery channel conducted an Instant Messaging (IM) interview with the team's leader (see the IM interview transcript on the discovery website).

We at White Label Space found this interview extremely interesting because the Mystery Team seems to have a set of views on private space exploration and the GLXP competition that is 90% in common with those of our members. Hopefully, soon we will be able to tell you soon what the 10% of difference are!

In the mean time, we recommend you to have a look at the above interview and let us know what you think about their views!

Oh, and by the way, what will they call the second and third Mystery Teams if they join?

Sep 8, 2008

GLXP Moon 2.0 video, now in Chinese!

The Google Lunar X PRIZE promotional video "Moon 2.0 Join the Revolution" is now available in (simplified) Chinese at our White Label Space YouTube Channel.

To display the subtitles, click on the small arrow at the bottom right corner of the YouTube view window (see How to Show YouTube Subtitles).

Simplified chinese characters are used in the People's Republic of China (Mainland China), Singapore, Malaysia and also in official documents of the United Nations. They have have a decreased number of strokes compared to traditional Chinese characters, which are still used in other Chinese speaking nations. We will add the traditional Chinese version of the subtitles soon.

WALL-E - The Future of European Space Exploration?

Continuing our theme about rover comparisons from our recent post, today we take a look at that cute animated robot called WALL-E who recently hit the cinemas around the world. WALL-E, created by Pixar Animation Studios, is a fictional robotic character designed to clean up Earth after it becomes polluted by future humanity. In addition to being the character's name, WALL-E is also an acronym for "Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class".

For the sake of comparison, we show below the fictional WALL-E with the "real" ExoMars rover currently being developed by the European Space Agency (ESA).

The ExoMars mission is still under development by ESA. Previously we were given a very exotic and aerodynamic "Artists Impression" of ExoMars (left image). More recently, after more engineers got their hands on the design, ESA released its Phase B1 design (center image) which has replaced all the nice curves with hard 90 degree angles. Interestingly, the ExoMars design is starting to look at lot like the fictional WALL-E design (right image)!

And that's not the only linkage between WALL-E and ExoMars. In collaboration with Disney/Pixar, ESA has developed a special WALL-E website to introduce young people to the wonders of space exploration.

What is going on here?

Is ESA using WALL-E to convince European taxpayers that block-shaped industrial-looking rovers can also be cool? Is ESA now outsourcing its public outreach to Hollywood? Is ESA trying to cash in on environmental issues to sell its space missions?

Well, we don't know the answers to these questions but we thought it would be interesting to get your opinion on the relative merits of the designs with the following poll.

Sep 5, 2008

Greatest Space Ads - Part VII - 7Up Spaceflight Competition

This commercial was filmed by 7Up in 2005 to promote their competition for a free suborbital spaceflight.

The winner (decided by sweepstakes) was to be awarded the chance to fly on an FAA-approved commercial spaceflight. According to the competition rules desribed here, the sub-orbital spaceflight is conditional on a company being able to offer the service before end 2009. Currently only Virgin Galactic seems in the running to get approval before that date.

If no one can make good on the ticket by the end of 2009, the winner would just get $300,000 in cash.

Previously in our Greatest Space Ads series:

Sep 3, 2008

Rover Pimp-off, MER vs Lunakhod

We thought it would be interesting to compare two of the most pimped rover designs of all time.

NASA's two Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in early 2004 and are still going strong, racking up impressive distances over the red planet. But way back in the 1970s the Soviet Union landed two equally impressive rovers of its own on the Moon in the Lunakhod programme.

Let's have a look at some key statistics:

Compared to MER, the Lunakhod is more than 4 times the weight, making it a veritable tank. But after almost half a century, NASA will finally catch up on that statistic with its upcoming Mars Science Laboratory rover mission, which will weigh even more than the Lunakhod rovers.

MER Opportunity started its explorations of Mars in January 2004 from its "hole in one" landing site in a martian crater, shown in the below photograph, which was taken from Mars orbit by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Since then it has covered an impressive 11.7km of Martian surface, but that is still far short of the 37km achieved by Lunakhod 2. But with both MER rovers are still alive and moving that record may yet fall.

Driving rovers around the Moon is far quicker than on Mars. The round trip time communications delay to the Moon is only a couple of seconds, meaning that a driver on Earth can control a lunar rover in near real-time. The Lunakhod rovers were driven in this manner, controlled by a five-man team of controllers (pictured below) who used TV images taken by the rover's three low-rate TV cameras.

