Nov 29, 2009

Steve Allen is back, and just in time!

I'm happy to report that our illustrious team leader Steve Allen has got back in touch with us. A couple of weeks ago I blogged about him disappearing and possibly defecting to GLXP team Synergy Moon. Well, now I know that wasn't the case.

And it's good news too, because Steve got back in time to help us put the finishing touches on our most important publication to date! It's a document we are calling the Mission Concept Summary, and it explains the main details of our technical approach to the Google Lunar X PRIZE. We will publish it in the next 24 hours, so stay tuned to this web space!

Anyway, back to the drama that unfolded in recent weeks. Steve sent me these comments which explain a little about what was going on;

"There's been some confusion and misunderstanding. I didn't actually defect. The photo shown in the defection blog post was a misdirection to cover my real goal, which was extracting inside information from Anna's team. I was attending an International Space University UK alumni gathering in London a couple of weeks ago, and when I saw the paparazzi there I made a split second decision to allow myself to get photographed together with Anna, in vain hope of showing Synergy Moon that I was on their side. In fact, I was acting as a double agent but it failed because she's too loyal to her team."

Steve went on to say, "This last week I've been working hard with the White Label Space engineers to help finish the Mission Concept Summary. The way forward is open. New partners are coming on and we also have some top-ranking contributors that we can't talk about yet, but which will revealed at a later date."

Welcome back Steve! We hope the paparazzi gives you a break for a while :-)

Nov 27, 2009

Emxys - New Partner for Electronic Systems


PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 27, November 2009
Spanish Electronics Systems Firm Emxys Partners with White Label Space Team in $30 Million Google Lunar X PRIZE
Noordwijk – The Netherlands, White Label Space has announced its newest Partner, Emxys.
Emxys is a Spanish Aerospace company specialized in the design and manufacturing of embedded instrumentation, data acquisition and control embedded electronic systems. Emxys will contribute to White Label Space’s no-name space mission to land on the Moon, which will provide massive media exposure and sponsorship opportunities for the world’s biggest brands.
White Label Space is one of twenty one teams around the world competing in the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a competition for privately-funded teams to send a robotic mission to surface of the Moon and transmit a data package including photos and HD videos back to Earth.
Following on from its strong and innovative role in the low-cost space missions, YES and YES-2, Emxys will develop a number of key sub-systems and components for the White Label Space GLXP mission.
Francisco J. Garcia-de-Quiros, the Research & Development manager at Emxys, commented "Emxys has identified a strong potential of cooperation with the White Label Space team, which is conducting research targeted to the development of lunar landing technology. The Google X PRIZE is not just a single goal but is also an interesting tool to get funding for related technology developments, particularly those which would valuable assets to support future ESA missions to the surface of Moon, Mars or other planetary bodies."
"Through participating in the GLXP, Emxys aims to face a new stage. In this next phase the company intends to design and promote its own scientific missions. The main goal is to be able to offer a set of mission level services targeted to helping customers from scientific and industry research markets to cover the gap existing from ground technology to Space."
Under the Partnership Agreement, Emxys will also provide hardware and software in support of exciting field test campaigns in 2010 for testing of prototype technologies and systems that will be use on White Label Space's Moon mission.
Emxys is the seventh Partner to join the White Label Space team. The six existing Partners are:
  • AOES Group BV, an international engineering services and consultancy based in the Netherlands with over 100 employees. AOES staff are undertaking work packages for the White Label Space team, providing specialist support for design and analysis tasks related to the structures, thermal and propulsion subsystems of the Lander and Rover.
  • The Swiss Propulsion Laboratory (SPL) which is developing a low-cost engine for the landing stage of the White Label Space mission. SPL has long experience developing cheap and reliable rocket propulsion systems for numerous customers. SPL has a rocket motor test bench located on the same site as its workshop and engineering design offices, enabling rapid and extensive testing of its engine designs.
  • The Space Robotics Lab at Tohoku University in Japan which is working with White Label Space to design a Moon rover for the mission. The lab is led by Professor Kazuya Yoshida and has contributed to numerous Japanese space missions including the Hayabusa asteroid sample return mission.
  • JAQARsoftware.com is White Label Space's partner for orbital design and mission analysis. JAQARsoftware.com provides quality, easy-to-use intelligent software tools that allow its customers to solve complex spaceflight problems such as satellite trajectory optimization in short time on everyday desktop PCs. Clients include many of the top space companies and agencies across Europe, the USA and Asia.
  • Lunar Numbat is a team of Australians and New Zealanders who are using their skills and Open Source technologies to develop new software and electronic hardware in support of the White Label Space mission.
  • Wroclaw University of Technology's Institute of Telecommunications, Teleinformatics and Acoustics which has extensive experience developing aerospace communications equipment including the Amateur Radio for the ISS (ARISS) antenna which is now flying on the European Columbus Module of the International Space Station.
About Emxys
Emxys is a designer and manufacturer of instrumentation and control embedded electronic systems for science and industry markets. Besides being very active in the space sector, Emxys also has a strong track record in other cutting edge scientific fields including biomedical engineering, photonics, high energy physics, telecommunications. Emxys is pronounced as “m-sys” [www.emxys.com]
About White Label Space
White Label Space joined the Google Lunar X PRIZE in May 2009 and is comprised of people from many nationalities, including England, Netherlands, Australia, United States, France, Japan, Brazil, Italy, Germany, Norway and Portugal. The team’s name originates from the concept of a “White Label” product which is a generic brand, developed by one company and then sold to another brand. White Label Space sees the Google Lunar X PRIZE as the beginning of the next wave of space exploration where the common person can become a contributor and not just a spectator. [www.whitelabelspace.com]
About the Google Lunar X PRIZE
The Google Lunar X PRIZE is an international competition organized by the X PRIZE Foundation which previously ran the Ansari X PRIZE for suborbital space vehicles. The Google Lunar X PRZIE calls for privately-funded teams to compete in successfully launching, landing, and then traveling across the surface of the moon while sending back to Earth specified photo and other data. The PRIZE will award US$20 million to the first team to land a robot on the moon that successfully travels more than 500 meters and transmits back high definition images and video. There is a $5 million second prize, as well as $5 million in bonus prizes for challenges such as traveling long distances, photographic images of man-made objects on the Moon, detecting water ice or surviving a lunar night. The $20 million first-place prize is available until December 31, 2012, and then it drops in value to $15 million until December 31, 2014. [www.googlelunarxprize.org]
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Nov 17, 2009

