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 18, 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 Fran├žais

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!