Unlike lunar rovers, Mars rovers have a far greater communications delay to Earth (many minutes) meaning that their route must be pre-programmed with navigation waypoints, hence the lower speed of the MER design.

The Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) mission won't require rovers anywhere near as big as these two giants, but it may be able to re-use at least some aspects of their designs such as navigation software and communications hardware. GLXP teams will have some freedom to choose their rovers' speed since the 500m roving requirement is not very demanding. However, to make their missions more profitable, teams might consider using a relatively high speed rover in order to enable other commercial activities after the primary GLXP mission is completed but before the approximately two weeks of lunar daylight is exhausted.

Sources :

SCE to AUX: When Apollo 12 got hit by lightning

So, you sat on top of what virtually is a bomb hurtling into space & the last thing you need is to be struck by lightning. That's exactly what happened to Apollo 12 during launch on November 14th 1969 on the second attempt to land on the moon. Thanks to the natural curiosity of John Aaron the then ECOM the mission was saved after all electrical systems malfunctioned. When the rocket took the lightning strike the readout from spaces telemetry data at mission control & on Apollo 12 became non-sensical. John remembered seeing a similar pattern before & made the famous call "Flight, tell 'em to take the SCE to AUX". Luckily astronaut Alan Bean knew where the obscure AUX switch was & managed to restore all systems. That must have been a hell of a first mission as flight director for Gerry Griffin. I think if I had been in the same situation I too would have done exactly the same as astronaut Pete Conrad & laughed all the way into orbit.

- Steve Allen

Why not try a Virtual Apollo Guidance Computer

As a follow up to our post Build Your Own Apollo Guidance Computer we thought that there may be a few of you that don't have time to go hunt down the components needed.
Enter the Virtual Apollo Guidance Computer.

You will need to have middle to advanced computer skills to use this but full instructions are provided on how to download/install for Win32, Linux & Mac OSX 10.4 are provided. The software is licenced as "free software" under the GNU General Public License (GPL).

If you have the "right stuff" why not help this great project out.

Sep 1, 2008

Mythbusters: We Went to the Moon, Get Over It!

As previously announced, last Wednesday the Discovery channel Mythbusters team tackled the myth that NASA never landed on the Moon.

Several myths were busted during the show such as:

  • Non-parallel shadows: Due to the lunar terrain (Reproduced using mockups)
  • Flying flag: Due to the inertia applied by the astronauts (Reproduced in a vacuum chamber)
  • Boot traces: Due to the nature of the lunar soil (Tested with lunar soil simulant and a vacuum chamber)
  • Walking style on the Moon: Reproduced on a zero-g plane

As a last nail in the skeptics coffins, the team visited to a large telescope and shot a laser at the Apollo 15 landing site. They received the reflected signal which can only prove the presenence of the optical reflector deployed by the astronauts at the landing site.

If you are interested by more busted lunar myths, take a look at the Mythbusters website and have a look to the extra myths that could not be shown due to time constraint.

Well, what does this leave for Google Lunar X PRIZE teams going after the Heritage Bonus Prize? Mythbusters proved that the physical effects shown on the Moon were realistic, and debunked the skeptics claims that those effects were proof of a fraud. However they still did not prove that the Apollo astronauts landed, rather they disproved the supposed 'evidence' of fraud. High definition video and photos of an Apollo landing site, perhaps showing evidence of the 40 or so years of exposure to the space environment, would certainly add more to the case!

Aug 31, 2008

Greatest Space Ads - Part VI - Martians with Hewlett Packard Printers

This cheeky Hewlett Packard printer ad (in Hungarian) shows an entirely different story of planetary exploration. Perhaps there is life on Mars after all...

Previously in our Greatest Space Ads series:

Aug 30, 2008

Moon 2.0 Video - Japanese Version

We've made a Japanese subtitled version of the Google Lunar X PRIZE promotional video, Moon 2.0 - Join the Revolution.

See: Moon 2.0 in Japanese

Note, there is a small arrow on the bottom right corner of the YouTube viewer it enables/disables the subtitle captions (see How to Show YouTube Subtitles).

This is a brand new feature in YouTube.. let us know what you think about it.

If you want a translation in your language, send us an email at:

Aug 29, 2008

Poll - How much would you pay to have your name on the Moon?

ITAR and the GLXP - USA vs Rest of the World

Like almost all space technology activities, the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) stands to be substantially affected by the the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) of the United States Government's Department of State.

For a good discussion of the ITAR situation, see this article in the Economist.