Greatest Space Ads - Toshiba Space Chair

This ad by Toshiba shows one very adventurous armchair volunteering for a high altitude balloon flight to the edge of space. The imagery is fantastic, but look out for the dramatic ending!



The video was created by JP Aerospace, a volunteer-based organization in the United States, that already has quite some experience with advertising stunts on the edge of space with its "Your ad at the edge of space" program.

Check out this video from the Austrian Space Forum of a similar high-altitude balloon flight experience with their Passepartout balloon system.

Thanks to SpaceFellowship.com for publishing the article with this video.

Nov 16, 2009

Is Steve Allen Defecting to Synergy Moon?

I just got sent this photo from an anonymous source who said it was taken over the weekend. It shows Steve Allen, our Team Leader, standing alonside the chief artist of the Synergy Moon GLXP team, Anna Hill.


We haven't been able to contact Steve for a number of weeks and the last communication we have from him was that he is going deep undercover on a new project in London. We assumed it was something to do with his new job at the BBC, but now it looks like something else... Note that Anna Hill joined Synergy Moon just last month (see Synergy Moon's post).

It's really not fair for GLXP teams to pinch members from other teams, especially their Team Leader. If anybody can tell us where this photo was taken or provide any other clues about what is going on, please leave a note on our facebook page.

Steve, COME BACK! We need you!

Nov 15, 2009

Christos Merkouris

It is widely believed that space exploration is set to experience a revolution due to nanotechnology, and Christos Merkouris joined White Label Space to advise the team on how best to take advantage of the new technologies that are becoming available in this area.

Christos is a Master of Science candidate at the Department of Electronic Engineering at the University of Surrey in the UK, and is also an experienced spacecraft test and verification engineer. In his university research Christos has been investigating the state of the art in nano-spacecraft systems, particularly focusing on the CubeSat standard and Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS). His research also included mission analysis-orbit modeling and system engineering of a CubeSat mission.

CubeSats are 10cm cubes built to a standard set of interfaces and design requirements. This standard has led to the development of a family of spacecraft that are small and simple enough even for university student teams to build and operate their own space mission.

Simple CubeSats can be a cheap way of testing new systems in a real space mission scenario (i.e. "space qualifying"). Examples include telemetry, telecommand and data acquisition (i.e. especially effects of delay and disturbance), ground station design and implementation, formation flying, and attitude determination. Such systems, once tested in CubeSat missions, can be implemented in more advanced space missions with lower risk.