In short, ITAR is a major headache for space companies in the US and for organisations in other countries that want to cooperate with the US on space activities. Space agencies such as the European Space Agency (ESA) consider ITAR one of the main design drivers for their missions, treating it with equal importance as mass and cost. In fact, numerous projects and studies are now developed to be "ITAR-free".

Efforts are underway in the US to reduce the administrative burden of ITAR and to remove some components from the ITAR list but so long as the funding for the US civilian and military space agencies continues to dwarf those of other countries, some form of ITAR will probably remain.

ITAR has profound implications for international efforts in the GLXP. Essentially it will be impossible for GLXP teams outside the US to use systems developed by US companies. This includes all the challenging systems needed for lunar landers and rovers such as propulsion systems, communications, radiation hardened electronics, navigation and control. If you are in any doubt that there are dual-use systems suitable for the GLXP, see our recent post on the Standard Missile Kill Vehicle.

GLXP teams based in the US (where most of them are) should not assume that the systems they develop for GLXP will ever be sold to customers in other countries. This is an important limiting factor on the sales projections in their business plans.

Also, any non-US team in the GLXP will need to aquire such systems from other countries or develop it themselves. This is a profound challenge since certain key technologies are almost completely absent outside the US. When it comes to lunar landing for example, the Russians are the only other ones with flight proven hardware.

It looks like ITAR is really is driving the GLXP to a situation of "USA vs the Rest of the World"..

Aug 28, 2008

Greatest Space Ads - Part V - Space Golf by Element 21

On the 22nd of November 2006 cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin hit a specially designed golf ball from the International Space Station as part of a promotion for the golf equipment manufacturer Element 21. This CBC news article explains many of the technical challenges and mishaps encountered before and during the stunt.

The price Element 21 paid the Russians to undertake the advertising stunt was not publicly disclosed, but considering the prices paid for other cosmonaut stunts (see our list of Greatest Space Ads below), it could have been over $1 million.

The NASA TV footage of the swing is shown in the video below. The woman's voice is an English translation of the comonauts Russian voices. Also audible on the voice loop is the less than enthusiastic clearance confirmation by the NASA controller "Houston is Rog I guess.."

But this was not the first golf swing in space. Back in 1971 astronaut Alan Shepard hit a number of golf balls on the moon during the Apollo 14 mission. Despite having to use only one arm for the swing due to the limited flexibility of his spacesuit , he was able to hit one of the balls between 180 to 365 meters according to an estimate he made after the event.

Previously in our Greatest Space Ads series:

Aug 25, 2008

ESA's View on Private Suborbital Spaceflights

In our blog post Government Support for Future Lunar Missions published in July, White Label Space agreed on the necessity of governments to show interest in privately funded space projects like lunar landers.

Now, the European Space Agency has communicated it's view on space tourism, a similar topic, underlining the difficult balance of contributing to activities with available experience on the one hand, while not interfering in competitive markets on the other hand. Below, a quotation of ESA's position on space tourism.
"ESA is taking a position of cautious interest and informed support, with the following guidelines:
  1. ESA should monitor the relevant technology activities and assess whether spin-ins and spin-offs could be envisaged for/from European space programmes.
  2. While avoiding interfering in the development of a fully competitive market, ESA should further reflect on possible partnership with European ventures or support actions, based on mutual interest and demonstrated technical and commercial maturity, without nevertheless exposing ESA to any liabilities related to business exploitation. To this end, legal schemes should be defined to allow for such activities, as allowed within the principles laid out in the ESA Convention.
  3. Provision of services by ESA in the domain of human spaceflight, in particular ‘astronaut training’, i.e. provision of expertise for developing dedicated training programmes and/or facilities for specific tourist flight opportunities, and ‘space medicine’, i.e. provision of expertise to develop dedicated medical preparation programmes of space tourists, should also be explored for mutual benefit, making available ESA’s competences under conditions to be defined.
  4. ESA should contribute in the development of a regulatory frame for space tourism in Europe, involving both civil aviation regulatory authorities and competent bodies from the EC, aiming also at a ‘more level playing field’ for all parties around the world, and supporting the interests of European industry.
  5. ESA should facilitate the free flow of ideas among all interested European parties, e.g. by establishing a platform for voluntary information exchange."
The full article Space Tourism as well as the complete ESA Bulletin (No. 13, August 2008) in which the article appeared can be downloaded for free from ESA's website.

Apollo Moon Landing: The biggest hoax ever?

Everybody knows that NASA landed crew on the Moon 6 times with the Apollo missions, at least it is what they claim …

In fact many people have doubts that the Apollo landings are real, citing several strange visual effects on the pictures and videos published by NASA. How can a flag fly if there is no wind on the Moon? How can Neil Armstrong be illuminuated by the sun if he is surrounded by shadow? Why do some pictures exhibit non-parallel shadows on the surface?

Can these effects be explained just by the different physics on the Moon, or can they only be explained by a giant hoax by NASA, never going to the moon but just recording it all in Hollywood?

In order to (maybe) answer those questions once and for all, the Mythbusters team will tackle those myths in their upcoming episode due to air on August 27. Here is the preview:

Let us know what you think about it!

The best way to finally prove it is for sure to win the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) Hertiage Bonus Prize by taking pictures of actual hardware and traces left behind by the previous missions such as those of the Apollo Program.

But wouldn't it be a pity if a GLXP team made it to on of the claimed landing sites only to find that they can't get the $5 million heritage bonus prize, because there is no heritage hardware there!

Aug 24, 2008

Greatest Space Ads - Part IV - Space Food Sticks

"To meet the demands of a long spaceflight, Space Food sticks had to be a compact, nutritious, high-energy food"

Recognizing the advertising potential of space exploration very early, Pillsbury released this TV advertisment about their new product, developed in cooperation with US Aerospace Research.

Never mind the 1960s cardboard set and that old fashioned voice over, this ad is a classic. It demonstrates perfectly the opportunties that space exploration efforts offers for brand-linkages.

What type of brand linkages will Google Lunar X PRIZE teams be able to expoit on their way to the Moon? If you think you have some good ideas, join our facebook group discussion and let us know.

Previously in our Greatest Space Ads series:

Aug 22, 2008

Needed: Open Software for Open Hardware

Currently engineering companies are forced to pay high prices for 3D mechanical design software. Although quality 3D CAD systems for feature-based mechanical design have been on the commercial market for many years, there is still no open software that provides even the basic functionality that an engineer would need to design 3D mechanical parts (trust me I've looked!). This surprises me since we have seen many great open source programs in other areas such as Open Office. In fact, many of the necessary libraries already exist. In particular, the powerful open source 3D geometry software OpenCASCADE can provide the basis for a fully featured mechanical design program.

In an attempt to overcome this situation I've written these specifications for a first prototype of an application which I call "Open3Design". Open3Design is intended to be used in collaborative projects where the design engineer wants to share the real "design intent" rather than just the geometric data (a major limitation in current products).

This is an itch I've wanted to scratch for a long time... I'm an engineer with some experience programming. Unfortunately, I reached a point where I didn't have the programming skills to go any further, or the energy and time needed to learn them. I waited more than 5 years for an open source product that met my needs... unfortunately, it still hasn't arrived. Therefore, I've decided to try and establish a new open source project myself by putting the problem out in the cloud.

The prototype of Open3Design described in my specifications supports just three simple types of solid modeling features. The specifications also include a simple Use Case to test the application. The idea is that once the basic architecture for the software exists, it can be extended with relative ease to provide any features that are desired. Ultimately, I'd like to see it used to design real hardware that reaches the Moon as part of the GLXP!

To create the prototype application, I'm looking for developers with the following:

  • Experience developing C++ classes and applications
  • Experience working with Integrated Development Environments for simple forms and controls.
  • Some experience with 3D graphics systems (or willingness to learn!)
  • A copy of the OpenCASCADE software (an open source available from
  • Willingness to read through documentation and examine the OpenCASCADE example applications in order to figure out how to link OpenCASCADE with the C++ classes developed for this project.

This might be a great one for the FREDNET GLXP team, or perhaps for an engineering or computer science student looking for an interesting final year project.

If you'd like to contribute to this project visit our Google Group and take a look at the specifications.

How Does Water Behave in Microgravity?

This excellent short video was taken by NASA astronaut Don Pettit on Expeidtion 6 to the International Space Station.

You've probably seen before the examples of liquids floating around in microgravity before, but these simple science experiments really take it to another level.

While watching you can imagine the possibilities for space art, and the challenges for on-orbit manufacturing using water or other liquids...

Credit to Ethan Ryan Siegel for publishing this video on his blog Starts With A Bang!.

Aug 21, 2008

GLXP Teams in the Making

We found a number of links to a number of groups, like us, with plans to enter the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) on the Space Prizes blog. Below is a brief summary of their plans.