So far CubeSats have flown on a number of different launchers, namely Dnepr, Eurockot, Kosmos 3M, Minatur, PSLV and M-V. To date there have been a total of twenty two successful or partially successful CubeSat missions and twenty failures (14 of them due to launcher failures). Today there are numerous organisations around the world developing CubeSat missions and the number of missions is set to increase rapidly.

In his research, Christos has also been studying plans for future space missions using MEMS. Researchers such as the MEMSat-1 team in China and ISIS in the Netherlands are currently developing designs and experiments to prove that MEMS can dramatically reduce the mass of future satellites. Considering the high costs of launching payloads to space, MEMS and other nano-technologies offer the possibility of dramatically reduced costs for space missions.

It is becoming clear that these micro and nano systems can replace all the subsystems of satellites including central computers, communications, power, propulsion, attitude control and inertia measurement units, as well as payload instruments.

The benefits of such technologies for planetary exploration are obvious. Savings in mass and size will translate directly into smaller spacecraft and propulsion stages, allowing small and cheaper launchers to be used. The White Label Space team is dedicated to proving that exciting space exploration missions, like our Google Lunar X PRIZE mission, are now in reach of the private sector, and Christos' experience will be highly valuable to make this vision a reality.

Further reading on CubeSats:

Marina Petrozzi

Marina Petrozzi is System Engineer for the White Label Space team.

Marina is an experienced space system engineer skilled in Technical coordination and Project Management within both agency and industry environments. Her knowledge and experience spans the full project cycle from mission studies through to payload data handling, and gained through a range of different projects including EGNOS, Cosmo skymed, VEGA launcher EGSE, CIRA USV (Unmanned Space Vehicle) EGCE (EGSE+MCS), ENVISAT, a nanosatellite and also by participating to the largest and most complex international scientific project in history: the International Space Station.

Her area of specialization is Assembly, Integration and Test (AIT) and in this field she worked for almost 3 years as Payload Integration Manager at ESA-ESTEC on ISS payloads, coordinating closely with NASA and ROSCOSMOS/Energia.

She is currently working at Serco, providing consulting services to the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC). In this role she investigates various state-of-the art space technologies (On Board Computers, Solar Cells, PCDU; etc), defining technology roadmaps to help the European space industry to fill strategic gaps, minimize unwanted duplications and to develop critical technologies.

She holds a Masters Degree in Engineering, Industrial Plants Management from the II University of Rome and a Postgraduate Diploma in Informatics Infrastructures, which was awarded after achieving the top course selection score.

Ayako Ono

Space Art: Since 1996 Ayako Ono has been exploring humanity's frontiers in the cosmos and imagination with her space art. The role of art is to stimulate the senses and imagination, broaden perceptions, and explore new perspectives. Sometime soon future generations will live far from the earth's surface. The resulting changes to the living environment will necessarily affect a radical transformation in common values. Space Art will help us prepare for the creation of these new values, and help answer the fundamental question of how human beings will evolve with these new values. In tackling this complex proposition, we will explore and invent new notions of beauty in cosmic space, through the interaction between various values systems.
Ayako Ono is the team artist of White Label Space. Since 1996 she has been exploring humanity's frontiers in the cosmos and imagination with her space art.

The role of art is to stimulate the senses and imagination, broaden perceptions, and explore new perspectives. Sometime soon future generations will live far from the earth's surface. The resulting changes to the living environment will necessarily affect a radical transformation in common values. Space Art will help us prepare for the creation of these new values, and help answer the fundamental question of how human beings will evolve with these new values. In tackling this complex proposition, we will explore and invent new notions of beauty in cosmic space, through the interaction between various values systems.

***

Kazuya Yoshida

Kazuya Yoshida is Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Tohoku University in Japan, and specializes in Dynamics and Control of Space Robots, Mechanism and Control of Planetary Rovers and Robotic Systems for International Space Station (ISS).

Under Professor Yoshida’s leadership, the University’s Space Robotics Lab has made notable contributions and achievements in the field of space robotics including contributions to ETS-VII (a Japanese free-flying space robot project), contributions to Hayabusa (the Japanese asteroid sample return mission), winner of 1st and 2nd prizes in the 2006 ARLISS comeback competition (field challenge autonomous micro robot in Nevada, USA) and SPRITE-SAT, a 50 kg small satellite launched in 2009.

In the White Label Space team, Professor Yoshida is the lead engineer for the rover element of the GLXP mission.