Good luck to all you future team.. we hope to see you in the GLXP soon!

InterPlanetary Ventures - "InterPlanetary Ventures has formed an international team to compete in the Google Lunar X PRIZE .... The team includes organizations and individuals from many different countries, promoting international cooperation in space by working together in the development of a spherical robotic rover and an automated moonbase to complete the contest requirements. "

Organization for Scientific Investigation and Research (OSIR) - " an international non-governmental voluntary organization established for quest of science in true nature. It have members from over 150 countries all over the world... The O.S.I.R. is ready to sponsor fully along with providing complete technical aid to a team for Google Lunar X PRIZE under the banner of O.S.I.R. The O.S.I.R. will not only sponsor just the team but also complete building cost, transportation cost, testing cost, prototyping cost of the LUNAR LANDER robot... We have total 7 teams working on the project from different parts of the world. "

Reach for the Moon - Based in the University of Delft in the Netherlands, this group formed as part of a student project... "The Design Synthesis Exercise (DSE) is a design exercise performed at the end of the third year of the Bachelor degree of Aerospace Engineering at the Delft University of Technology. The project is performed by ten students during ten weeks, under guidance of one principal tutor and two coaches. During the project, the students are introduced to the process of designing towards the needs of external clients. "

Team Cringely - led by Robert Cringely, this group started a wiki-based effort to join the GLXP. Eventually they decided not to join. Their reasons are explained here.

Googlkhod - Originally called MosGIRD, this Russian group "is working on high-altitude liquid-fuelled rockets, with an eye towards development of commercial suborbital rockets and small orbital rockets in the coming years... Now we want to compete in Google Lunar X Prize. Russian Lunokhod was the first roving remote-controlled robot to land on another world. We sure that the first private rover on the Moon will be russian too."

GLXP - Is a (French language) site for the first contact point for French volunteers wanting to form a GLXP team.

Omega Envoy - is a project of Earthrise Space, Inc, "a not for profit organization founded by a group of students and proffesionals in Central Florida with the common goal of advancing private and commercial space exploration. The Omega Envoy project will involve competing in the GLXP, reaching out and hoping to maintain Florida's position as the global leader in the space industry."

Open Luna Foundation - "The Open Luna Foundation aims to return mankind to the moon through private enterprise. Initial goals focus on a stepped program of robotic missions coupled with extensive public relations and outreach. Following these purely robotic missions, a short series of manned missions will construct a small, approximately 6 person settlement based on a location scouted by the robotic missions."
Mission 1 will have "Google Lunar X PRIZE clone-like rovers, delivered by a single lander. The lander will "hop" around to deposit the rovers, similar to an upside down Pez-dispenser. "

Aug 20, 2008

Greatest Space Ads - Part III - Pepsi on MIR

In 1996, the cosmonauts Yuri Ivanovich Onufrienko and Yuri Vladimirovich Usachyov took video footage of a giant aluminum and nylon Pepsi can and a banner with the text, “Even in space . . . Pepsi is changing the script.”

Video footage of the can and banner was shot both inside and outside Mir space station but the commercial never aired because Pepsi later changed the design of the can. We did however found this photo in this article in The Advocate.

According to this BBC Article in 1999, and this Wall Street Journal Article PepsiCo paid $5 million for the advertising deal but we could find no further confirmation of that figure.

In fact, there are very few details about the advertising stunt on the internet, at least the Enlgish-speaking one, so a russian-speaking member of our White Label Space team checked the Russian-language internet to see what he could find... The conclusion is that sometimes it is very difficult to believe in western news or in any news...

Although the Russian journal News of cosmonautics reported Pepsi's claim of paying more than $1 million, it said that only $600 thousand was received by the RCS Energia - $100 thousand for the first video and $500 thousand for the second one (presumably outside the space station). Perhaps the consultants involved in the deal, International Space Enterprises and Entertainment Marketing & Communications International, took a large fraction of the fee paid by Pepsi.

For comparision, in 2006 the prices quoted for space adversting by the Russians are:
  • $100-200 thousand to put a logo on cosmonaut suit or to bring 1 kg to the station, or
  • $0.8-5.0 million for an activity outside the station.
As you can see, even after ten years after the event, the asking price is still no larger than $5 million.

Perhaps only a mission to the Moon could draw an advertising fee as high as $5 million. If it did, it would certainly cover some of the costs of a Google Lunar X PRIZE team!

Previously in our Greatest Space Ads series: